Sunday, September 20, 2009
Brain Fitness Software: Hype or Bologna?
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, KQED Radio, the biggest local NPR station, is well into its Fall fund-raising drive. Once again, it’s promoting--as a gift to big donors--“brain fitness” products from Posit Science in San Francisco. I’ve used the software, which is supposed to stimulate users' brains to make new connections and fortify important ones, and I don’t think its going to hurt anyone. It might well even help. But the KQED announcers’ repeated promise that it is “scientifically proven to make you smarter and help you recover lost brain function” is bunk, as I found researching this skeptical article about the burgeoning brain fitness movement for San Francisco Magazine. It’s notoriously hard to test this kind of software scientifically, the placebo effect alone blows the current studies out of the water, and the efforts to do so have produced ambiguous results, at best. Take a look at this buyer beware statement from the Stanford Center on Longevity.