Lumosity and Brain Training

Post Published on November 29, 2013.
Last Updated on April 29, 2016 by davemackey.

I try to intentionally improve myself over time – improving my diet, increasing my physical exercise regimen, regulating my sleep, adjusting medications, developing spiritual disciplines, and so on. One area I’m giving some more consideration recently is Lumosity. It isn’t the first time I’ve run into Lumosity – I’ve known of its existence for a few years – but somewhere I ended up at their site again (may have been a Spotify ad).

The lumosity logo.
The lumosity logo.

I decided to go ahead and try the full access yearly plan (since it came with a 30 day refund) and paid the $80 for a year. I’ve been using it for twelve days and really like it.

Lumosity has a large number of “casual” games which were designed to stretch our abilities in various cognitive areas (e.g. speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving).1These can be broken down into more specific categories such as arithmetic, visual field, task switching, logical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, response inhibition, face-name recall, working memory, focus, spatial recall, planning, information processing, visualization, and verbal fluency. You can play the games as often as you desire – but Lumosity also offers a daily training regimen which takes around 15 minutes and in which Lumosity chooses the games to optimize brain exercise (and always selects some games I don’t like…but I probably don’t like them b/c I’m not good at them…).

Lumosity charts ones progress over time. Here are my initial stats and my current stats almost two weeks later:

Score For: Starting: Current: Percentile:
Brain Performance Index (BPI) 744 889 35.7%
Speed 368 861 25.3%
Memory 621 787 20.9%
Attention 782 776 29.5%
Flexibility 847 1181 70.8%
Problem Solving 1026 844 48.4%

You can see that in several areas I have had a decent amount of improvement – which I expect to grow with time. There are a few strange areas where my cognitive abilities have declined – my guess is that this may be due to various variables like amount of sleep, nutritional intake, anxiety, etc.

I also really like seeing where this makes me fall percentile wise with others in my age grouping. I’m fairly strong in problem solving and flexibility, but not so strong in speed, memory, or attention. The two areas I’m really concerned about (and the reason why I chose to use Lumosity) is memory and attention.

As a pastor I try to remember everyone’s names and I’ve gotten much better at it than I used to be – but there is still room for improvement.

But even more than that is attention. I have ADD which means that I have trouble sometimes remaining focused for an extended period of time. I’ve managed to cope with this throughout my life – it was undiagnosed until a few years ago – but I’d like to improve my abilities so I can do better.

Lumosity also has fields for “Mood Trends” and “Sleep” which is pretty cool – it could become a full-fledged mood tracker – but I haven’t yet figured out where I’m supposed to enter data for these two fields.

Another cool aspect of Lumosity is the Human Cognition Project (HCP). This allows researchers to utilize the data collected by Lumosity from all of its users (anonymously) in performing further research on the brain. I love contributing to science even in these micro ways and think the HCP has a lot of potential for delivering significant improvements in our understanding of the brain. For example, I expect we’ll find clearer portraits of various types of brain dysfunction – e.g., if this area of your brain is malfunctioning, this section is probably also malfunctioning, and on the other hand, this other section is not malfunctioning. This could help refine the diagnosis of various illnesses and disorders.

Lumosity has released a substantial paper explaining how Lumosity works and the research backing its efficacy. You can get the second version (updated October 2013) here. You can also get the original paper here (2009).

Lumosity and similar brain training programs are still somewhat controversial. For example, in May 2013 Thomas S Redick, et al2Zach Shipstead, Tyler L. Harrison, Kenny L. Hicks, David E. Friend, David Z. Hambrick, Michael J. Kane, and Randall W. Engle. wrote a paper (“No Evidence of Intelligence Improvement After Working Memory Training: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study“) in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

I’d like to read up more on the scientific research pro and against – but for the time being, I’m using Lumosity, find the games reasonably fun, and the pro-research I’ve seen thus far has been pretty interesting.

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