Every day, we rely on our cognitive abilities, whether it be planning our day, remembering what we need to do, or paying attention while working on an assignment. Cognition includes several skills, including attention, memory, problem solving and planning. The Office of Mental Health for New York State explained that people are born with cognitive abilities, with some being stronger than others, but that cognitive skills that are weaker can be improved. Different conditions can affect cognition, such as mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, and organic neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and brain injuries.
Several companies have been coming out with games that claim to train your cognitive abilities. One such program is CogniFit, which has a free cognitive assessment on their website, cognifit.com. CogniFit does have a paid program for cognitive training; however, I only looked at the free section of the site. When you sign up, CogniFit asks for your name, email address, gender and birthday. If you have a small computer screen, you will need to zoom out – the button to move on to the next task is at the bottom of right of the screen and I could not see it initially with my 14” laptop. The assessment consists of 10 tasks. Before you begin, the program gives detailed instructions and when you click “Next,” tells you what areas of cognition the task is testing. While doing the tasks, I was never told if I completed something incorrectly.
After completing all 10 tasks, the program produces a results page that informs you of your total score, which is compared to the overall average and the average of your age group. The program also breaks down your scores in each of the domains it tests: working memory, visual short-term memory, shifting, eye hand coordination, divided attention, response time, spatial perception and planning. CogniFit creates a page for you with all this data so you can go back and look at your strengths and weaknesses. I was surprised that my strength was working memory – a type of memory in which you hold information for a short period of time and manipulate it. For example, working memory is used when you are read a list of numbers and you say it backwards. When you launch CogniFit after completing the assessment, there is an option to start training; when I tried it, it said that option would be available in a few days.
I found the activities I could access with CogniFit interesting and I liked the breakdown of my cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Since I could not access the training part of CogniFit, I cannot comment on it, though I look forward to trying it. CogniFit also has links to scientific articles in which their program has been studied with different populations, including the elderly, multiple sclerosis patients and dyslexic students.
New York State Office of Mental Health. Dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction Associated with Psychiatric Disabilities. 2011. Web. 8 June 2011
CogniFit. What is CogniFit? 2011. Web. 8 June 2011
CogniFit. Scientific Validation. 2011. Web. 8 June 2011
Reviewed June 9, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton