Is Lumosity a scam?

Biohacker Review: A fun Brain Training app with dubious Transfer Effects

Since I’ve logged so many hours Dual N-Back brain training, I’m going to draw a lot of comparisons and insights between Lumosity and the N-Back apps I’ve used.

The biggest difference…

Is that the games are a lot funner than Dual N-back training; the graphics and animation are quite sharp, it’s not the entertainment value of say Angry Birds, but they are quite fun. It doesn’t feel like a clunky arcade game shrunk into a smartphone app, like Dual N-Back does.

Lumosity seems to be adding new games to the Android app all the time, there’s 21 brain games, which challenge a variety of your mental faculties; spatial intelligence, attention shifting, reaction times, short term memory, pattern recognition and mathematics.

My favorite games on Lumosity are…

  • Penguin Pursuit — This game is kind of like Packman, but you are a penguin who has to race through a maze against another penguin to eat a fish. Every few seconds the maze rotates 90 degrees, so you have to reorient on the fly. It’s kind a challenge for your spatial intelligence and I found it quite fun. I’ve gotten so good at Penguin Pursuit that Lumosity is actually going to send me a stuffed animal Penguin as a prize… Just kidding! But I do feel like I deserve some kind of reward for my persistent Penguin Pursuit.
  • Trouble Brewing — This game simulates the barrista’s task of juggling customer’s orders behind the bar of a cafe. I found it a fun working memory challenge.

I actually enjoyed the mathematics games as well, which is interesting because when I was younger I abhorred mathematics. Now I actually find the time based mathematics games pretty fun. I found certain smart drugs noticeably improved my mathematics aptitude.

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What about Transfer Effects?

Does Lumosity training just make you better at playing the games or does it actually make you more intelligent in real life? Overall I feel like brain training has been really good for my memory…
Three to four years ago, I was actually quite disappointed in my memory, my roommate even noticed that I would forget a lot of things. I remember being frustrated that being in my mid 20’s my memory wasn’t sharper.
Now my memory is quite sharp; it’s quite rare that I forget names, lose my train of thought, run out of things to say or that I forget what I’m working on in the middle of the day and find myself mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. My short term memory has noticeably improved…

For example, the other day I was going to a housewarming party of some friends who were moving into a penthouse apartment, one of them texted me the address, I came over, then a few hours later one of my other friends asked the address and I was able to tell them just from memory. Even now a couple of days later I can remember it off the top of my head. This sort of thing happens to me all the time.

It’s hard for me to say this improvement to with my memory is thanks to Lumosity, though. I’ve spent an average of 15 minutes a day brain training for the past 3 years using Dual N-Back, Memory Systems, HRV training and I learned a second language which I trained using Duolingo and Supermemo.

My 30th birthday is coming up in a few months and instead of entering middle age feeling like I’m just getting older, I feel like I’m just getting better, that my 30’s are going to be my best decade yet and I’m really excited!
However, it’s really difficult for me to identify after three months any specific transfer effects from Lumosity, compared to Dual N-Back training, where there was quite noticeable improvements to my memory within 2–3 weeks.

Mindfulness training?

As I’ve written about in depth, I found Dual N-Back to be tremendously beneficial to my mindfulness practice. Lumosity is a little different story; you play 5 games a day and each game takes about 60 seconds. Your concentration on the game gets broken up every 60 seconds. So you spend like 8–9 minutes using the app but only about 5 minutes of that is spent brain training. Whereas Dual N-Back training is a solid 10–20 minutes of focused brain training. In this regard Lumosity is nowhere near as challenging an exercise of your focus muscles.

Like many biohackers I use brain training and quantified self technology to measure the day to day performance of the cognitive enhancers I consume:

  • Modafinil — Definitely spikes my mental performance, especially in reaction time and spatial intelligence based games.
  • Caballo — Similar to Modafinil, improvements in accuracy and reaction time.
  • Phenylpiracetam — This Racetam has earned its reputation as a math geek’s smart drug for me. I saw my math scores go up consistently on Phenyl.
  • L-Theanine — No noticeable difference.
  • Noopept — No noticeable difference.

However; I don’t take smart drugs everyday and a lot of other lifestyle factors make a significant difference in my cognitive performance, such as…

  • Diet, I see that artisanal pizza or delicious sandwich from my favorite cafe in a different light as there is a dip in my brain training scores within 2–4 hours of these dietary indiscretions.
  • Sleep, brain training while tired or sleep deprived makes a pretty big difference versus doing it mid day after a proper night of sleep.
  • I no fap intermittently in 14–21 day periods. I found that towards the end of those periods my scores level up. A nice piece of hard evidence to back up a common sense, yet difficult to practice, lifestyle habit.

Meditation and Breathing

I’m also in the middle of my Headspace trial, I found something interesting, doing 10 minutes of mediation before brain training makes a significant difference in my scores, especially when I focused on profound breathing during meditation. Tech workers like myself are chronically shallow breathers, this improvement of Lumosity scores would indicate that several minutes of purposeful, profound deep breath, spread sporadically throughout the day will improve my productivity by 25% — 40%.

I found I got my very best Lumosity scores after 10 minutes of meditation focusing on deep breathing, immediately preceded by 60 pushups in the mid day, on a semi full stomach about 2 hours after consuming smart drugs, either Racetams or Modafinil.

As you Google search Lumosity or brain training software you’ll find that a lot of people online are quite bearish about it. It’s kind of a grey area of science, there’s some decent human studies showing that it does help your memory and there’s some showing that it has zero effect.

The conclusion I’ve reached is that it’s a tool for personal development that works for some people and for others it doesn’t work.
Sometimes there’s these people that want to start debates with me online because I recommend brain training software. I always ask these people: Have you actually tried making a practice out of brain training? They almost never have.
I say before starting a debate with someone like me give brain training a try for at least a month, 30 days. Do it with some consistency. It might do nothing for you or, like for me, it might make a big difference.

There’s an +800 page, biography of John D. Rockefeller, appropriately entitled Titan. John D. Rockefeller, was the richest man ever, he built the company Standard Oil which employed 6 million people. In his biography it talks about how he was this extremely disciplined person, it talks about his daily schedule which he was extremely strict about, he would play a brain training puzzle game three times daily. I rest my case about the importance of brain training to a productive life!

In conclusion…

For personal development, Dual N-Back is still my top recommendation for brain training. However, as I’ve said elsewhere it’s boring and I recommend getting some variety in your cognitive enhancement practices, So I recommend trying Lumosity. It has an unlimited free demo that only takes about 5 minutes a day and it is fun to play so what do you have lose?

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Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸

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