Your Mind Illuminated: Lumosity and The Human Cognition Project


Do you find yourself to be a little scattered? Perhaps you’re had some trouble recalling where you placed your keys or parked the car? Maybe, while counting backwards from 100, you couldn’t remember if you’d already listed 54 or not? Is simple arithmetic frustratingly difficult? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then chances are you’ve previously wished your memory could be a little sharper and your mind a tad more agile.

Well, we have some wonderful news — one of the great things about the brain is that you can train it to do exactly that. According to Lumosity CEO Kunal Sarkar and chief scientific officer Michael Scanlon, mental exercise can keep the mind acute well into the golden years, just like physical fitness can help the body function longer and more effectively.

Close friends since college, both men ended up working in the Bay Area sometime around the early 2000s. Kunal was employed at a private equity firm in Palo Alto that invested in the gym chain 24-hour Fitness, and Michael was conducting doctoral neuroscience research at Stanford. Realizing that there was not only a potential but also a natural fit between their two fields, they decided to create a real-world application based on the emerging science of neuroplasticity.

It was previously thought that the brain is a morphologically static organ. However, it has since been shown that the brain is in fact plastic. Neuroplasticity is the process by which changes in neural pathways and synapses can alter behavior. Every time one comes in contact with new information, a different context, or has a novel experience — the brain changes. By understanding and exploiting these processes, an individual can, in effect, train oneself to learn faster, improve memory, and better perform various cognitive tasks.

While you may be familiar with Lumosity, the brain-strengthening application and website, you maybe be less familiar with its research side. In order to rapidly and efficiently advance knowledge pertaining to the brain and human cognitive performance, the company created the Human Cognition Project (HCP), which incorporates the work of scientists, academics, and clinicians across the globe. Continuously growing, HCP is now the world’s largest database and has more than 40 million users and 800 million cognitive-training game compilations.

Lumosity uses the advances of the latest research to create mind-strengthening games and other developments that are specifically directed at improving an individual’s core cognitive problem areas. In other words, the success of Lumosity’s computerized cognitive training is rooted in the experimental, independent, and observable research supported by the company.

One of the most important things you can do to promote the brain’s agility and longevity is to keep using it in new and challenging ways. Yes, you can play increasingly difficult levels of Tetris and other games that have been correlated with better cognitive performance, but Lumosity is built from the ground up with neuroscience as its foundation. The games and assessments are explicitly designed with the goal of building core cognitive abilities like memory, attention, and speed of processing.

Check out Lumosity’s extensive research catalog to learn about how its cognitive-training program can benefit someone dealing with “chemofog,” help people affected by anxiety and depression, and assist in the rehabilitation of stroke and other types of brain-damage patients. While Lumosity can’t be used to master a foreign language, or turn you into a physicist, its ability to help improve overall fluid intelligence is becoming widely acknowledged.

This article is updated from its initial publication in Brain World Magazine’s Fall 2013 issue.

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We believe that neuroscience is the next great scientific frontier, and that advances in understanding the nature of the brain, consciousness, behavior, and health will transform human life in this century.

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