Friday, February 17, 2012

Online Games for Smarter Brains

Can playing online games make you smarter? Lumos Labs, a cognitive neuroscience research and development company based in San Francisco, California, believes so.

Founded by financial services professional Kunal Sarkar, Stanford neuroscience grad student Michael Scanlon, and game and web developer David Drescher, Lumos Labs builds software tools that enhance brain fitness and performance. The company was established in 2005 with the mission of promoting better mental health, as all of the founders has had a family member who had been adversely affected by cognitive decline.

Lumosity, the first general brain fitness program created by Lumos Labs, is a website filled with fun, Flash-based games. Each game is designed to improve a particular area of the brain – speed, attention, flexibility, memory, or problem solving.

For example, in Familiar Faces, users play the role of a restaurant server and are tasked to remember their customers' names and orders to earn tips and get promoted. According to Lumos Labs, this game helps players remember people's names after meeting them for the first time.

Speed Match, a fast-paced favorite among Lumosity members, asks players to identify whether the symbol flashed on the screen matches the previous one. This exercises information processing, which can help users think faster. The games were developed with the help of a scientific advisory board, which is composed of some of the world's top neuroscientists.

Lumosity can be accessed with a paid subscription or for free with limited features. Members can enroll in various courses intended to fine-tune their brain, help them do better in school, or assist them in rehabilitating from certain medical conditions. Additionally, a brain profile page allows users to see how well they're doing so far.

Lumosity's members range from young students to baby boomers to senior citizens. Satisfied customers claim improved memory, better organization, and enhanced focus as some of the benefits of using Lumosity regularly.

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