Brain Fitness Programs: My Top 3 Picks
By now, you’ve probably heard of the various mind-games marketed as brain-building, memory-enhancing, reflex-retaining, age-defying wonders. They’re all based on the neuroscientific discoveries that the even adult and aging brains can develop new neural pathways when challenged and exercised.
Suduko puzzles, crosswords, even jigsaw puzzles are being promoted as brain-building exercises. Nintendo is one of the major players, with several brain game releases on their systems already huge hits in the US, and even bigger hits in Japan. Any number of companies are climbing on the bandwagon, slapping “brain training” labels on their existing games.
But among the marketing ploys are some solid, science based programs that target very specific types of memory and cognitive skills. I took the time to wander through some of them today, and decided to do mini reviews of 3 of them. So here goes:
The Brain Fitness Program from Posit Science uses six games focused on sounds to improve listening, processing and memory skills. The stress on auditory function seems well suited to the speech processing challenges many people have with age… not all of which are related to physical hearing loss.
The website is informative and convincing, the blog often updated with interesting neuroscience articles, and the demos were challenging. I left the site with the feeling that I really needed this program; for some reason the auditory nature of the exercises really seemed key to me.
Sadly, with prices in the $400-600 range it’s too expensive for this bag-lady to spring for. Still, I’m likely to mention it to members of my family who have difficulty with listening comprehension, though not necessarily hearing loss. Check out a flash videotour of the program, or test out 3 of the games to see if you click with the system.
Lumosity I’ve already mentioned the folks at Lumosity a few times on MindTweaks, and I admit to a bias towards them. I just like the site, what can I say? Still, they stack up well against the other offerings.
The major difference is that Lumosity is a subscription based program, played and hosted on their servers, rather than your PC. This means you’ll need an internet connection in order to play, but it also means you can play from any location, and are not limited to one PC system.
The games here are more visual than the Posit Science exercises. They are more friendly and whimsical in feel, more “game” like, while Posit Science feels more clinical and research oriented, more of an “exercise” approach. Both presentations are useful, so it’s just a matter of preference.
The Lumosity website is a friendly happy sort of place, the blog always makes me feel welcome, and.. oh yeah did I mention I was biased? Oops. (Hey, at least I’m not an affiliate yet. That should count for something! Ok, ok, they dont have their affiliate program up and running yet, or I would be an affiliate. You made your point.)
Price-wise, they’ve got Posit Science beat hands down. At $9.95 a month, or $79.95 for a year, it’s more affordable, and far less intimidating to get started with. You can get a peek at a few of the games by testing your “LumosIQ” Plus, there’s a free 2 week trial so you can check out the features.
MindFit, by Sharper Brains, is another viable option. The demos were challenging, but not too challenging. (Ok, I’m lying. I’m having a bad-brain night, and the The Picasso demo threw me for a loop this go ’round!)
The *feel* of Mindfit falls somewhere between the Posit Science program, and Lumosity…. friendlier than PS, more clinical in feel than Lumosity. The demo games are attractively designed and appealing, and seem to cover a broad range of cognitive skills.
The Mindfit program is intended to be practiced every day for 20 minutes, and it takes between 8 months to a year to complete the customized program the software creates for you. At $139, the software is only good for one user, but they do offer a multi user discount. You can check out their demo games here: Mindfit Demos.
Honestly, I like what I know about all three programs. Each has solid science behind them, each their own strengths, and each has a particular focus and appeal. Posit Science’s offering is the most expensive by far, but it’s also the most targeted of the three — and likely well worth it for people struggling with auditory comprehension and remembering verbal instructions.
I suggest you try the demos of all three, consider your budget, and go with the one which just seems more appealing to you. Each of the programs requires a significant time investment, so it’s important that you feel comfortable with the program.
As you explore, remember that while science has shown that the adult brain can continue to change adapt and grow in response to challenges and new experiences, no studies I’m aware of have proven that any of these game systems will specifically prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s — the jury is still out on that one.
What we do know is that the brain *does* benefit from mental as well as physical exercises, and that programs like the ones above have been shown to improve cognitive function. And no, you don’t need a dedicated program to train your mind, anymore than you need a gym membership and a personal trainer, to get into better physical shape… But it helps!
Oh, and if you were one of the folks who signed up for the Lumosity beta program I posted on a while back? Good news. Check your Lumosity account. The program has gone live – and beta testers are being offered a *very* significant discount. Yay us!
MindTweak: Use It or Lose It. Who knew that old cliche would turn out to be *so* literally true when it came to our minds?