Evidence for narrow transfer after short-term cognitive training in older adults

Dustin J. Souders, Walter R. Boot, Kenneth Blocker, Thomas Vitale, Nelson A. Roque, Neil Charness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The degree to which "brain training" can improve general cognition, resulting in improved performance on tasks dissimilar from the trained tasks (transfer of training), is a controversial topic. Here, we tested the degree to which cognitive training, in the form of gamified training activities that have demonstrated some degree of success in the past, might result in broad transfer. Sixty older adults were randomly assigned to a gamified cognitive training intervention or to an active control condition that involved playing word and number puzzle games. Participants were provided with tablet computers and asked to engage in their assigned training for 30 45-min training sessions over the course of 1 month. Although intervention adherence was acceptable, little evidence for transfer was observed except for the performance of one task that most resembled the gamified cognitive training: There was a trend for greater improvement on a version of the corsi block tapping task for the cognitive training group relative to the control group. This task was very similar to one of the training games. Results suggest that participants were learning specific skills and strategies from game training that influenced their performance on a similar task. However, even this near-transfer effect was weak. Although the results were not positive with respect to broad transfer of training, longer duration studies with larger samples and the addition of a retention period are necessary before the benefit of this specific intervention can be ruled out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this