Play Games and Increase Brain Power with Lumosity!

I went to visit my Aunty the other day and when I walked into the house one of her young children, aged 11, announced, “Look Mum! I reached Level 7!”

So I got curious, Level 7 on what? Then my Aunty launched into an explanation of this website – Lumosity.

This site was built by neuroscientists, based off a concept called “neuroplasticity” which basically means that our brains are trainable at any age, given the right stimuli.

Research shows that certain types of mental exercise can enhance the health and function of the brain.

Essentially, this site is meant to be like a gym for the brain. It’s supposed to be able to improve memory, attention, and other cognitive areas, including better face-name recall, faster problem-solving skills, and a quicker memory. And like with a regular gym for physical fitness, regular training is required for results to show.

My Aunty said that since she’s been doing the training she’s seen significant improvement in her concentration skills and her memory recall. The site has also got a host of success stories posted so I decided it was something I should give a go.

Once you decide to click on “Start Training” you have to answer five short multiple-choice questions about what you want to get out of the program. In this way you can either get a general training by selecting everything, or focus your training on areas you know you have difficulty with.

Once you get through that it was a pretty speedy sign-up and analysis of your answers to set up your personalised training. I was playing the first game within five minutes of clicking “start training”.

The games are simplistic, but incredibly addictive and I have to admit that they conjured up a competitive spirit inside myself I didn’t know existed. I believe the concept of the game improving my mental capacity made me that much more determined to succeed.

They recommend that you train 3-5 days a week and each training only takes about 15 minutes. I think that’s pretty reasonable and I’d be willing to do that considering the amount of time I spend on Facebook or playing Draw Something anyway.

The ‘personalised training’ will eventually require you to subscribe, but they unlock three days for you at first. Since I just signed up before writing this article, I have yet to experience those three days, but from what I did so far, I’m thinking I might be willing to pay for it.

Full access is $6.70/month for a yearly membership, $4.99/month if you get a two-year subscription, and $14.95/month on a month-by-month basis. There’s also a lifetime purchase for $269.96. When I looked there was a 10%-off promotion making the prices $5.99, $4.49 and $269.96 for the yearly, two-year and lifetime memberships respectively.

The membership not only unlocks the personalised training and an increased number of games, but it also comes with analysis of your current brain profile based on what you’ve managed to achieve in the games so far, a comparison with other people your age, and tracking of your progress over time.

But even if you don’t want to pay for it, there are plenty of free games as well. I played Penguin Pursuit and I feel like my brain just ran a marathon. You have to navigate a penguin through a maze before the computer opponent gets there first. The catch is that the maze can randomly rotate – and the controls with it. That means if the maze moves 90 degrees clockwise, up becomes right, down becomes left, right becomes up and left becomes down. It seems like you can handle it at first, but it quickly becomes quite a mental workout!

There’s also Raindrops to improve your mental arithmetic skills and Word Bubbles to increase your vocab and abstract thinking (I’m a sucker for word games).

I think it’s worth it at least to play some of the free games and try it out – what can you lose right? Knowing that it’s been carefully constructed with the intention of expanding your mental capability gives procrastination from work that much more validation with these games.

It’s also great to get your kids onto (if you have them) – they’ll be playing fun games and all the while you know that they’re increasing their cognitive skills, and not learning how to murder monsters. And if you are still a kid (physically or mentally) – it’s a great excuse to play games and to tell your Mum (or Mum-like figure) that you’re actually doing mental exercise.

The only thing I think is infuriating is that there isn’t an app of these games for the smartphone There’s even a smartphone app – this would be the perfect kind of thing to do on the tram or while waiting for a friend in a coffee shop. Brain Trainer can be downloaded in the app store for the iPhone. I tried searching for the Android app “Speed Brain” (as the website says is available) but as far as I can tell their app has been taken off the Android Market. Anyone with an Android care to tell us if they can find an app by Lumosity?

Why hasn’t this kind of research been employed in the building of Diablo 3? How great would it be to tell people you were going to hole yourself away to play Diablo 3 in order to expand your mind?

Have any of you tried Lumosity? What do you think of it?

[I’d like to note I was not paid to write this article in any way shape or form.]

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