Forget about your bicepses - the only real muscle you need to train these days is your brain. Brain-training is based on the fact that brain has this incredible ability to adapt and grow, so anyone of any age can have a faster, smarter brain. Tech companies from around the world have already woken up and smelled the opportunity - they started producing mobile apps and games that are supposed to improve your cognitive skills. But do they really work?
It's not about making an Einstein out of you, but experts tend to agree there is sufficient proof to support the thesis about how appropriately stimulated human brain activity indeed improves cognitive performance.
»I tell people to train their brain, not to torture it,« says dr. Gary Small from The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. »Do what you enjoy doing and what challenges you - something that is not too demanding for you, but also not too simple.« Memory-training games, he adds, help improve your fluid intelligence and short-term memory.
Creators of three of the most popular brain-training apps – Fit Brains, Lomosity in Elevate – claim you will be more confident and efficient in your everyday work, if you use their apps.
Fit brains (iOS, Android, online) promises you to "enhance your memory, focus and brain speed with our award winning brain training program designed by neuroscientists." As per co-creator Mark Baxter, Fit brains strives to make the "dull, scientific activity more appealing." The 'fun tasks' include recognizing the same shapes or objects by their shadows, but the fundemental aim of these games is to develop your eye-hand coordination and the speed of response – both of which will come in handy the next time you play basketball with your friends.
Lumosity (iOS, Android, online) trains your basic cognitive skills, such memory, attention, problem solving, processing speed or flexibility of thinking. The games are played against the clock and change every time. This set of skills for example helps you remember all the names of people you first meet on your recent business meeting.
Elevate, voted best Apple app of 2014 (also available for Android users), is a type of cognitive training tool designed to build communication and analytical skills. It is designed to improve focus, speaking skills, processing speed, memory, math skills, and more.
Most of these apps are free to use, but with a monthly 'subscription' fee, ranging from 4 EUR per month to up to 100 EUR per year, you can gain access to even more games.
"We leave in a time that is very keen on brain training," says dr. Adam Gazzaley, the founding director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center and Professor of Neurology, Physiology, and Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "But there is no real evidence of the effects the training actually has on people, how it all really works, what is the correct 'dosage', what are the side effects, if there are any – all of that is yet to be explored in great detail."
Gazzaley believes, the complexity of these brain games can benefit the brain, but the end result and success of such a training must depend on cooperation between scientists and game developers.
Besides, all games are not alike. There are many of them that will make you advance in one thing only – playing online games.