Do Brain Games Really Help?

Research on the benefits of brain games for memory is not conclusive. Most experts agree, however, that memory-boosting games can improve the skills you practice while playing. For example, “if I repeatedly test your ability to remember briefly presented visual patterns, you will indeed get better at remembering those patterns,” King says. To enhance your recall ability more generally, King recommends the so-called “method of loci,” a technique that trains you to picture specific items on a mental list of objects you own in the corner, space, or room where they are placed. Age-related cognitive decline is another area where brain training games could have some positive effects.

If you play brain games to try to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, challenging your mind with the occasional Sudoku puzzle may not be worth your time.

Think twice before shelling out a lot of money for fancy brain training programs. There is not enough evidence for any of the currently available products to say which would work best. Incorporating more activities that require active thinking and problem solving into your daily routine, such as playing a musical instrument or board game, participating in a book club, or volunteering. Other lifestyle factors—such as getting enough sleep, being physically active, and eating nutrient-rich foods—might boost your brain, as well.