Brain-Training Games Just Make You Good At Brain-Training Games

In 2014, there was big-time drama in the scientific world. An international group of scientists published an open letter claiming there was no science to back up claims that brain-training games could improve mental function. A few months later, another group of scientists published their own open letter arguing the exact opposite—there's plenty of evidence that brain training works. Add in the fact that both groups used many of the same studies to back up their claims, and you have an old-fashioned scientific feud on your hands.

To solve the dispute, a team of researchers performed what's known as a comprehensive review of the literature; that is, they looked at as many studies as they could find, including those used by both groups, to determine what the big picture actually showed. Their conclusion? Brain-training games certainly improve performance, but only on those particular brain-training games. If the game has you match cards, for example, you improve your card-matching skills but not your memorization skills; if the game has you memorize words, you get good at memorizing but you're no better at matching cards. Said the researchers, "We find extensive evidence that brain-training interventions improve performance on the trained tasks, less evidence that such interventions improve performance on closely related tasks, and little evidence that...training improves everyday cognitive performance." They found that many of the studies were badly designed, making it difficult to draw real-world conclusions from them. That's good news for brain-training advocates: it's not necessarily the case that brain-training is impossible, just that we don't have the scientific evidence to back it up right now. Explore some scientifically backed ways to get smarter with the videos below.

Can You Really Train Your Brain?

Find out what the science says.

How Curiosity Can Improve Your Brain

Your brain actually rewards you for being curious.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Curiosity changes the chemistry of your brain. 00:26

  2. In a 2014 study, when participants were showed questions that interested them, parts of their brains associated with dopamine release became active. 00:58

  3. Learning while experiencing curiosity about a topic improves your brain's ability to store both relevant and irrelevant information. 01:47

Can Video Games Make You Smarter?


Written by Curiosity Staff October 17, 2016

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