Use it or lose it? Wii brain exercise practice and reading for domain knowledge

We investigated the training effects and transfer effects associated with 2 approaches to cognitive activities (so-called brain training) that might mitigate age-related cognitive decline. A sample of 78 adults between the ages of 50 and 71 completed 20 one-hr training sessions with the Nintendo Wii Big Brain Academy software over the course of 1 month and, in a second month, completed 20 one-hr reading sessions with articles on 4 different current topics (order of assignment was counterbalanced for the participants). An extensive battery of cognitive and perceptual speed ability measures was administered before and after each month of cognitive training activities, along with a battery of domain-knowledge tests. Results indicated substantial improvements on the Wii tasks, somewhat less improvement on the domain knowledge tests, and practice-related improvements on 6 of the 10 ability tests. However, there was no significant transfer of training from either the Wii practice or the reading tasks to measures of cognitive and perceptual speed abilities. Implications for these findings are discussed in terms of adult intellectual development and maintenance.