Brain Fitness Programs: My Top 3 Picks

by ToriDeaux on July 31, 2007

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ari 08.01.07 at 11:05 am

Thanks for the great post! I completely agree with you that brain training is essential, the more effort we put into working out our mental muscles, the easier many of our everyday tasks will become. The Posit program as you said really is excellent, the science behind it is really cutting edge and like you said the auditory components are truly key, they are the basis of many of important functions of our brain. For everyone looking for more information the Brain Fitness channel, bfc.positscience.com is an amazing resource for all things brain-related, check it out! Thanks again for a great blog!

2 Michelle Ramirez @ LearningRx 08.02.07 at 11:34 am

Have you heard of LearningRx? In brief, LearningRx training involves non-academic procedures that are intense, one-on-one exercises that involve feedback, sequencing, and loading. For students who struggle with learning, there is no training approach anywhere that brings the changges in cognitive processing and reading as quickly and effictely as LearningRx’s tools and techniques. This training is NOT computer based…each student is assigned a Personal Trainer to work with them.

For additional information check out the website
http://www.learningrx.com

3 M.T. 08.03.07 at 5:35 pm

@Ari… You’re welcome for the mention, Ari. Any chance I can get my hands on a review copy of the program? Please please pretty please?

@Michelle .. No, I hadn’t heard of LearningRX. But maybe the link will help someone looking for exactly that sort of training.

Nice to know the vendors love me, anyway ;)

4 Michael Cole 08.17.07 at 3:34 pm

My suggestion is that you visit what Fit Brains is up to http://www.fitbrains.com

Fit Brains is developing a web experience that will be the first of its kind, appealing to adults of all ages and will elevate the concept and acceptance of brain fitness to the mainstream. We will do this through a unique combination of interactive games, personalization tools and community features.

Our team understands that the key ingredient for mass adoption of brain fitness will be the “fun factor”, and is developing scientifically based workouts that are engaging and fun

5 Neva 12.06.09 at 5:59 pm

My Husband is 55 yoa and has been in good health. End of July, he suffered an anurizm in the left front lobe. A coil was placed to stop further damage. Blood clots formed on the left lobe and in the center of the brain. Two options were given. Surgery or what I believe the Neurosurgian called a TPA which was the less envasive option. He was placed in a coma while the tube in his skull drained off excess spinal fluid and blood. During the time suffered a stoke on the left lobe and another, 20% of it’s size, on the right lobe. Over time, the clots have disappeared, but the center of the brain is still somewhat enlarged as of the last scan. He came out of the coma one month to the day the anurizm happened. He had no movement and blood clots formed in all extremeties. A filter was placed below his heart for safety. He was released to a rehab facility, ended up back in the hospital for 2 plus weeks (from very poor treatment). We found and he was released to a very good facility. His strength is back now, in all limbs – but his mind is lagging and I’m afraid of the possibilities. He doesn’t speak much, but I can tell he’s trying. He occasionally recognizes and names family. When we read together – I will ask him a word – when he does reply it is correctly. He has problems staying on task and cooperating. Treating him like a small child, but with respect and remaining upbeat, seems to work best. Of course when he’s tired he’s definitely like a child, a very strong child. What things would you suggest that might hold his attention and help us to turn on that light bulb. I’m also looking for a recommended Nueroplastician in the SE Michigan area that might review our case and give us advice. I’ve read the book: The Brain that changes Itself, and have some hope. I work then I spend my off hours with him and attending to other related issues, so I do not have much free time to explore.
I love him more than anyone can emagine. Realizing where he was and how far he’s come, I don’t want to give up on him – but did make a promise to him not to let him live like this if we cannot find the switch to bring him further. Please – your advise is very welcome.

6 Mary R. 02.18.10 at 11:07 am

I am a PACE provider which is the name of the program originally developed and marketed by Learning Rx. While it has good results for the most part I found it to have limitations.
Look into Structure of Intellect Systems. It is based on research dating back to WWII by Dr Dr. JP Guilford and Drs. Robert and Mary Meeker whose research identified the specific intellectual and perceptual abilities essential for effective learning in schools. These programs are found in schools and learning centers across the U S. The research and programs are much more comprehensive, successful and truly individualized. Not a “canned ” program. America’s best kept secret for students, parents and schools !

7 Chris 06.09.10 at 9:09 pm

A few comments have mentioned LearningRx and its predecessor PACE – a review for the current LearningRx product can be found here:
http://bit.ly/cgkhRR

Other Brain Training Game Reviews: http://braingamereview.com

8 Marc 06.15.10 at 6:02 pm

Learning Breakthrough Program is a wonderful program in the same brain fitness and learning improvement space you are describing. Frank Belgau happened to work closely with Mary Meeker of SOI as well and details his experience with vestibular and sensory modalities they work on together in new book that is available on the LBP site. The program is powerful way to get to the precursor processing skills that propel cognitive improvement forward.

For more info and direct link to book page go to:
http://www.learningbreathrough.com

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