Brief history of brain training software


Struc­tured sets of brain exer­cis­es designed to train spe­cif­ic brain areas and func­tions have been used by the mil­i­tary and by clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists for a long time. What is hap­pen­ing now is that this approach is being repack­aged and com­mer­cial­ized for new and wider audiences.

We define “brain train­ing soft­ware” as ful­ly-auto­mat­ed appli­ca­tions designed to assess and enhance cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Adap­tive soft­ware-based pro­grams present the user with var­i­ous tools to exer­cise dif­fer­ent brain struc­tures and cog­ni­tive skills by con­tin­u­al­ly respond­ing to per­for­mance and increas­ing dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el incre­men­tal­ly. From now on we will focus on such programs.

These soft­ware prod­ucts can be deliv­ered either online (such as, via soft­ware (such as Posit Sci­ence Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram Clas­sic), or can be used on devices (such as Nintendo’s Brain Age). The prod­ucts can be either sold direct­ly to con­sumers or via autho­rized clin­i­cians (such as NovaV­i­sion and Cogmed).

Over the past few years, a few soft­ware com­pa­nies have achieved com­mer­cial suc­cess in sell­ing brain exer­cis­es to con­sumer and insti­tu­tion­al buy­ers. Sev­er­al com­pa­nies have com­mer­cial­ized pro­grams designed to alle­vi­ate spe­cif­ic con­di­tions, such as atten­tion deficit dis­or­der, dyslex­ia or stroke-relat­ed vision prob­lems. Oth­ers have launched prod­ucts with broad­er healthy aging goals in mind.

Brain train­ing soft­ware-based pro­grams can com­ple­ment and enhance oth­er com­mon dai­ly activ­i­ties. They are prob­a­bly the best-suit­ed for­mat to deliv­er a cal­i­brat­ed mix of nov­el­ty and vari­ety at con­stant­ly evolv­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty that ensure con­stant challenge.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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