• Question: ello! Are any of you aware of, or involved with, a company called www.mycognition.com? Do you think the methodology works?

    Asked by mrholden to Nikki, Michael, Katherine, Joni, Ellie, Duncan, Daniel, Catriona, Anna on 20 Apr 2015.
    • Photo: Daniel Ansari

      Daniel Ansari answered on 20 Apr 2015:

      I am not familiar with this specific company, but there is a growing industry around ‘cognitive training’ or ‘brain training’. There is a lot of debate around the efficacy of so-called ‘brain training’ programs.

      One of the first things to look for when evaluating new companies that are selling ‘brain training’ programs is to see what empirical evidence they have to support their programs. In the case of the website you ask about, they refer to one paper by Jaeggi and colleagues. This is an interesting paper, but the training program evaluated in this paper is not the same, as far as I can see, as the one being sold by the company. Its important to have research that directly evaluates the programs being marketed. In my experience, the evidence base for many of the current ‘cognitive training’ or ‘brain training’ products is rather thin and few of the studies cited on websites of companies such are randomized controlled trials to evaluate their efficacy.

      Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between ‘near transfer’ and ‘far transfer’. Many ‘brain training’ programs purport to yield benefits that extend beyond the skills being trained. This is known as ‘far transfer’. However, much of the evidence from studies on ‘brain training’ suggest that these activities lead to ‘near transfer’ – that is individuals improve on tasks that are very similar to those being trained. I believe most educators would be interested in ‘far transfer’ – you train on a game and it improves your overall learning abilities. However, there is currently very little evidence for such ‘far transfer’ effects.

      For a big UK-based study on brain training, see:

      For a recent statement on brain training by a group of scientists working in this area, see:


    • Photo: Duncan Astle

      Duncan Astle answered on 9 May 2015:

      Great question – like Daniel said, there are lots of different training programmes, and not all of the studies are particularly well design (e.g. no active control groups etc.). This cuts both ways. In some cases, some of the ‘null effects’ papers have not been that well designed either.

      We have recently done a lot of work on this kind of training – http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/16/6277.full

      I also recently gave an interview on the topic to the BBC, which might give a good summary –

      In the end, I think we need to be realistic about cognitive training. It is highly unlikely to be ‘cure’ for many aspects of cognition. Furthermore, the quality of science currently lags well behind some of the claims made. However, there are possible beneficial uses that should be explored with good quality science, conducted by scientists who are genuinely independent of any of the manufacturers if these packages.