Train your brain with new smartphone apps

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By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer

It is well-known that as we age, our cognitive functioning begins to deteriorate. We forget names, get distracted more easily, and start to lack concentration. Physical exercise and natural supplements can help. But a new, rising trend has become a fun way to keep your mind sharp: brain-training smartphone apps.

These apps focus on all aspects of cognitive functioning – memory, concentration, attention, spacial recognition and problem-solving, among others. Most claim to have scientific evidence that the apps stimulate the brain and improve these areas.

One of the most popular new apps is Lumosity. Created by a collaboration of scientists and game designers, Lumosity personalizes training programs based on performance and areas of needed improvement. It offers users a daily routine of different brain games to help improve performance in target areas.

According to the website, the creators “either adapt cognitive or neuropsychological tasks used by researchers for decades to test cognition, or … use their knowledge and research experience to design entirely new, experimental challenges.”

Like Lumosity, Fit Brains aims to improve your mental performance with a series of brain games that are selected to help you improve weaker cognitive areas. However, unlike Lumosity, Fit Brains feels more like a video game, which may be just what you need to stay motivated and on track. And as you play Fit Brains games, they’ll become more difficult, so you’re always getting a challenging brain workout.

“Brain stimulation creates new neural pathways and connections that can be used as a sort of ‘brain savings account’, allowing you to draw on this account at a later date,” the website said.

Created by Rosetta Stone – the makers of popular language learning programs – Fit Brains also includes a language component to the brain-training.

BrainHQ works the same parts of the brain as Lumosity and Fit Brains, but adds exercises to work out the eyes for detail and a user’s ability to process visual scenes. One exercise tests your skill in matching people’s names to faces and biographical details – something that often eludes us as we age.

The website asks users to “think of it as a personal gym, where you exercise your memory, attention, brain speed, people skills, intelligence and navigation instead of your abs, delts and quads. Just as our bodies require care and exercise over the course of life, so do our brains — especially as we age.”

These are only a few of the many apps intended to “train your brain.” Most apps are free to try, but require subscription fees to unlock all of the training programs. Visit the app store on your smartphone and search “brain games” or “brain training” to see the options available.