Just like any of our bodies muscles, in order to improve its function, our brain needs a mental workout. Cognifit, an Israeli-developed brain-training application and website has created what might be termed a mental gym. The Cognifit user engages in a variety of cognitive exercises or games in order to increase cognitive awareness, memory, alertness and ability to focus.
Professor Shlomo Breznitz, a psychologist by profession, founded Cognifit in 1999. In 2010, at a talk given at The Villages, a town in Florida of 80,000 retirees over the age of 55, Breznitz explained his vision: “The new discoveries in brain science convinced me that the time has come to develop some tools that might help ordinary people keep their brains in better shape.”
The program requires 20 minutes of training three times a week and focuses on improving the client’s weaker cognitive areas, while maintaining their strengths.
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To survive in the jungle of modern society, one must have their wits about them and keep their cognitive faculties buzzing, Breznitz can often be heard saying.
Cognifit Product Manager Tommy Sagroun tells NoCamels: “Loss of mental focus can have a negative impact on our professional and social lives. This cognitive decline happens to all of us as we age… there are tools, such as CogniFit, which can be used to remediate this loss of mental clarity and help sharpen cognitive skills.”
Train your brain with a game
The Cognifit patented brain training program is available on their website, or as an app for iPhones and iPads. Initially the program “offers you different assessments so you can be sure that the difficulty level matches with your needs and is truly effective,” explains Sagroun. He adds that Cognifit “programs will continuously assess you to make sure you are doing the right training at the right time.”
Cognifit also swears by the engaging nature of their “games”. Their games range from “Mahjong”, which involves planning, and spatial and visual perception, to “Neuron Madness”, which hones one’s focus attention, divided attention and response time. Sagroun asserts: “people can have fun while training”.
Making neurons a currency
Beyond the specific game Cognifit has imbued a fresh meaning to “neuron madness”. Neurons are the working currency of Cognifit. After completing a training session the user will receive a set amount of neurons. The user has the option of sharing his progress with the Cognifit community and even challenging others. The winner walks away with the agreed upon amount of neurons. It seems that knowledge truly is power.
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Sagroun tells NoCamels that the training program has been independently validated. “Scientific studies have repeatedly shown how Cognifit users could improve their cognitive skills after just four weeks of training, and over time those results were even more significant,” Sagroun tells NoCamels. General benefits claimed by Cognifit include “improved memory, concentration, focus, attention and motor control.”
A Stroke of Genius
Cognifit also offers tailored programs for specific neurological disorders such as impairment as a result of stroke, chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis. “You can train on those specific cognitive skills which are directly impacted by neurological disorders.”
As an example the Cognifit marketing team point to the story of Thomas S., a Cognifit client from California. They record the story as follows: “Two years ago, before my 49th birthday, I had a stroke and even though I survived without physical consequences, my brain had been damaged. After that my life became challenging as every day I was struggling with little things that I used to do perfectly on my own. Simply following a long conversation was too much of an effort as I could no longer focus as well I used to – reading was sometimes just looking at a series of words without understanding them… Thomas tells of the humiliation he felt “especially in front of my children who did not know what was happening to me.’”
Thomas serendipitously heard of Cognifit from his wife’s friend who is a nurse. He embarked on the training program “without much conviction at first,” but is now less sceptical after his physician was “completely amazed by his progress.” Cognifit trains short-term memory, an area that may be damaged after a stroke.
The Cognifit program is currently available in 13 languages on their website. Partial training is possible without charge and more complete training regimens begin at $7.50 per month. To date, Cognifit has raised $5 million in investments.
Cognifit did not disclose how many people are using its service.
Photo: Blue brain outline flares by Bigstock