Journal of Cognitive Enhancement

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 539–558 | Cite as

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Commercial Brain Game Training with Working-Memory Tasks

  • Tilo StrobachEmail author
  • Lynn Huestegge


Commercial brain games are home- and computer-based cognitive trainings that are industrially offered and promise to enhance cognitive functioning by repeating cognitive tasks. Despite compelling evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive trainings in various domains and populations, the assumption of brain games’ effects on people’s minds has been challenged. However, there are only very few attempts to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of such games under ecologically valid training conditions. To approach this gap in the literature, we applied commercially available training tasks assumed to tap into working memory updating and capacity. The effectiveness of this training was measured by utilizing pre- and post-tests in trained tasks (criterion tasks), untrained transfer tasks from the assumed training domains (near-transfer tasks), as well as from the domains processing speed, shifting, inhibition, reasoning, and self-reported cognitive failures (far-transfer tasks). Training as well as pre-post-tests were completely administered home-based. In contrast to an active control group, a training group improved performance in the criterion tasks and near-transfer tasks. Improved performance was also evident in processing speed and shifting tasks (i.e., far-transfer tasks), but these improvements were not as conclusive as those in near-transfer tasks. Further, the number of reported cognitive failures was reduced in the training in contrast to the control group at post-test. Performance improvements were more pronounced for high-performing participants (i.e., magnification effects). In general, this study provides an evaluation of the effectiveness of a particular set of working-memory training tasks in an ecologically valid setting in the context of brain games.


Commercial brain games Cognitive training Transfer, cognitive plasticity Working memory 



We would like to thank and Rouwen Hirth for their technical support during data collection. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tilo Strobach, Medical School Hamburg, Department of Psychology, Am Kaiserkai 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany. E-mail may be sent to

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

TS and LH have full positions at Medical School Hamburg and at University of Würzburg, respectively. The authors have no financial interest in this study and have no financial disclosure to the participating company. They do not hold shares in this company.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MSH Medical School Hamburg, Department of PsychologyHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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