Thursday, December 03, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Brain

One of my favorite pastimes as a geezer/retiree is Lumosity. It's an online service designed to sharpen one's cognitive skills through a variety of specialized video games which call into play such encephalic functions as memory, problem solving, attention, flexibility. Oh yeah, and speed. Really though, flexibility is the crux of their apostrophe--what they purport to improve in one's thinking, what they call the science of Neuroplasticity. Has to do with those little guys running around in your brain(I think they call 'em Neurons), and giving them more and varied pathways. 
 I've been signed up with them for a couple months now. It's like having a personal trainer for your mind. Every day, there's a new workout for me with five different games assigned. There's one for memory, one for problem-solving, one for attention, one for flexibility,  and one for speed.   
So every morning, along with that first cup of coffee, I run through whatever routine the Lumosity folks have for me. And I gotta say, most of the games are fairly imaginative. There's one where you assemble robots, taking great care not to use the "dud" parts in the process. In another, you pack a camera in various suitcases, so as not to have the camera come in contact with anything else.  
There's a game where you connect trains to their stations, where more trains are added as you progress. And another, called Pet Detective, where you return various pets to their homes. This features a sultry jazz soundtrack such as you might hear on an old Mike Hammer show. Fun fun.   
  Many games engage one's critical thinking: finding differences, anomalies, problem-solving- all of which uses the Cerebrum, the frontal lobes of the brain. These last two involve more spatial navigation, which is the department of another brain part , this time the Hippocampus. It's a small,  banana-shaped organ right about in the middle of your noggin. The medial Temporal lobe. It gets a pretty good workout in these two games. At least mine does.
Most of us are stronger in some areas than others, so if you're anything like the rest of us, you're going to have some imbalance as far as your levels in the various games. I tend to do better with words than numbers, so I have more luck with the verbal games.  Higher scores. And I have to remind myself not just to stick with them(which is just feeding one's own narcissism), but work on those 'problem' areas. Stuff I'm not good at.

Like math. There is one game involving arithmetic that comes up in rotation as one of my daily training packet, which I make myself play a bit more in hopes of raising my scores to at least a higher level of mediocrity. Gotta  keep working  on those weak spots.. 

If I had kids, I'd definitely have them into this stuff, if they hadn't already discovered it for themselves. All kinds of creative ways to use and exercise your mind. And the kids would get into the fun, not realizing they were doing some real work. Sorta like the commercial some years back for a breakfast cereal: delicious they know, nutritious YOU know. 

Forty years later, that slogan still cracks me up

 I remember posting on Facebook that I'd taken up Lumosity, and was doing the daily "training". One of the responses I got was a friend who said he thought the games were fun, but didn't feel like he was any smarter from playing them. I responded that the games, if indeed some cognitive enhancement takes place, can really only make you as smart as you are. 

There's a guy I worked with, in the last years of the daygig, who'd skipped two grades of school. His IQ is around 150. There are a few things I can do better than he, like Sudoku(although in his defense here, he has an eye condition called Presbyopia which interferes with his focusing--which could well inhibit the process of deductive reasoning needed to complete the puzzles). And I have a better vocabulary than he does. But I've never 'won' an argument with him. 

He just has a better processor than I do(I'm about 15 Stanford-Binet points dumber). He can lay out a subject, explain a concept, with a clarity I don't feel I have. All the Lumosity games in the world won't give me an intellect like his. But they should help me make optimal use of the one I have   

And that's really all we can hope for. Just do the best we can with what we have to work with. I just try to concentrate on the fun I'm having, and let the results be whatever they're gonna be. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some pets to deliver to their homes.. 


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