It’s a no-brainer that training specific brain functions improves performance on tasks that use those same functions. Training visual discrimination, for example, will make you better at visual discrimination—within the scientific community, that’s old news. But some fascinating broader implications of cognitive training are coming to light: recent research is showing that cognitive training can lead to improvements in other aspects of life as well.
A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science demonstrated that daily brain training can help strengthen willpower and promote healthy lifestyle choices in myriad ways. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam studied a group of problem drinkers who had trouble controlling their automatic impulse to drink alcohol. Researchers hypothesized that boosting cognitive functions such as working memory, which is important for maintaining and manipulating information about future goals, could indirectly help alcoholics control their impulses and drink less.
To test this theory, researchers split participants into two groups. The training group completed 25 daily sessions of a challenging working memory training regimen that involved exercises similar to Lumosity games such as Memory Matrix and Monster Garden. Participants in the control group also completed daily working memory tasks, but they only played the easiest level of each task. The results showed that the training group improved their memory capacity and also drank less alcohol than those in the control group. Moreover, the improvements were enduring: one month later, training participants who had played challenging games still had lower drinking rates than the control group.
This study shows that challenging cognitive training can help people control their impulses and make healthier choices. With further research, it may be possible to determine whether similar training can lead to improvements in other domains of life that require willpower and self-control. New studies, for example, might investigate whether brain training can help people stick to their diets or save more money for retirement.
This exciting new evidence suggests that completing daily brain training exercises like those on Lumosity may contribute to surprising lifestyle benefits beyond improving your brain—they might help you make overall smarter choices that keep the rest of your body healthy as well.