I recently learned about a booming U.S. industry: brain gyms. They’re mostly online businesses that survey potential members to identify areas of cognitive function that they want to improve. Then, in a matter of seconds, software customizes computer games to help achieve those goals.
An obvious market for these e-ventures is baby boomers, the 77 million of us who want to delay not only the appearance of wrinkles on our face but also the fine lines we imagine to be emerging on our brains. Sure, I thought, as we age it’s great to find botanical products like our Premiere’s Pain Spray that offer natural pain relief for sore muscles. Wouldn’t it be just as great to find a “natural pain spray” for our brains? Some elixir to keep our aging brains in Olympic athlete condition?
The allure was irresistible and I succumbed, quickly signing up with Lumosity.com, one of the new digital brain gyms. I spent a few minutes filling out their survey and immediately began playing games. It was fun and I’ll definitely go back to “exercise” several times a week. After all, one Stanford University researcher recently found that 12 weeks of Lumosity training significantly improved brain function in a group of study participants.
I keep wondering, though, what parts of my mind am I training inside the brain gym? To help our bodies stay fit we carefully choose specific sports and routines because they’re the ones most likely to meet our unique goals. Shouldn’t we be equally strategic in exercising the facets of our mind we value most?
Personally, I want to preserve whatever brain cells abandon puzzles in favor of deeper thought. If I’m going to stick with a brain gym, it better help me formulate complex ideas about life and how to enrich my piece of it. It needs to train me to understand myself and others, not just memorize sequences of
colored squares on a grid.
How about this: we all just read a good book. My guess is that by page 27 we’ll feel our brain cells multiplying. The Pain Free Spray for our brains will have us all feeling fantastic!