Do Brain Games Really Make You Smarter?


Brain games are popping up everywhere these days, and the claims associated with them can seem a little too good to be true. Brain games won’t make you a genius, but certain ones have been shown to improve your working memory and increase your fluid intelligence.

Lumosity is a brain training program with scientifically designed games that aim to improve brain function — which can begin to slow as early as age 30.
The company bases its research on the ACTIVE study which found that older adults who received training in memory, reasoning and processing speed improved their cognitive abilities and maintained the gains for years afterward.

The company reports that its scientifically developed brain training games:

  • Increase alertness and awareness
  • Improve your memory so you can recall names, numbers and directions more easily
  • Elevate your mood
  • Improve your concentration both at work and while driving
  • Give you clearer and quicker thinking

Lumosity’s brain training is designed to give you a full cognitive workout in as little as 10 minutes at a time, although if you’re like me you’ll end up getting hooked and play for much longer.

Here are a few examples of the games.

Monster Garden


In this game you must navigate your farmer around the garden monsters. You will see quick images of monsters and then they will disappear. You get bonus points if you can point to where the monsters were after your game. Monster Garden is designed to improve memory.

Bird Watching

brain games

In this game, birds will pop up on a real life nature scene. Each bird is marked with a letter. You will click where you saw the bird and then you’re asked which letter appeared. Bird Watching is designed to improve attention.

Word Bubbles


In this game, you’ll be given a set of letters and you’ll be asked to form as many words as you can from those letters. Word Bubbles is designed to train and improve your processing speed.

One of the features I like best is that you can track your progress with a “my history” link that will show you the difference in your scores, agility and overall performance. So, you don’t have to take the program’s word for it that it improves your brain. You can actually see for yourself if it’s working.

Lumosity offers a free trial so you can play all of the games and see if the program is right for you before you commit. After the trial period you have the option of continuing your training for a monthly fee. There is also a second option where you can pay a one time fee for the whole year and save yourself some money.

Take the free trial. I think you’ll be pleased with your results, however I’m not taking the blame if find yourself more than a little addicted to the games.

Click here to start your free trial with Lumosity’s Brain Games.

Erin Matlock About the author, Erin Matlock
Erin Matlock is and advocate, speaker and advisor working in the brain health and mental health markets. Catch up with her at

17 Comments On This Post

  1. Exercise Exercise Exercise. Doesn’t matter if it’s your brain or your body.

  2. I’m quite surprised to read this discussion on improving “intelligence,” without anyone actually defining the word/concept. What is intelligence, what does it mean to become “smarter?” I’m sorry to bring the bad news but faster reaction time, or better memory does NOT, I repeat, does NOT equate to being “smart” in any way, shape, or form, just like having ten college degrees or three PhD’s doesn’t make you smart. If I may suggest a definition: “intelligence” is the ability to solve problems in a practical way so that you are able to achieve the results you desire, in addition to not creating more problems for yourself, or for others around you. For example, a business person who creates a company that produces product X and becomes wealthy should not be considered “intelligent” just based on the success of his company or his ability to manage it . . . that is far too narrow. One must evaluate the consequence his product and company have on the society and environment he lives in, as well. Is his product beneficial to society, does the production of it pollute and destroy ecosystems and cause health problems for others? Does his product cause people to waste their time and money? Is it just some junk gimmick (like most retail products on the market)? There are many people out there in the world that have incredible memory, high energy, and fast reaction time, along with several college degrees, that allow them to climb ahead of others but still seem to muck up the lives of those around them, as well as their own, because their minds are restrictive in narrow or selfish thinking, i.e., just take a look at all the Ivy League MBA graduates that work in banking that screwed up the economy with their bogus schemes, the Bernie Madoff’s, the greedy Wall Street CEO’s, etc, etc. Albert Einstein may have been highly intelligent in the narrow field of mathematics/physics, but he was quite a “boob” when it came to social science, economics, and other important areas of measured intelligence. As were/are so many of the people we idolize as highly intelligent. Higher intelligence is gained from disciplined study, life experience, open-mindedness, genetics, the ability to see and understand worldly events in a broad unselfish way . . . and then be able to put these events in a practical perspective and framework, and to eventually be able to work within that construct to actually improve the condition of yourself along with others around you. Most importantly, it must be based in a sense of humility that allows the person to see and control a slew of destructive impulses such as greed, selfishness, arrogance, etc, etc. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

    • I believe you are incorrect, it’s been shown that working memory does have a direct effect on fluid intelligence. When learning a new concept there are often many things to consider surrounding it that help to fully understand that concept, working memory allows you to handle more information at once. It also helps with the aquisition of new information improving crystal intelligence. What you are talking about is wisdom and ethics, it is possible to be smart and to be evil and if you are smart but unwise that just indicates a lack of ability to think laterally.

  3. What do you say to this study that says brain games Do Not make you smarter?

    Please address this issue.

  4. Oh and p.s. I forgot to include this at the end of my last comment I was on my soapbox and completely forgot.

    You have a lot of great content here, I subscribed to your feed and plan on keeping up with future updates… keep up the great work on your blog!

  5. Well my whole view about the “smart” or “smarter” issue is that the whole thing is mostly perception, since people rarely actually check other people’s intelligence level (or their own for that matter), does it really matter all that much if brain games “technically” make you smarter?

    What I’m trying to say is, increase alertness and awareness, improved memory, clearer and quicker thinking, and all the other benefits you listed increase not only OTHER people perception of your intelligence, but more importantly, your own perception. If it doesn’t actually make you smarter, wouldn’t it in fact be the same effect if it made you FEEL smarter and you avoided taking a test to measure if it technically did or not? I think so anyway…

    And besides, when your memory starts to decline at age 30 … at least you’ll be smarter than all the 30+ year olds who don’t take part in brain training … which I’m guessing is a pretty large bunch ;-)

    Just my two cents.

  6. I am addicted to Brain Training on my DS – fabulous way to keep the mind on check.

  7. Yes, it seems that brain games to make you react faster to certain things in life. However, you shouldn’t train only the intellectual aspect of this kind of activity – your proper physical reaction and attitude towards certain things that happen around you should also be trained hard if you want to achieve good results.

    Just my 0.02$ :)


  8. I don’t think brain games make you smarter, they make you more frustrated!

  9. Haha, awesome. I’ve been feeling like my brain is kinda like…sludgey lately (see, I can’t even think of a proper word for it!), and trying to find things to stimulate it again. I picked up sudoku, which is nice, but these look like they might be even better. Gonna go try out Lumosity now; hopefully I don’t get addicted. :P

    • Hey Phil, I am a huge sudoku fan myself. The key to brain exercise is to make sure it is challenging, stimulating and novel. Keep switching things up – Lumosity is a fantastic way to do that.

      Cassie – LOL. I hear ya on that one. Some of them can be really frustrating – especially just starting out.

  10. @ Sammie Yeah, I know what you mean. I was doing some holiday shopping today and I pulled a calculator out to figure some sales prices. I just sat there and thought what are you doing! You should be doing this math in your head. We definitely need to keep up the brain exercise.

    @ Tanya Good for you. I envy kids now as they have so much technology at their hands.

  11. I agree – these games remind me of my time as a kid at school and they should use more of these currently in schools. I always use similar games to test my own children’s reactions and mental abilities – it seems to work!

  12. I do think these brain games make you smarter – they sharpen your reactions and make you brain actually work. I think over the years we have gotten lazy over doing things with the use of computers and the internet and these games bring you back to school and how you originally learnt to recognise things.

    • Sammie: your view is the one most aligned with my own. Yes, we have gotten lazier with the techologies available.
      As for the discussions on what constitutes intelligence and whether these exercises help, I think that what the heck! it can’t HURT can it? I find it quite satisfying and motivating to see myself improve from day to day. How can that be a bad thing?


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