Those brain-training games you've downloaded on to your iPhone or bought for your Nintendo DSi XL may have no actual effect on improving brain function. According to a study conducted by the BBC, printed in Nature magazine [PDF], these grey-matter twisters result in nothing other than entertainment.
The massive study followed 11,430 people between the ages of 18 and 60 over six weeks. Participants engaged in brain-training 'workouts' for at least 10 minutes a day, three times per week.
They were then randomly split into three groups: one underwent sessions designed to train reasoning powers, planning and problem-solving skills; another played brain-training games meant to train short-term memory, attention, maths and visuospatial skills; and the third went online, hunting for information that didn't target any specific cognitive skills.
Subjects did get better at playing said games (duh), but the study posits that there are no further improvements. "The results are clear. Statistically, there are no significant differences between the improvements seen in participants who played our brain training games, and those who just went on the internet for the same length of time," said Dr Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council.
Though the study was the biggest of its kind, it's still just a study, and open to debate and interpretation. Still, it makes me wish I'd saved my money for graduate school rather than games like Unblock Me.