Crosswords to computers: A critical review of popular approaches to cognitive enhancement

Amy J. Jak, Adriana M. Seelye, Sarah M. Jurick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Cognitive enhancement strategies have gained recent popularity and have the potential to benefit clinical and non-clinical populations. As technology advances and the number of cognitively healthy adults seeking methods of improving or preserving cognitive functioning grows, the role of electronic (e.g., computer and video game based) cognitive training becomes more relevant and warrants greater scientific scrutiny. This paper serves as a critical review of empirical evaluations of publically available electronic cognitive training programs. Many studies have found that electronic training approaches result in significant improvements in trained cognitive tasks. Fewer studies have demonstrated improvements in untrained tasks within the trained cognitive domain, non-trained cognitive domains, or on measures of everyday function. Successful cognitive training programs will elicit effects that generalize to untrained, practical tasks for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, many studies of electronic cognitive training programs are hindered by methodological limitations such as lack of an adequate control group, long-term follow-up and ecologically valid outcome measures. Despite these limitations, evidence suggests that computerized cognitive training has the potential to positively impact one's sense of social connectivity and self-efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
JournalNeuropsychology review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Peretz et al. (2011) examined cognitive outcomes following use of another computer-based cognitive training program, CogniFit. In this study, 155 healthy older adults were randomized to 3 months (6 h per month) of adaptive CogniFit computer training or classic computer games (e.g., Tetris, puzzles, mazes). Participants completed six tests from the NexAde cognitive test battery (Korczyn and Aharonson 2007), a computerized battery that assesses focused attention, sustained attention, memory recognition, memory recall, visuospatial learning, visuospatial working memory, executive functions, and mental flexibility, at baseline and post-training. Results showed that both CogniFit training and computer games resulted in significant post-training improvements on untrained tests of attention, memory, and executive functioning, whereas CogniFit training showed additional benefits in visuospatial abilities and focused attention. Individuals in both groups reported a subjective sense of improved cognitive abilities post-training (Peretz et al. 2011). Generalizability of these improvements to ecologically valid tasks of everyday cognitive functioning was not evaluated, however. Financial and commercial conflicts of interest were reported by the authors, including financial support from CogniFit.


  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Computer training
  • Transfer effects
  • Video games


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