Beware Deceptive Claims from Brain Training Companies

By | January 7, 2016

Lumosity, one of the largest online brain training sites, has been hit with a $2 Million penalty by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive advertising.

The FTC charged that Lumosity deceived consumers with unfounded claims that its brain games can help users perform better at work and in school, reduce or delay age-related cognitive impairment, and reduce symptoms of other serious health conditions such as stroke, concussions, and PTSD.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

As part of the court settlement, Lumosity has been ordered to notify all current customers that they can cancel their auto-renewal memberships. (See FTC order to Lumosity below.)

The Credibility Problem with Brain Training Apps

This FTC enforcement action should act as a warning and wake-up call to other brain training companies such as BrainHQ, CogniFit, BrainGymmer, Memorado, FitBrains, LearningRx, MyBrainSolutions, MindPrint Learning, and C8 Activate (to name a few from more than 100 brain game apps and programs).

As we previously discussed in this article, the brain training “industry” faces two key challenges:

1. The barrier to market entry for brain training apps is extremely low. Any company (or person) can create a few online brain games “based on neuroscience” and then market them as a cure-all for learning disabilities or Alzheimer’s disease, or as a quick and easy way to “raise your IQ”.

2. Scientifically proven and validated cognitive training is expensive to create, both in time and resources. There is some credible work being done for highly targeted cognitive training such as driver safety – the Gazzaley Lab at UCSF is one such example of useful research.

The challenge for consumers is how to separate baseless marketing claims (the many), from actual value from cognitive training (the few).

Bottom line: Caveat emptor – Buyer beware when it comes to brain training apps.

What Works for Cognitive Health

A large body of evidence points to physical exercise, quality sleep, a healthy diet, and positive social interaction as far more important to keeping your brain healthy, rather than using brain game apps.

Physical activity supports good cardiovascular health (important for brain health), and also stimulates the neurotrophic factor BDNF, which helps the brain grow new neural connections. Quality sleep helps the brain’s natural ability to clear amyloid beta protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Learn more with the Healthy Brain Test, and receive a free report.

FTC Order to Lumosity for Subscription Cancellation