Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Sadly, Brain Games Don't Work

Photo by  Daniel Korpai  on  Unsplash

Just as I love finding scientific studies that indicate behaviors and activities that can improve our creativity, I also value those studies that shatter conventional methods that don’t work. Brain games—the Lumosity-type mobile games that claim to give your brain a boost—are, sadly, just such a method.

A study between the laboratories of neuroscientists Joseph Kable and Caryn Lerman, both at the University of Pennsylvania proves that these brain games might be fun, but they do nothing for our cognitive performance. Here’s the study and then five other things you can do with your time that will actually help you.

The study.

The trial included 128 young adults who conducted before and after cognitive tests. Some trained with Lumosity for ten weeks between tests while a control group played similarly entertaining online video games not designed for cognitive improvement. The researchers looked for indications of improved cognitive performance, even using neural imaging for activity in the subjects’ brains before and after the ten weeks.

The result? There was absolutely zero effect—one way or the other—of brain games in cognitive performance. Zero.

It’s no wonder Lumosity was fined $2 million for false advertising back in 2016.

For more details on the study, click here.

so What does work?

Now that we know that playing these brain games doesn’t work, here are five other things you can spend your time doing that we know DO work, plucked right from the archives of this blog:

  1. Take a walk—this is one of the most profound studies I’ve ever seen on creativity. Researchers found out that walking increases creativity by 60%. I’ve walked 3 miles nearly every day since I learned of this study (seriously).

  2. Close your eyes—there’s evidence that closing your eyes actually opens your mind. But before you close them, check out the article.

  3. Give yourself a creative placebo—if you know it’s a placebo I’m not sure it’ll work, but check out the study anyway. It’s fascinating to consider how important “hope” is to creativity.

  4. Write down your dreams—researchers found that those who record them increase their creativity. And it takes less time than a Lumosity game.

  5. Sensory deprivation tanks—a whole lot more than closing your eyes, but getting into one of those sensory deprivation flotation tanks might be time better spent than brain games.

Sorry for the bad news on brain games. But keep reading this blog and I’ll keep giving you ways to be more creative that actually work. Deal?


Will Burns is a Forbes Contributor, a marketing consultant, and CEO of Ideasicle, a virtual idea generation company. Follow him on Twitter @WillOBurns.