Why Online Cognitive Training is Ineffective

If you are serious about enhancing cognition, you must consider which program modality (on line versus in person) is right for you. How do you select between two different choices?  Consider the following factors in your decision:

1. DEFINING BASELINES & MEASURING GAINS CLINICALLY: An independent, clinical, and scientific cognitive skills assessment should be conducted before starting a cognitive training program. This defines a trainee’s baseline and should influence the program’s design. Independent cognitive assessments, such as The National Institute of Health Toolbox, allow providers to identify any cognitive gaps/deficits, develop an appropriate training program, and measure post-training benefits in a way that is scientific and unbiased.

“If the company offering the cognitive programs uses its own tests to evaluate cognitive skills and gains, it loses credibility.”

2. CUSTOMIZING PROGRAMS: Standardized programs offered online or by franchisors do not account for the unique neurological profile and personality traits each trainee presents as well as a customized, in-person program can. Tailoring a program to each unique cognitive profile, while understanding the trainee emotionally and behaviorally, ensures the selection of the appropriate exercises and the modification of these as needed. More importantly, in-person training should evolve to the development of a plan to transfer gains achieved through training. Online training, in contrast, offers little hope of gains translating to real-world improvements.

3. DELIVERY CHANNEL: The single channel of delivery used in online training — the computer monitor — sharply reduces the efficacy of training each cognitive area. Learning, internalizing, and applying memory techniques, for instance, requires an interactive give-and-take between trainer and trainee, and an approach that is both customized and age appropriate, which computerized training cannot provide to any meaningful extent.

Information-Overload4.  MEDIA& TECHNOLOGY: The amount of information we are exposed to has increased exponentially due to technology (200 times more than we were exposed to just twenty years ago). This information overload leads to rapid shifting, which can weaken our sustained attention and affect how deeply we are able to think about the information we consume.


5. MOTIVATION, DISCIPLINE & EFFORT:  Ironically, the casual nature of online brain games makes them easy to ignore and prone to procrastination, — the very behavior many trainees seek to change. Appointments with a professional trainer enforce regularly scheduled sessions.



Cognitive training is most effective when it is consistent and intense, which foster’s long-term potentiation (persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity).Online training is often done erratically and out of curiosity, rather than with the consistent and conscientious effort cognitive training requires. In the beginning, online brain training can be fun and novel, but once people feel like they’ve hit a wall, whether out of boredom or frustration, they tend to stop. On the other hand, a professional trainer can build a therapeutic alliance, adapting to these and other changes in a students motivation. Using proven strategies and techniques, positive encouragement, and customization, a trainer can consistently provide real results.