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Years on Lumosity

Lumosity is an online program of “brain-training” games that claim to improve neurocognitive function— memory, flexibility, attention, problem solving etc. The subscription based service gives users a daily training regimen with several recommended games to play per day, and an archive of dozens of other brain games to play for fun. The company launched in 2007, but didn’t really catch national interest until they began airing their “gym for your brain” ads on television. That’s when I found them. I’ve been playing Lumosity since 2012. Like most of their 50 million users, I started with a trial and thought the games were fun and well designed. With the possible added benefit of improving brain function and processing I figured there was no harm in signing up. It was $75 a year, but I pay almost as much for a console game, and most of those require another online subscription.

There have been plenty of studies showing that brain-training games have no effects, and only a handful showing improved cognitive performance, but for the first year or two I regularly completed my “daily training” I felt an improvement in my attention and alertness, though I can't say whether it was actually or just perceived. Some Lumosity’s games count how often you gave correct answers within a certain time limit. To improve my score, I had to remain focused during that time period and I believe it that helped me improve my focus and practice willpower, but some seem more helpful than others. One game with a timer is called “Brain Shift.” It is supposed to test your flexibility by asking you to shift focus back and forth between numbers and letters on the cards presented to you. It’s a fun game but I’m not sure how much it helps with flexibility-- how do you test flexibility except with games like this?

Problem solving games like “Raindrops” are ostensibly much more effective— arithmetic ability is much easier to quantify. In Raindrops players must answer simple math problems as they fall from the top of the screen before they hit the water. I was never very confident with mental calculations. My mind would go blank whenever I was asked to multiply any two-digit number together without a pencil, hoping someone else would do the quick math and I wouldn’t embarrass myself. With that sustained arithmetic practice I can mentally tabulate 20% of my check without marking up the margins. Aside from the mathematics I’m not sure if my felt improvements are the result of he regimented training or placebo. I can be gullible when it comes to specious claims about ability, but if it works it works. Sometimes you just need to convince yourself.

After my first two or three years playing I haven’t noticed a sustained level of improvement; I don’t follow the training regimen as Lumosity suggests any more. At this point I play the games to keep my score up. There are few things worse than the loss you feel as you watch score you worked for depreciate, especially when the number is attached to something like intelligence, even superficially. My LPI (Lumosity Point Index) currently is 1744 which means I am like, SUPER smart.

I know the idea of LPI is a silly one anyway. It’s not comparable to anything like BPI outside of Lumosity’s system, but if they keep adding fun games I’ll keep playing them. Even if it hasn’t improved my cognitive function, I know for a fact it has improved my arcade game skill. Currently I’m thanking Lumosity for my high score in Tomb of the Mask, another well designed game. I suppose this one is designed to improve my reaction time.