English, Prying eyes

Review. Lumosity project.

Lumosity.com is a brain training website developed by neuroscientists at Lumos Labs for improving memory, attention and processing speed. It is part of a Human Cognition Project developed by specialists from top world education institutions such as Stanford University, University of New South Wales, University of California and University of Michigan.

The exercises can be used by individuals of all ages and test the working memory, visual attention and executive function.

How does it work? Each day you can play a few games. Responses and speed are recorded and tracked over time, both within a session and across training segments.

Memory Matrix, for instance, challenges the player – in fact the part of his brain responsible for encoding visual working memory – to remember the location of a series of blocks. By playing it, experts say, a person can more easily remember faces or places.

The game Familiar Faces challenges the brain’s ability to create associations between visual and verbal information, such as associating a person’s name with their face. The user’s job in this game is to work as a waiter at a seaside restaurant. Each visitor has a name and places an order. You must remember the orders as well as the customers’ names to earn large tips.

In By the Rules, users must identify the hidden rule in a dynamic card game. The user must indicate with each card whether the card follows the rule. For example, a card would follow the rule if the rule were ‘blue’, ‘triangle’, ‘number two’, ‘vertical lines’, or ‘solid border’. If the user indicates that the card follows the rule, but it does not, then it is known that the rule is none of the aforesaid possibilities. It must be something else. But if the user indicates it does follow the rule, and is correct, there are still five possibilities of what the rule could be. Only through multiple tries is it possible to determine the correct rule.

I tried the free-access version and discovered that the maximum number of games I was allowed to play in a day was three – basically the ones described. Their daily combination is randomly selected by the computer and designed to test my memory (did I remember correctly the name of a customer in Familiar Faces?), speed (how fast I clicked when discovering the right rule), and attention (that’s something I still need to figure out).

Although the combinations change, there are only a limited number of games they repeat quite often and once you get used to the games, the fun is over. The free access version also offers no cognitive improvement report. For more games you need to pay and prices vary from $4.99 per month (if you purchase a two-year package) to $299.95 for a lifetime subscription.

The Lumosity product suite (www.lumosity.com) includes games, courses, assessments, and supporting readings. Each element works as an integrated component of the complete brain training system. In addition to the Lumosity website, Lumos Labs has produced some complementary products that include iPhone, Palm Pre, Facebook, and Yahoo! applications.

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