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“Brain training” with Lumosity — does it really work?

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Imagine if you could improve your memory, attention, and problem solving skills in all aspects of your life — just by playing some simple “brain training” games online or on an app. Games that could help prevent age-related memory decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Games that could help you at work, school, or with everyday tasks — like remembering where you left your keys, or quickly recalling the name of a person you just met.

That’s just what Lumosity claimed its games could do, based on “proven neuroscience research.” But the FTC charged that there isn’t solid science showing that Lumosity’s “brain training” games work the way they say they would. 

You’ve likely seen Lumosity’s ads on TV, online, or heard them on the radio. They sound convincing — like this one:

“I can tell a big difference. Decisions come quicker. I’m more productive. It’s serious brain training, it just feels like games…”  

Or this testimonial:

“…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.”

Let’s set the record straight. Playing Lumosity’s games might make you better at those games, the FTC says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will sharpen your memory or brain power in the real-world. And those testimonials from satisfied customers? Many were from people who were offered prizes to say good things about Lumosity, and that wasn’t made clear. According to the FTC, that’s deceptive.

If you signed up for Lumosity before January 1, 2015 and are on an auto-renewal plan, watch for a notice from Lumosity that gives you a one-click option to cancel your subscription. Under a recent settlement with the FTC, Lumosity agreed to provide these notices, and promised not to make false claims or use testimonials in a deceptive way.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: You can be skeptical of any app, product, or service that says it can improve your memory or brain power quickly and easily. Especially if it claims dramatic results for a variety of health issues. Check out other helpful articles on health and fitness.

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I don't care that it hasn't been proven scientifically *yet*. It was my understanding that they were also studying the statistics from the game players to see if they showed signs of improvements. My experience has been that it has helped me at my job where I have to simultaneously hold several tasks and research paths in mind as I help my caller.

I suffered a major concussion from an car crash and lost most of my short-term memory for several years. Lumosity games have helped me tremendously in regaining function in that area after I had pretty much given up hope. I am truly grateful to have been given a tool to help me improve. And I find the games very enjoyable as well.

Wow, this is a surprise! Thank you FTC for the information. Too bad, I actually enjoy the "brain training" games on Lumosity and feel I have gotten better at arithmetic and verbal fluency. I will likely keep my subscription, at least for a while. Thanks again!

I signed up in the beginning because I was curious and the the special pricing was right. I don't feel preyed upon. The activities are enjoyable for me. I've improved in the "games", and that is what I like. I'll trust that the FTC knows more, but I have no complaints and will keep autorenewal.

I enjoyed the games, I had to take some neurological tests after a mini stroke and I did pretty well. I thought at the time that these gams helped because they were similar. I must admit that I quit playing them as often because I got bored with them, but could not get out of the contract. I'm grateful to let it expire, but I did enjoy them when they were fresh and new.

The problem is that we believe everything and then we pay for it!!

NO WE DON"T! Who is the WE you are talking about?

People can believe what they want; there are so-called experts at every turn contradicting one another! I'll tell you this, as a service member who has been subjected to a number of head injuries and who was having issues with cognitive functions, such as memory lapses, randomly going blank while speaking, losing focus while performing tasks, etc..., I have experienced notable improvement. Now, it won't make a dim-whit a genius nor do I image it will reverse serious damage; which I imagine is the source of the complaint. Oh, and I'm just a happy consumer with NO PROMISE of prizes or other compensation.

I tend to agree with Jenny. Since the research appears to only support the conclusion that brain training, like Lumosity and BrainHQ, improve your performance on the tasks that you do in their training, this doesn't make the exercise worthless. Making false claims to get customers is wrong and they should be stopped from that. However, I still plan to join and use the training since it does provide me with mental activity. Glad I know that may be all it does but it's fun and any exercise that's fun can't be bad for me.

Just because they couldn't substantiate ALL their claims doesn't mean it doesn't help. My son and I have used Lumosity regularly for over a year and we have both experienced many benefits. I've watched his performance in school improve steadily relative to his classmates, and his ability to solve problems and approach them in novel ways is noticeable. The FTC didn't say that Lumosity doesn't work or that it's a scam. They just said that they can't prove all their claims. Calm down folks!

At 80 I believe keeping your mind active and challenged is beneficial to your mental health.I look forward to the games, feel 'ticked off' when I screw one up and feel a certain satisfaction when I do well. I do not feel cheated or 'hustled'. I do wish there was a way to communicate 'one on one' with game 'masters'. I view these efforts the same way I view doing actual physical exercises. In my opinion these 'games' challenge you mentally and if you naturally respond to 'challenge' with a competitive response, thereby stimulating your mind, then I believe you've done something of value for your mental 'existence'.

Exactly! I pay $40.00 per month at the gym with no promise that I will live another day than what I am supposed to. I pay $7.00 and go to a movie with no guarantee I will like the movie.

at a fairly young age (under 35) and without any diabetes or cholesterol problems I had ischemic attack (stroke) which led to speech and various cognitive problem including basic brain function, hand to eye coordination, perception etc. When I went to speech therapy and occupational therapy, most of the stuff that they had me do was similar to what lumosity offered. I signed up for the life time user at lumosity. I have to say that as i was able to do lumosity games better my overall brain function improved. Of course that there are many things that I did in life besides lumosity but I cannot say it did not help (because the games were exactly the same and or similar to the ones that were given to me at speech/occupational therapy.) I am not saying those therapies don't help. But because it was more convenient for me to do it on line using lumosity, I enjoyed the games. It's sad to see company had to pay fines. All they had to do was mention something like "this does not necessary / guarantee to diagnose, treat diseases."

I appreciate your input. Yours actually has some point of reference.

Funny, today in June 29 and I'm just hearing about this in an email from the FTC containing a form for claiming a partial refund of my Lumosity subscription (which I've had for several years). Are these refunds coming out of the $2M referenced above? Or has the FTC extracted more from Lumosity? Bridget?

The refunds are coming from the $2 million referenced in this blog post. Please follow the instructions in the email to apply for your refund. The online form is the easiest method:

A year later, doctors are still sending people to the site. I am so confused.

I do not use it often anymore. I notice that if I do not play for a few weeks, it is like starting allover again. I am glad to hear that it's not working as I thought.I thought that I was worsening

I used it from 9/3/2013 to 9/3/2015 . I have not received anything about a refund. How can I find out about it? It didnt really do anything.

Under the January 2016 settlement with the FTC, Lumosity had to contact people who had subscribed before January 1, 2015 and had auto-renew subscriptions in January 2016. 

You say you stopped subscribing in September 2015, so you wouldn't have gotten a notice. The notice told people how to cancel their subscriptions.

There are plenty of options for improving brain functionality and health that are actually shown to work.
Math, memorization playing a musical instrument chess, basically anything that makes you work your brain can help increase mental performance. Just like our bodies the more you use your brain the better it will work and the longer it will last.

I would agree that all brain activity increases mental performance, but I sense all mental performance may not be beneficial. Since starting to everyday play Lumosity a month ago, I have noticed an increase in poor judgement while driving. I felt the mental pathway that was being used was "which response will get me through this most quickly?" rather than giving appropriate consideration to rules and safety. I was conscious of an element of confusion as my brain attempted to work through something that had previously been routine. I have deleted the app and hope that my brain returns to normal function. I am not a gamer and have no signs of dementia, so was merely enjoying the challenge of increasing my scores with the seemingly fun games. I will resort to more traditional methods of keeping my brain active.


How about a legitimate, double blind clinical trial comparing Lumosity with a Placebo? In other words, where are the data?

This article states: "But the FTC charged that there isn’t solid science showing that Lumosity’s “brain training” games work the way they say they would." also: "Playing Lumosity’s games might make you better at those games, the FTC says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will sharpen your memory or brain power in the real-world." There are no absolutes stated. Learning and improvement in cognitive abilities are not black and white. Anything one does to exercise their brain can lead to improvement. "The neural pathways in the brain begin to solidify by age 25; however, new neural pathways can be created with a bit of effort. By challenging yourself and taking on new habits, you can grow more neurons and create new pathways." - The Alternative Daily Much like bodybuilding: The brain will only get as strong equal to the amount of effort and dedication you put into your routine. While Luminosity isn't the answer alone in your trek for genius it definitely could be one machine in your mind gym.

The Federal Trade Commission didn't say that Lumosity doesn't work. They said that Lumosity doesn't have sufficient evidence to make the claims that they are making.

I should point out placebo could very well be helpful, leading people to actually believe brain training is helpful.

I suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2010 and when I came out of hospital in 2010 my occupational therapist recommended it. I play it in the evening when I'm lying in bed and my scores improve, which says to me that my brain is relearning things. I had to relearn how to spell, subtle things like which way the E and the I go round and thinking words like always had two L's in them, I put on Facebook a while back mucking around, "My spelling is defiantly getting better", to which someone replied, "Defiantly not!" I can remember people's faces but not their names so the face name recall game is another fun one. I was having cognitive behavioural therapy before Christmas and he said that alcohol was one of my problems and surprise surprise my scores improve dramatically when I don't drink the previous evening. If anything it is better than wasting my evenings in the pub and money well spent.

This makes my skin crawl. My Mum was sent here (Lumosity) by her doctor! A doctor that knew her for about 5 minutes before ruining her life with a "diagnosis" that has sent the most active, personable, loved person I have ever known in my life to her bed. Every day. She is in the blackest hole of hopelessness... and she deserves so much better... this being the eleventy seventh horrible thing she has faced in her life.
BUT also (this is for the people who love to yell "Big Pharma!" & think that achieves anything) - in my many years of Equally Stupid Illness, I have learned that sometimes we have to take pills. And most people who yell about BIG PHARMA simply have no idea that some illnesses and conditions simply do require medication.
(For example - if you are a student of any kind of history, you know the occasional antibiotic these days would have saved hundreds of thousands of people - especially women who died of "childbirth fever" because the doctor didn't wash his hands) Their prices obviously suck, until a good generic comes along, but my Mom was doing so well on aricet until my father - who is NOT a doctor - told her to "just stop taking it". He didn't want to hear her complain about feeling dizzy and she has gotten so much worse w/o that medication.
Often it is a combo of things that help make us well. Or help us function better. The high prices of meds are sickening. So are prices for funerals.
Right now, I want to keep my Mom and myself from just giving up. So the yelling about everything sucking? Not helping. And now we have a web site that has lied to people who think they are improving cognitive function - I would love to know how many doctors are on the take to send newly dx'd patients there.
When will anyone learn that being decent to others, especially the sick and the elderly and the poor will, in the end, net YOU a happier life, Oh Great and know-it-all-doctors? The hippocratic oath is worth about as much as wedding vows these days. Both of which make me sad and pretty ticked off. How did this happen in JANUARY, yet Neurologists are still "prescribing" his web site to newly diagnosed patients? Send some of that 2 mil over here - we are hurting in every way possible. I'm not greedy - I just have a cruddy illness and am the sole caregiver for two wonderful parents. In Oklahoma where help is ... well, let's just say we have great helpful people, but awful, awful government "help". I just want to get the darn house clean, which right now is the same as "I want to climb Mount Everest in 5 inch heels!"

My ex began using Luminosity, and recommended it to me, after he sustained a cranial injury from a motorcycle crash that destroyed swathes of his memory, changed his affect, etc. I'm older than he was, and I think one reason he wante me to do it was to retain cognitive abilities as I get older, but he must have been directed to it (presumably in good faith) by a therapist. Maybe it is useful for somebody in his situation, or maybe his therapists were misled. If so, it's a terrible way to take advantage of somebody.

First, I would like to say that it's very very sad to realize that lumosity has dehumanized its service with their faithful customers by not returning our phone calls like the past. It's a contradiction with Lumosity philosophy and games.


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