Brain Games To Keep You Fit

A few weeks ago I wrote a popular piece regarding brain exercise, detailing the exciting research showing how keeping your brain stimulated as we age can literally improve your memory. One underlying concept was to always stray from your comfort zone and challenge yourself to new situations and ideas.

Another way is with simple brain exercises. I’m sure a crossword puzzle would be great (I can’t get past the New York Times’ Tuesday puzzles),  but there are some fun computer games as well. One company getting a lot of press is Lumosity. They have a nicely designed website with dozens of games that work on different functions of the brain. You can also track your progress and also compare to others your age. It’s a paid site but you can try it free for a week; there’s also an iPhone version. I tried it out and it was fun, but I don’t think I’ll subscribe just yet. If I were older, say in my 50’s or 60’s and also had a bit more time on my hands, I may pay for this type of website. For now, I’ll stick to my crosswords.

Another company is Dakim’s BrainFitness, a stand-alone touchscreen computer with software that has 150 similar types of brain exercises. This machine, geared more to elderly care homes, was recently reviewed in a preliminary study and proved effective to preserve memory loss:

Assessed by 4 different memory tests, the group who played the BrainFitness game for the full 6 months gained almost 2 points on memory scores, increasing from 10.4 at baseline to 12.1 at follow-up.

This is in contrast to controls, who, having played the same BrainFitness game from month 2 to month 6, had the same memory scores decrease slightly from 10.2 at baseline to 10.1 at follow-up (P = .001). A total of 38 elderly subjects completed the 6-month trial, 22 at an average age of 82 years in the intervention group and 16 at an average age of 83 years in the control group.

“By month 6, the intervention group had played more than double the number of sessions at 93 compared with only about 40 sessions played by active controls, so it’s the long-term use that improves overall memory. The maximum benefit comes when you keep on playing,” Dr. Miller told Medscape Psychiatry.

Of course, you don’t need to spend money to keep your brain active. Just shut off that TV and do something new! Join that karate class or creative writing workshop. What other ideas do people have? You can leave comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Brain Games To Keep You Fit”

    1. Sure! New languages definitely expand unworked sections of your brain. I’m trying to learn Chinese, but at my age nothing sticks very well (compared to a 5 year old!)

      1. I'm reading about early brain development now, and finally picked up several Glenn Doman books I had been given when my daughter with Down syndrome was born. Boy, she's 18 month old and I wish I had picked them up sooner. But I'm starting now, and that's something.

        Basically, his work has found that FUNCTION DETERMINES STRUCTURE. By using and stimulating the sensory pathways the brain grows and responds accordingly. The brain architecture is largely determined by the sensory input up to age six. Increase the sensory input, increase the brain growth and function. In practical application this can mean for severely brain injured children- or other babies who are slow to crawl- moving the body in the proper cross-crawl motions ("Patterning"). Feeling the right movements happen helps the brain organize and grow pathways so that the child can begin to crawl on his own.

        in terms of reading, By keeping print so small we are keeping infants from learning written language at the easiest time it is learned. There are plenty of brain injured children who read several languages fluently at age 3! It's just a matter of frequency, duration, and intensity of exposure. As long as they're exposed, very young children just learn it…the first 6 years of life are the very best years for learning- including reading, maths and tons of encyclopedic knowledge.

        This is exciting to me! But, actually, more a little humbling too. My mom has said frequently that I was reading (sounding out words, not understanding) headlines from a newspaper at age 18 months. I am not special, at all! I did when last tested (um, before my high school years cough cough) have a testing IQ well above average. But (even though I question IQ as being a legitimate test of intelligence) intelligence is a RESULT of early brain development, and my mom's time investment in reading and language…not some sort of built in genetic or intellectual superiority! It's simply this. My mom exposed me to written language…lots of it…in print large enough for the immature visual pathways of an infant to see it. That's all. So I was reading and comprehending totally independently by age 2.5 or 3. And my favorite books at age 5 were a set of child encyclopedias. And guess what? I remember MUCH from that set of books some 35+ years later.

        I returned to college late. I earned a Child Development/Early Childhood Education degree in the year 2000. Now that I am a "professional parent" and constantly learning, I am continually astounded at what all they left out of my so called Education. Not only did we never study brain development beyond just the most general terms, they never even MENTIONED Doman's groundbreaking work. I believe his reading and neurodevelopmental programs should be in every home, and every nursery school and kindy.

        You might be feeling a little uneasy about infant education. It's not for an "elite". Most of the 1 billion infant brains on earth are being seriously underutilized. Doman says that a high degree of intelligence not only is achievable by every (nondisabled) human being but it's the human race's birthright. Our societies have made some serious errors, but probably none so serious as denying most of humanity their true human potential!

  1. There is also the very interesting and popular 2 minute SUPER BRAIN YOGA. You can find out how to do it online. Better to see a video. It really is simple. Neurologists, students, moms, kids with developmental problems, everyone's talking about it. CBS did a spot on it. See for the news video (sorry, it's youtube so blocked in China..I saw it without a VPN at one point, but cannot find a non youtube hosting just now) and

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