The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday the company's advertisements deceptively suggested that playing the games a few times a week could boost performance at work, in the classroom and even delay serious conditions like dementia. Under the settlement, Lumos Labs must contact its customers and offer them an easy way to cancel their subscriptions.
"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, a director in FTC's consumer protection unit. "But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads."
Last April, an investigation by CBC's Marketplace revealed that brain training games such as Lumosity may not make your brain perform better in everyday life.
When 54 adults, including host Tom Harrington, did the brain training at least three times per week for 15 minutes or more over a period of between two and a half and four weeks, researchers found no significant improvement on tests of memory, reasoning, concentration and planning.
An FTC spokesman said Tuesday's action is the first government settlement with a maker of apps intended to boost brain health.
Lumosity is one of the most visible services in the burgeoning brain training industry, which has estimated sales of over $1 billion US per year, according to trade publications.
In 2014, more than 70 prominent neurology and psychology researchers published a consensus statement critical of the brain training industry, citing its "frequently exaggerated" marketing.
While studies have shown that gaming participants can improve their performance on simple tasks, the experts concluded there is no compelling evidence that games "reduce or reverse cognitive decline."