Training My Brain Online

Lumosity is “the web’s most popular brain training program,” and claims to help users improve skills such as memory and problem solving through games that are based on neuroscience. If users train regularly (Lumosity recommends at least three sessions a week), they should see improvements in their daily lives.

I signed up for Lumosity in mid-September and have been completing training sessions at least three times a week since then. Each training session consists of three games (or five games for paid users), a different selection every time. Lumosity chooses games for each user based on a set of training priorities, which the user chooses. My top five were memory, problem solving, attention, flexibility, and speed. Each user can also select a type of training to receive – Standard, Advanced, or Student – to determine the difficulty of each game.

So, have I noticed a difference in my everyday life since I’ve started my training with Lumosity? The short answer is no. An overview of my Brain Performance Index (BPI) suggests that I’ve been steadily improving since I began, and that my best “Brain Areas,” based on my performance in certain games, are attention and flexibility. Certainly, I’ve found that most of the games I play get easier as time goes on. But I don’t think it’s because I’m getting smarter, or thinking more logically, or becoming more observant. I think it’s because I’m just becoming more familiar with the games, especially since I play all of them at least once a week, and some of them twice a week or more.

However, Lumosity is steadfast in their claims that their games can improve people’s brain abilities. An entire section on the website is dedicated to the science behind Lumosity, and it features a number of peer-reviewed studies. But of course Lumosity is going to share success stories on their website, so I searched other sources for studies on the subject. Both DailyTech and The Guardian ran articles this year that acknowledge the murky science behind Lumosity’s model and also touch upon the idea that maybe users improve in certain games simply because they grow more familiar with them.

Whether these “brain training” games are actually doing what they claim to do or not, I admit I enjoy playing some of them. And since a game’s primary function is to be fun, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

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Janet Goertzen

Janet graduated from Bishop’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2010. She hopes to someday make a living from her words while continuing to avoid the terror of numbers. In her spare time, Janet can be found reading, playing trivia games, watching cat videos, or correcting people’s grammar on the internet.

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