Best Memory-Boosting Games
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)
The game: This consists of a series of 28 different computer-game exercises
focusing on a number of brain functions, including memory, attention, language,
visual/spatial skills, and logic. In one, I have to rebuild a fancy medieval
shield as fast as possible; others have me retrace my on-screen route through
one of the world's great cities, or match animal sounds with the right photo.
Suggested playtime: 20 minutes, three times a week.
The claim: Happy Neuron's developers, a team of French neuroscientists and
computer engineers, say that cross training builds and maintains critical
The evidence: In a pilot study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and carried out in Des Moines, IA, 10 people with memory problems
showed "significant improvement in cognitive skills" after playing
Happy Neuron three times a week for six months. But the volunteers also
undertook other lifestyle changes — they exercised, went on a healthy diet, and
engaged in lots of social interaction — so it's impossible to know for sure
what caused the improvement.