Hello World. I'm Ankita.

Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.

Brain Games

When I was a child I used to make up monthly “themes” for myself, which mostly consisted of learning everything I could and immersing myself in said theme. One month it was apples: I researched types of apples, how and where apples grow, and tried to uncover the truth behind the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”; I made an apple pie; and, I gathered the neighborhood kids together and made apples into a sport (dunking for apples, trying to juggle, etc.). Another month it was spaceships:  I tried to interview an astronaut, made my little brother a fake space-helmet (primarily made of old newspapers and tape), watched Apollo 13, and read every kid-book on spaceships I could find.

These self-imposed theme studies were gloriously fun for me and a remarkably freeing way of self-learning. When recounting these tales to a friend, it recently dawned on me that there was no good reason for theme-months to stop in childhood. In fact, I honestly cannot remember why or when I stopped… SO – I have decided to bring them back (sort of), and document some of my favorite theme-exploits in this blog.

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OCTOBER THEME: BRAIN GAMES.

What is memory? Can the human mind/memory truly be improved? How does gamification help/hinder mental progress? Does memory improve in stressful situations (e.g. – does the human mind unlock certain memories for survival purposes)? 

Here are the top 3 things I’ve been up to and recommend on this month’s topic:

1) Read Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everythinby Joshua Foer

moonwalking2

A truly exquisite book. It weaves in information on human history/obsession with memorizing for educational purposes with a narrative of one man’s quest to prove that an amateur can become the U.S Memory Champion (yes there is such a thing).

What I found particularly fascinating were the memorization techniques the worldwide memory champions use to say – memorize hundreds of random digits, poems, a deck of cards, or names to faces. Admittedly, not all of these things are useful in the real world (I cannot really see an ethical & good  reason when memorizing a deck of cards comes in handy…card counting in Vegas or something?). However – how nice would it be if you could walk around a party and actually remember the faces and names of individuals you meet? Or, to never forget something on the grocery list – because you have the entire list just tucked away mentally.

While I have never believed rote memorization to be a substitute for actual learning, I do believe being memorization could aid learning. College would certainly have been easier if I had managed to successfully memorize certain formulas rather than have to re-derive them during tests. Also, high school history classes had been a pain [for me], as I’d never been very good memorizing important dates of historical events.

I intend to spend the rest of the month trying to internalize some of the techniques discussed in the book and see if I can successfully memorize weekly grocery lists and favorite poems.

2) Play brain games with Lumosity

download

Created by a Silicon Valley startup, Lumosity games are [supposedly] designed to “train the brain” to improve user spacial reasoning, memory,  focus, etc. It’s available both as on online game and as a mobile app.

Now, I am yet to see actual evidence supporting the manufacturer’s claim that playing these games does actually improve brain performance, but I am testing it out for myself and being a guinea pig (in a very un-scientific way) to see if/how spending 5-minutes a day in their brain game drills translates to better brain performance in my work and other areas of life.

It operates in a freemium business model (i.e – registration and most access is free to users, though you can “unlock” more games and brain performance statistics for a few). I personally haven’t made any subscription purchases yet and have been working just the free tools. I may consider purchasing/keeping up with this in the future, depending on how useful in “brain training” I find it. If nothing more – the games are actually pretty fun!

3) See Gravity (ideally in 3D, while in theaters)

gravity-2I loved this movie, and watching it in 3D in theaters was definitely a good choice. While I am generally not one who particularly enjoys science fiction – I found the movie to be fairly realistic to science while also incredibly suspenseful and thrilling for the entire 90 minutes. I was also exceptionally impressed with how the movie managed to retain my interest and attention with essentially only 3 characters, and 90% of the dialogue being the internal dialogue of 1 character (Sandra Bullock).

I don’t want to divulge the movie contents too much here – but, I will say that that I found myself mentally disoriented by the movie (in a good way), which I don’t believe I have felt with any recent movies since Inception came out in 2010.

2 comments on “Brain Games

  1. Bobbie Lynn
    October 21, 2013

    You should take a look at Memrise as well. (Another online site). It was built by people associated with the big memory competitions, and it encourages users to enlist similar ideas to help themselves memorize things. I believe they’ve even held a contest to get people to learn to memorize a deck of cards rapidly.

    Like

    • Ankita Kaul
      October 21, 2013

      Thanks for stumbling upon my blog and the suggestion, Bobbie. I’ll look into it!

      Like

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