Lumosity is on the hook for its deceptive brain ads, and the company has been ordered to pay a $2 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission for its lamebrain advertisements toting the benefits of its “brain training” games. Now quick, spell medulla oblongata without looking.
If improving your cerebral functions by sitting in front of a computer screen playing games sounds too good to be true, then you have just used your left neocortex to deduce the same thing as the Federal Trade Commission – that it’s a bunch of bunk.
Reports CBS News on Jan. 6: “According to the Federal Trade Commission, the popular program consisting of 40 mental games purported to improve performance at work and in school, and reduce or delay serious health conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Lumosity commercials were heavy on the testimonials and light on the specifics. Clients could sign up in order to “remember people’s names, stay sharp, to concentrate better, to learn faster,” and to simply have a “better brain.” The scientific-slant buzzword used during the commercial spots was neuroplasticity – an umbrella term that refers to the potential of the brain to reorganize itself by creating new neural pathways.
Except that it didn’t work, the FTC found.
“The bigger issue I think the government has is that [Lumosity] said that they have nothing to back [their claims] up,” commented CBS News senior business analyst Jill Schlesinger. “They also used search words so if you searched for ‘dementia,’ then the company was able to place an ad and pop that in your browser and you would see that ad come up so naturally you’d be inclined to consider it. I search for dementia, now I see something that’s promising that’s going to help me avoid these conditions.”
Adds CBS: “Federal law also mandates that only products that have been vetted by the FDA could claim to treat or prevent serious health conditions – to date, there are none.”
The company was originally hit with a $50 million fine, but the FTC settled on only $2 million because of the company’s “poor financial situation.”
According to Business Insider, Lumosity claims to have 70 million users in 180 countries. Consumers are charged monthly subscriptions for online access to the company’s “brain games,” – ranging from $15 per month to a lifetime membership of $300.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
In a statement, Lumosity said it will forge ahead undeterred.
“Neither the action nor the settlement pertains to the rigor of our research or the quality of the products — it is a reflection of marketing language that has been discontinued,” a spokesperson for Lumosity said. “Our focus as a company has not and will not change: We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.”
Sound off below: Have you ever used Lumosity or been duped by its brain ads?