Does brain training really work?

A growing stream of ads and websites hype the marvels of computer-based cognitive programs and brain games for anxiously aging baby boomers and their parents, writes John Swartzberg in a new column on

John Swartzberg

John Swartzberg

“I certainly understand the attraction of promises of faster think­ing, rejuvenated memory and sharper focus — all for just a few hundred dollars or perhaps $12 a month, auto-billed — especially when I mis­place my car keys (again!) or forget a password I use every day,” says Swartzberg, an internist and infectious disease specialist and an emeritus professor in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

“But many of the ads make me cringe, especially because I know that the research about brain training has been underwhelming, for the most part.”

Swartzberg, who serves as chairman of the editorial board of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter and, analyzes all the latest research and comes up with the consensus advice for people worried about losing their mental acuity with age: live a normal, active social life and forget about brain training.

His conclusion: “If you want to exercise your brain, study Spanish, take up Ikebana flower arranging, or learn a new game like chess or bridge. You may strengthen those neural connections in your brain, and you’ll almost certainly have fun.”

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Read more by John Swartzberg on the Berkeley Blog.

Also by Swartzberg on Berkeley News: Dietary supplements: Are the worth it?