Lumosity Brain Training : Test Drive
Each week, the Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.
Test Drive Subject: Lumosity.com's brain games
Price: From $29.95 for two months and up -- see full pricing here.
What It Is: A games website that makes you smarter -- no, really, that's the whole point of it. Lumosity consists of 'brain training' exercises, which are basically games based on neurological science formed through affiliations with Harvard, Stanford and UC Berkeley. Aimed at improving everything from memory to thinking speed, once you sign up for the site and choose a course, it sets you up with a training regimen -- not unlike that piece of paper the personal trainer handed you at the gym after your free evaluation.
What's In It: There are 35 games (and apparently more being added) that get dealt out in an assorted manner. The regimen gives you five games to play per day, for a total of 15 minutes, but you can keep going well past that if you so choose. One day it might be Face Memory Workout (to help remember people's names), the next it could be Penguin Pursuit (to gain a better sense of direction).
Most interestingly, the site offers specified courses for medical conditions, including ADD, cancer recovery and PTSD. These are developed by scientists to target the particular issues faced by each of these conditions.
Putting It To Use: I should probably admit right up front that I love mindless computer games. Give me access to Bejeweled and I can be happy for hours. So I was slightly skeptical about these 'good medicine' games that were supposed to help me focus my attention, but I was willing to give them a shot.
And you know what? They were just as addictive as any click-and-point game I'd find online. The 15 minutes would easily turn into an hour as I wandered through the site, and I was truly impressed with the graphics and challenges that were presented. The games increased in difficulty as I progressed, and for competitive sorts like myself, this is exactly the draw that's needed to keep people coming back for more.
Our Thoughts: As someone who's less than stringent about adhering to any particular gym or general wellness schedule, I actually found myself looking forward to my daily Lumosity games. The idea that I could be making my brain work better just by memorizing matrix patterns or figuring out rules to a card game was incredibly appealing, and really compelled me to 'play' every day.
Did some of the games get a little boring over time? Sure they did, and that's probably why I stopped playing after I completed the initial basic course. But that doesn't mean I don't have every intention of returning, and hopefully by that point, they'll have some new options installed.
The Warning: As you can see from the image below, my performance in all areas vastly improved over my 40 days of training (probably embarrassingly so). And during that time, I genuinely felt like I was remembering things better, keeping distractions at bay and yes, figuring out tips a bit more quickly. But once I stopped playing the games, those effects weren't quite as apparent. So there could be a few things at play here: perhaps my heightened awareness of how my brain was working made me concentrate more, or maybe the continued exercises created a kind of optimized environment for me. Or maybe (and this is the explanation I'm going with) my brain has just adapted to these quicker processes so much that I'm used to them now to even notice.
Tips: If you're in it to be competitive with yourself (like, um, someone I know), play around with the various assessment tools available. They give you a satisfyingly instant result in terms of abilities and progress.
Have a suggestion for a Test Drive? Tried something you loved or hated? Let us know on Twitter at @HuffPostCaLiv, or in the comments below.