Lumosity's brain games bring in big money

Brain game company Lumosity has raised an additional $31.5 million from Discovery Communications. Should Discovery be investigating whether its games really make you smarter as claimed?

Lumosity has been offering online brain games since 2007, and has used its gaming platform to develop a database of human cognitive performance. Now the company has proven that its focus on braininess can bring in big money. Yesterday, the company announced it has raised a new $31.5 million from Discovery Communications, nearly doubling its funding to date. With that money, Lumosity plans to continue its cognitive research and expand its reach to "hundreds of millions of users."

The move on Discovery's part is interesting because it shows how the content programmer is extending its investment in the education genre. Last year Discovery also introduced a new line of digital textbooks called Techbooks.

However, Discovery might be wise to question Lumosity's lofty claims that its games can improve intelligence through brain training. As Christie Nicholson reported here last month , there is conflicting evidence on whether games can make you smarter. In her interview with David Z. Hambrick, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, Hambrick referenced his own experiment in trying to replicate the results of a famous 2008 study by Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl. The Jaeggi study suggested brain training could improve intelligence, but Hambrick took issue with the way the study was conducted, and he set out to do his own research with colleagues Thomas S. Redick (lead researcher) and Randall W. Engle. From their own experiments:

There wasn't much more than a hint of the pattern of results that Jaeggi reported in any of the eight intelligence tests, and nothing in the predicted direction that even approached statistical significance. If you someone were to ask me to estimate how much 20 sessions of training in dual n-back tasks improves fluid intelligence, I'd say zero.

Whether brain games make you smarter or not, it's clear they've taken off with consumers. Lumosity says it has more than 25 million members, and that its mobile app has been downloaded 10 million times. No wonder Discovery Communications is putting up the big bucks.

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