In Depth

Best brain-training apps: the top apps to test your mind

From memory and maths puzzles to apps claiming to develop Sherlock-Holmes-like attention spans

Brain scan image

Brain-training has become a multi-million pound business with companies employing neuroscientists to create puzzles that challenge the mind.

Some apps claim to boost IQ levels, exercise the brain and stave off dementia, with millions of people setting aside time in their week to play on the latest memory and maths puzzles.

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London have found that brain-training games could have "significant" benefits for older people carrying out everyday tasks.

According to the study, which was funded by the Alzheimer's Society and is published today, reasoning and memory skill games can help older people in day-to-day activities such as navigating public transport, shopping, cooking and managing personal finances.

The research involved almost 7,000 adults aged over 50 and claims to be the first to evaluate the impact of computerised brain training on how well people can perform their daily activities. The brain-training package used included three reasoning tasks, such as balancing weights on a see-saw; and three problem-solving tasks, such as putting numbered tiles in numerical order.

According to the Alzheimer's Society, the study could have "important implications for preserving cognitive function in older adults" and might offer an "effective, easily accessible intervention to help people reduce their risk of cognitive decline later in life".

With that in mind, here are five popular brain-training apps available now:

Lumosity

With 70 million subscribers, Lumosity is one of the most well-known brain-training apps. Designed by neuroscientists, it claims to train memory and attention with a series of scientific games. Users can play three free games a day or subscribe to access more than 40 games at once.

 Eidetic

With three intensity levels, Eidetic promises to help users memorise anything from important phone numbers to words and facts. The free app spaces out tests over time to help users retain information in their long-term memory and uses real-life items such as friends' phone numbers and new bank details.

Critical Thinking University Think-O-Meter

Education giant Pearson, which developed Think-O-Meter, says the free app helps develop "Sherlock-Holmes-like attention" to the details at hand. Instead of games, users are given written scenarios and questions to test their ability to separate facts from assumptions and irrelevant information.

 Brain Trainer Special

This free app claims to have the largest collection of brain games available and includes titles such as Sudoku, tricky colours and something called "math ninja". The New York Times says it is "more fun than Lumosity – maybe too much so" as it sometimes "feels more like a game than serious mental exercise".

Elevate

Elevate has more of a focus on communication, with challenges to improve vocabulary, grammar, writing and comprehension. Users can download the app for free or upgrade to the PRO series. CNET describes its design as "colourful and loud" with the feel of a mobile game.

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