“Our research is one way to show that the approach works; the FDA trials are another,” she said. In one study, Vinogradov’s team found improved cognition among schizophrenia patients who trained with Posit’s software. A second study found improved ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, said that while the data coming out of Posit Science are promising, other companies are making significant advances, as well.
Doraiswamy collaborates with Lumosity, an online platform for brain games. It claims to have 25 million registered users, most of whom use the games for free. (Posit Science, by contrast, develops tailored solutions for particular target groups and then sells licenses of the software.)
Lumosity wants to put its millions of players to use for science. The company may lack data about the age and mental condition of its users, but it hopes to make up for those shortcomings with sheer numbers.
Judged by their cognitive performance, most of Lumosity’s users are healthy. But Lumosity co-founder Michael Scanlon estimates that about one in 10 has a medical condition. He hopes his games one day will contribute to battling dementia, a condition that some of his family members have.
Vinogradov has yet to be convinced of Lumosity’s approach. “They have good ideas,” she said, “but how do you do experiments without a control group?” She sees that as a manifestation of the general problem in the brain-training field — the lack of a standardized approach for how studies should be conducted.
“We are like at the beginning of vaccination research: We have yet to figure out which dosages to use, which parameters to measure,” she said.
Boytchev is a freelance writer.