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The quest for improved cognitive function through ‘brain training’ may not live up to its promise.

Adrian Owen (left) based at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, led a collaborative study working with neuroscientists at Kings College, London and the University of Manchester and Manchester Academic Health Science Centre. The scientists conducted a six-week online training study with 11,430 participants, who each undertook a ‘benchmarking’ assessment at the beginning and end of the regime.

The results, published online in Nature this week, show observed improvements on the specific tasks used for training, but the authors believe that these improvements failed to transfer to other untrained cognitive tasks, the hallmark of true brain training.

Speaking to Nature, Adrian explained:

"There were absolutely no transfer effects (from the training tasks to more general tests of cognition). I think the expectation that practising a broad range of cognitive tasks to get yourself smarter is completely unsupported."

Owen adds that his findings don't necessarily mean that training in young children or elderly patients is pointless. But "the evidence is not strong", he says. "And someone needs to go and test it."

To access the Nature News reporting of this study please click here.

To access the full research article please click here.

Posted on 21/04/2010

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