Blog Post

Apps for knowledge and memory

I finally updated my iPod Mini to a new Touch, and there's one action I find myself drawn to that I never thought possible--apps for increasing menal acuity.  For example, "Unblock Me," a basic app in which the user has to free a colored block by moving the other blocks out of the way, is consuming all of my study/writing breaks.  I find this game to be similar to the ads for different Nintendo DS games which test and train your mental age.  You know the ones--if you can figure out this pattern, what's the next number in the sequence?  All of these games lie on the premise that by increasing your mental capabilities, your memory (which you have presumably lost over time) will increase as well.  But are these claims true? Because I research memory and information technologies, I'm interested to see if anyone can point to recent studies of the correlation between mental training video games and increased memory function.  I'll be thinking of this more thoroughly, and hope to come back with some more conclusive thoughts.  Thanks!

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3 comments

That is a very interesting topic!

I have done a research paper about mental exercise in my sophomore year. According to a few scholar's article, puzzles and games stimulate your brain to function, especially if it is about memory or logical thinking: give sudoku, hangman, or crosswords for examples.

Do it everyday, and you're away for amnesia.

However, for the cellphones and pocket games today, the small size causes strains to the eyes, effecting short eyesight and inefficient facial muscle use. I think we have to have some solution for that to help the games and apps more appropriate and effective.

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Thanks for the response!

Yes, the visual element is certainly a drawback--it's very tough to see, even though the graphics and text are clear.  I wonder, then, what drawback that causes with regards to memory? Are we using too much "brain activity" to squint, causing excess strain on our mental powers, thus draining and depleting our ability to increase mentality?

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That too, might be the case. If these apps are not engaged to in the appropriate time, they might take the logical ability away from you. (And how did I forget about it in my first comment!?)

According to Stephen Kaplan's theory of attention restoration, there are two kinds of attentions the brain responds to: involuntary and voluntary attention. Involuntary attention is the one you are drawn to no matter what you are doing, for example, loud noise, baby crying, people fighting, objects flying toward you, etc. In the other hand, voluntary attention is the one you have to focus one like reading, calculating, making decisions. If you are focusing onto a voluntary attention, and something catch your voluntary attention. Your brain has to use more power to stay focus, causing strain to the brain. Just like when you get more tired getting a paper done when your roommate is playing computer game. This strain on the brain is known in this theory as 'mental fatigue.' In the long run, people with too much mental fatigue will be impulsive, tired and sleepy, and might cause a long series of brain and body damage.

Based on this theory, the game actually requires a lot of voluntary attention. That is, if you are playing it in the party, on the bus, on the walk home, you are putting into a mental strained stage without knowing because involuntarily, you still focus on every little noise and objects around you. So it's not good to play these apps in an inappropriate places and times.

However, the games are not evil as most of the parents say. Just play it in a quiet room or space, like a park, with adequate lighting, and it would be just fine. Also, one should spare sometimes to exercise to keep the brain active with a strong bloodpump.

And you'll be a healthy "appser," I guess. 

 

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