Brain training habits are not associated with generalized benefits to cognition: An online study of over 1000 “brain trainers”.

Document Type


Publication Date



Journal of Experimental Psychology: General





First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier



The foundational tenet of brain training is that general cognitive functioning can be enhanced by completing computerized games, a notion that is both intuitive and appealing. Moreover, there is strong incentive to improve our cognitive abilities, so much so that it has driven a billion-dollar industry. However, whether brain training can really produce these desired outcomes continues to be debated. This is, in part, because the literature is replete with studies that use ill-defined criteria for establishing transferable improvements to cognition, often using single training and outcome measures with small samples. To overcome these limitations, we conducted a large-scale online study to examine whether practices and beliefs about brain training are associated with better cognition. We recruited a diverse sample of over 1000 participants, who had been using an assortment of brain training programs for up to 5 years. Cognition was assessed using multiple tests that measure attention, reasoning, working memory and planning. We found no association between any measure of cognitive functioning and whether participants were currently “brain training” or not, even for the most committed brain trainers. Duration of brain training also showed no relationship with any cognitive performance measure. This result was the same regardless of participant age, which brain training program they used, or whether they expected brain training to work. Our results pose a significant challenge for “brain training” programs that purport to improve general cognitive functioning among the general population. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)