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Brain Gaming: A User's Product Guide for the Clinician

      Brain gaming, also referred to as brain training, uses a broad range of interactive technologies (eg, smart phones, tablets, computers) to deliver games (eg, thinking assessments and exercises) designed to engage cognitive skills. Brain gaming is gaining popularity among adults and individuals with cognitive dysfunction. Interest in the therapeutic benefits of brain gaming has been growing among researchers and clinicians. At this time there is very limited scientific evidence supporting the benefits of brain gaming technologies for preventing cognitive decline and/or improving cognitive function.
      This user's guide is designed to inform clinicians and other health care professionals about the current available brain gaming technologies. It highlights pros and cons of brain gaming and provides additional references that may be used to enhance knowledge of brain gaming. A sample of available games is provided in table 1. Information in table 1 includes the following: the brain game name and website address; the type of devices the game can be played on (eg, computer, mobile phone); and the relative cost to buy or play the game. Where applicable, links to peer-reviewed evidence are provided in the table note.
      Table 1Brain games for adults
      Name and WebsiteDeviceCost
      Brain Fitness (www.mindsparke.com)Computer and phone app (iOS)<$20/mo.

      Phone app download fee: <$10.
      BrainGymmer
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.braingymmer.com)
      Computer<$10/mo.
      BrainHQ-Posit Science
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.brainhq.com)
      Computer and phone app (iOS and Android)<$20/mo.

      Free phone app download and free select games; in-app purchase: <$20/mo.
      Braintrain
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.braintrain.com)
      Computer$60/y.
      Brainturk (www.brainturk.com)Computer and phone app (iOS and Android)Free for basic games; upgrades: <$10/mo.

      Free phone app download; in-app purchases: <$5.
      Brain Workshop (www.brainworkshop.sourceforge.net)ComputerFree.
      CogMed
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.cogmed.com)
      Computer>$150 (set by Cogmed Coach).
      Cognifit
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.cognifit.com)
      Computer and phone app (iOS)<$20/mo.

      Free phone app download and free select games. In-app upgrade: <$20/mo.
      Dakim BrainFitness
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.dakim.com)
      ComputerFree initial session. Upgrades: <$20/mo.
      DaisyBrains (www.daisybrains.com)ComputerFree. Upgrade: <$20/mo.
      Elevate (www.elevateapp.com)Phone app (iOS and Android)3 training sessions free. In-app upgrade: <$10/mo.
      Lumosity
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.lumosity.com)
      Computer and phone app (iOS and Android)Free for basic. Upgrade: <$20/mo.

      Free phone app download and free select games. In-app upgrades: <$20/mo. In-app purchases: $1-$60.
      Memorado (www.memorado.com)Computer and phone app (iOS and Android)<$30/mo.

      App download: free. In-app purchases: $4-$60.
      MyHAPPYNeuron
      Indicates that peer-reviewed empirical evidence has been published on that specific product (further information is available from: www.braingymmer.com/en/blog/the-science-behind-braingymmer, www.brainhq.com/world-class-science/published-research, www.braintrain.com/cognitive-training-research/, www.cogmed.com/published-research, www.cognifit.com/neuroscience, www.dakim.com/science/#proven, www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/bibliography, and www.happy-neuron.com/the-method/scientific-validation, respectively).
      (www.happy-neuron.com)
      Computer and phone app (iOS and Android)<$20/mo.

      App download: free to <$10/mo. In-app upgrades: <$5.
      NOTE. In-app purchases are purchases made from within a mobile application.
      Abbreviation: app, application.

      Pros to brain gaming

      • 1.
        May be fun and engaging.
      • 2.
        May target a variety of cognitive skills, including
      • Attention • Mental flexibility
      • Concentration • Problem-solving
      • Critical thinking • Reading
      • Executive function • Reasoning
      • Language • Speed of processing information
      • Mathematics skills • Visual motor skills
      • Memory • Working memory
      • 3.
        Many brain games can be played on personal devices (eg, computer, game console, mobile device).
      • 4.
        Some programs have features that may improve consumer satisfaction, including ability to
        • Customize games according to interest and desired degree of difficulty.
        • Adjust difficulty as performance on games changes.
        • Track progress.
        • Compete with friends.
        • Adjust font size, sound, and game display.

      Cons to brain gaming

      • 1.
        There is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of brain gaming and limited product testing.
        • Many products have never been tested or validated for the purpose of improving cognitive skills.
        • Product messaging, in some instances, implies that brain gaming will improve overall cognitive abilities. However, these claims have not been rigorously tested. There is no evidence that skills learned through brain gaming translate to better performance in daily life activities. For example, improving memory through brain gaming does not transfer to remembering to take medications.
      • 2.
        Some games are costly (purchase of hardware, software, subscriptions, etc).
      • 3.
        Access to and knowledge of computer or mobile technologies are required for the brain games referred to in this guide. High-speed Internet access is also needed for many brain gaming products.
      • 4.
        Repeated and prolonged use of the gaming device and/or poor posture during use of the gaming device may result in physical distress (eg, eye strain, shoulder, neck, lower back, wrist pain).
      • 5.
        Although brain gaming is convenient to perform at home, assessment and guidance from a health care professional trained in cognitive rehabilitation may be required to identify games suited to individual needs and to optimize results.
      • 6.
        Companies may engage in predatory practices. Specifically, in some instances, advertising may take advantage of cognitively vulnerable populations who may not understand how to evaluate product effectiveness prior to purchasing.
      Further your knowledge about brain gaming with the following additional sources:

      Authorship

      Brain Gaming: A User's Product Guide for the Clinician was developed by Sandra L. Kletzel, PhD, Michael P. Cary, Jr, PhD, RN, Carrie Ciro, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, David Berbrayer (Rehab Medicine), MD, Deirdre Dawson, PhD, OT Reg (Ont), Lilian Hoffecker, PhD, MLS, Joseph Machtinger, BA, EMT, Patrick Pham, MS, Michelle Thai, MD, and Patricia C. Heyn, PhD. This work was supported by the ACRM Measurement Networking Group Applied Cognition Task Force.

      Disclaimer

      Table 1 is not intended to be an exhaustive list of available products. The information is subject to change over time.
      Support for its creation was provided, in part, by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Grants NIDRR #H133G130200, NIDILRR #90IF0055-01 and, within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center-ACT, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) Grant #H133E090003, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation Research and Development (RR&D) CDA-I IK1RX001850, the Alzheimer's Association (AA), and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, ALF grants from Vasterbotten County Council, the Swedish Stroke Foundation, and the Stroke Foundation in North Sweden and the National Institute of Nursing Research Grant #3R01 NR003178-1S1. This material is also the result of work supported with resources by VA, Health Services Research and Development Service, and the Office of Academic Affiliations (TPP 42-012) at Edward Hines VA Hospital. Any opinions contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the VA, AA, or NIDRR.
      This Information/Education Page may be reproduced for noncommercial use for health care professionals to share with clients, patients, and their caregivers. Any other reproduction is subject to approval by the publisher.