Cognitive sharpeners?
April 5, 2007 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me rejuvenate my mind! Are the Posit Science or Brain Fit programs of any real use to a (maybe below par) 50 year old? Are there any other worthwhile books or exercises to help sharpen up my memory, attentiveness, concentration and aliveness?

Anxiety and depression may have taken a toll on my cognitive abilities over the years, or maybe these deficits have always been there, or maybe it's all in my head (um, heh). I feel I have unusual difficulties with remembering people, places, and things I'm studying, and difficulties socializing. As a kid, people always remarked on my lousy memory, so maybe it has always been this way. Or maybe it's nothing at all and I'm just stressing unnecessarily.

My real question is, are any of these cognitive sharpening tools or books any good? Which have you found or heard to be useful?
posted by DarkForest to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Two things I've found that help me to brain good. 1) After I exercise, I feel smarter and my scores at 2)Brain Age for the Nintendo DS are better. Brain Age is fun, and sometimes frustrating, it does seem to be helping me a bit mentally though.
posted by drezdn at 9:22 AM on April 5, 2007

Response by poster: oops, Brain Fit = Brain Age
posted by DarkForest at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2007

Since you were talking about Brain Age, in my experience (I've been using it a month so far), my results on the tests seem to reflect how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling sluggish, my scores will be bad. If I'm feeling energetic, I often do well.

Some of the tests are a bit harder as they use voice recognition, and it's hard for the mic to guess what you're saying.

I'm not sure if it's had any actual affect on my brain, but it definitely cleared out some of the cobwebs when it comes to math.
posted by drezdn at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2007

Best answer: Apologies in advance, becuase I could be wrong, and this isn't what you asked, but I think your time and money might be better-invested in a shelf full of engaging literary fiction, interesting non-fiction and reference volumes, and maybe a few 'Learn X the Y Way' courses (language, gnome carving, whatever). Go with things that naturally interest you yet fall outside your usual areas of interest or that you've never gotten around to exploring.

I'm a fan of Brain Age and have read Games for many years, so I love language/number play and puzzles, and do see value in them (a subscription to Games Magazine or the like might not be a bad addition to your armory). Still, I think that if you want tangible results, the best way to see them is to give your brain something substantive and truly engaging to play with and work out and sleep on and burn cycles tearing apart--not those little mental amuse bouches. In the video game realm, I've gained far more mental acuity from the Myst series than I could in a thousand hours of Brain Age.

It's a cliche, but learning about the world really is a great way of opening windows you never looked through before. It's hard to remember that Bob works in Accounting at Fresh Crap, Inc. if you're not tuned in, not fully awake, and not accustomed to learning new things in general.

I think brains like hiking more than they like treadmills.
posted by littlegreenlights at 12:11 PM on April 5, 2007

Best answer: What about this book, suggested to me by a friend.
posted by laskagirl at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2007

Ditto exercise, and I'll throw in advice to meditate for free.

And learn new kinds of things that are unlike the things you know -- play guitar, draw, sing, dance, do tai chi, learn Mandarin, practice calligraphy, learn LISP, play Go (obviously, ignore any particulars you do, in fact, already know.) Take free on-line courses at MIT Open Courseware. Buy classes from The Teaching Company.

Basically, do the the things that'll stimulate using your brain in new ways. (All this is based on my wholly unqualified layman's reading of magazine articles on the actual scientific study that's been done.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:41 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This advice has been floating around for decades, but you have to eat right (high protein, plenty of veggies, avoid processed food). Do the crossword (or soduko, if that's you're style). and make it a relaxing ritual. Play memory games. Exercise regularly. Read. Turn OFF the goddamn TV. Listen to music. Do what you love. Find something you would like to teach to someone else and do it.
posted by Brittanie at 11:31 PM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for your responses. I think I have most of the common advice covered.

I read pretty widely, both fiction and non-fiction (currently "Jonathon Strange and Mister Norrell" and "The Brain That Changed Itself", which is one source of this question). Books almost form a major structural part of my house between my SO and I and now our children. Still, there are probably blind spots in my reading that I haven't investigated, world literature and the like. I just read more slowly and with less retention that I'd like.

I eat well, though I still have nagging addictions to home made chocolate chip cookies, coffee, and pastries and pizza.

I don't have TV at my house. I can get out the rabbit-ears to get a couple of stations if need be. But haven't found the need for a couple of years. I do need to spend less net time though, and more in "doing something" pursuits. I know I need more exercise and intend to get it once this damn snow goes away. I know I could exercise in the snow. I just don't like it. I do want to make an effort to listen to music more. I used to love music and have a big collection. It's just inconvenient at present with my family not really supporting it.

Word puzzles are probably a good idea. I've tended to think more along the line of math and logic puzzles, which I've been working at.

"play guitar, draw, sing, calligraphy, lisp"... You must have peeked at my list of things I'd like to do "someday". I should be working on these, but some resistance always seems to stop me. Fear of looking foolish or inept or something along those lines. Well, not so much for lisp (I liked the post in the blue a couple of days ago), it's more a matter of thinking I should master C++/Java first as that's where the "real" jobs are.

I'm not too interested in those odd memory systems based on pairing with another image or journeying around a set of landmarks. I don't think that people use those in common everyday life, do they?

More ideas welcomed.
posted by DarkForest at 6:50 AM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Oh well, this thread seems dead. Thanks for your good answers. I was really hoping to get some new neurosciencey type answers ala The Brain That Changes Itself or similar fare.

I'll be checking back here from time to time. To future visitors of this page: please leave any advice or experience you've had. Thanks.
posted by DarkForest at 9:11 AM on April 8, 2007

Best answer: I can attest myself the relative usefulness of Brain Training (euro Brain Age), Big Brain Academy and similar games. I can also say the same on behalf of some friends, my mom and my sister.

You'll see a great increase in your stats on the first days, but that's you mastering the control and input system, and then you'll reach a slow upwards plateau. Just keep going at it for ten minutes a day, and soon you'll be imposing homework on yourself, and doing arithmetics in your head while you shower.

Use this enthusiasm to start doing something else that excites you, be it chess, math games, meditation, playing some instrument or studying a language BY YOURSELF. This one last thing is what has seemed to work for me. I had not told anybody I was starting to dive into Esperanto until this very moment.
I find it easier this way, as I only have my ego to run against, and no-one asking how are I doing, or grading me, or telling me I should be studying something useful. You'll be doing useful things the rest of the time, but for those 2 or 3 hours a week, just do something that brings you pure intelectual pleasure.
posted by ArchEnemy at 3:19 PM on April 11, 2007

« Older The Internet has too many pages...   |   what is the dumbest, funniest, most peculiar piece... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.