If anyone tries to tell you that daily brain training is a digital thing, hit them (gently) with a rolled-up newspaper that then opens to the crosswords page.
That said, ever since the fictitious Dr Kawashima got people exercising their grey cells with a Nintendo DS, the brain-training genre has been popular on handheld devices. Smartphones and tablets are no exception.
The main brain-training apps stick to the same format: collections of mini-games that promise to test various mental skills; pretty graphs to show how you’re improving over time; and optional subscriptions for extra games and features.
The scientific rigour of their claims to better your brain can be controversial: one, Lumosity, was recently fined $2m for claims made in its advertising for example. But as a daily habit that feels worthier than Candy Crush Saga, they can be fun. Here are five worth a try.
Peak is the slickest brain-training app available, with a polished collection of mini-games covering subjects including memory, language, mental agility and… what was it again? Oh yes: attention.
There are more than 30 to play in total, with enough variety to stop your daily session from becoming a chore. The free app has plenty to do, but a £3.99 monthly subscription lets you play all the games as often as you like, personalises your daily “workouts” and gives you more stats.
Elevate is a strong rival to Peak: it has similarly clear visuals and simple, accessible mini-games to test your wits against. There are more than 30 here testing memory, focus, maths, comprehension and other mental skills.
The app is keen to get you logging in regularly, tracking your “streaks” on its calendar, and tweaking the difficulty levels as you become more adept. Here too, a Pro subscription (for £5.99 a month) unlocks more games, and lets you play them as often as you like.
The veteran of the bunch, and the service that set many of the features that are now familiar from its rivals. Here, a selection of mini-games are mixed and matched into a daily programme, with the obligatory stat-tracking to show your improvement over time.
As with those rivals, a monthly subscription – £8.99 in this case – unlocks more games and features. On mobile, Lumosity is more expensive, but the fact that you can use its website from your computer too may appeal.
Another fresh, modern take on brain training for mobile devices, Fit Brains Trainer has more than 35 games, grouped into different workout sessions to keep your daily practice from feeling stale, whether you’re testing your memory, concentration, language or other skills.
One interesting addition here is games based on your “emotional intelligence” (EQ) – an aspect that’s more to the fore than with rivals. Like Lumosity, you can also log in to the website from a computer to carry on playing. A £7.99 monthly subscription unlocks the full features.
iOS (Free + in-app purchases)
Cognito is the most game-like of the five apps in this roundup, wrapping a story of sorts – secret agents and global spying missions – around its brain-training tests. It still has all the serious features of the genre though: memory, logic and word mini-games, and stats tracking how your skills improve over time.
It also promises to pull in data like steps and sleep from Apple’s Health app, to show you how exercise and shut-eye affect your mental agility. As with its rivals, you can play for free every day, but a subscription – £5.99 a month – beefs up the data and gives you unlimited access to the games.
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