HealthDay News — Cognitive-training programs may be offering only placebo effects, according to a study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cyrus Foroughi, a doctoral student with the department of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and colleagues recruited 50 participants using two different fliers posted around a college campus. One flier specifically promoted a “Brain Training & Cognitive Enhancement” study, noting that “numerous studies have shown that working memory training can increase fluid intelligence.” Both groups took a preliminary IQ test, and then completed an hour of brain training.

The next day, everyone took a follow-up IQ test. Participants who were told of the possible cognitive benefits of the training experienced a 5- to 10-point increase in their score on the standard 100-point IQ test, but those who only knew they were taking part in a research project tested much the same as they did before.

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“These findings provide an alternative explanation for effects observed in the cognitive-training literature and the brain-training industry, revealing the need to account for confounds in future research,” the authors write.

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Foroughi CK, Monfort SS, Paczynski M, et al. Placebo effects in cognitive training. PNAS. 2016. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1601243113.