Best Brain-Boosting Apps for MS
If you have MS, you may be familiar with “cog fog”—50% of people with the disease have memory and attention issues, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There’s no magical fix, but you can sharpen your mental skills through brain-boosting apps. “We know playing intellectually challenging games keeps neuronal connections stimulated, which in turn may help enhance brain function,” says neurologist Sharon Stoll, D.O., of Yale University School of Medicine. Start with these do-anywhere digital games, available for iOS and Android.
The app: BrainHQ
What it is: This app offers more than two dozen brain-training exercises in categories of attention, recall speed, memory, learning, and navigation.
How it helps: MS patients who played this app for three hours a week, for 12 weeks, improved cognitive test scores by 29%, according to a New York University study.
What it costs: $14 a month.
The app: Lumosity
What it is: With over 60 cognitive games and daily brain “workouts,” this app focuses on memory and problem-solving.
How it helps: People who played 15 minutes of Lumosity, five days a week, for 10 weeks, had more than twice the cognitive improvement as those who did crossword puzzles, according to a study in PLOS One.
What it costs: $12 a month.
The app: Cognifit
What it is: This app firsts tests your mental skills, then customizes games that adapt in difficulty as your mind gets sharper.
How it helps: Using this app three times a week, for 12 weeks, improved working memory, visual short-term memory and general memory in MS patients, according to a study in NeuroRehabilitation.
What it costs: $20 a month.
The app: Constant Therapy
What it is: These games enhance speech and memory skills, says Shaheen Lakhan, M.D., Ph.D., vice president of research and development at The Learning Corp, which makes the app.
How it helps: Using the app every other day improved scores in cognitively impaired people in six days, compared to 12 days for those in weekly rehab sessions.
What it costs: $25 a month.
The app: Decoder
What it is: University of Cambridge scientists designed numerical sequence puzzles to improve recall and focus.
How it helps: The app activates the front part of your brain, responsible for attention. It may improve focus as much as ADHD drugs, says a study in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
What it costs: Free via its host app, Peak.
The app: Elevate
What it is: Casting a wide net for cognitive skill-building, this app emphasizes vocab, math, and retention games.
How it helps: A California State University study found that playing Elevate five days a week for four weeks improved listening, writing, and math scores by 69%.
What it costs: Free.
The app: HighIQPro
What it is: Improve your IQ score by 20 points, just by using this app for 20 minutes a day, for 20 days, claims the company.
How it helps: By tapping into your working memory—the executive control branch of the brain—this app aims to improve attention and recall.
What it costs: $40 one-time download.
The app: Memorado
What it is: This app challenges your working memory and cognitive control. Enter your personal goals, take a cognitive test, then get a daily brain-training plan.
How it helps: Each game builds on the previous, so working memory grows stronger the more you play.
What it costs: Free.
The app: Crossword Puzzle
What it is: You don’t need an app to do a daily crossword puzzle but having it on your phone lets you play anywhere.
How it helps: Crossword puzzles help strengthen problem solving and reasoning skills and are good practice if you struggle with word retrieval.
What it costs: Free.
MS and BrainHQ study: PLOS One. (2017). “Cognitive Function in Multiple Sclerosis Improves with Telerehabilitation: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0177177
MS and Lumosity study: PLOS One. (2015). “Enhancing Cognitive Abilities with Comprehensive Training: A Large, Online, Randomized, Active-Controlled Trial.” journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0134467
MS and Cognifit study: NeuroRehabilitation. (2010). “Home-Based Personalized Cognitive Training in MS Patients: A Study of Adherence and Cognitive Performance.” content.iospress.com/articles/neurorehabilitation/nre00546?resultNumber=0&totalResults=6&start=0&q=cognifit&resultsPageSize=10&rows=10
MS and Constant Therapy study: Frontiers in Neurology. (2019). “Comparison of Therapy Practice at Home and in the Clinic: A Retrospective Analysis of the Constant Therapy Platform Data Set.” frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2019.00140/full
MS and Decoder study: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. (2019). “Improvements in Attention Following Cognitive Training With the Novel “Decoder” Game on an iPad.” frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00002/full#h8
MS and Elevate study: California State University. (2015). “Elevate Effectiveness Study.” elevateapp.com/assets/docs/elevate_effectiveness_october2015.pdf
MS and HighIqPro study: Intelligence. (2018). “Multi-Modal Fitness and Cognitive Training to Enhance Fluid Intelligence.” sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0160289617300818#bb0465
MS and Memorado study: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (2008). “Improving Fluid Intelligence with Training on Working Memory.” pnas.org/content/105/19/6829