Does scientific evidence show brain training works?

Yes, although not all scientists agree. That may be because the question itself is flawed: it assumes all brain training is essentially the same.

In 2014, a group of 70 scientists released a letter calling into question the benefits of brain training. In response, more than 120 scientists (including me) issued a dissent, pointing to substantial research showing that brain training has a broad range of benefits.

Part of the disconnect is in the definition of “brain training.” Many people—including some scientists—don’t differentiate between brain-training programs. So if one study comes out saying “brain training” doesn’t work, they believe it’s a reflection on all brain-training programs. But programs can be vastly different: some are built by gamers who know next to nothing about the brain, while others are rigorously constructed by scientists with deep knowledge of the brain.

In other words, using “brain training” as a blanket term is like using “pills” as a blanket term. You would never study one pill and then say “pills” don’t work, or do work. Yet researchers (and reporters) do that all the time for brain training programs—and it makes no more sense than for pills. As with pills, some are highly useful, and others are just sugar.

In this section, you can find the two letters from scientists—both the one calling into question the benefits of brain training and the dissenting letter—and see who signed each one.