Do you struggle remembering directions? Putting a customer's name to a face? What about staying focused for long stretches of time? If you find yourself easily distracted by your inbox or social media feed, you may want to give brain games a try.
Brain games have become a popular way to form better habits, with Lumosity.com, reaching 35 million users earlier this year. Brain games are designed to make you feel like you're playing a game instead of improving your memory or streamlining your decision making process. Joe Hardy, PhD and Vice President of Research and Development for Lumosity, says brain games are ideal for business owners.
"Owning a business is one of the most cognitively challenging jobs," Hardy says. Business owners have to process information accurately, balance projects, switch between tasks quickly and efficiently, divide their attention among tasks, and remember customers' names. We took a look at three popular brain game providers to find out what the buzz is about.
The largest provider of brain games, the site works to train your brain in five categories: speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving. "Each exercise is designed to train a different cognitive function of the brain," Hardy explains. The games are based on neurological research performed by researchers from various institutions, including Columbia University and the University of California-Berkeley.
Lumosity's in-house team of developers creates games based on what research shows exercises various parts of the brain. For example, Memory Matrix requires players to remember which tiles appear in a matrix and recall the pattern from memory, which helps improve spatial recall and working memory. "Think of it as a personal trainer for your brain," Hardy says. He recommends that users spend 10-20 minutes every day playing brain games, as opposed to spending two hours one day and skipping out on the rest. "It's like going to the gym," Hardy says. "The more training you do, the better. The goal is to create a habit that's sustainable and keeps you engaged."
Lumosity offers a free limited membership that allows users to participate in some games, while the paid membership provides full access to the site and tracks your BPI (Brain Performance Index, a measure of cognitive performance) progress over time. Paid memberships range from monthly to lifetime options ranging from $15 a month to $80 a year.
Positscience offers brain training in five categories: attention, brain speed, memory, people skills and intelligence. (A new category, navigation, will be available on the site soon.) Posit Science games include enhancing a user's ability to read facial expressions, from easy (happy or sad) to the more difficult (puzzled or embarrassed). Its games also help users improve facial recognition as well as matching names with faces and remembering facts about people you meet, an important skill in networking and business.
Posit Science has developed games in collaboration with researchers from nearly a dozen universities, including Yale and Stanford. You can try some of the games out for free without having to sign up. Posit Science offers memberships at $14 a month or $96 a year.
Cogmed is designed to improve working memory to allow users to learn new skills in academic or professional endeavors. Users are encouraged to spend up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week on training exercises over a five week period. Training is only available through programs offered by accredited coaches who monitor user results and provide motivation. Many programs are supervised by doctors or psychologists who specialize in attention problems.
Prices vary according to the program selected and the professional coach's fees. The program is best for people who have working memory issues caused by ADHD, anxiety in social settings, or adjusting quickly to new tasks. Visit this section of the site to find a coach in your area.