Get Smart(er)

PopSci.com and Lumosity team up to train your brain

Lumosity on PopSci

Games and puzzles have a long history of "teasing" your brain so that it gets bigger and badder, and eventually smarter. Lumos Labs, a San Francisco-based cognitive neuroscience research company, recently released a series of games—under the title Lumosity—designed to improve a whole gamut of brain functions.

Just as different sports target different parts of the body, Lumosity's games target specific functions in the brain, such as attention, memory, or processing speed. The games work by stimulating the brain's neuroplasticity, which refers to how your neurons and connectors change in reaction to experiences in every day life. Neuroplasticity can actually help neurons compensate for diseases or injuries, and react to new situations. Certain activities, ranging from dancing to games that test your brain, influence your plasticity and help you stay sharp.
If you want to try some of Lumosity's games, Popsci.com has three you can play right now (for free!). Speed Match works on attention and memory; Word Bubbles improves vocabulary; and Memory Matrix beefs up the part of your brain in charge of remembering names, the locations of objects, and reasoning.

Besides making you a genius (well, you can always hope!), one of the greatest benefits of playing games like Lumosity's is to keep your brain healthy into old age. In 2002, the National Institutes for Health published a study titled The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, which found that with a little training old folks can actually improve their memory, reasoning, and processing speed. These changes were still evident five years after the initial tests.

Each of Lumosity's games is part of a series, in which you can advance to a new level every day. A monthly subscription costs $9.95, or you can snag a year's worth of games for $79.95 ($6.60 per month). And if you want to test a game on the go, download Speed Brain (similar to Speed Match) to your iPhone for $.99. Now, that's smart!