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Lumosity is an online program consisting of games claiming to improve memory, attention, flexibility, speed of processing, and problem solving. Lumosity is the product of Lumos Labs, a brain training and neuroscience research company based in San Francisco, California.
There is limited independent evidence that these games are effective, and the company's claims for them have been found to be misleading by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
The company raised $400,000 in capital from angel investors in 2007, a Series A of $3 million from Harrison Metal Capital, FirstMark Capital and Norwest Venture Partners in 2008, a Series C of $32.5 million led by Menlo Ventures, and a Series D of $31.5 million led by Discovery Communications with participation from existing investors.
On January 5, 2016, Lumos Labs agreed to a $50 million settlement (reduced to $2 million subject to financial verification) to the Federal Trade Commission over claims of false advertising for their product. The Commission found that Lumosity's marketing "preyed on consumers' fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer's disease", without providing any scientific evidence to back its claims. The company was ordered not to make any claims that its products can "[improve] performance in school, at work, or in athletics" or "[delay or protect] against age-related decline in memory or other cognitive function, including mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or Alzheimer's disease", or "[reduce] cognitive impairment caused by health conditions, including Turner syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, or side effects of chemotherapy", without "competent and reliable scientific evidence".
Studies of Lumosity's effectiveness have shown mixed results. Lumos Labs website lists five independent research studies supporting benefits of Lumosity brain games or Lumosity-like customized programs specially developed for researchers:
Researcher Julia Mayas from National University of Distance Education in Madrid, Spain found a significant reduction of distraction and an increase of alertness in 15 elderly healthy adults after 20 one-hour training sessions using Lumosity in comparison to a control group of 12. The authors conclude that these results suggest neurocognitive plasticity in the old human brain.
Psychologists Maurice Finn and Skye McDonald from the University of New South Wales used Lumosity training with patients with mild cognitive impairment. Results indicated that participants were able to improve their performance across a range of tasks with training. There was some evidence of generalization of training to a measure of visual sustained attention. Yet, there were no significant effects of training on self-reported everyday memory functioning or mood.
- Kesler et al. conducted study of 23 paediatric cancer survivors and found improved cognitive performance and corresponding increases in brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex following training with customized program by Lumos Labs. Participants showed significantly improved processing speed, cognitive flexibility, verbal and visual declarative memory scores.
- Kesler et al. also demonstrated enhanced math skills and cognitive performance with corresponding changes in brain activity in individuals with Turner syndrome following training with customized program by Lumos Labs.
- Kesler et al. found that women whose breast cancer had been treated with chemotherapy demonstrated improved executive function, such as cognitive flexibility, verbal fluency and processing speed after cognitive training. This work is published in Clinical Breast Cancer.
However, other studies demonstrated no effects of training. In one study, a panel of experts, including eminent neuroscientists, examined Dr Kawashima's Brain Training, Mindfit and Lumosity. They found there was no scientific evidence to support claims that the gadgets or brain games can help improve memory or stave off the risk of illnesses such as dementia. Follow-up studies attempting to replicate other studies with positive experimental results found no effect from the training. Some have noted that the clinical trials cited on their website show that studies conducted used a very small sample size and that the methodology section fails to clearly explain how control groups were handled. Other studies have failed to demonstrate generalizable benefits of brain training.
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