As we age, several areas of our cognitive abilities begin to decline. Most people recognize that the older we become, reaction time, ability to multitask, ability to process new information, and attention/concentration begin to decrease in speed and accuracy. Lumosity is a fitness program for your brain!
Lumosity is an online program consisting of 30 training sessions. The first several sessions allow you to become familiar with the tasks or "games" while the computer is assessing your current abilities. After the assessment period, Lumosity adapts its program to a level of difficulty specifically for you. Over the course of the 30 sessions, it tracks your overall performance and gives you a written and graphic accounting of the progress you have made in increasing your cognitive abilities. These games consist of the following:
"Bird Watching" assesses and increases your visual attention. Simultaneously, a bird and a letter are briefly flashed on the screen. You must place your cursor over the exact location of the bird. If you miss the spot where the bird was located, you move on to the next frame. If you correctly locate the bird, you must then identify which letter was on the screen. This is so much harder than it sounds! If you correctly identify the letter, you are then given the opportunity to guess the species of bird using the letter shown. You receive extra points for guessing correctly before you have filled in all of the letters. However, if you guess incorrectly, you lose 10 points!
"Word Bubbles" is a game of verbal fluency designed to increase your creativity and mental flexibility. You are given three letters, such as "tro" and you have one minute to come up with as many words as you can that begin with those letters. This game makes me feel ignorant. I have played it several times and always become frozen and watch the timer count down because I run out of creativity and mental flexibility.
"Monster Garden" is a test of memory and attention. You are briefly shown where two monsters are hiding in a 4×4 maze, and then you have to find a path from the gardener to the flower without stepping on a monster. If you succeed, you are given bonus points for being able to identify where the monsters were hiding. You can also receive "health" points for making your path intersect with a vegetable. As you progress, the number of monsters increases and remembering where they are located is very, very hard.
"Lost in Migration" is designed to increase your cognitive control and reaction time. You are shown the flight pattern of birds. The central bird's direction is the one you must identify. Therefore, if all of the other birds are facing one way, but the central bird is facing another, you are required to suppress your automatic response to all the other birds and just focus on the center one. This is my best game for some reason. I can hyper-focus on the central bird without any errors.
"Raindrops" is a game for processing speed and numerical reasoning. Watch out on this one! The mathematical problems drop down ever so gently in a cloud. You must solve the equation, type it in, and hit "enter" before the cloud hits the ground and becomes rainwater. The game lulls you into a false sense of security then starts dropping rainclouds left, right, and center. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division… I was glad the timer ran out before I had to start performing calculus! That was intense! Moreover, no matter how many times I have played this game, my mind freezes up when I get six clouds at once.
"Speed Match" increases your processing speed. You have to identify whether the item shown is the same as the previous item. Once I understood that the game does not end after the first match but is an ongoing matching game, I found this one to be easy.
"Spatial Speed Match" is the same as "Speed Match" but it focuses more on spatial relations — in other words, where the location of a dot is on a die. If it is in the same place as the one before, you hit the "yes" key and if not, the "no" key.
"Color Match" is a game of processing speed and mental flexibility. You have to read the name of a color and determine if the second word is written in the color of the first word. This becomes very challenging very quickly because you have to suppress your natural urge to say yes when the name of the color is the same as the first, even if it is written in a different color.
"Memory Match" works at improving your working memory, an important factor in many cognitive processes. You have to memorize (and retain) what symbol has moved across your sight and try to match it to the third symbol that is shown. The different shapes disappear after they are shown so this is a very challenging exercise.
"MoneyComb" is designed to exercise and improve working memory and attention. The game involves remembering the location of multiple types of coins on a honeycomb-style board. You also have to find them in order of presentation that becomes increasingly difficult.
"Chalkboard Challenge" is designed to train and improve your processing speed and arithmetic reasoning. You must quickly solve math equations as they become increasingly difficult. Speed and accuracy give you more points.
Overall, I think that Lumosity is one of the most clinically relevant games I have ever seen. The idea that one can practice cognitive skill sets to improve the normal signs of aging that decrease mental capacity is vital to one's quality of life.
I would have liked to see some studies on any population to be able to quote information on normative data, validity, and reliability. However, any clinician who is able to norm this on their own populations should do so. I truly believe that playing games such as these, much like doing crossword puzzles, improves the cognitive decline that is inherent in the aging process.
In addition, my children and my father played these games and became addicted to them. For some reason, the bird watching game, while VERY challenging, is the favorite across five decades of participants!
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