There is a plethora of alternative ways to “train your brain” on the market these days. As we, societally, have become increasingly obsessed with “hacking” our bodies, it should come as no surprise that companies are now offering services to “hack” our brains. In principle this sounds great, but here at WellPath it shouldn’t come as any surprise that we’re all about finding ways to optimize every aspect of our lives – from our energy, our athletic performance to, yes, even our mental acuity. While what we put in our bodies can have a huge impact on how well our brains function, there are now numerous companies suggesting that through their programs they can in fact make you smarter. So do they work? In short: not especially.
The most popular of these brain training companies is Lumosity. At some point, you’ve probably been peppered with their advertisements (especially if you spend any time researching this sort of stuff). While Lumosity touts a whole host of scientific support on their website, the broader scientific community has questioned many of the claims that Lumosity makes around improvements in cognitive ability and IQ. Lumosity and similar sites tend to focus on brain training games – essentially games that test memory, mental agility and focus. What the scientific community has found is that regular practice of said games successfully produces short-term, specific improvements related to these tasks but relatively little in the way of improvement to broader cognitive abilities like intellect, attention and memory.
So while we may struggle to find scientific support for Lumosity and similar companies’ claims, that does not necessarily mean that brain training as a whole needs to be written off. As noted, specific types of training for the sake of improving specific tasks has been shown to be effective. What this means is if you have a highly specific goal in mind, then you may very well be able to design some sort of training methodology around it to get better at the task. Even tasks that you might have otherwise written off as being things you are innately good or bad at can generally be improved upon with the right kind of training.
At the end of the day if this sounds a lot like studying or practicing a specific skill, well that’s because it is. Don’t buy into the idea that there is a magic formula of games that are going to make you meaningfully smarter over some short period of time. Rather, you should understand that for nearly any task you want to improve at – even something that involves an otherwise “innate” ability like memory – you can probably make appreciable and meaningful improvements with the right kind of practice and training.
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