February 16, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO – Researchers associated with five institutes in Australia  looked at whether any commercially-available brain training apps actually help with healthy aging, and found that BrainHQ had far and away the most scientific evidence. Their systematic review of the literature has published in the journal Neuropsychological Review.

The authors found that “current evidence supports that at least some commercially available computerized brain training products can assist in promoting healthy brain aging.”

The researchers conducted a literature review and a review of the brain-training marketplace.  They identified 18 companies and looked at the scientific claims behind their products. They found that 11 companies had no clinical trials or empirical evidence indicating that they helped with healthy aging.

Seven companies marketing computerized brain exercises had products backed by peer-reviewed clinical trials, with formal cognitive outcome measures for healthy adults aged 50 and older. The researchers excluded trials that lacked peer reviewed papers or control groups. This methodology resulted in 26 studies for review.

After systematic review, the researchers classified the products of the seven companies into three levels. Level I required at least two well-designed randomized controlled trials or quasi-randomized studies, one of which had to be of high quality. Level II required only one well-designed randomized controlled trial of high quality. Level III required only one moderate/poorly designed randomized controlled trials and other methodological approaches (e.g., internal white paper studies).

BrainHQ and CogniFit met the criteria for Level I.  BrainHQ had 10 studies, of which 8 were of high quality, while CogniFit had three studies, of which one was high quality. Cogmed, BrainAge 2 and My Brain Trainer were in Level II, each with one high quality study. Dakim and Lumosity were in Level III, each with one study of moderate quality.

“The publication of high quality studies of commercially available programs has really accelerated over the past five years,” said Dr. Ralph Martins, who led the review. “The evidence now supports the notion that the human brain is plastic in later life, and can benefit from properly designed brain training programs.”

The researchers found that only BrainHQ exercises, made by Posit Science, were backed by more than one high quality study, noting that “multiple peer-reviewed articles evaluating Posit Science programs have fulfilled the gold standard for clinical trials.”

”This review helps clinicians separate the wheat from the chaff,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science.  “Finally, there is an independent basis for recommending the program with the most proven efficacy to people concerned about maintaining or improving cognitive performance.”

Some of the exercises in BrainHQ are available for free, either by registering at www.brainhq.com or through a download of the BrainHQ app from the Apple App Store. Full access to the dozens of exercises in BrainHQ is available to annual subscribers for $8 per month. Also, many public libraries offer free access to all the exercises in BrainHQ.