Best Memory-Boosting Games
Happy Neuron continued...
Play-by-play: An online coach nudges me toward games that work weaker
skills. For example, after viewing the medieval shield, I have to play a
language game — alphabetizing a long list of words — before I get to choose the
right colors, shapes, and designs to reconstruct the shield. Other games are
surprisingly difficult: I can't match every animal sound with the correct photo
in the deceptively cute Squeaking Mouse. (Who knew porcupines and lemurs
sounded so much alike?)
Score: * * * 1/2
While I love the mix of games and the customized program that tracks my
performance, I find the exercises frustrating, especially at the beginning. But
someone who really likes computer games might enjoy these colorful, varied
Cost: Online subscription: $10 per month or $100 per year; free trial
The game: Developed by Israeli psychologist Shlomo Breznitz, Ph.D., MindFit
is designed to boost cognitive skills, including short-term memory, reaction
times, recall, and eye-hand coordination. The program measures my abilities in
three extensive evaluation sessions, presents games based on my needs, then
monitors my performance and adjusts the difficulty level accordingly. Suggested
playtime: 24 sessions to be played for 20 minutes three times a week over
The claim: This "brain gym" trains 14 mental abilities, boosting
cognitive reserve and preventing age-related mental decline.
The evidence: In a company-sponsored study of 121 women and men ages 50 and
up, those who played MindFit three times a week for three months had
"greater improvement in the cognitive domains of spatial short-term memory,
visual-spatial learning, and focused attention" than study volunteers who
played ordinary computer games.
Play-by-play: The evaluation sessions are real work: For example, I use my
mouse to follow a little ball through a maze, estimate the length of time an
image is displayed on a tiny TV screen, and choose the larger of two numbers
that appear in distractingly tiny or huge boxes.
Score: * * 1/2
I like the audio instructions and the fact that the program is
custom-tailored to my needs. But I'm not engaged by the tasks — guessing the
correct order of little shuttered windows that open and close is boring, even
when I miss a few. I don't think I'd stick with this one.
Cost: $149 for a CD (vigorousmind.com)