When was the last time you memorized a phone number? Or the last time you did simple division without help from your smartphone?
Using mobile devices as a stand-in for everyday cognitive functions has become commonplace. Unfortunately, however, playing several daily rounds of Words With Friends isn’t going to cut it. But brain training games can help you work out those synapses to improve memory, attention span, focus and concentration.
It’s important to engage your brain in addition to maintaining an active physical lifestyle, says Dan Michel, founder and CEO of Dakim BrainFitness.
“It’s a matter of use it or lose it,” Michel tells Mashable.
“It’s a matter of use it or lose it,” Michel tells Mashable. “It’s never too late and it’s not too early to start a brain fitnessprogram. It’d be great if people in their thirties start doing these activities as prophylactics to help them defend their brains long term.”
Programs like Dakim BrainFitness target Alzheimer’s, which affects one in eight people age 65 and over, and one in two people over 85. Though the degenerative disease isn’t 100% preventable, a majority of the risk factors involved are attributed to a person’s lifestyle and environment.
You can prevent symptoms of memory loss and dementia early on with brain exercises to develop a cognitive reserve, creating new neurons and synapses that protect against degenerative diseases and brain aging.
While games like SuDoku allow you to sharpen your skills, you’re performing the same task multiple times, which requires less and less cognitive activity. By doing different exercises, Michel explains, your brain is constantly learning and working. “Cross training” your brain triggers different areas, from long-term memory to language and critical thinking.
Check out these online programs and apps to train your brain on the go.
Fit Brains Trainer [iTunes link]
Fit Brains, an online collection of brain games, has a free iOS app to educate and entertain. The “training sessions” offer more than 60 variations of workouts with 30 different games such as matching, sorting and patterns. Users can keep track of progress for target areas. To see how you measure up, you can also compare your performance to the average female or male in your age range.
This clinically tested brain-training software is designed specifically for older adults and is available for desktop and laptop only. The exercises target six essential cognitive domains and were developed in conjunction with leading physicians and neuroscientists.
Each workout is customized to the user’s level and includes videos, music and storytelling. The program was approved by the United States Administration on Aging to distribute to hundreds of senior agencies and centers. It’ll cost you $249 for Dakim’s brain games, which will soon be available for tablet devices.
Lumosity Brain Trainer [iTunes link]
Lumosity, a web-based application to stimulate neurons, brings its cognitive enhancement program to the iPhone. Each session on the free app has three games, but after the first five sessions, users need to pay for access. Similar to Fit Brains, Lumosity lets you track progress with a Brain Performance Index.
Brain Trainer Special [Google Play link]
For Android, Brain Trainer Special’s free app whips your mind into shape with math sequences, phone numbers to memorize and puzzles. The variety of games include Math Ninja and SuDoku.
Do you train your brain with any apps? Let us know in the comments.