Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Science Behind Lumosity


This article counters the idea that the core aspects of cognitive processing are determined and fixed at a young age leaving little to no means of improvement and individuals born with strong cognitive capacities through genetics and early development had an advantage throughout their lives while individuals not encompassing these capabilities had no room for improvement.  The Lumosity process suggests that aside from genetics, the right type of stimulation and activity, at any age, the brain can change and remodel itself to become more efficient and effective in the areas of processing information, paying attention, remembering, thinking creatively, and solving novel problems.  The main areas that make brain training and Lumosity effective include targeting, adaptively, novelty, engagement, and completeness.   

The brain’s ability to reshape itself is called neuroplasticity.   To exemplify the behavioral changes in the brain the study gives an example of a test potential taxi drivers must pass in London, a rigorous exam that tests the point-to-point routes in the city refereed to “The Knowledge."  After this exam and continuous studying, they found major structural changes in the brain including differences in the size and shape of crucial brain structures in taxi drivers relative to control subjects.  The hippocampus, a brain structure critically involved in memory and navigation, was larger in the taxi drivers over the control group. 

Other activities such as video gamers performed better in visual attention than non-players.  Furthermore, a study asking non-players to play an action video games intensively over several weeks found their visual attention capacities improved.   The article then goes on to discuss Lumoncity' s ability to provide effective brain training for all ages including older adults, children (incorporating those with ADHD), and young adults. 

Finally, the study presents a scientific framework of Lumosity.  It talks about a 2006 study that evaluated the effect of Lumosity training on cognition in normal, healthy adults that included 23 participants with a mean age of 54.  These individuals divided into a control group and a group that received Lumosity training 20 minutes per day once a day for five weeks.  The study found that participants improved on the games that they played as well the training gains transferred to measures of cognitive performance that were not directly trained.  The participants did not only learn strategies to play the games but the underlying brain mechanisms fundamentally changed after training. 


Lumos Labs wrote this article, the creator of Lumosity therefore, a degree of bias toward their product is likely to exist.  While this is true, the article cites multiple scholarly articles to back up the claims.   That said, considering Lumosity is the most popular method of brain training today, given my limited knowledge on the topic I thought this article would provide a useful overview and description of not only brain training but Lumisuty’s approach.  The article also includes a variety of other credible studies published by leading scholars that study brain training supporting Lumosity’s claims. 

Understandably, as a business trying to make money, the article had promotional aspects to it.  There were no downsides mentioned in terms of brain training or Lumosity.  Additionally, while this article looked at Lumosity and other key studies on brain training, throughout the research there was not an article tailored to compare and contrast the many types of brain training for consumers to decide which method or product works the best or what product would provide them the most benefit. 

Overall, this article comprises a large sample of the most compelling research done on brain training.  This aspect makes it a very useful reference providing a short synopsis of these studies under the sub heading Broad and Growing Base of Evidence that Cognitive Training Works as well as throughout the article.


Hardy, J., & Scanlon, M. (2009). The Science behind lumosity. Lumosity. 

1 comment:

  1. With regards to the taxi driver- I feel that there could be a potential causality problem. Those who have larger hippocampuses may be driven to take on jobs that require their skill set more so than the taxi driving trained them. I agree with you that it would be interesting to see what the negative results would be for this study. Since the authors are biased, I can understand why they didn't include them. (Of course, now I'm biased because I assume there are negative effects!)