How many times have you asked yourself: "Where did I put my car keys?"
Our brain -- just like a muscle -- needs regular exercise and challenge to reach its full potential.
New medical insight suggests that the human brain can regenerate cells with training, so much so that the term fitness is no longer just for the body but also for the mind.
The fear of decaying brains has spawned a multimillion-dollar business, and as the brain fitness craze grows, so does the number of apps and websites that promise to boost mental skills.
Research is still unclear on whether these brain-training games actually help do anything except improve one's skill at playing them. But just in case, here are five brain-training apps that could help make you feel sharper.
Lumosity: You could think of Lumosity as a gym for your brain. More than 40 games are offered on Lumosity's website and iOS app. The platform promises to improve memory, attention span, processing speed and mental flexibility, with personalized brain challenges designed to help with practical problems such as remembering names, avoiding distractions and even driving better.
Users' cognitive abilities are measured on Lumosity's Brain Performance Index, or BPI. Because Lumosity enables users to to track their performance, it's possible to see if you're improving or backsliding. The platform also includes training reminders and daily brain game recommendations.
The app is free, but users are only able to play three recommended games per day. For the full program, users can choose to pay $14.95 per month, or a yearly subscription for $79.99. With more than 40 million users, Lumosity is a popular choice in the brain-training field.
Mind Games: The free Android app by Mindware Consulting consists of a selection of standardized tests that aim to help improve mental agility, no matter how old the user is.
There are 13 games overall, with a variety of tasks that include expanding vocabulary, paying attention to detail and assisting spatial memory. Mind Games also features a section on face memory, in which users memorize a group of faces and then try to recall them.
Most of this app's games can be completed in two to three minutes, which makes it easy to squeeze a game into a hectic schedule. Its founders say the app is developed to give just enough time for a sufficient brain workout.
Mind Games also provides a scheduling system, which can be used to plan training sessions up to three times daily. The user can specify the times he or she wants to train, and will receive a reminder from the device at those times.
The app is free, but if you like it, it’s worth springing for the $4.99 ad-free version.
Critical Thinking University 'Think-O-Meter': If you are looking for a quick fix, this is not the app to get. The free "Think-O-Meter" iOS app really challenges your thinking and helps you develop Sherlock Holmes-like attention to the evidence at hand for better decision making.
Users are given a scenario followed by a series of questions with multiple-choice answers, which tests the user's ability to separate reliable facts from assumptions, focus on the relevant information and think critically.
The app requires thinking outside the box and might even make your head hurt. If you answer a question incorrectly, it's cumbersome to get back to the question to try another answer. I don’t know whether it makes anyone smarter, but it definitely can build self-confidence to answer questions correctly.
Fit Brains Trainer: Like Lumosity, Fit Brains Trainer aims to improve mental performance by running users through a variety of brain games that are selected to help improve their weak areas. Fit Brains feels a lot like a video game with different levels and story lines.
The special part about this iOS app is that it uses an adaptive learning system that automatically scales the level of each brain game to the user's level. As a player's mastery improves, the games get tougher.
The app is free, but to unlock its full features and all its mind games, you have to pay. It costs $5 for three months or $10 for a year.
Brain Trainer Special: Similar to to Lumosity, this Android app consists of a variety of exercises that aim to help with memory, attention and processing speed.
Users can play games that involve memorizing letter sequences and phone numbers and solving math problems. Among other things, the app claims to increase verbal fluency and reduce those embarrassing "tip of the tongue" moments.
What is great about this app, besides the fact that it's free, is that it's fun and feels like just playing a game.