Study: Training Games Help Students Improve Cognitive Skills

Students who used Lumosity games for more than nine hours improved almost twice as much as others.

Students who used Lumosity brain training games improved nearly twice as much as those who did not.

Students who used cognitive training games in the classroom and at home in some cases improved almost twice as much as those who did not, according to a study released Monday.

Lumosity, an online cognitive training and neuroscience research company, conducted a study of more than 1,300 students from 45 schools in six countries during the 2012 school year to determine if those who played the Lumosity brain training games that target different cognitive functions – such as attention, memory, and problem solving – would perform better than students who continued their education as usual.

One interesting finding, says lead author Nicole Ng, was that the results were dose-dependent: the kids who trained more improved more on the standardized tests Lumosity researchers issued. Students who trained with Lumosity for more than nine hours, for example, improved almost twice as much as those who did not.

[READ: Teresa Heinz Kerry Credits Lumosity for Speedy Recovery]

"This idea of training core cognitive abilities is new for people, especially in education, because it isn't content-based and because traditionally, school is thought of as a place where you're learning math facts or how to write an essay about history," Ng says. "This idea that your core cognitive abilities, like your attention and your working memory, kind of are at the periphery. It's not the focus of why you go to school."

After several teachers contacted the company asking for subscriptions to the more than 40 brain training games, Lumosity developed its Lumosity Education Access Program (LEAP). It gave free subscriptions (which usually run at about $80 per year) to the teachers for all of their students. In exchange, the participants agreed to engage in a research project with Lumosity, Ng says.

All 1,305 students took a pre-assessment and were then split into two groups: 894 students who trained with Lumosity games and 411 who received education as usual. After three months, the students took the same standardized test. Overall, students who did not train with Lumosity improved their scores by about four points, and those who did use the brain training games improved their scores by about seven points.

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Ng says that through improving essential and underlying core cognitive abilities, students can perform better at higher order mental activities in school, such as analysis, evaluation and application. Teresa Heinz Kerry recently credited the Lumosity games for her recovery from a seizure she suffered in July.

One game, called the Monster Garden, resembles a traditional memory match game, for example. Students look at a field with squares and different monsters appear in separate plots. Then, flowers appear in other plots before they are all recovered. Ng says that students not only have to memorize the plot locations, but also take that information, and apply it to the game.

"People are starting to better understand why it might be more important to, at least (in a supplementary way), target these types of cognitive functions in an educational environment," Ng says.

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