The Association for Psychological Science recently published a massive 200-page research report on brain training programs, seeing if fun cognitive tasks or games can enhance performance on other tasks. Peer-reviewed, respected authors, fully-referenced. It covered all the valid studies that have examined this question, a huge research database.
And the results?
Based on this examination, we find extensive evidence that brain-training interventions improve performance on the trained tasks, less evidence that such interventions improve performance on closely related tasks, and little evidence that training enhances performance on distantly related tasks or that training improves everyday cognitive performance.
So no, they don’t!
Pretty much all brain games make you better at, is brain games.
If you want to be a better pilot, maybe play a flying game? There is some evidence that fast-moving video games help eye-hand coordination and spacial reasoning. Ultimately we know this is true as we train in flight simulators. But luminosity or whatever isn’t go to help.
Practicing a cognitive task consistently improves performance on that task and closely related tasks, but the available evidence that such training generalizes to other tasks or to real-world performance is not compelling.
There was good news in the literature review. Non-cognitive interventions show promise. Stuff like aerobic exercise, meditation training, and even pharmaceutical use. However, as the report points out,
Each technique requires an intentional, active effort on the part of the learner that is likely viewed as less enjoyable than playing a video game.
So I’m deleting luminosity and other brain games from my phone. Will still play Angry Birds, but not fooling myself it’s making me a brainiac.
Reference: Simons, D. J., Boot, W. R., Charness, N., Gathercole, S. E., Chabris, C. F., Hambrick, D. Z. and Stine-Morrow, E. A. L. (2016). Do “Brain-Training” Programs Work? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Volume 17(3), pages 103–186. Full HTML and PDF http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/hK6Y5zBI1Rv.M/full