Sunday, June 05, 2011

Results for Week 1 of Brain Game Use

Week One is done and, according to "Brain and Body Connection", my brain age is three years younger! A week ago, I was 57. Today, it's 54. I feel like I'm in one of those cheesy testimonial ads: "I lost 3 years in 1 week!"

[Quick summary if you just joined us. I'm reporting my weekly progress with a Kinect's game that aims to help you improve your "brain age" through a series of game-like mental challenges.]

I did stick with using the program daily for about 20-30 minutes per day. And on those days the various mental challenge games had me feeling plenty stupid. In particular, the pizza catching game which challenges both memory and dexterity was humbling.

When I took the brain age test after one week, I found I was still flubbing up how to do the test. (Imagine you've never heard of multiple choice before. That's how I felt.) Yet I managed to come out of it with a brain age rating of 54.

Am I actually smarter after just one week? That's hard to believe, no matter what the game says. The one part of my brain that is still strong is the skeptical side. So I'll continue to work at the game, but to look for proof of improvement in real life and not just according to the game's feedback.

When the program tests you, the test activities are not the same games as the game/exercises you play through the week. And I am a person who really needs a dry run at something to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. But the brain age test doesn't give you that opportunity. It just throws you in the deep end. So I really was surprised to see an improved score.

There is good variety in the regular games, and each game has multiple levels of difficulty. The games fall into the categories of math, logic, reflexes and memory. You can play free-form and just choose some games, but mainly I've been sticking with the recommended exercises that the game presents each day. Supposedly, the program is built on the expertise of Ryuta Kawashima, MD, an "expert on the science of brain imaging." So I'm sticking mainly to the games/exercises the doc prescribes for now.

There's an animated version of the doctor in the game, and he offers verbal feedback. However, it's not very useful. For instance, after I had a pathetic score at the pizza catching/memory game, the doc advised me: "focus on working harder". Well, duh. But, hey, I quickly learned to ignore the doctor's advice -- just like real life!

So, here's a taste of what week-one games were like:
* Each exercise/game is timed and you get a score for your efforts at the end. I haven't had this many "F"s since, well, ever. Even when you perform accurately, the program may penalize you if you aren't quick about it. A game that starts out "easy" can get challenging real quick.
* Playing the games involves taking physical actions in front of the Kinects camera. These aren't difficult, but it does make you aware of the lag time between thinking of an answer and acting on it. You also learn to keep your reflexes in check as that can lead to wrong answers.
* The pizza catching/memory game that made me feel like an idiot early in the week is now one I'm really good at. So while I'm not convinced I've really rolled back the clock on my brain a whole three years in one week, I do feel ready to work at the end of a frozen pizza assembly line. I've got skills!

Check back next week and we'll see what new challenges the program can throw my way.



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