- It is a fun and great way to stimulate your brain everyday.
- The games are tailored by category and sub-category of brain activity, all of which is research-based.
- The games become increasingly challenging (and interesting).
- You have to pay for the full experience.
- A richer experience by playing on both computer and mobile regularly can be a hassle.
There seems to be a recent trend in games or programs that are designed to train oneself in minutes a day, whether it be physically or mentally. 2005-6 saw Nintendo bring in the first of the Brain Age series, games of puzzles based on the research (but still primarily for entertainment purposes) of neuroscientist Dr. Kawashima Ryuta, meant to be played everyday for a few minutes (such as how one goes to the gym for an hour or so only, but regularly) to keep one’s brain running, active, and efficient. Then there’s Just Dance, the technologically superior version to the famous Dance Dance Revolution of the 1990s, which stimulates physical exercise in a fun and entertaining way.
Yes, physical exercise is important, especially as we grow older and experience the inevitable symptoms of the inescapable condition called age. But so is mental exercise, as our brains not only enable us to carry out non-physical tasks well but can also affect how our bodies themselves react. At the same time, it is human nature that one should want to have as much fun as much as possible. Suddenly, Nintendo’s idea of turning Dr. Kawashima’s research into concrete, playable action becomes a very creative and lucrative venture.
Today, however, traditional video game consoles, handheld especially, are not as prevalent anymore as they were in the 1990s or even the early to mid-2000s. The reason? Tablets and smartphones. So what? There is thus an opportunity for app developers to build on the popularity of these mobile devices today, using concepts that video game developers succeeded in.
Say hello to Lumos Labs and the Human Cognition Project, which together have been able to come up with a nifty game-for-entertainment-but-also-your-health used by over 60 million people worldwide, called Lumosity.
Lumosity is one of those popular apps that are freemium to the point that you just want to shell out for the premium features, and by golly, I find it annoyingly effective; if only my income stream was higher, I would already have reached for the subscription button.
But even if you didn’t pay, the free features already offer a lot for one who just wants to play some puzzle games everyday to stimulate their brain for other purposes, such as work-related (boosting productivity, for instance – myself included). Here’s how it works: you either log in using a Web browser or an app; you sign up with a few details about yourself namely your name, date of birth, educational attainment, and profession; you take a calibration test of several games; and then you start training daily. Your birth date and profession are taken so that the algorithms used by the game can precisely peg you against other peers your age and profession.
And what algorithm it is! Using over 40 puzzle games with specific fields to train, Lumosity evaluates your performance in what is called your Lumosity Performance Index, or LPI, which is the average of the five individual LPI components (which also serve as the five areas of training that you are asked to rank by priority): speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving. Graphed over time, this is calculated per session, which amounts to 5 games (3 for the free version) daily. By daily, I mean a calendar day, so you are evaluated only once per calendar day – though you can play as many times as you like. For the free version, you can only re-play the games you played that day.
Although Lumosity is first and foremost a game, like Brain Age, it is deeply rooted in scientific research, to be specific, neuroplasticity, or the study of change in the brain. Publicly available on Lumosity’s sites, the science behind the game is explained in several formats. To summarize, beginning in the 20th century, the notion that adult brains do not change was questioned, as evidence showed that various experiences such as but not limited to new behaviors, new learnings, and environmental changes could influence the brain to change by creating new pathways or reorganizing current ones. To keep stimulating the brain for change, it must be exposed to new experiences that challenge it to work in new ways, hence Lumosity’s cognitive-practicing games. These are all designed based on common neuropsychological and cognitive tasks (like the types of activities you may take in psychological experiments, for instance), as well as new tasks by Lumos Labs’ own scientific team. Of course, these games become increasingly difficult the better one performs, simulating challenging ways to push the brain to keep changing for the better.
Examples of such games include Chalkboard Challenge (for quantitative reasoning, a component of problem-solving), where you are asked to decide which of the two amounts shown is greater (or if they’re equal), with just the amounts themselves presented at first (such as 15 vs. 16), then becoming increasingly complex arithmetic operations (like [24 / 2] – 2 vs. 7 x 3); and Ebb and Flow (for task switching, a component of flexibility), where you are asked to select the direction the orange leaves move in or the direction the green leaves point to, with the colors alternating as you play. Of course, most of the games are timed, usually no longer than 1 minute.
Some games are also available only on the Web version, meaning that full enjoyment of the game can be attained if you play on both Web and mobile platforms. And it gets better if you pay for the premium content, because you get personalized training programs, meaning the games sent your way everyday are specifically tailored to your needs; access to all games; the full range of your performance tracked (such as more comprehensive graphs of how well you did over time, and even your results tacked against those of your demographic peers); and even brain assessment tests.
When you think of it, it isn’t very expensive to avail of the premium content of Lumosity. The omnipresent “Unlock Full Access” option leads you to the screenshot below, where you can select from one of five plans, namely Monthly, Yearly, Two Year, Lifetime, and Yearly Family Plan (up to 5 members). If you expect to be playing Lumosity for at least 3-4 years, then I recommend you get the Lifetime plan, worth USD 299.95 in a lump-sum payment, as it will give you the greatest value for your money. The Yearly payment option is the most popular according to Lumosity, but I would personally get the Two-Year option, which saves up on about 25% of two subscriptions to the Yearly payment.
But in all fairness, I am quite fine with the current free arrangement, though I would, again, save up for the two-year plan, as I want to see my progress and more.
I find playing Lumosity a good, albeit indirect, way of living out my personal social responsibility. Just as taking care of our health is good sustainability, as it would enable us to be at our best to serve and show God that we respect our bodies that also serve as His temples (among others), so does taking care of our heads, as it would help boost our minds to arrive at the next level of our social innovation plans to change society for the better.
Exercise your brains now with Lumosity!