The highly successful memory enhancing program Lumosity looks to be little more than a gimmick, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.
Published ahead of print in the July 10 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, Associate Professor Joseph Kable and colleagues carried out a trial where 128 participants either used Lumosity or played online video games. Before and after the trial, participants completed assessments to test memory and decision-making that were monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity.
The researchers found no difference in the brain activity, choice behaviour, or cognitive performance of those who used Lumosity or played video games. The only benefit found from using the popular memory-improving company was that users became better at solving the problems within Lumosity itself – much like how a gamer becomes better at a game the more they play it.
Lumosity, however, are adamant their product works, and clearly display on their website their own internal study of 4,715 participants showing their brands superiority over those who do crossword puzzles. The findings by Kable and co. do not disagree with these findings, but more clarify that those who complete a Lumosity training program will only become better at Lumosity-based assessments.
This isn’t the first time scrutiny has been placed on Lumosity’s claims. In 2015/2016 the American Federal Trade Commission issued a warning of their unfounded claims, in particular with testimonials promoted such as “…we learned that my mother had early onset Alzheimer’s. I joined Lumosity at first for my mother. I now use this site not only for her, but for my brain as well.” The FTC also did not dispute the company’s claims of improved test scores, but stated there was no evidence of any other real-life benefit and highlighted the need for independent research to verify or debunk these claims.
Although it is clear that a few questions have been answered, the questions that now remain are why Lumosity has it in for people who do crosswords, and whether this new research will giving gullible consumers a bit more of a clue.