There was a report on the BBC website that a study had showed that “brain training” games might be useful at warding off conditions associated with advancing years, such as dementia. The BBC website also acknowledged that another study had shown such games to have no beneficial health effects. On balance, there seemed no reason not at least to try the games, the worst that could happen is that they would take up time otherwise spent on Facebook.
Anyway, after downloading one of the free versions of these games, that are readily available online, for three successive days I have done the word and number activities included in the game. They have seemed unduly simple, but have been an amusing way of passing five minutes while drinking a mug of tea. The game lost some of its attractiveness at lunchtime. There was a word game which gave a definition of a word, and then the first three letters of the word, and challenged you to complete the word from letters at the foot of the page. The word was defined as “shine brightly” and the first three letters were “gli-.” There were a dozen or so letters from which to choose those which were required to complete the word. I looked for the letters to make the word “glitter”, but the letter “t” was not to be found. Eventually, I gave up. The word the game was seeking was “glimmer.” “Glimmer?” I thought. A “glimmer of hope” was not something I would have associated with hope shining brightly. The “glimmer man” was someone who went around Dublin during the years of the Second World War, ensuring that people kept their gas turned down and so conserved energy.
Training the brain to give the wrong answers does not seem a very useful activity, or maybe it is. To adjust to the realities of 21st Century life, guessing what the compilers might think the answer may be more appropriate than giving an answer that is accurate. There could be exercises in training your brain so that it reflects contemporary culture, doing things like spelling the plural form of a word by adding an apostrophe “s” and never knowing whether to use there, their or they’re. Perhaps a challenge to spell everything in textspeak would also be useful, snot ez u no.
Knowing a man of 97 who is alert as many people thirty years younger, I reflected he had kept his brain active by keeping it active. Hadn’t people always behaved in that way? When did we start to need games in order to think?