Sketchy ethics of scientists involved with "brain training"


Here’s a clear concensus statement, broadly supported by cognitive scientists, about these types of ‘brain training’ programs:

A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community

The full statement details the rational.

This falls into the category of “Duh.”

"We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles. In the judgment of the signatories below, exaggerated and misleading claims exploit the anxieties of older adults about impending cognitive decline. We encourage continued careful research and validation in this field.”

So would starting a regimen of brain training earlier in your life be part of a “healthy, engaged lifestyle”?

It sounds mostly like they are saying "it’s too late for all you old people out there, but I thought there was still compelling evidence out there from other studies; short term dual n-back gains, Alzheimer’s rates among lifelong crossword puzzlers, etc.

Or you could, you know, just keep learning things that are challenging and either more fun or more useful than ‘brain training.’


Maybe you haven’t seen the ads this is referring to. The actress says, “Its good for your brain, but it just feels like playing games.” Hmm, if that doesn’t raise a red flag. The brief screen shot you see looks a lot like the sort of free games you get on a newspaper site. It doesn’t make it profound to wrap it in bullshit.

Scientists consulting with companies that sell brain games falls in the same kind of category as medical researchers’ taking money from drug companies…

…in the 1880s, when Snake Oil was a leading brand.

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Uuuuh… I was under the impression that all training is “brain training”. I’d be really impressed to see training of any kind happen in someone who doesn’t have a brain… Also I’d be really impressed if someone who does have a brain were trained, but nothing happened to their brain.

Well, as Reddit keeps reminding us (which means I can’t believe it hasn’t been posted here yet, but I suppose it will next time it hits the front-page),

Portal 2 Improves Cognitive Skills More Than Lumosity Does, Study Finds

Original article (pdf)

Of course, I want to know what Portal executive that researcher went to bed with…

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