The Scientific Consensus: No evidence they reduce cognitive decline
In October 2014, a consensus statement was produced that rejected the key claims about brain games. The list of signatories include Susanne Jaeggi, Michael Kane, Randy Engle, Hal Pashler and a number of other people who can be considered eminent in this field (and who you'll find cited below).
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.
Is it truly possible to improve your IQ?
No, all brain and IQ training games we know are bogus. Here's what's been discussed on this platform so far: Sudoku, video games,
- It's reflected in the fact that the Jaeggi et al. study, purportedly showing a transfer effect from dual N-back working memory training to fluid IQ, (http://www.psychfiledrawer.org/top-20/) is the number one of studies that researchers on Psychfiledrawer.com want to see replicated. Here is a takedown by Engle et al.. Here's a great blog post by Ed Yong on some of the trouble with these studies (it's not the only big problem though, don't believe Schubert for one minute).
- Transfer effects have been found not to replicate several times. Here's the most recent failure to replicate and a critical review.
- It's an old topic, obviously many people tried to raise IQ and failed.
- There have been numerous clones of the same idea, the ones with the most profile are Lumosity, Cogmed and Jaeggi's program (I think this is marketed the least but best-known to academics, Lumosity may be the opposite, I think they don't have ambitions for peer review).
- Here is a takedown of Lumosity's "research. 23 people are in that sample. Thirty-five million users, you say? Don't know what happened there... He also links to reports of Lumosity using scammy invoicing.
- For good measure, a funny secondhand blogpost on the topic, an article in the New Yorker and another takedown titled "The new Snakeoil".
Is IQ a good measure of Intelligence?
Yes, pretty good, but many people outside intelligence research don't think so. They're wrong, but this is such a bone of contention that you can find debates about the debate. I don't want to stray too much. Here's the question asked on this site.
Are they actually onto something, like PositScience?
No, they're not onto something, like PositScience.
PositScience is most likely the same, but geared towards the elderly from what I can tell from a cursory glance. They're a bit better at scientific street cred. ie. actually publishing peer-reviewed studies and responding to criticism.
But their studies don't support the strength of their marketing claims and, of course, they selectively leave out studies showing no benefit (by other researchers, but probably they also their own shock-full file drawer) and they have a huge conflict of interest.
Here's Hal Pashler calling them out and here's Seth Roberts calling them out.
The company's responses to those two callouts have been weak, but here's an affiliated author (got only a little money on the side) dealing well with criticism of a fairly weak study.