Online Brain Training- Does It Really Work?

Brain games have been around for years and brain training has been a research topic of interest for some time now. Brain games let you challenge yourself to get a high score by relying on skills like logic, attention, quick thinking and working memory. Working memory refers to your brain’s ability to retain new information for a short period of time. Such information may include a telephone number, a shopping list or a new name. Developing healthy brain habits is important to every one of us.

Games and apps challenge the brain, which is healthy. Each level gets more difficult than the previous. There’s something addictive in seeing your scores going up with practice. We all want to have fun and at the same time improve our brain capabilities. Everyone finds this concept intriguing. The thought of being able to grow old but still maintain your best mental functions is hard to resist. If physical exercise makes your body fit, mental exercise must do the same to your brain, right? The short answer is YES. Keep reading to get a comprehensive explanation.

We live in a digital age and there is a surge of online training programs and computer apps marketed as being the key to staying sharp as you age. Notable mentions include NeuroNation, Lumosity, BrainHQ, Elevate and LearningRx. Websites that claim to increase memory, verbal reasoning and concentration have become big businesses. The cognitive training programs and apps is now a $2billion industry. Though considerable scientific research has been put forward to support their claim, how well do brain games really work? Where is the definitive supporting evidence?

Brain Training: Science, Marketing or Both?

Developers of brain training programs and apps claim that they can enhance intelligence and cognitive skills by tapping into your brain’s plasticity — its ability to change. Some developers go ahead and profess brain training can help those with significant brain problems such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, dyslexia and ADHD. Brain training apps have sections of their websites devoted to showcasing their scientific credentials. I must admit some of them are impressive. Whether the displayed studies support their apps directly, or whether they are well conducted is another story. In the past, the FTC has fined several brain training companies for false advertising.

Neuroscientists have had a keen interest in these brain training programs and apps since they increased popularity. Some platforms are actually designed by neuroscientists.

Users who use these games have had noticeable changes. And it will be wrong to dispute those claims. The approach by the games is very effective. One of the methods of enhancing neuroplasticity is by challenging the brain. This improves processing speed. Whether these games are effective or not is an ongoing discussion, there are many arguments for and against. This has led to neuroscientists intervening and trying to find the truth and ascertain whether they are effective as being claimed.

What’s All The Buzz About?

In 2016, a group of neuroscientists carried out some tests and published their findings. What they found out was that there was insufficient evidence of measurable benefits. Tasks carried out by the apps to some extent helped to improve the brain’s capabilities. The change was, however, less visible without much changes and impacts. Another group of neuroscientists carried out their study in 2017 and tested 128 young healthy adults. What they were trying to find out was whether brain games were different from other normal video games or not playing video games at all. The group that engaged in the brain training programs was more efficient with the tasks they undertook but scored the same as the other groups in terms of cognitive activities.

Dozens of other studies have been carried out, most with the same findings. Many studies support the idea of brain games with some neuroscientists endorsing the approach by these games. While it might be possible that these games might not help improve your brain’s capability, one thing is for sure. You will have fun playing these games. If you’re fascinated by the concept of these games and would wish to try them out, there are lots of options available for you.

There are 2 critical points raised by neuroscientists:

  1. Some brain training companies exaggerate cognitive benefits to consumers.
  2. More extensive research is needed.

Best Online Brain Training Programs

Doing the same old stimulating activity over and over again does not challenge your brain to rewire itself. We outline for you some of the most popular, scientifically-backed and highly rated Brain Training Games for you to enjoy yourself as you aim at improving your cognitive functions. In selecting our favorite brain-training program and apps, we scrutinized the variety and challenge of games included, the applicability to daily life, as well as any research into the brain benefits.


Lumosity is a well-known cognitive training app if you want to boost your brain. Due to its popularity, it naturally would be the first to come under scrutiny. It has been fairly well-studied compared to other brain training programs. You will be required to sign up with a free account to enjoy its features. You are offered 3 free games per day or you can opt to subscribe and enjoy more of the games. The games are fun and you get to challenge your brain every step of the way. The game isn’t only available on the website, but you can also download the app on your iOS or Android phone/tablet. In 2016, Lumosity was fined $2million by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for false advertising.


Still one of our favorites, this one-on-one brain training program that focuses on the underlying skills that are critical for learning and performance is increasingly gaining popularity. LearningRx exercises many important cognitive skills like working memory, auditory and visual processing, working memory, divided and selective attention, and executive function. The company behind it is actually committed to commissioning peer-reviewed studies, and they tend to display strong positive results. There are claims, however, that many of the studies come from researchers affiliated with the company.


Designers of MyBrainTrainer refer to it as a ‘brain gym’. The games work the same as Lumosity with subscriptions required. Unlike Lumosity, it is extremely cheap, with a 3-months subscription being equal to a month on Lumosity. The annual subscription is even cheaper. The app also offers a variety of free daily games. For the best results, its website recommends at least 10 minutes of brain training twice a day. This will assist you in mentally challenging yourself and enhancing your cognitive capabilities. A Month-long study for cognitive efficiency, IQ, anxiety and speed was performed by The Delos Institute using MyBrainTrainer exercises. The treatment group demonstrated a 9 point increase in IQ, a 13% increase in cognitive efficiency and speed and a 10 point drop on the STAI scale – signifying reduced anxiety and stress.


This training program was launched in 2011 and is organized into personal training programs built to boost performance in various areas of cognition. This takes the guesswork out of picking the right games.  Between the 5 categories, NeuroNation provides 60+ games to choose from. The diversity of challenges keeps users fascinated and inspired to come back for daily training sessions. NeuroNation’s website has claims of ongoing research, partnerships and scientific support based on past research. There are however no conclusive studies that particularly test this program.

Happy Neuron

Last but not least is Happy Neuron. This is a website with lots of fun games and activities. The games aim at 5 essential brain areas: language, memory, attention, visual and executive functions. The app unlike many others personalizes the training specifically to suit you and tracks your progress. What’s better is that the games have been scientifically researched for maximum benefits. A study on specific cognitive training with Happy Neuron games 3 times a week for 6 months showed improved brain activity in patients suffering from memory disorders. The Happy Neuron program has also been proven to grant seniors certain cognitive comfort and delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

PRO TIP: be wary of any brain training program that makes claims that seem too good to be true. It’s vital to mention that not all brain training is equal. Settle for products designed by real experts and subjected to peer-reviewed studies, and avoid those that spend more money on advertising than on research.


Brain training is becoming popular across generations as a tool to improve important skills and prevent mental decline. There’s unquestionably no shortage of apps that claim to boost your brainpower. The topic of whether the brain training programs have a positive impact on your brain is debatable. Instead of spending your hard-earned money on something that you aren’t sure of, there are other natural ways of achieving even better results. Reduce your screen time and take time to eat healthily, exercise more and learn something new daily. That will cause an impeccable change on your neural cells.

Engaging in creative pastimes are all proven ways to increase focus, memory, mood and clarity. The brain training apps are mentally stimulating, no doubt about that. The fact that they can do magic is however still not ascertained. There is only one way of finding out for yourself – trying them out!

For more ways to supercharge your brain, check out the best nootropic supplements currently available.

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