Retrain your brain

 Brain Age for Nintendo DSDo you feel yourself slowing down as you get older? Feel like your brain’s getting a bit sluggish? Nintendo might have the answer: Dr Kawashima's Brain Training (Brain Age in the US).

You’ve probably already read about this, and about how popular it’s been with Japanese pensioners, in a mainstream newspaper or on another website (got to love that marketing exposure). In case you haven’t, it’s a collection of short brain exercises for the Nintendo DS. It makes you perform simple little tests like memorization, reading aloud, or basic calculations, on a regular basis, keeping graphs to track your performance over time. To make sure there’s no cheating, you can only record a score in each training program once a day.

The central training program is the Brain Age Check. It gives you a combination of three random tests, and then gives you a brain age score based on your combined performance, age 20 being the ideal score. More training programs open up over time, and there are occasional random events. For example, sometimes it will ask you to draw a picture of something, or ask what you ate for dinner, then it will ask you at a later date to remember what you ate, or (embarrassingly sometimes) show your pictures to other players. Finally, it plays a mean Sudoku. About 100 Sudoku puzzles of varying difficulty are included with the game, and they’re a great fit for the touch screen interface.

I love this thing, it’s great, and I even managed to convince my wife to play. I don’t know if it’s made either of us any smarter, but it’s definitely fun, and it does tend to leave you feeling more switched on afterwards. It’s probably a good way to pass some time and get your brain ready for work on a commute, although you might not want to play the speaking aloud tests in public.

When I first plugged it in, it ran a quick brain test, and told me I must be 71... that wasn’t a nice thing to read. Fortunately, my first full brain age test was better, and as I started to get the hang of the touch screen it dropped closer to my actual age. Over the past few weeks I’ve got better at most of the tests, but my performance drops dramatically (as do the graphs for my wife to laugh at) when I leave a lot of time between plays.

If you don’t already have a Nintendo DS, they recently launched a sleeker looking, brighter DS Lite, so it’s a great time to buy. Have fun, and don’t let your speedy new brain go to waste.

Disclosure note: I've used affiliate links to Amazon here, but the recommendation is totally genuine, feel free to find the products wherever you prefer.