More Brain Training


"More Brain Training from Dr. Kawashima: How Old Is Your Brain?" for Nintendo DS was released in the end of June 2007. It is the second part of the brain-jogging games series named after the Japanese neuro-scientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima of Tohoku University. Dr. Kawashima deals with the functions of the individual areas of the human brain. He has found out that the performance of the brain declines with increasing age. However, it is possible to train the brain by means of simple tasks. And this is the purpose of this Nintendo DS game: It offers several tasks to train the brain.

After starting "More Brain Training", you get to the title screen with the main menu. You can choose from among demoversion, exercises, sudoku and download-game. Dr. Kawashima's head is displayed, serving as a virtual guide. A nice gag: The head reacts on words spoken into the microphone of the DS, making grimaces e.g. when hearing the name of a dish Dr. Kawashima detests.

The demoversion consists of demo age test, demo training and demo sudoku. Its purpose is to enable friends and family members to get acquainted with the program. It's a simplified version of the full version that can be accessed in the main menu under the button "exercises". The exercises consist of the age test and training. In the age test, the user's current brain age is determined by means of three randomly chosen exercises, one of which is usually "Scissorcs-Stone-Paper": In this exercise, you must quickly say what symbol wins or fails against the symbol displayed by the computer. The optimum brain age is 20 years; after 20 years, the performance of the brain is supposed to decline every year according to Dr. Kawashima. At the first attempt the result of the age test may be a shock, but don't worry: Regular training will improve the test results with time.

Let's take a look at the actual training. At the beginning three exercises are available: inserting mathematical symbols, playing a tune on a virtual piano and solving anagrams. For each day you train you get a stamp. Having received a certain number of stamps activates new exercises. Time and the number of errors you make are measured. From this statistics are computed and saved. The level of success is visualized by means of a small animation of an object such as a pedestrian, a bicycle-driver or a car. After each completed exercise the virtual Dr. Kawashima reveals a secret about the program: for example that pressing "Select" while selecting the age test permits choosing the three exercises oneself. Apart from the training there is also a relaxation exercise, a variant of the classic game "Dr. Mario". However, it will be available only after collecting several stamps.

The virtual Dr. Kawashima keeps telling about the neurophysiological backgrounds of the game and making proposals about how to train one's brain. According to this, "More Brain Training" primarily focuses on the frontal lobe, to be more precise the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Kawashima noticed that the brain shows off a higher level of activity when solving easy problems than when confronted with more difficult problems. That's the basic idea behind brain-jogging.

Sometimes when switching on the game the user is asked to draw a picture by connecting points or to invent a short sentence with given beginning letters of the words. These creativity exercises are also supposed to train the prefrontal cortex.

All in all, "More Brain Training" is fun and maybe it really helps train one's brain, although I have my doubts. After reaching a brain age below 30 in "More Brain Training", I tried the predecessor and got a high age. So I don't think the test really measures brain age, but it only measures performance on the given exercises, and this is what's trained.