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Games and Brain Health

Some lapses in memory are normal as we age. While there are no guaranteed methods for preventing memory loss or dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic, mentally stimulating games can help keep your brain in shape.

Games not only help with memory, I realized just recently that playing Minesweeper, my brain game of choice, puts me in a state of “flow.” As I’ve written in previous articles, having lots of flow producing activities in your life can increase positive emotions and happiness.

Crossword puzzles can give your brain a workout, so can chess and Sudoku. An article by Sharon O'Brien on SeniorLiving.about.com, says the key is to play games where you are concentrating and actively blocking out all distractions. This is also called “attention training,” which is great for the brain.

If you only do physical exercise once a month, most likely you won’t see any results, it’s the same with exercising your brain. You must regularly "train" your brain to function more effectively. The websites below offer brain fitness programs, brain games and activities.

Luminosity

This is the only brain training website I’ve seen with its own commercial. Luminosity, which was designed by neuroscientists, allows you to play games to improve flexibility, memory, problem solving, speed, focus and other skills. You choose the area you would like to work on and create a profile to track your progress. The site was launched in 2007 and has about 40 million subscribers. The site also features a social networking aspect.

Cognifit

This program measures your memory, visual perception, response time and more. Once users complete an assessment, Cognifit produces a “cognitive status” report and offers a personalized brain fitness regimen based on specific needs. As you play the brain games, the level of difficulty increases according to progress. The program continuously encourages you to increase your brain’s fitness level. Cognifit, which was founded in 1999, suggests you play the brain games for 20 minutes three times a week to see positive results. And you can invite friends to the site as well.

Brainmetrix

Brain Metrix provides access to online Sudoku puzzles, chess, memory games, math problems, an IQ test and other activities including their SilverSphere game. “Stimulating areas of your brain is a healthy process,” says the site. The SilverSphere game is designed to “enhance the way you use your skills on strategy and planning,” which may help in planning your real life. Unlike Luminosity and Cognifit, no assessment or subscription is needed. Just visit the site and start playing.

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