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Meta-Analysis Shows One Kind of Brain Training Does Work

A systematic review and meta-analysis has just published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, and concludes that a specific type of computerized brain training – “UFOV® training” – enhances cognitive outcomes and transfers to everyday activities. That training method is licensed exclusively to Posit Science and is commercially-available in its BrainHQ training platform and apps.
The reviewers conclude that “UFOV training should be implemented among older adults to improve real-world functional outcomes and well-being.”
UFOV training is named for its ability to improve performance on the Useful Field of View test, which measures how much visual information a person can take in with a glance. UFOV training improves attention and speed of processing – two elemental brain functions whose degradation can often provide an early warning of more significant issues.
This particular type of cognitive training is focused on improving cognitive and perceptual processes through intensive, repetitive, and progressively challenging computerized exercises. The training engages the brain’s plasticity – its ability to change chemically, physically and functionally. In the literature, this training is often also called “speed of processing training” or “plasticity-based brain training.”
The reviewers looked at 44 peer-reviewed articles from 17 randomized controlled trials. They used the Institute of Medicine criteria for evaluating brain training programs, and found that the UFOV training (a) enhanced neural outcomes, speed of processing, and attention; (b) had equivalent effects whether compared to active or no-contact controls; (c) improved performance at everyday functions; (d) had improvements that endured across ten years; and (e) showed effectiveness in multiple studies, most of which were conducted by researchers without financial interests in the training.
The review notes that six prior systematic reviews of computerized cognitive training have found the training to be effective, yet the effectiveness of cognitive training continues to be debated.
The reviewers write: “The field is at a critical juncture in which the data from cognitive training studies is challenging to existing theories and paradigms. We face a choice to either dismiss cognitive training to preserve existing theories and paradigms, or to update such paradigms to accommodate new data. Dismissing effective behavioral interventions on theoretical grounds is not beneficial to public health.”
“There has been a lot of back and forth in the scientific community about the efficacy of brain training,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “That’s because scientists have assumed all cognitive training programs are the same, and seem confused when some work and some don’t. By focusing specifically on UFOV training, this new analysis confirms that the specific type of brain training matters.”
While this is the seventh such review in recent years, it is the first to focus on only one particular type of training, and it is the second to look exclusively at training that is commercially-available. A year ago, a team of reviewers from Alzheimer’s research institutes in Australia performed a broad review of commercially-available brain training apps targeting older adults. They found that most apps had no peer-reviewed evidence of efficacy, and that only Posit Science exercises found in BrainHQ were backed by multiple, high quality studies.