Apps for Your Brain
1. CogniFit Brain Fitness
Improve cognitive abilities, such as memory and concentration, with sleek, fun and addictive games designed by neuroscientists. Users can track progress and access insights about overall brain health. Competitive players can challenge friends, too. After an initial quiz, the app adapts each game’s difficulty to your profile and gives you recommendations based on your results. Developers found that users saw improvement by spending at least 20 minutes, two to three times a week, playing the games. (Free for four games or full subscription for $13 a month or $120; available for iOS)
2. Personal Zen
Players follow two animated characters, one of which looks calm and friendly while the other looks angry, as they burrow through a field of rustling grass. This game, developed by Dr. Dennis and researchers from Hunter College and the City University of New York, reduces anxiety by training your brain to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. “The habit of thinking about the world in a more positive light — like looking for a silver lining in a bad situation — is one of the key ways we can promote our own resilience in the face of adversity,” says Dr. Dennis. Even a single session of play can build resilience over several hours. She suggests using the app right before a stressful event, but 10 minutes a day will help build more enduring positive effects. (Free; available for iOS)
Train your brain to be happier? Yep, research shows that some activities help build your ability to conquer negative thoughts, show gratitude, cope with stress, and empathize — all essential ingredients for a fuller, happier life. Using fundamentals of positive psychology, which involves focusing on the strengths and virtues that enable individuals to create fulfilling lives, the app’s quizzes, polls and gratitude journal — combined with a positive community — gradually teach life-changing habits. The goal is to build these skills and keep users smiling all day. (Free; available for iOS)
4. Positive Activity Jackpot
This app was originally developed for service members returning from combat with high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. It uses augmented reality with an Android phone’s GPS to find nearby activities and diversions for someone coping with depression. If you cannot make up your mind what to do, “pull the lever” and let the app’s jackpot function make the choice for you. PAJ is based on a form of behavioral therapy called pleasant event scheduling, which encourages a daily schedule of enjoyable activities to improve moods and overcome despondent thoughts. (Free; available on Google Play)
Eidetic uses a technique called spaced repetition to help you memorize anything from important phone numbers to interesting words or facts. It works differently from typical brain training apps by using items that have meaning and context, like your beau’s phone number, bank account details, or a new quote worth reciting. Notifications remind you when it’s time to test yourself and spaces out tests over time to make sure you retain the information in long-term memory. (Free; available on iOS)
Dr. Kaslow developed this award-winning app for suicide prevention but it can be used as a general mood tracker. “It’s like MyFitnessPal in that you can track all sorts of things that are relevant to your mental health,” says Dr. Kaslow. It also includes unique coping methods, such as voice-recorded mindfulness and relaxation exercises, or relaxing music. The map locator pinpoints nearby therapists, support groups and mental health treatment facilities, too, in case you ever need to talk to a professional.
While brain-training apps will never completely take the place of face-to-face intervention and prevention approaches, Dr. Dennis sees their potential as an adjunct to other stress-reducing activities, whether that’s exercise, yoga, or seeing a therapist. She adds, “Apps can also be gateway treatments that empower the individual to make positive changes, which can then lead to seek out other health promotion tools.” And while technology can help sharpen the brain and calm the nerves, true mental health is much more holistic. “What’s most important is feeling you have meaning in life and social connections,” says Dr. Kaslow. “It doesn’t mean you have to be happy, but it does have to do with having purpose.” And there’s no app for that…yet.
15 Brain Teasers and Games for Mental Exercise
1. Can you count?: Basketball attention experiment (Interactive).
2. Which way is the bus heading?.
3. Words in your brain: do you know where words are “stored” in your brain?.
4. Please Spot the Differences.
5. Do you think you know the colors?: Quick, try the Stroop Test.
6. Clinically proven Stress Management tip.
7. Riddle for the Whole Brain: The Blind Beggar.
9. Brain Teasers for the Weekend: a few challenges to exercise your attention and working memory.
10. Consider Linda‘s job prospects: riddle, or obvious?.
11. Count the Fs in this sentence.
12. Please find the missing number here.
13. How many… exercise your Frontal and Parietal lobes.
14. Mental Imagery and Spatial Rotation challenge.
15. Enjoy this Sunday Afternoon Quiz.