Brain training

Jumping Brain by Emilio GarciaI remember my wife’s late Aunt Beryl saying that her secret was doing the Australian Times Crossword everyday to keep her brain in shape.  Her mind was as sharp as a razor until well into her 80s. Most people seem to hold a belief that ‘working the old grey matter’ is an important part general well being, but the people behind Lumosity.com have been taking this one step further. They’ve developed a program of games that are designed to improve all aspects, of your noggin.

They’re not the first people to go overground with the brain training game idea. Dr Ryuta Kawashima  developed the ‘Brain Training – ‘how old is your brain?‘ thing on the Nintendo DS back in 2005.  For a while, this was a very hot title – it hit number 1 in the UK charts and sold over 1 million units. This huge popularity was largely due to its age barrier breaking wide appeal, but also, due to everyone wanting what it ‘offered’ – a way to improve your brain by simply playing some games.

A concept neuroscientists have been proffering for years is one that like the muscles in your body, the brain needs exercise to stay in good condition. In a similar way to how when athletes who work out every day improve the speed, accuracy and strength of their body, if you train your brain you’ll improve its strength, speed and accuracy, also. In Lumosity’s own words “..neuroscientists have discovered that adults’ brains are constantly changing – growing new neurons and connections – in a process known as neuroplasticity. Lumosity takes advantage of the brain’s innate neuroplasticity to help shape it into a more effective, powerful organ.”

I’ve been ‘playing’ Lumosity for the last week or so and so far have seen a dip in my ‘BPI’ or Brain Performance Index. I’m not sure what that’s telling me about the program, or about me, but according to recognised bodies such as Mensa and The National Center for Biotechnology Information I should improve my brain if I stick with it.

In practice, Lumosity is a collection of increasingly challenging yet fun and lighthearted cognitive process games designed to test and improve these 5 brain areas : Memory, Attention, Speed, Flexibility and Problem Solving. All of these things I feel I’d benefit from if improved (who wouldn’t?). They highlight real world improvement benefits such as;

  • Recalling the location of objects
  • Learning new subjects quickly and accurately
  • Keeping track of several ideas at the same time
  • Decision-making in time-sensitive situations
  • Thinking outside the box
  • …and many more

As well as this very 1 to 1 feeling program, there’s a very worthy sounding research initiative behind it, called The Human Cognition Project which uses data from 35,000,000 research subjects and over 600,000,000 cognitive gameplays. This, it is hoped with give scientists some invaluable insight into (among other things) the more serious aspects of brain related illness – such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The’res a catch though – around £5 a month subscription fee for the full version – or the mysteriously price pointed £219.95 lifetime subscription. I’ve been using the free version as I’m not sure I want to spend that much on something I’ll probably have a think about it. If the thinking about it is sped up, becomes more memorable and flexible, I may well commit.


Illustration Credit : Emilio Garcia

Leave a Reply