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Keep your brain sharp with these five iOS apps

Kirk McElhearn | Dec. 4, 2014
Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you forget where you put your keys; have difficulty recalling words; find it hard to remember names? If so, join the club. We all have problems with memory and cognitive acuity. But as we age, these problems can increase, and some app developers have stepped in to help us train our brains. These companies--which use words like "neuroplasticity" to discuss the science behind these apps--claim that you can "improve your brain health," "improve focus, speaking skills, processing speed, memory, math skills," and "train memory, attention, and more."

Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you forget where you put your keys; have difficulty recalling words; find it hard to remember names? If so, join the club. We all have problems with memory and cognitive acuity. But as we age, these problems can increase, and some app developers have stepped in to help us train our brains. These companies — which use words like "neuroplasticity" to discuss the science behind these apps — claim that you can "improve your brain health," "improve focus, speaking skills, processing speed, memory, math skills," and "train memory, attention, and more." 

A word of caution: publications like Nature and Scientific American are skeptical of these claims, and a BBC study of 13,000 people showed that these apps don't really have any benefits. Despite that, many people find these games fun — if they just might keep your brain nimble, why not try them out? Here are a few to check out. 

Elevate 

Like all of these apps, Elevate for iPhone and iPad is free to play with in-app purchases. With the free version, you get to play a few games and try them out. Over time, you unlock more games, or you can get full access to 25 games for $5 a month or $45 a year.

Elevate's games seem a bit simplistic, with playful graphics and limited difficulty, as compared to, say, Lumosity or Fit Brains. But the games are interesting enough to use them as a first taste for this kind of app. The results are also simple; whereas Fit Brains shows you your results as a percentile of all users, Elevate merely shows you your high score, and some other vague stats.

Fit Brains 

Fit Brains Trainer for iPhone and iPad is also free to start using, but has a byzantine system of subscription pricing. The plus side is that it has a ton of games that train specific functions such as memory, logic, or language, and you can also play on Fit Brains Trainer's website. 

Some of the games remind me of when I was prepping for my SATs (a long time ago) and some seem a bit simplistic, as is the case with all these apps. Fit Brains is big on showing you how you stack up against others, and that, more than any score, is probably a good metric for whether you are good in a specific area (such as focus, problem solving, language, etc.), and can help show you what areas need work.

There are a number of games you can play for free, and a pro version gives you access to more games, and, for the full-monty subscription, other apps as well. But the company's aggressive marketing is annoying; they regularly send you emails offering you time-limited discounts. If you do plan to upgrade, wait a while and save money, because a year of full access to all the apps and website costs $100 (though a year of access to the app alone is only $10).

 

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