You've probably seen ads for apps promising to make you smarter in just a few minutes a day. Hundreds of so-called "brain training" programs can be purchased for download.
These simple games are designed to challenge mental abilities, with the ultimate goal of improving the performance of important everyday tasks.
But can just clicking away at animations of swimming fish or flashed streets signs on your phone really help you improve the way your brain functions?
Two large groups of scientists and mental health practitioners published consensus statements, months apart in 2014, on the effectiveness of these kinds of brain games.
Both included people with years of research experience and expertise in cognition, learning, skill acquisition, neuroscience and dementia. Both groups carefully considered the same body of evidence available at the time.
Yet, they issued exactly opposite statements.
One concluded that "there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life."
The other argued that "a substantial and growing body of evidence shows that certain cognitive training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function, including in ways that generalize to everyday life."
Brain training programs are an appealing shortcut, a "get smart quick" scheme. But improving or maintaining cognition is likely not going to be quick and easy. Instead, it may require a lifetime – or at least an extended period – of cognitive challenge and learning.
If you're worried about your cognition, what should you do?
First, if you do engage in brain games, and you enjoy them, please continue to play. But keep your expectations realistic. If you're playing solely to obtain cognitive benefits, instead consider other activities that might be as cognitively stimulating, or at least more fulfilling – like learning a new language, for instance, or learning to play an instrument.