It’s no secret that as we age, our brain function declines. Whether it’s to focus, stay sharp, or reduce stress and anxiety, there are various reasons for wanting to boost brainpower and improve mood. Studies have suggested that keeping mentally active may help maintain cognitive functioning and psychological well-being. Brain training apps may improve memory, problem solving skills, processing speeds, mental stimulation, and provide positive psychological benefits. There are also studies that show that adults who regularly participate in brain training are less likely to develop brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Challenging ourselves with new activities helps to lay down new neural pathways, improving neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form connections between brain cells to deal with thinking, behavior, environment, and mood. In short, we can use the notion of neuroplasticity to “teach an old brain new tricks.”
These days, there are hundreds of brain-training apps that claim to make us smarter. While you shouldn’t expect to see drastic results, these programs are designed to exercise your mental abilities. While we do not endorse any particular app, many have been developed with the help of scientists from respected universities and based on established treatments validated by independent research studies. At the very least, they are fun to play. Here are some of my favorites:
- Lumosity – This popular app is one of the original brain training apps. Lumosity consists of dozens of games designed to train five cognitive functions: speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving. Users complete a fit test to calibrate speed, attention, and memory, and see how their results compare to other users in the same age group. Daily training reminders are sent to focus on the areas of cognition that require the most attention. (Great for all ages; games geared toward adults)
- Elevate – This app is designed to improve communication and analytical skills through daily challenges. Challenges test a user’s ability to spot grammatical mistakes, practice math and speaking skills, and improve memory, attention, and speed. Elevate provides performance summaries in the areas of writing, listening, speaking, reading, and math. (Great for students and adult professionals)
- Peak – Peak offers 30+ games designed to help improve concentration, memory, mental agility, language, and problem-solving. A personalized training plan is provided for users, and reminders can be set for desired training days. (Great for all ages; fun games!)
- CogniFit Brain Fitness – This program combines neuroscience and games to train in areas like memory, focus, and attention, and tests short-term memory, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to control impulsive behavior. CogniFit also offers tools that researchers and healthcare providers can use to study cognitive function in patients. (All ages; especially good for assessing patients)
- Happify – This app focuses on developing your emotional intelligence to train your brain to be happier. Using the notion of neuroplasticity, Happify aims to help build your ability to conquer negative thoughts, show gratitude, cope with stress, and reinforce positive psychology. The goal is the train your brain to be happier. (Great for all ages)
Brain training apps combine technology and our affinity for video games in an attempt to increase cognitive functioning. We should approach them with a fair dose of common sense, and remember that engaging in new, cognitively demanding activities is good for the brain and is probably more worthwhile than playing Candy Crush Saga.