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Brain Training News
The brain that’s drained stays mainly if you train
by Jim Cota
Good news! All that time you spend walking around the house
looking for your car keys (often when they’re in your hand)
really isn’t your fault. You can blame it on your brain.
There’s a good deal of evidence that our brains begin their
long slow decline at about age 25 and get progressively worse
as we age. Science has recently discovered, however, that the
brain is capable of creating new neural connections and
pathways at any age (known as plasticity), essentially helping
to slow down and reverse the natural brain drain that plagues
Further, it seems likely that some of the work you do to
retrain your brain today can pay dividends in the future. One
study conducted in 2006 suggests that adults who trained their
brain with specific activities achieved gains that were
beneficial up to five years later. The key appears to be
focusing on the correct activities.
Enter Vivity Labs, a company focused on “delivering unique
and entertaining brain fitness products.” They’re behind a Web
site called Fit Brains (www.fitbrains.com), an online
platform featuring engaging games and activities that exercise
the five key cognitive areas of the brain: memory, language,
concentration, executive functions, and visual and spatial
skills. These areas are further broken down into more than
two-dozen more specific areas like verbal fluency, delayed
recall, spatial awareness and more. In other words, the site
claims, you can play games to improve your brain’s function.
(Did you hear that, Mom? I wasn’t really wasting all that
All of the games are tightly integrated with Fit Brains
extensive suite of personalization tools to provide
individualized sessions for each user, as well as comprehensive
“brain fitness metrics” to measure individual performance and
progress. It’s kind of like getting a report card you’re not
afraid to take home.
The site is developed by Vivity under the tutelage of Dr.
Paul Nussbaum, cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer of Fit
Brains. Nussbaum specializes in clinical neuropsychology and
was the 2007 recipient of the American Society on Aging’s
“Gloria Cavanaugh Award” for excellence in training and
education in the field of aging. The Fit Brains games and
training program were developed by Nussbaum with a group of
scientific advisors overseeing the process.
Of course, let’s not forget that Fit Brains is a product.
Yes, it’s designed to help maintain and improve cognitive
skills, but also to make money for its creators and investors.
Anyone can sign up and play the games for free, essentially
receiving all of the brain-building benefits, but to make
further use of the personalization features, you’ll have to
sign up for a paid membership (though it does offer a free
As a paid member, you’ll have access to the tools to track
your progress, training circuits, and community features,
including the Fit Brains Index, which measures your overall
brain fitness level in relation to other Fit Brains users of a
similar demographic. One key element to brain plasticity is
similar to building muscle: you get stronger by stretching just
slightly beyond your ability. The personalized training can
adjust each brain fitness activity to the right level of
complexity that your brain needs in order to get stronger.
With aging comes change of all kinds, of course, and there’s
a certain degree of degradation from which we all suffer. But
just as we can slow and reverse the physical process through
eating well and exercise, we can achieve similar results
mentally by training and stretching our brains. With
debilitating mental diseases like Alzheimer’s threatening us,
the idea that we can reduce our risks through entertaining
games should be enough to convince us all to take better care
of our mental health.
Fit Brains makes it easy, personal, and fun to put 10
minutes of brain training into your daily routine.
Jim Cota is
creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service
advertising agency specializing in the use of new
technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached