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