If anyone tries to tell you that daily brain training is a digital thing, hit them (gently) with a rolled-up newspaper that then opens to the crosswords page - Stuart Dredge
image by: maxkabakov
Whether it’s to focus at work, do better at school or just stay sharp, there are various reasons for wanting to boost brainpower. But maintaining psychological well-being is equally as important.
“Stress and anxiety are among the most pressing and far-reaching public health problems we face,” says Tracy Dennis, Ph.D, professor of psychology at Hunter College. “Mental changes affect every part of our lives: physical health, sense of well-being, work, educational productivity and community involvement.”
Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor and vice chair at Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and president of the American Psychological Association, says apps can help promote mental health through participation in activities designed to reduce symptoms and improve psychological functioning.
Then there are apps that don’t directly target mental health, but aim to increase cognitive functioning. “We know that apps like Lumosity can improve memory, problem solving skills and processing speed, especially in older adults,” says Dr. Kaslow. “There are also studies that show that people who engage in these video games are less likely to develop brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping your mind active is as important as physical exercise and these apps can help you stay fit mentally.”
These days, hundreds of brain-training apps claim to put the “smart” in smartphone and guarantee cognitive improvement with minimal daily use. Don’t think your flaky memory or scatterbrain can be restored? Studies are mixed, since this technology is in the early stages of development. But this 2012 systematic review that analyzed 151 computerized training studies published between 1984 and 2011, found that certain training tasks had a big effect on working memory, processing speed and brain function. In short, playing computer games for a few minutes a day can literally change your mind.
“When you do things in the world, you lay down new neural pathways,” says Dr. Dennis. “The more you do something, the more available that pathway is, so you may be able to use your brain resources more effectively.”
New brainteaser apps show up every day in mobile app stores with claims to improve memory, increase I.Q., or enhance other cognitive skills. They may be fun to play, but how many of them actually work? The goal here after all is to train your brain, not just play video games. Most of the below selections are based on established treatments that have been extensively studied and validated by independent research sources.
For the most part, brain apps can’t make you smarter or happier, but they can help you perform certain tasks better or have more control over your emotional state. Keep in mind that most games are designed for people who are reasonably healthy, not for those with mental disorders, and are no replacement for a mental health professional. While you’re not going to notice any drastic transformation, it’s worth giving one of these apps a try, since engaging in various types of new and cognitively demanding tasks is good for the brain (plus, it’s fun!).
Source: Perry Santanachote, Excerpt from The 10 Best Apps To Train Your Brain, Huff Post, June 4, 2014.