Lumosity’s much-hyped brain training exercises are a bunch of bunk, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled.
And if Lumosity wishes to continuing marketing is so-called “brain training” program, the company that owns it — Lumos Labs — will have to unearth some compelling scientific evidence that their cute games actually keep the mind sharp and improve cognitive impairment, as it has claimed, NBC News reported.
Lumosity’s commercials are hard to avoid. Potential customers, fearful of losing their minds as they age, have been inundated with ads for the brain training program through CNN, NPR, Spotify, and Fox News, the Washington Post reported. The benefits of the program were also touted in blogs, social media, mails, and by using Google AdWords to drive traffic to the Luminosity website. The FTC said the company purchased keywords related to memory, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) January 6, 2016
The program boasts 70 million users in 180 countries. In a ruling that accuses Lumos Labs of outright lying, the FTC said Lumosity earned those customers by taking advantage of their fear, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
According to the FTC, Lumosity created 40 games it claimed targeted and trained specific areas of the brain. And they said if customers trained their brains for 10 to 15 minutes every day, up to four times a week, they could achieve their “full potential.”
Lumosity claims that a Lumos Labs study, published in academic journal PLOSone last year, backed up these claims. The study found that people who played the games for 15 minutes five days a week over 10 weeks experienced improved “neuropsychological performance.” They claimed their customers did better than people who just did crossword puzzles.
The FTC said Lumosity will have to do much better than that going forward. In the company’s settlement with the FTC, it’s agreed to provide “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to back up claims in the future.
The FTC judgment also requires the company to pay the FTC $2 million, money that will be used to pay back swindled customers. Lumos Labs is also required to help people easily cancel auto-renewal billing. The brain training program was far from cheap, costing about $15 a month and $300 a year.
Naturally, Lumos Labs is defending its brain training program, lauding its “strong contributions to the scientific community.”
“Neither the action nor the settlement pertains to the rigor of our research or the quality of the products — it is a reflection of marketing language that has been discontinued. Our focus as a company has not and will not change: We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.”
Brain training is a big industry right now, with sales estimated at over $1 billion. However, the FDA hasn’t approved any of the programs, and scientists have slammed the industry for its exaggerated marketing.
So what can you do to make your brain sharper — for real? You’ll be happy to know that many of these methods don’t cost $300 a year.
According to LiveScience, all you really need to keep the old gray matter sharp is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every other day; a low glycemic diet that’s high in fiber and contains reasonable amounts of fat and protein; healthy habits, like avoiding cigarettes and saturated fat to stave of preventable diseases like obesity; sleep; drinking up to four cups of coffee a day; eating fish; and relaxing and reducing stress.
And in a recognition, perhaps, that Lumosity may have been on the right track at least — you can keep your mind sharp by continuing to learn. Whether that’s through Sudoku, or crossword puzzles, or reading is up to you.
[Image via Johan Swanepoel/Shutterstock]