The Wall Street Journal (4/21, Naik, http://tinyurl.com/videogames-memory) reports a large new study casts doubt on whether videogame based programs can deliver what they promise. The hallmark of a good brain-training program isn’t whether it simply improves a person’s ability to do the specific mental tasks in the training, but whether it also boosts other cognitive skills. The latest study, published in the journal Nature, found no evidence for such improvement. “Our brain-training groups got better at the tests they practiced, and the more they practiced, the better they got. But there was no translation to any improvements in general cognitive function,” said study co-author Jessica Grahn, a scientist at the Medical and Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England. In North America, the market for such programs increased to $265 million in 2009 from $225 million a year earlier, according to SharpBrains, a market-research firm in San Francisco. Some $95 million of last year’s revenue came from consumers who buy commercially available brain-training programs. The rest came from professional users, including schools, insurance companies and retirement communities. The six-week online study involved 11,430 healthy participants, all viewers of a BBC television science program. They were first tested for their existing baseline cognitive abilities, and then randomly assigned to one of three groups, each with a different set of tasks. One group took part in online games aimed at improving skills linked to general intelligence. A second test group did exercises to boost short-term memory, attention and mathematical and visual-spatial skills—functions typically targeted by commercial brain-training programs. A third “control group” was asked to browse the Internet and seek out answers to general knowledge questions. The conclusion: Those who did the brain-training exercises improved in the specific tasks that they practiced. However, their improvement was generally no greater than the gains made by the control group surfing the Internet. And none of the groups showed evidence of improvement in cognitive skills that weren’t specifically used in their tasks.