Your muscles don't get stronger without consistent resistance training, and the same goes for your brain. Research shows that cognitive exercises can improve your brain fitness and ward off Alzheimer's and dementia down the road.
Sure, you can do the Sunday paper crossword puzzle or even challenge your wits playing word games and riddles with your kids. But if you are on the computer for much of your day, online brain training may be just the thing you need to keep your cognitive abilities sharp.
And those computer brain training games aren't just for passing time when your boss isn't looking. Research conducted by Lumos Labs suggests that brain games -- such as those online at Happy Neuron or used on a hand-held device, like Nintendo's Brain Age -- can significantly improve your working memory and visual attention.
What exactly is working memory and visual attention?
Working memory is the process of temporarily storing and manipulating information. It belies performance in other activities such as logical reasoning and reading comprehension and it bears a strong relationship with a person's general intelligence.
Visual attention is the allocation of attention that determines how a person perceives his or her environment. Changes in visual attention can affect behaviors, such as driving and understanding changes in the environment.
The efficacy of online brain games
The Lumos Labs research shows that its online training program -- called Lumosity
-- consisting of five different cognitive exercises can improve attention, memory, processing speed and executive function.
Exercises used in the study included birdwatching (a game requiring the user to identify a letter while simultaneously detecting the location of a bird graphic somewhere else on the screen), memory match (a speed match of previous data to current data), and monster garden (a maze requiring the user to rely on memory to avoid obstacles and complete a maze). Exercises in the study provided points and increasing difficulty levels.
Study participants were able to use their own PC and had no guidance from researchers. They were instructed to play specified online brain games for a 20-minute session every day for five weeks. As compared to a control group (which did not play brain games), trained participants could more precisely locate rapidly presented visual stimuli and better evaluate a larger scope of visual information. Trained participants also had a significantly larger working memory span.
In simple terms, the online games were effective in boosting brain power.
What does this mean for you?
Researchers say that adults of any age can benefit from online brain training, particularly a program that continually adapts to a user's skill level.
Best yet, researchers suggest that a mere 10 to 20 minutes per day will show improvements in cognitive skills in as soon as six days. Good news for those of you who can't live without those new shoes or celebrity gossip
!Other brain training sites to check out include: