Use It or Lose It: Games Help Keep the Brain Healthy

  • If I were only a game player, I'd probably be the smartest one around. As a writer on subjects such as aging and Alzheimer's disease, my name comes up in searches and I get offers to try out any number of games, each of which claims to be the best at keeping one's brain in peak operating condition, or even improving brain function. I'm not saying I couldn't use the brain work. I'm just put together to prefer a good book to a game, so I haven't taken many of them up on the offers.  According to these new brain game developers, that attitude could come back to bite me.


    So, I decided to give some attention to two such games, though a quick Web search will bring up many other choices.

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    The first I tried is Lumosity, which is played online. The site states that the brain begins to slow down at age 30, and these brain exercises developed with the help of neuroscientists are the way to keep that from happening.


    The Lumosity site quotes the National Institute of Health as saying, "...scientists found that memory, reasoning and processing speed can be improved by brain training. Moreover, they found that cognitive improvements persisted for at least five years."


    As with most of the new rash of brain games, Lumosity lets the game player track progress and compete with himself. Many people getting into this, especially competitive types. Some find these games down right addictive.


    Lumosity offers different types of games including "Monster Garden," "Word Bubbles," and "Birdwatching." The games address memory, attention, processing speed and cognitive control. A Lumosity subscription runs $79.95 a year, but there are monthly payment plans and they offer a free trial. You can find Lumosity at


    Another game, called Brainiversity, comes with its own software to install on your computer. They, too, offer ways to score yourself and strive to improve your performance.  Brainiversity says it is a "brain training game designed to stimulate your brain with 16 different activities covering language, memory, math and analysis.  With Brainiveristy, you have a guide named Edison, an animated light bulb, who helps you along.


    In an interview with the creators, John and Leigh Passfield, Leigh Passfield is quoted as saying, "We wanted to create a brain-training game that my mother (a retired baby-boomer) could enjoy playing on her home PC. That was a big influence on us deliberately keeping the game as easy to use as possible, while still offering a level of complexity that keeps you coming back ensuring that each activity challenges you every day."


    Brainiversity can be purchased for $19.95 from their Web site at or on


    Which among the many games available is best? From what I've seen, that would be up to each player's preferences. Some people would rather just buy and install the software and not have to be online to play. One advantage to this is the one-time charge. Others love the online factor, and the likelihood of updates.


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    There is science behind the fact that we need to use our brains if we are to keep them healthy. Of course, we have brilliant people who have used their brains at levels beyond what most of us are capable, and they still developed Alzheimer's disease. There are no guarantees. But exercising our brains can help us stay more alert and quick thinking in general. Some feel it even helps their ability to drive.


    There certainly seems to be no down side to the influx of games. Even the old standby crossword puzzles and the newer Sudoku are good choices. But the computerized games offer more variety, and that's part of their superiority, over the long-haul. Many people will enjoy playing them, with the benefit of quicker thinking an added bonus. They seem worth a try.


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Published On: January 07, 2009