Is “Brain Training” a Sham? New Study Casts Doubts on Claims Made by Billion-Dollar Industry

In recent years we’ve been told that it’s possible to get smarter with the aid of various expensive high-tech brain training tools, apps and software.

Companies such as Cogmed, Lumosity and NeuroNation, have promised everything from higher IQs through to staying sharp in old age.

Claims even went so far as to suggest brain training can help with learning disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD).

What’s more the claims made by the vendors and resellers of brain training products and services were all purportedly based on scientific evidence.

Now it appears there could be serious questions about the credibility of that evidence.

A new study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the positive effects found by previous brain training studies might all be down to sampling bias and the placebo effect.

However, even before this study was published, there have been serious criticisms of the industry’s hyperbole by scientists , the media, and government regulators.

With some even going so far as to call it a modern day version of “snake oil”.

In fact, earlier this year, Lumosity agreed to pay $2 million to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in relation to deceptive advertising.

The FTC said Lumosity “preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline.” and prohibited the company from making similar claims.

Now at our practice, we have always been sceptical about the over-hyped claims made by those selling brain training products and services.

The scientific evidence used to support their claims has, in our opinion, always been somewhat murky and questionable.

And for this reason we have never recommended or sold brain training products to our clients.

(Despite being approached a number of times by sales reps trying to get us to become a reseller of such products.)

Our position is simple…

Unless we are convinced there is a significant, clear and tangible benefit for children and parents?

We refuse to promote products costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

But there is an interesting takeaway from all of this…

Yet again, the amazing power of the placebo effect has been demonstrated.

It’s a great reminder of how our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes shape and determine our reality.

And that is a significant reason why (evidence-based) psychological therapy and counselling methods can be so effective.

How can we help?

Book your initial parent consultation to get the right advice for your child's needs

Book Now »

Got any questions before you book? Click here to request a phone call and a psychologist will call you at a convenient time (prospective clients only). Please keep in mind we are often busy with clients but we do our best to respond to all enquiries within one business day. :-)

Why have 2,866* parents chosen us?

(*As of 24th July, 2019.)

  • Private and confidential: We are a private service so you will receive 100% independent and confidential advice.
  • Child and adolescent experts: We only work with school age children, teenagers and parents.
  • Education and school experts: We will help you navigate the school system to get the best possible results for your child.
  • Qualified and experienced: We only employ psychologists with a master degree or higher and experience working in schools.
  • Fast appointments: We don't keep a waiting list and see most new clients within 7 days.
  • Convenient location: We are in Middle Park with easy access from many parts of Melbourne and unrestricted street parking.
  • Trusted methods: We use approaches that are strongly supported by research evidence or clinical experience.
  • Lovely beachside office: You will love our quiet, modern and attractive office, with its beach and ocean-themed rooms.