So you think you're smart, right? You think you’re memory is impeccable; you always know where you left your keys. You’re definitely quick – you’ve always got the answers tucked away, just waiting for someone to ask the questions. You have strong cognitive capacities through genetics and early development – thank your parents.

Or is it the exact opposite?

Do you sometimes feel brain dead? Do you forget where you dropped your keys, scrambling every morning searching high and low for them? Are you slow to answer, often probing your brain for a sufficient answer? You have weak cognitive capacities through genetics and early development – blame your parents.

Years ago most neuroscientists and psychologists believed that core aspects of cognitive processing were essentially fixed from a young age, with little or no room for improvement. Three key capacities – your memory, attention, and sensory processing – were what they were, and that was that. Those gifted with strong cognitive capacities were destined to operate at a high level throughout much of their lives. Those not so fortunate were out of luck.

Now don’t panic, you idiot, there is hope!

We now know that with the right kind of stimulation and activity, the brain can drastically change and alter itself to become more efficient and effective in processing information, paying attention, remembering, thinking creatively, and solving novel problems.

In fact, you can make these changes right here – on your device (computer, smartphone, tablet – you get the idea)! Lumos Labs developed a set of web-based software tools where people can exercise their brains in order to increase their cognitive capacities, i.e. achieve their maximum performance.


The Lumosity website is full of assessments, games and training courses that are based on real science, and they’re actually fun – and often addicting.

The site is being used as a platform technology to investigate the impact of cognitive training, and thus far the results prove that these “games” can actually improve various core cognitive skills (attention, memory, fluid intelligence and math skills).

After hearing about the technology, I had to try it.

1. Speed Match: A flash card with one symbol pops up on the screen and you need to (promptly) determine whether the symbol before was a “match” or “not a match”. The cards flash pretty quickly so do pay close attention or your score will resemble mine – low.

2. Memory Maze: Remember the good ol’ rubix cube? That’s what this game reminds me of. A few of the small squares flash red and you must remember which ones. The game gets more and more difficult by increasing the number of squares as you play.

3. Birdwatching: Keep your eyes peeled for the bird that could pop up anywhere on the screen, and remember where he was. Meanwhile, when the bird flashes, so does a number in the middle of the screen – and guess what, you need to remember both. After game three or four you may start forgetting, I know I did.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for games!” Don’t think of it as a “game”, think of it as reading a book, or doing a crossword – you’re engaging your brain. Plus, you can play anywhere! Instead of flipping on the tube when you’ve got a free minute, flip to Lumosity and you can vastly improve your brains function. I mean really, who doesn’t want to advance the way they process, think, focus, solve problems, and remember? I feel smarter already.


August 17, 2012