We know that regular exercise can keep our bodies healthy and slow down the aging process. But what about our brains? Some researchers say our mental health can also benefit from a program of mental exercise. They say some types of electronic games – like puzzles, word games and quizzes -- can keep our brains sharp, improve our memory and possibly stave off Alzheimer's disease.
In 2003, a Japanese neuroscientist named Ryuta Kawashima wrote a book on how to train your brain through daily exercises. He suggested that a daily routine involving puzzles, word games and math problems would help slow the brain’s aging process, improve memory and sharpen cognitive skills.
The book was a best-seller in Japan and became the basis for two Brain Age games developed for Nintendo’s Game Boy that sold more than five million copies worldwide. The types of quizzes and challenges incorporated in the Brain Age games are now available in games made for computers, tablets and mobile phones.
Here are some of the top-rated brain games for Apple iPhone and iPad or Android tablets and mobile phones. They’re available for free or for a few dollars in Apple’s App Store or from Google Play.
Math Workout is a timed math quiz that flashes problems on the screen and tracks your progress with each round. You can start with an easy workout with simple addition and subtraction like 5 + 3 or 9-4, then move on to multiplication and division. As you work your way up, you get harder problems to solve, like fractions and percentages, all while the clock is ticking.
Math Workout also includes a version of Math Blaster that was a popular in the 1990s. It turns math drills into a shoot-out with invading aliens.
Einstein Brain Trainer uses a cartoon of the famous physicist and his robot sidekick take you through 30 different puzzles and exercises. Each one tests your memory, logic skills, your visual acuity and your ability to make speedy calculations.For example, you might watch the robot move across a grid of squares, then be asked to remember and retrace the route. Another challenge is a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But you don't always play to win. Sometimes you're told to lose. Either way, you have to think fast and react quickly to score points.You can match scores with other family members or just take the daily test and try to improve with each round.
Lumosity Brain Trainer offers drills designed to improve everyday brain skills, like remembering names, avoiding distractions, or making quick and accurate decisions. The drills in the mobile version of the Lumosity trainer are based on a more extensive training program that the company makes available on its website.
Like Math Blaster, Raindrops asks you to solve simple math problems as they float down the screen. You score points if you enter the correct answer before the raindrop reaches the bottom. Another tests your memory by asking you to remember patterns of colored squares on an increasingly larger grid. Games like that could be just what you need to stop misplacing those car keys.