In our youth-obsessed culture, gray hair and crow's feet command a lot of time, money and attention. But what good is a shiny racecar with a rusted-out engine under the hood? Staying mentally sharp is a top concern for our graying population — and it's big business, too.
"Brain health" companies such as Lumosity and Posit Science offer popular Web and mobile games that promise to act like a fountain of youth for your gray matter. The companies advertise that their games improve such cognitive skills as memory, attention, processing speed, mental flexibility and problem solving. And their products are selling. According to a 2013 report by independent market-research firm SharpBrains, the brain-health industry surpassed $1 billion in revenues in 2012.
But how effective are they? Psychologists have found that cognitive training can, in fact, have payoffs for skills like memory and problem solving. But scientists are still sorting out the specifics about how best to turn that training into brain games that work.