We all know that working out is good for us. Whether or not we ever make it to the gym, strap on those running shoes, or bend our body into a downward dog pose, we all know that exercise is beneficial for our bodies and our overall well-being. Many of us go to great lengths to make sure our body is and stays fit. But what do we do to make sure our brain stays fit? Science suggests: play games!
Given my background in digital user experience research and psychology, it’s perhaps no surprise that I was intrigued when I heard of Lumosity. Lumosity is an online brain fitness program that promises to exercise your brain, simply by playing a variety of online games for about 10 minutes a day. Its science-based parent company, Lumos Labs, strives to create innovative neuroscience-based tools that empower people to lead better lives through better brain health and performance. As a researcher, I’m always intrigued to experience science in action, especially if it promises a better life. Naturally, I immediately signed up (thanks AnswerLab tech benefit!).
How Lumosity works
Lumosity recommends you train about 3-5 days per week. Each training session includes 5 different games. Each of those games is focused on a different area of cognitive functioning: speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving. My competitive self was pretty excited to learn that each of the games is scored, which made for more exciting play and kept me coming back day after day (sometimes sooner, if I was chasing a new personal best!).
The games are all quite different and fun (or frustrating) in their own way. My personal favorite is a game called ‘Word Bubbles Rising,’ in which you are given a four, three, or two letter stem and have 30 seconds to type as many words as possible that begin with those letters. For example, the stem might be ‘hap’. Go! Happy, hapless, haphazard, happen, happenstance, hap… The ‘Word Bubbles Rising’ game targets your flexibility and articulation. Not a bad skill to have.
The game that I find most challenging is ‘Raindrops’, which exercises your problem solving abilities with basic math equations. In this game, raindrops with arithmetic equations fall from the sky and you must solve the equation before the raindrop hits the ground. If three raindrops hit the ground before you solve the problem, the game is over. At first, the raindrops move slowly and contain easy equations, for instance 2+4. However, as you move through the various levels, the raindrops get faster, multiple equations come at you all at once, and they get more challenging. This game frustrates me, because it drives me crazy when I can’t quickly solve equations that I learned in elementary school.
While you have fun and play these games every day, Lumosity continuously measures your Brain Performance Index (BPI) and your progress. These scores are broken down by an overall BPI, as well as subscores for speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving. Lumosity research claims you will see the greatest improvement in your BPI during the first 20-30 days of training. This was definitely true for me. After my first day of training, my overall BPI score was 572. After 20 days of regular training (4 days a week), it had improved to 699. After two months, it was at 737.
I look forward to continuing to exercise my brain and seeing how much it improves over the coming months. I learned this week that Lumosity also has an iPhone app, for training on the go, and I’m pretty stoked about it. Now I’ll be able to use that commute time wisely!
I’m curious if I will notice an impact in my day-to-day activities. Will my training help me remember names more easily? Will I be able to switch tasks more quickly? The jury is still out. Stay tuned.