It is a common belief that playing brain games like the Sunday crossword puzzle and Sudokus helps stimulate the brain and keep the mind sharp. Lately, brain training programs like Lumosity have started to become more prominent resources for improving a person’s cognitive abilities to perform certain tasks. In Lumosity, the user plays a series of games that are designed to train the brain’s ability to complete motor skills like memory, attention, speed, mental flexibility, and problem-solving.
As the user continues to play the games, performance in the game will increase, but the user will not actually gain more crystallized intelligence that will help them later on in life.
Lumosity’s focus on only enhancing the person’s gaming ability and not actual intelligence has come under fire from several neuroscientists.
There has been no concrete research that has shown that these brain games have the ability to improve broad cognitive skills, despite how brain training companies promote their products. However, with the controversy surrounding brain games, there has been more research put into studying human cognitive aging and how to combat this.
Brain games target very specific skill sets that do not necessarily transfer over to all motor skills necessary to think more critically and efficiently. The cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists at the Stanford Center of Longevity state that people “who live cognitively active, socially connected lives and maintain healthy lifestyles are less likely to suffer debilitating illness and early cognitive decline.”
There is a general consensus among neuroscientists that physical activity can stimulate the brain in ways that simply playing brain games cannot. The increased circulation in blood flow provides more nutrients and oxygen to the brain, in turn helping it work at optimal levels.
Mental stimulation cannot be gained through brain games alone and there are no quick fix solutions to becoming a smarter, more well-rounded person. So while these games are fun to play, playing them with the intention of becoming more astute might not get a person the intended results.
Staying in tune to what is going on in society and being a well-informed citizen adds on to the mental stimulation needed to live a more intellectually-inclined life.