Best Memory-Boosting Games
Banking on this research, dozens of brain-training books, computer games,
and Websites have hit the market — all promising to make your brain friskier
and maybe even ward off big mental threats like Alzheimer's. Do these programs
work? The jury's still out, though company-sponsored studies suggest they
There are two key requirements: You must do the exercises consistently. And
they shouldn't be too easy. "Brain training is analogous to physical
workouts," says brain researcher Sherry L. Willis, Ph.D., a professor in
the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State
University. "You have to cross train — work different parts of your brain
and keep adding new challenges."
In an unscientific experiment, I test-drove five top-selling brain boosters
to see which ones I could stick with for the months — or years — the
researchers say are necessary to preserve and improve brainpower. My criteria:
Was there science to back a product's claims? Was the program challenging
enough to hold my interest? Fun enough to make me want to play it again and
again? Here's what I found.
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)