ScienceNow reports an interesting tussle over the effectiveness of brain training programs. BBC producers contacted Adrian Owen at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, U.K., to help design an experiment to test the efficacy of computer brain training exercises and tested them in 11,430 healthy adults who registered on a Web site set up by the BBC. One group trained on a program that emphasized reasoning and problem-solving skills, and another group trained on a program that emphasized different skills, including short-term memory and attention. A third, control group, essentially did busywork, hunting for answers to general knowledge questions on the Internet. All participants were asked to "train" for at least 10 minutes, three times a week for 6 weeks, and all received a battery of cognitive tests before and after this 6-week period....Not surprisingly, people in both training groups got better at the tasks they actually practiced. But that's as far as it went - none of the brain-training tasks transferred to other mental or cognitive abilities beyond what had been specifically practiced.
These conclusion are contested by Klingberg, who has published one of the few studies demonstrating benefits of training can generalize beyond a specific task. He notes subjects were trained only three hours in total.
I'm a bit puzzled over why the work of Jaeggi et al. showing the effects of short term memory training on general intelligence, which I have mentioned previously, was not mentioned.