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I really wanted to believe all the hype that I could Improve My Mind just by playing a few games. What could be easier — or more addictive — I ask you? Especially, since I had reached that age where a forgotten name or phone number caused the predictable “Ann’s having a senior moment” comment from someone in the close vicinity. I resented the implication that just because I couldn’t remember your name that you had just told me fifteen minutes earlier, that I was on the slippery slide down to dementia. I never told anyone but, privately, I did worry that if I was having senior lapses at 67 what would I remember at 85? Anything? Nothing?

Then, like they were speaking just to me, I saw the ads for Lumosity on TV. I was seduced. I wanted to be that smiling young woman — well okay a slightly older version — dreaming of figures and words and numbers happily dancing around my head. I wanted to think that just by playing these games, I, too, could have my dreams fulfilled of a much improved memory, sharper problem solving skills, lightening-like speed and accuracy in doing mathematics and a keener, more focused bent to my attention of the world around me! No longer would I have to put up with these snide aging comments. It would all be wonderful. But the catch was it cost money and I wasn’t about to fork over bucks when I could still play Freecell for nothing. Alas, my mind would just have to fritter away into oblivion — or so they would have me believe. Then, just like the gift it was, Brock, the Brewer next door, signed up for Lumosity and included me, me, his next-door-neighbor, as part of his “family”. I was so touched by the gesture — not so much of the prospect of improving my brain but of having “family” next door.

For a whole year, I have faithfully and seriously completed my Daily Training Exercises. Lumosity, not believing that I’m going to remember all by myself — gently nudges me with a “Yoo-hoo, Ann, your daily training exercises are waiting! It’s time to work, work, work! Mustn’t let that brain of yours get rusty.” With all those brain specialists on their payroll, I’m sure they’ve done the research and determined that nagging was a necessary part of the process. They didn’t have to bother with me. I’m a Capricorn who likes to have something in her life that can be started, finished and crossed off the list. Anyway, I took it all very seriously. I was improving my mind, after all. I approached my training like I was taking an exam: radio off; no phone calls; fingers exercised for quick responses; and, a Stay-Off-The-Table order to the cats — like they ever listen to me. I was good at this and got better. I speak the truth because they, all those brain specialists, told me that you, Ann Eyerman, are “among the best of the best at Lumosity.” I was indeed honored.

Maybe I should have just rested on my Lumosity Laurels and not have accepted the invitation to participate in the project at the university testing the memory and perception skills of older adults versus younger adults. I’d participated in similar studies in the past and I always came out feeling a little less “sharp” than when I walked in — not exactly stupid but slow. The undergrads conducting the tests were always sweet about my “wrong” answers, but I could almost see the little bubbles over their heads silently saying , “Well, this one really skewed the results.” But now, I reasoned, I had a whole year’s worth of Brain Training behind me so surely this would be a different, more rewarding experience. Anyway, it was an almost painless way to make a little money.

The test was simple enough: sit in front of a computer screen and look at little boxes of different colors as they flashed on the screen and note their positions and then, and this was the tough part, when one re-appeared tell the computer whether the color was the same as it had been in the original or different. What’s so hard about this? Surely, with my year’s worth of Tough Brain Training I would sail through this bringing forth remarkable data to contribute to the psychological study of the aging brain. I was ready. Half way through the first round, I forgot which arrow was to indicate “same” and which “different”. So I’m sure that some of the answers that I was absolutely certain about were wrong. I told Sally, the very sweet undergrad tester about my dilemma, not to worry she said, lots of other “older” participants had the same problem. It did not make my Lumosity-trained self feel better. For the next few rounds, I was sure of my arrows but not so much as to whether the third-box from the left had been blue or yellow. Then, by the last four rounds, all of the little boxes were sort of melting into one another so I felt I was guessing 50% of the time which can’t be good science can it? But really, isn’t all of the data — good or bad — useful in some way or the other, eh?

I asked Sally, the tester, what she thought of Lumosity. She smiled and said it was fun to play but she wasn’t sure that it really improved the cognitive abilities of anyone. I think she’s probably right but I’m so addicted to their word games and those little, cute chu-chu-chuing trains trying to get home that I’ll probably keep playing — well, at least until my “membership” ends.

 

 

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