I've been interested in learning and brain plasticity for a very long time, especially in young children. More recently, thanks to the book The Brain that Changes Itself and the work of Michael Merzenich and the Posit Science organization, I've extended that fascination to adults as well. Specifically, me.
Posit Science is the company that makes Fast ForWord, a training program that worked wonders for a friend who suffered from CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). When I learned that the company was developing general brain exercise programs for adults, I was intrigued. I even went so far as to spring for one of the (much too expensive) programs. I'll admit that I never did much with it (ouch!): too many distractions, too much to do, plus I ended up getting a new computer and haven't yet tried to see if it works under Windows 7. I was also annoyed with Posit Science—and told them so—for treating the program as therapy rather than software, i.e. not only was it horribly expensive for software, but the license was for one person only. Even Microsoft lets me share Word with others as long as they're sitting at my computer to use it.
One way or another, Posit Science got the message and revised their system. The brain exercise program is now available on a subscription basis, much like my Ancestry.com subscription only considerably less expensive. It's still for one person only, but a much better price: a one year's subscription ($96) is less than a third of the cost of the program I had bought, plus I now have access to all their exercises, not just the limited selection of the previous version. What's more, as they improve exercises and add new ones, I have immediate access to them. And unlike the original program, I can come back and redo any exercise I've already "completed."
I think they finally got the system right. I've been using the program for a month now, and find I enjoy the exercises. Not enough to become addicted, but enough to keep coming back every day. It helps that you can do them on a five-minutes-here, five-minutes-there basis, so they're perfect for those "Quadrant Four" moments when you just need a break. Only this break is doing your brain good!
The program is called BrainHQ, and offers exercises in the areas of Attention, Brain Speed, Memory, People Skills, and Intelligence, with Navigation in the works. Both auditory and visual pathways are exercised. Much as for physical exercise, thirty minutes three times per week is recommended, but whatever fits into your schedule will help.
Does it work? For myself, I can't say after only one month. I've certainly improved on the individual exercises with practice; whether or not it's doing any lasting good for my brain is beyond my power to tell, at least at this point. But I'm convinced enough to keep going. In theory, the exercises are designed specifically for the way the brain works, and do more good than general intellectual activity, such as working crossword puzzles. (I'm still addicted to my World of Puzzles magazine, however.) You can read a lot about the theory, the science, the laboratory test results, and the personal testimonials beginning with Why BrainHQ?
Why am I writing about this now? It would make more sense to do so after using the program for more than just a month. But from now until May 12, Posit Science is offering a buy-one-get-one-free Mother's Day promotion, and I know enough people who might be interested at that price that I decided it was worth posting. The cost for a year's subscription is $96. (You can also subscribe by the month, though I don't think that's covered by the sale.) Even after the sale ends, subscribers can give gift subscriptions at the discounted rate of $69.
I get no kickbacks whatsoever from Posit Science for writing this, nor from any sales; I just think it's a good idea.