Best Memory-Boosting Games
Brain Fitness Program
The game: Drawing on research from leading neuroscientists, the Posit
Science Brain Fitness Program 2.0 consists of progressively trickier listening
exercises. The program comes with headphones — essential for these audio games
since you need to distinguish nearly identical sounds (bu and du,
for example, or doe and toe). You can adjust the headphones for
volume. Suggested playtime: At least 15 minutes a day; for maximum benefit, the
company recommends that you complete 40 hours in three months.
The claim: Retraining the brain to hear information will boost memory
storage and recall.
The evidence: In a company-sponsored study of 182 older people, nearly all
(93 percent) of those who followed the program for eight weeks increased their
mental-processing speed. Earlier research showed that the program improves
memory by an average of 10 years.
Play-by-play: Brain Fitness feels like strength training — slow and highly
focused. As you work on distinguishing sounds, a graphic on the bottom half of
the screen gradually develops into a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge or Paris
or Easter Island or other scenic spot.
Score: * * * * 1/2
Somehow, the combination of ear training and soothing graphics makes me want
to keep going. I like the clear explanations of each task's benefits and the
page that charts my advancement. I'm left believing that my brain is getting
into shape, a payoff that makes the high cost of this game seem
Cost: $395 for a DVD; $495 for two users (positscience.com)
Keep Your Brain Alive
The game: This book, by Duke University neurobiology professor Lawrence C.
Katz, Ph.D., and Manning Rubin, outlines 83 "neurobic" exercises —
brain aerobics that use the five senses in unusual ways. Examples: brushing
your teeth with your nondominant hand or turning the photographs on your desk
upside down. Suggested playtime: Daily (though the program doesn't take much
extra time since you are simply doing the same everyday things in a different
The claim: Neurobics stimulate nerve cells in the hippocampus and cerebral
cortex, the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and abstract
The evidence: The book cites research from several universities showing that
active brain cells produce higher levels of chemicals called neurotrophins — a
sort of Miracle-Gro that encourages brain cells to create more nerve-to-nerve
Play-by-play: I brush my teeth as a southpaw — it's slow and messy but fun.
Inspired, I wash my face with my left hand and promptly drop the washcloth.
Next, I flip the photos on my desk and find myself looking at the images with
fresh eyes. (Why is my husband dangling upside down in the sky?)
Score: * * * *
Jolted out of autopilot mode, I feel invigorated. I could do neurobics every
Cost: $9 (Workman Publishing; workman.com)