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

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.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Comments

There are lots of ways to improve brain power; line dancing and bridge are two that work.

and of course some Big Pharma Pills...

You obviously have functioned well in life. You're selfish in allowing others to improve themselves from something that does work. Go play your cards and line dancing, your real swift and clearly do not know what you are talking about, probably because you are close minded to possibilities and for solutions. If you are not going to be part of the solution that can help people improve themselves, I suggest you keep quiet. Because you do not how others are functioning on day to day basis. You obviously have not struggled yourself. Shame on you!!!!

I find it sad that your writing coveys such judgement and "shame" for those holding alternate opinions. I can tell you from my own experience, that kind of stress in it self can cause memory/cognitive issues.

Line dancing, much like any other dancing, has been proven to utilize all parts of the brain, thus strengthening it. Same goes for playing an instrument.

Another scam -- at least of an intellectual nature

Nice work on this

Thanks, that's help a lot in this world where everyone is behind us hunting our money

thank you

What about people who didn't re-up but still fell for the fraudulent claim and paid for a year? Is there any way to recoup any of the original membership fee?

The terms of the settlement apply to people who signed up for Lumosity before January 1, 2015, and are on an auto-renewal plan. If you are in that group, you should get a notice from Lumosity that gives you a one-click option to cancel your subscription.

So, my understanding is that neither Lumosity's 2 million dollars (a small sum, I might add) nor the 50 million dollars that is "suspended" is not going to those of us who were duped? Again, it goes to the lawyers, the FTC, but not to the little guy who got cheated? Why am I feeling...cheated?

Well said!

Keep in mind that no one has found evidence that it Doesn't work, they are just saying that the company didn't have enough evidence that it Does work. They have been doing some research, and it may well be that the activities they have do have some impact on general cognitive function. Their claims are certainly a lot less predatory than a lot of things--say the average dietary supplement or homeopathic "medicine".

Honestly, it is hard for me to believe that anything that forces you to focus/think couldn't have a negative affect. Kind of like how lifting some weight gains you some strength at the gym. If anything, at least these are games that are intended to help you—not just entertain you. I think something that forces you to focus is a good thing in a less demanding regard... I don't think I'd pay for it, but I don't pay for a lot of things..

I am smart to read your website. Thank You

Job well done FTC!!! I knew they were just preying on good people who feared the aging process would be 'fixed or delayed' by playing for games we paid for. I didn't buy it one bit.

Don't feel so good. Lumocity changed my life for the much better. They never gave me anything to say something good. Too bad the government didn't interview people that actually pushed their brains, to see what happened to them. Why did my friends that also used it, get positive life results?????

I wouldn't call it 'preying on people' if they provide a product that consumers find useful. And especially as it's less than $3 a month. Well worth it to me, so I will keep my membership.

As for people's fears about dementia, they're right to fear it. Doctors still don't know how to prevent it, and most of the drugs on the market have only modest effectiveness, yet they're approved and continue to be prescribed.

My only complaint with Luminosity is the lack of transparency and customer service - I am skeptical when there isn't an 800 number to call or a way to easily chat with a company. Sometimes I've gotten a nonsensical answer to a question that seemed like it came from a bot. Though my last inquiry was answered by a real person, and was helpful.

This action against Lumosity did not go far enough. All of your reports say only that FTC "alleged" that their was misleading advertising, when it should have been that Lumosity acknowledged such distortions. There is no explanation why the original fine that reflected the seriousness of their offenses, was reduced so dramatically. Unless this is fully explained including the financial status of the company, there will be a shadow over this entire investigation.

Follow the link in this blog post to the press release, which includes this sentence: "The order also imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission."  Additional information is available in the Related Cases tab on the press release page.

SO let's get this straight... they pay the FTC a $2 million fine for doing the work you are supposed to do, then suspend the $50 million fine that would go to the people they scammed so that they won't go out of business. PERFECTLY logical....great job FTC! Keep patting yourself on the back.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for calling this snake oil what it is, and holding them accountable. Science for the win!

Let me get this right... for the suckers who signed up, they are left hanging. No recourse, no refunds. They can cancel, but they are out any $$ they put into this. But that's OK, the government will collect their $2 million. So much for protecting the consumer.

You can read the related press release for more information about the matter.

Under the proposed settlement, people who signed up for Lumosity before January 1, 2015 and are on an auto-renewal plan will get a one-click option to cancel their subscription and avoid future billing.

The proposed order imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission. The proposed final judgment and order, available here, outlines how the $2 million may be used.

As usual very enlighting and benefitial information. Thanks!

I understand but do not agree with this! I don't see where they have done anything wrong. If you go running... it increases your heart rate promoting ones health. If you do sit ups... it works your abs reducing stomach fat. If you do puzzles and brain teasers... it exercises the brain promoting it's function. Kind of seems like common sense to me but I know many people lack this creating another useless action against a company. I would protest this cause I believe in luminosity and believe it does help. I had epilepsy and suffered many effects with memory and brain function... it has helped me cause anything that works my brain and makes me think increases it's overall function!

Jenny: I have a differing point of view. I also have epilepsy since I was born placenta previa. I get very few games that exercise my flexibility and memory. This is disconcerting because that is what I signed up for. In talking with someone at Lumosity, I got double talk. Bridge and exercise can really help. Exercise really, really helps.

I agree with Jenny here. I've used it for a couple of years and find my short-term memory far more effective than before. Phone numbers, names, addresses can all be retained better. That's real world. The games are challenging and fun. I exercise a lot and this is part of my effective wellness regimen.

I agree with Jenny on this matter. When we use our brains we are building connections. By challenging our minds those connections get stronger. If you are to meet someone new and learn their name, you have increased your brains capacity. This is one example of how Lumosity can help. Of course there are many other ways to improve brain function, that's fine too. I for one am more sceptical of the legal system that has prosicuted them. Using a fear tactic to say that what Lumosity claims does not work. I understand the checks and balances aspect. However I for one would rather see the money spent on researching the data that Lomosty has compiled. In the name of science let's step forward and come up with some peer reviewed articles that are sent to all involved in this study of brain activity.

Just to be clear, if I an understanding this correctly, the issue is that Lumosity made claims that they could not back up with solid science. This does not necessarily mean that the games and similar activities have no positive impact. It means that they overstated the case. Is this accurate?

You'll find more detail in this press release about the matter, which says that the creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. The FTC alleged that the creators and markters deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress, notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

Yes you keep saying this, but the bottom line FTC is you screwed the company, screwed the little guy and robbed everyone involved. Lets run a lawsuit on the FTC for "unfounded claims" that your here to help. How's your track record on honesty and transparency? "2 million in redress" soooo to your account? is that what "redress" means in this? cause it sure doesnt mean "to those who {allegedly} were scammed, does it? Let me guess, theres a press release legaleasing why you get to keep the money right?

Please visit the FTC’s Lumosity Refunds page for more information. The deadline to file a claim is tomorrow, August 6, 2016.

Thanks so much for protecting us! It's good to know that sometimes the government is doing all they can to protect us from companies that just want our money. Sometimes I feel like the government isn't doing that.....

Protecting us by the FTC collecting $2M because a company didn't have enough research to substantiate their claims? Quit being a sheep; the government isn't protecting anyone but themselves.

When do they have to notify customers by?

The details and timing of the notice are included in the proposed stipulated order, available from this page about the proceedings.

How do I apply for my money I paid for a year of lumosity ,and it didn't help.

Under the proposed settlement with the FTC, the company will  tell subscribers about the FTC action and give them an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing. If you are a subscriber with an auto-renewal, you will get a notice.

If you want a refund for a product, you can use these tips about solving consumer problems.  If a product or service doesn't live up to your expectations, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

I find your comments irresponsible. I think that most people know that by exercising your brain through learning and challenging it through various games, etc, is good for the development of your brain and definitely leads to having higher brain capacity, etc. So sites like Luminosity are a service in that way. Stop the unnecessary bashing if Legitimate sites and potentially stopping a person from getting help in the further development of their brain. Thank you

Bridget Small must be a robot, as she only replies with the same paragraphs or very similiar over and over and doesn't answer specific questions.

Very good Lynn I agree with you about Smalls' continued repitition...I have used lumosity and it seems to assist me irregardless of proven scientific evidence...a few points: 1) Lumosity lacks scientific backing but is effective for wellness at a minimal cost - a good long-term return investment . 2) To use payed personnel in advertising is legitimate irregardless of said payment methods, so the goverment/FTC claim of "misleading comsumers" should not have held in court. 3) While there is a $50 million suspended fine, why does the FTC/government get "a bonus" of $2 million for doing its assigned duty to the consumer? I believe that money should be part of a government/FTC consumer redress reimbursement scheme for Lumosity customers who desire such redress.
Finally, the government/FTC in this instance has once again solidified a double standard under the guise of protecting the public/comsumers with aide of legislations/laws, and its legal tenacles in every available arena from predatory practioners ...As a American consumer amongst the masses, I wonder about our the protection from pharmaceutical companies of these lecit drugs that continue to damage our mind and body? Just the one example, too many for this blog and ranting is insolvent...Consumers protect yourselves. Do not subcribe to anything, but continuosly be skeptical of everything. You are your brothers keeper. The government is not your friend, just an institution like any other institution consumed with self interest, except this one's legitimized by "the people". If only Lumosity was a "big lobby" the government/FTC would know its place in handling this situation, right Bridget?

I do not like Auto renewal; however, send me the notice it is due and I will choose to renew or not. I see nothing wrong with paying for a service. I had a stroke and had trouble doing any kind of paperwork. Lumosity has helped me toward normal thinking and the challenges I face daily.

Perhaps they made unsubstantiated claims - but that doesn't mean the games have no value. I've used Lumosity for several years and HAVE seen a benefit. I'd always read that keeping busy mentally is good for older people. Articles on aging suggested activities like crossword puzzles and game shows. Has this thinking all been discarded recently?

I'd also heard that taking on new, challenging tasks - such as learning a new language or computer system, or running an intense work or volunteer program that required problem-solving skills - could stimulate the brain to develop new connections. Has that been disproved as well? I'm not defending these guys, I don't know them from Adam; but it's common sense that using your mind and getting physical exercise (instead of sitting on your butt in front of the TV and eating) help most people stay alert longer.

I find it curious that the government goes after something like Luminosity, yet the FDA lets Premarin remain on the market... a hormone substitute that is KNOWN to cause uterine and ovarian cancer. Known. It killed my mother. It ought to be banned and the executives at Pfizer put in prison.

Totally agree!

I'm with OldCodger-- perhaps Lumosity got greedy and overstated claims, but I have been following the science regarding brain plasticity and it all points to the positive effects of novelty, risk and challenge, continuous use of the brain in the "zone of proximity" of learning. I consider myself a savvy consumer and quite skeptical, so I did my own research before signing up for Lumosity. As I read the notice Lumosity was required to send, and then the FTC site's summary of the charges and settlement, I couldn't help wondering the same thing you did, OldCodger, about all the MANY HORRIBLE products and their claims put out by Big Pharma, not to mention cars, cosmetics, home products, toys, etc. that are actively toxic, maiming and killing people. And they, FTC, rake in the millions (who gets that money?) from a company that provides progressive brain stimulation that has, at the very least, positive benefits for the people who use it. I can only imagine the outrage you must feel having had your own mother die due to the use of one such product, OldCodger.

I never believed that Lumosity could help prevent age-related cognitive issues, except the way other things I do (play Sudoku, exercise, memorize songs) help. I do enjoy the games, though. What I like, though, is being able to compare how I am doing against other people my age. I do not know how the scoring is done, but I have to assume that it is internally accurate (that is, they set up a scoring system for all their games and for different ages, and apply them consistently).

This is not an endorsement, just a comment.

Good for you. You understand!!!!

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: www.ftc.gov/lumosity.

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.

Leave a Comment

Comment Policy

Read Our Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.