By Christian Dischler

We’re all looking for any advantage available in a world that moves faster than we do.  There’s competition for everything these days: jobs, attention, social media likes and even a decent parking spot.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the swirl of everyday life and overlook our biggest adversary: time.  As we age, our bodies suffer the consequences of our actions and our brains see the same fate.  It’s important to keep sharp so we aren’t the ones lost in the same parking lot we fought so hard to get in. But how?

You have probably noticed an increasing amount of “brain games” available in the form of smart phone applications.  It’s a profitable industry growing in size each year, and it’s important to understand exactly what they offer to us and our aging minds.

Whether it’s companies like Lumosity or Posit Science, there are promises of enhanced cognition through interactive games, and claims of a more youthful mind.  According to the Stanford Center for Longevity there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to these claims.  The Center compiled a collection of studies and uncovered some important information.

“When researchers follow people across their adult lives, they find that those who live cognitively active, socially connected lives, and maintain healthy lifestyles are less likely to suffer debilitating illness and early cognitive decline in their golden years than their sedentary, cognitively and socially disengaged counterparts.”

This means our brains are always actively enjoying the benefits everyday life presents us.  But it doesn’t mean we can’t gain additional enhanced brainpower from something like scientifically engineered brain games.

The study continues to say, “100 days of practicing 12 different computerized cognitive tasks resulted in small improvements in the abilities of reasoning and episodic memory. In other studies, older adults have reported that they felt better about everyday functioning after cognitive training.”

While brain games can certainly benefit our cognitive focus, their value is ultimately affected by when and how they are used.  If an hour of your time is spent playing a game when it could instead be engaging socially, learning a skill or exercising; perhaps that usage of your time isn’t being optimized.  However, if you supplement an hour of television with a tantalizing brain game, you’ll find yourself feeling sharper and more adept.  This value cannot be overstated when combined with the decline of human cognition due to age.  Staying mentally sharp is important to staying happy, and any advantage in the race against time is a useful one.

While brain games can certainly benefit our cognitive focus, their value is ultimately affected by when and how they are used.


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