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Brain-training programs help pump up memory, productivity

Play mind games with yourself

American consumers spend close to $300 million a year on computer-based brain-training programs — "mind workouts" — from such companies as MindSparke, Lumosity and PositScience. For just a few minutes (and a few dollars) a day, these programs promise enhanced memory and improved productivity.

Do they work? Yes. No. Maybe.

Much of the excitement around brain training is due to the relatively recent discovery that the brain remains plastic — able to change structurally and functionally — throughout life. But while a plastic brain means cognitive improvement is possible, clinical studies examining computer-based brain-training programs offer mixed results. Some show slight improvement with regular use; others prove to be nothing more than a fun distraction. The largest clinical trial to date, conducted by British researchers and published by Nature last spring, found no significant cognitive gains after several weeks of brain training.

Here are some of the more established brain-training programs on the market and their costs.

MindSparke

What you get: Access to the Brain Fitness Pro program online

Cost: $24.95 per month or $395 lifetime subscription fee

Lumosity

What you get: Online and mobile access to a variety of games designed to enhance memory, problem-solving and attention

Cost: $14.95 per month, $79.95 per year or $299.95 lifetime subscription fee

PositScience

What you get: Visual and auditory training programs

Cost: $345

Cogmed

What you get: The Cogmed training software, plus one-on-one assessments of your progress with a Cogmed coach

Cost: $900-$1,800, depending on your local Cogmed Practice Center

NeuroActive (neuroactive.ca/EN/)

What you get: A "whole brain"-training software package that the company says will strengthen more than 18 cognitive abilities, including memory, stress reduction and attention

Cost: $99.95

Brain-training programs help pump up memory, productivity 02/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 3:30am]

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