How Old Is Your Brain?


Recently there has been a trend toward TV shows, video games, and books that test your age. Some of them are testing physical age, but most assign a mental age. Usually they are tests of how fast you can react to some stimulus; however, sometimes they are more involved brain puzzles. Generally a linear assignment is made between time required to solve the problem and age of your brain.

People get really caught up in these and really want the machine to tell them they have the brain of a 19 year old. They are always really impressed with the expert that shows them how to do the activity and gets an amazing score. Mostly I find these silly.

A friend handed his DS to me and I tried some tests. One involved bits of kanji characters swirling around the screen. The objective was to identify which character could be made from those bits if properly arranged on the screen. I did ok on the test, even though I didn’t know some of the kanji. (I figured those out because things tend to follow patterns.) But here’s where the silliness starts: there are only a certain number of characters programmed into the game. So, on my third time playing the game I was clocking in like a 19 year old. Everyone was thoroughly impressed.

I didn’t get noticeably sharper during those few minutes. I just learned the patterns and wrote the answers quickly. The experts on the TV shows weren’t amazingly young in the brain. They just memorized the patterns and responses in their game. I hope this is a passing fad and disappears slowly, but I don’t expect that will happen, since everyone seems worried about aging/rotting away.


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