A lot of people come to my blog looking for online brain games and advice on how to find the best ones. In order to help you make more informed decisions, I’m producing a series of reviews of commercially available brain games. You can find a listing of all the commercially available brain game reviews in the Articles section of this website.

Lumosity Online Brain Games

Name: Lumosity
URL: www.lumosity.com
Product Type: Online access, subscription based

I’m starting my review series off with the first commercial online brain games product I ever purchased, and the one that I still use today.

This article is intended to help you reach an informed decision on whether Lumosity is the right commercial online brain game for you.

Before reading on, if you have no idea as to how brain games can benefit you or how you would go about selecting a good one, read my post titled; Brain Games Benefit You Now, and In The Future

A Brief History

As I initially educated myself on the subject of online brain games, I realized that I wanted something that;

1) Worked.. Meaning that it would actually benefit my brain health and fitness.

2) Wasn’t too expensive.

3) Would be fun to play and use.

I went looking online for commercial brain games that met my initial criteria. I discovered Lumosity and was completely intrigued by the online brain game product. What most interested me at first was how well rounded and professional the product was.  A lot of commercial online brain games seem almost childish. I mean, games that seem like they were created or targeted mostly for children. Lumosity brain games however, seemed more geared for adults in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong.. some of the games included in Lumosity do have the look and feel like they were designed for younger audiences, but I think overall the product is geared towards adult to young adult ages.

As usual, I did some due diligence first and looked around the internet to see what other people were saying about Lumosity.  It was hard to find a negative comment. Most of them were very positive.  As you look around, you’ll find that most sites dealing with brain health and fitness offer links to Lumosity – so I knew it wasn’t a fly by night outfit. It was and still is, in fact, one of the leading online brain game products and companies out there today.

I then went ahead and signed up for the free 14 day trial with Lumosity. Once I got the feel for the product and saw everything offered first hand, I opted up for the subscription service.

Even though I have by now tried and used many other commercial online brain game products, I continue to subscribe to and use the brain games at Lumosity.

Why I Use Lumosity Online Brain Games

In a nutshell, there were seven reasons why I initially chose and continue to use the Lumosity online brain games product.

  • The product is accessed online, meaning I didn’t have to download anything to start using it. Therefore, I could play it on any computer, anywhere, anytime I wanted. In addition, as the product improves and more games are added over time, I’m always using the latest version.
  • There was a free trial period where I could evaluate the product before I paid any money.
  • Once I did sign up for the subscription service, I could cancel it at anytime.
  • There were lots and lots of different brain games included in the product. In fact, there are even many groupings of brain games, each group targeting a certain aspect of brain function. For instance, there are whole groups of brain games targeting memory improvement, processing speed and problem solving, just to name a few.
  • There were Neuroscientists on the development team. This was important, because I wanted to make sure that neuroscience was behind the development of the games.
  • The product is relatively in-expensive, especially when one considers the health benefits derived from such a product.
  • The brain games found at Lumosity are fun to play. They also continually increase in difficulty as you progress in ability.

Price

There are three levels of Lumosity access.

1) Visitors – Free but limited access to brain games and content on the Lumosity website. No sign-up is required to play the limited access set of brain games.

2) Members – Once you sign up for a free member account with Lumosity, you have a 14 day free trial to all of the brain games offered at the site. You won’t be billed for anything unless you keep your account open past your 14-day free trial. After that, you will be billed depending on the subscription plan you chose at member sign-up. You can cancel at anytime using your member account page.

3) Subscribers -  Once the free trial is over, you can pay in billing increments of your choice (monthly or yearly) and have access to all the games, training programs, and progress tracking tools.

Membership Plans Available (billing cycles) – You can choose one of the following subscription plans upon sign-up.

Monthly Subscription — $14.95 / month

Yearly Subscription — $79.95 (most popular plan)

Two Year Plan — $119.95

Cancellation policy – When you subscribe to Lumosity, you are signing up for an automatically recurring billing at the interval of your choice. You can cancel your subscription at any time. After canceling, your account will retain subscriber level access to all of the brain games through the remainder of your billing cycle (mthly, yearly or two year).

My subscription preference- I signed up and continue to remain on the Yearly Subscription membership plan. I am now in my second year as of this writing. For me, it’s the least risky yet affordable way to go.

Choosing An Online Brain Game

I recommend before choosing a commercial online brain game you do your own due diligence and read forums and ask for opinions from current customers. Narrow down your list of potential commercial online brain game products based on your most important criteria and then test one out. Remember, making a purchase doesn’t lock you in, most online brain game companies offer a free trial and money back guarantees (just make sure there is one before buying).

In addition, I suggest that you read the blog posts I list in the articles section of this site under the heading: Brain Games: How To Choose The Best. These articles will give you more information on how best to evaluate and select an online brain game product.

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The KenKen puzzle game is today’s online brain games highlight.

KenKen was invented in 2004 by a Japanese math teacher named Tetsuya Miyamoto. The game was originally intended as a learning tool to improve both the math and reasoning skills of his students.

“Ken” means wisdom in Japanese, therefore KenKen means “wisdom squared”.

The game is very similar to the layout and rules of Sudoku, but KenKen adds the requirement of solving simple math problems in order to complete the puzzle.

KenKen puzzles come in 3×3 all the way up to 9×9 grid sizes.

The rules of KenKen are simple. For a 4×4 grid puzzle the rules are as follows:

  1. Every box in the grid will contain a number 1~4
  2. Every row and column will contain the numbers 1~4 only once.
  3. The numbers in each heavily outlined set of squares, called cages, must combine (in any order) to produce the target number shown in the top corner using the mathematical operation indicated.

image thumb The KenKen Puzzle | Online Brain Games Highlight image thumb1 The KenKen Puzzle | Online Brain Games Highlight

Starting puzzle (4×4)    Solved Puzzle (4×4)

The resource links below contain a link to the official KenKen website. From there you can find out more about the history and rules of KenKen. You’ll also find free online KenKen puzzles there to play as well.

Also included in the resource link section below is a link to the New York Times KenKen online puzzle offering. They offer 6 free online puzzles per day ranging from easy to hard.

Have fun and tell me what you think about KenKen!

Resources:

http://www.kenken.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/ref/crosswords/kenken.html

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Many people question whether the benefits of playing brain games will translate into other areas of life?  For instance, if you physically exercise with weights in the gym, you usually get stronger and can engage in other physical activities with more strength and vigor. But does this same sort of thing happen with mental exercises and playing games for the brain? Or do you just get good at the specific tasks associated with those brain games and that’s it? And if that’s the case, are they really even worth it then?

Well, I guess that depends on the specific type of mental exercise. For instance, doing a crossword puzzle might be a challenge for one person, but not another. So in the case of the later, the person is really not challenging his or her brain and therefore the benefit will be minimal. The reason for this is fully discussed in, “Online Brain Games: 5 Characteristics of Good Ones”.

Recent studies (“Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age”) have documented that mental exercises like playing online brain games do help with everyday tasks such as shopping, making meals and handling finances. In addition, they help build what’s called a cognitive reserve which is noted and discussed in the post, “How Big Is Your Brain Buffer?”. Such a reserve helps thwart the affects of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia later in life.

So playing brain games can benefit you both now, and in the future.

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All online brain games and mental exercises must have these 3 *primary* characteristics in order to be of maximum benefit to your brain.

The 3 primary characteristics are:

  1. Novelty
  2. Variety
  3. Challenge

I wrote about these 3 primary characteristics in a previous post titled, “What Makes Mental Exercise Beneficial, or NOT?

Over the last 15-20yrs, scientists have discovered that our brain can:

  • Grow new connections
  • Grow new neurons
  • Re-wire itself

The ability of our brain to do this is called neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity. The good news about brain plasticity is that it is made available to us at any age. It is now a myth that our brain cannot change or renew itself as we grow old or that our brain function must decline with age. The 3 primary characteristics noted above must be present in any online brain game or mental exercise activity in order for the benefit of brain plasticity to be realized.

Besides the 3 primary characteristics , I believe there are 2 additional characteristics that are also important when considering an online brain game or mental exercise.

The 2 secondary characteristics are:

  1. Fun/ Enjoyment
  2. Cost

I call these *secondary* characteristics because they aren’t really necessary in order for an online brain game or mental exercise to be of benefit to your brain. But they are still important, and here’s why..

Fun/Enjoyment – A good online brain game or mental exercise should be fun and provide you with enjoyment. I say this because if an online brain game or mental exercise activity is fun, you’re more likely to stay with the program. Just like with a physical fitness program, you need to stay with the brain fitness program in order to reap lasting benefits. Likewise, if it is boring and feels like a chore, you won’t stick with it and then it will be of no value to you.

Cost – So what about cost? Free brain games abound on the internet. Are they any good? Are paid-for games better for you that free ones? The answer is that it all depends.

I wrote a post called, “Why Should You Pay For A Commercial Brain Game?”. In it I go into great detail on the benefits of paying for a commercial online brain game.

Again, the 3 primary characteristics must be present. It doesn’t really matter if the online brain game is free or if it cost you $500 or more. It doesn’t matter if you’re evaluating a free crossword puzzle or an expensive “scientifically designed” brain game. The 3 primary characteristics are the key to evaluating any online brain games potential benefit to your brain.

If you do intend to spend money on an online brain game, make sure you have the ability to evaluate it based on the 3 primary characteristics. Most good online brain games that do cost money have either free trials or have a return policy with a full refund possible. This helps to insure you have the ability to properly check out the online brain game before you commit.

So there you have it.. The 5 key characteristics that all good 0nline brain games must have in order to be of maximum benefit to your brain.  Make sure you use them when evaluating any online brain game or mental exercise activity.

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