My intellectual age? 80. That brought me Dr. Ryuta Kawashima at about a week ago. A grinning polygon head with chubby cheeks that can't stop talking about the prefrontal cortex of the human brain. Outrageous! 80? It used to look better on the Nintendo DS – and I wasn't even of age at the time.
Dr. Kawashima wants to make me mentally younger
While such jokes take hours in official IQ tests, Dr. Kawashima hit that absurdly high number after a 60-second mini-game. A game that is probably just there to show what the Switch's Joy-Cons can do. So I held the infrared camera of the right Joy-Cons (I didn't know there was one) in my left hand and pointed it at my right hand. The words "Try to lose" and a fist are shown to me. My head starts to rattle. This is how the pupils must have felt at the Bavarian math school. Rock-paper-scissors, so? The answer I made with my right hand after thinking about 5 seconds was "scissors". Right. 19 more times. I didn't get much faster. Maybe I'm really 80 years old in my head.
Dr. believes that my mental age can be determined after such a game. Not Kawashima himself. But maybe there is something true. Maybe the game brings something for my prefrontal cortex. Will this make me more productive in my job? Am I becoming less forgetful? Is Dr. Kawashima's brain jogging the game that shoots up average human life expectancy? Hardly likely. Somehow it's still fun.
New exercises alongside well-known classics
What awaited me after the little Joy-Con show-off were the DS classics. 25 small arithmetic problems: from a simple 2 + 4, which every elementary school child can solve in a fraction of a second, to a 7 × 8, which has probably never been solved by anyone on earth. Read out loud: This is supposed to train the prefrontal cortex much more than reading softly. Dr. Kawashima through one visually appealing graphic of brain activity shown. Cool, I'm having fun and I'm learning something! Maybe from now on I should just write this article out loud and annoy all my colleagues. Unfortunately, it stops learning interesting fun facts about the brain pretty quickly afterwards.
Prefrontal cortex here. Prefrontal cortex there. Pre-frontal cortex everywhere.
The prefrontal cortex or Cortex prefrontalis is part of the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex (Cortex cerebri). It is located on the front of the brain and is closely connected to the sensory association areas of the cortex, with subcortical modules of the limbic system and with the basal ganglia.
I see. Yes, I would like to keep that. Dr. Kawashima advises me today to rest my brain by having a Dr. Play Mario copy that is the only game that doesn't train my prefrontal cortex. Works quite well! And the music in the background is a slow piano solo remix from the original "Fever" – the iconic Dr. Mario theme music. I am relaxed and happy. Good night and see you tomorrow, Dr. Kawashima!
Would the game do the long-term test?
Bit by bit I unlock more gameswhich are all supposed to train a very specific area of the brain that I do not want to go into further. Whenever I feel like it, I can test my brain for my intellectual age up to once a day. And lo and behold: after three randomly selected games that were supposed to test me for different attributes such as “self-control” or “reaction”, I was no longer 80 but in my mid-60s. Was it a coincidence? Is it only because the terrible scissors-rock-paper game was not chosen for me, but only one where I should count loudly from 1 to 120 as quickly as possible? Now does it mean that afterwards I will be faster shopping because I no longer need a shopping list? I still don't notice anything. But what I still ask myself is: How long do I have to play every day in order to feel a real improvement in my brain? Isn't that what Dr. Kawashima's brain jogging advertises?
In the next few days, a kind of ritual has set in. I come to work, make myself a coffee and play my brain jogging for 15 minutes. If there are technical problems at the moment, I might add a round of sudoku. The game is really very good for that. Sudoku friends can look forward to many digital Sudoku games. Newcomers are given an assistant function that draws attention to whether the number you enter is the correct one. It doesn't appeal to me so much personally, but I recognize the value and even found it a little fun.
With all the doubts I have about the game, I see why it has achieved a kind of cult status. It doesn't take a lot of time, creates a routine, and promises long-term improvements in the brain. The games that you unlock over time are very varied. Some games, even if very few, can even be played locally against another person. Hopefully there will be more in the future.
Thank you, Dr. Kawashima
I stick to my new ritual (only that I have to move it home). Even if it shouldn't bring me much in everyday life – as long as I enjoy the small multitasking tasks and the infrared Joy-Con games, it is worth the fun in return for me. And if in the near future I can suddenly remember better everyday life or draw logical conclusions faster, then chapeau, Dr. Kawashima. Thank you for always being there for me when I want to train my brain and thank you for saving my prefrontal cortex.