We tend to fret the most over our body. We anguish over diets and exercise and how much we’re moving and how much we’re sitting. (And never forget: sitting equals death. Get one of those demonically expensive standing desks.) We’re so busy with physical health that we can forget there’s another aspect of our bodies that we should be unhealthily freaking out over: our brains. When the mind goes, it doesn’t matter how our knees feel or abs look.
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Some of us are smart enough to keep our minds regularly active; some believe doing the daily crosswords (or just Monday and Tuesday, i.e., the easy days) staves off Alzheimer’s. That may not be true, and it may not be true for Lumosity either. Founded in 2007, the online “brain training” company has sought, using the combined mental prowess of neuroscientists, to make simple games that seek to activate the mind. One can play these on computers or on the phone, since if you’re going to mess around with your phone to kill some boring time, you may as well be doing something productive.
Lumosity first sees what cognitive skills you’re looking to improve (or use at all), with categories ranging from “loser fewer objects” to “remember people’s names” to “dissect complex arguments.” You could also, if your self-esteem is in the gutter, choose all. From there you play from over 40 games, which include ones for memory— like one where you’re supposed to recreate patterns on a board — or ones that test mental quickness. One has you judging whether the same shape has been repeated or not, which is harder in the mad rush of play than you think.
The site boasts of its scientific bona fides. There’s talk of peer-reviewed papers and multiple studies on how Lumosity has helped cancer survivors and patients with mild cognitive impairment, which leads to Alzheimer’s. Other reports are more mixed and suspicious of its successes, speaking of weak sample sizes and a general atmosphere of hot air. But anything that keeps you from mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, growing with envy at the far-off lands visited by people better than you, is at the very least a productive way to use a time-suck.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge