The demands of today’s society for interventions that optimize cognitive abilities and prevent their decline have motivated the translation of scientific findings into applied programs. Ordinary activities such as physical exercise, chess, meditation, playing video games or a musical instrument, as well as specific cognitive programs, have witnessed the growth of evidence emphasizing their cognitive benefits. Here, we outline several issues that need consideration before speculating on the implications of this literature: (a) the magnitude and costs of the effect, (b) the robustness of the effect, (c) testing causality, (d) the identification of moderator variables, and (e) the underlying mechanisms. We consider that this would contribute to a critical appraisal of the extant findings by the interested researchers, to reduced overstatements in the media reports about the applicability and public relevance of the effects reported in scientific articles, and to potentially help designing new interventions.

Open Access