[App Fridays] Train your brain and get a mental boost with NeuroNationSpandan Sharma
Feel like your mental faculties could use a boost or just some additional support? NeuroNation is here to help you improve your mental fitness, one fun exercise at a time.
Given the rapid pace of today’s world, there is a constant demand on our brains and their processing power. Myriad things throughout the day constantly seek our attention, and human thought-spans are becoming increasingly fragmented.
Side-effects of this constant unceasing strain on our brains can be varied and many, from memory loss and slipping concentration to trouble focusing and a loss in analytical ability.
Unfortunately, the demands of the modern world leave no space for such shortcomings, and so it is up to professionals everywhere to ensure that their brains are constantly performing at optimum levels.
Three coders from Germany looking for a way to do just decided to create a platform where users would be able to undertake a series of exercises designed to sharpen their minds and “improve cognitive function”, all through the ease of their smartphones and desktops. Collaborating with psychologists of the Free University of Berlin and the Technische Universität Dortmund, Rojahn Ahmadi, Ilya Shabanov, and Jakob Futorjanski created NeuroNation in 2011.
Through a series of exercises and courses delivered via a personalised algorithm based on your existing skills, NeuroNation purports to help improve your memory, sharpen your concentration, and increase your thinking abilities. The basic app is free-to-use, but the free version offers a limited choice of exercises. Interested users can opt for a Premium version either through a one-time payment or a monthly subscription service. So what is the experience of using NeuroNation like?
Opening the app for the first time takes to you a login screen, where you can either register for a fresh account if you’re a first-time user or login with your existing membership. Registration is free-of-cost.
First-time users are given the option of three tracks based on their requirements from the app, with each “path” offering variations of the same exercise. Further customisation is possible depending on the cognitive abilities the user wishes to focus on. (For the purpose of this review, we chose the ‘I want to stay fit’ option with all focus options.)
Once you choose your track, NeuroNation conducts a brief assessment of your existing skills, in order to customise the app for your needs.
Once your assessment is complete, NeuroNation provides a series of exercises divided into eight courses (named after various scientists). Each course is designed around a specific skill or ability and designed to test and improve it through progressively tougher exercises.
Exercises are simple timed games that users can complete in quick succession. Completing a certain set of exercises takes users to the next level, which get progressively more complex.
Users can track their performance over time across five metrics – Visuospatial Attention, Memory, Focus, Ability to absorb information, and Willpower – for each course.
Successfully completing exercises lets users share their “score” with friends and/or a leaderboard of other users on the app.
As mentioned before, paying for the Premium model offers advanced access. NeuroNation also offers a fresh set of Premium exercises every day for free.
Just how good is NeuroNation?
While NeuroNation claims it can improve memory and logical thinking, sharpen concentration, and increase the speed of thinking, the scientific consensus about the effectiveness of such apps is divided. Research says that a lot of the “cognitive improvement” claimed by these apps is usually a placebo effect; however, there have been instances when users have experienced improvement in key skills associated with the app’s exercises.
So do take the app’s claims of improving mental fitness with a pinch of salt, but nevertheless, NeuroNation is a great way to spend the idle minutes on your daily commute or on work breaks. The app is fun, easy-to-use, and intuitive, and a 10-million-strong user community and the “Best Apps of the Year” award from Google are proof of its popularity.
So the next time your brain feels like it’s shutting down, and your mental performance starts taking a hit, take a break and give NeuroNation a go. Who knows – it might be just the boost you need.