We know without question that we need to exercise our bodies and keep them fit if we want them to perform at their best. Either we are the type of people that go to the gym regularly, or we are the type that is able to ignore the voice saying that we really should. It seems strange, then, that we don´t really have the same attitude towards our minds. We don´t have the same "we´ll feel better if we work our brain out every day´ attitude that we do about our bodies.
Dr. Ryuta Kawashima is a Japanese neuroscientist who has committed his life to developing and promoting brain exercise. He stands behind a concept called brain age, the relative age of your brain. He believes that you can lower your brain age by exercising your brain for a short time every day. On a practical level this makes sense. If we spend a long period of time stuck in a rut doing the same thing without pushing ourselves every day, our minds became stale and seem like they are walking through mud. Once we start challenging our minds and doing new work again (working it out, in other words) we start feeling fresher and better.
Dr. Kawashima tried to spread his messages through books and courses, and had some success. Then he, or another clever marketing type, hit a home run. They created a video game. The game was released in Japan for the Nintendo DS, a handheld gaming system. It´s marketed as a non-game, because it´s not like video games we are familiar with. It is designed to be played for just a few minutes every day. It measures your progress and makes sure that you improve. The better you do, the more tasks and challenges it adds for you to conquer. It features puzzles, memory tasks, reading and math. Your brain age is assessed when you begin and then periodically revisited as you play. The game obviously struck a nerve in Japan, because it has sold several million copies. It has now been reworked for the North American market and is available now under the name Brain Age: Train Your Brain For Minutes A Day.
I find this interesting on a couple of levels. First, it´s a great way for video game addicts to turn their obsession into something at least a little productive. Second, the idea makes sense. I don´t know the science behind it, and I have no idea whether the game actually does what it says, but challenging your mind every day seems like a crucial step for staying productive. You hear stories all the time of older people who are still very sharp mentally, and who do crossword puzzles or sudoku every day. They are working out their mind and it makes a difference. Whether you play a video game or do it some other way, it only makes sense that you should work out your mind, too.