Games to quanitfy the brain's ability.
January 15, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

What games (PC, Mac, iOS, or Android) are good at quantifying brain/thinking functions?

For his 7th grade science fair experiment my son has chosen to measure the effect of caffeine on functions of the brain. He wants to test things like problem solving, memory, response time, etc (not all these things but as many as possible). He would like to find games that you can play relatively quickly , over and over again, and at the end of the game plop out a score, number of seconds, or anything he can record and graph.

Does anyone have any recommendations for games that would be suitable for this experiment?

posted by cowmix to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Attention & Memory section might of use. Perhaps the Language & communication section, too. Although I don't know if those are "score-able", in the same way a memory test would be.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on January 15, 2012

I know you didn't mention Nintendo, but I would use Brain Age on the Nintendo DS or the Wii.

Can you rent it?
posted by empath at 11:36 AM on January 15, 2012

@empath, yes I could.

He's trying to find games that he can have many people do remotely, but if that game is really good he's consider it too.
posted by cowmix at 12:08 PM on January 15, 2012

Lots of people like the dual-N back game for cognition training...
posted by dfriedman at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2012

Ooh, sounds like a fun project! Just a few throwaway ideas:
  • Measuring response time (RT) requires something with millisecond accuracy, which sounds simple but takes special software to do properly, especially on computers/devices that have a lot of stuff running in the background. One could rig up a basic RT experiment in free software (like R), but that takes a bit of rudimentary programming.
  • A basic research tool for looking at problem-solving effectiveness and insight is the so-called Remote Associates Test (Mednick, 1967). The idea is that you get three unrelated words and have to come up with a fourth that's connected to each of them in some way, e.g., (car, shoe, French) → horn. The test is rather out of date and may be quite difficult for adolescents, but most of the items, ranked by difficulty, are available here. We've used this thing a lot in our own research, and it tends to stump people. (It has been demonstrated that pot doesn't improve performance on the RAT, not sure what caffeine does.)
  • There are a lot of interesting cognitive things your son can test easily and quickly without computers. Simple word recall is fast and simple: generate a list (or several lists) of words of similar length that occur with similar frequency; let participants study the list for a set duration, then test free recall. Word frequency can be looked up using a site like this one. Academic research gets much more pedantic about controlling variables like frequency, word length, onset sound, and so forth. Another easy possibility is constrained generation: give participants a prompt (like "list as many zoo animals as you can" or "as many words that start with sp- as possible"), and record the number of words generated in a set amount of time.
  • Suzanne Jäggi's dual N-back thing should not be attempted by mortals. It is a tool of the devil. She claims she's been able to get children to do a modified (cute-ified) version of the task, but I don't believe her. She is made of lies.
Good luck!
posted by Nomyte at 12:53 PM on January 15, 2012

He's trying to find games that he can have many people do remotely, but if that game is really good he's consider it too.

It's fast and portable and it gives you a rating at the end of it. It tests math, memorization, reaction times, etc. It's not super scientific, but it will give you some data at least.
posted by empath at 3:16 PM on January 15, 2012

World of Goo- a fun and frustrating game, described as a physics based puzzle / construction game

And there's this type of game, I remember some glossier variant of it that I can't seem to find right now. You arrange mirrors to get a laser to hit a target.
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:46 PM on January 16, 2012

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