4 Brain Game Apps for People with Chemobrain

Brain Games that may Boost Atention Span, Memory, and Focus

A to-dos reminder
A to-dos reminder. Getty Images/Calvin Chan Wai Meng/Moment Open

Have you gone through chemotherapy and are experiencing problems with memory, concentration, and focus? You are not alone! It is estimated that up to 75 percent of cancer patients experience a cognitive deficit after chemotherapy.

Commonly referred to as "chemobrain," mild cognitive deficit after chemotherapy is a controversial topic among doctors, researchers, and patients. Research results concerning the cause of chemobrain are conflicting.

Some studies show chemotherapy as the cause, while others point to other culprits, such as the cancer itself. Regardless of the cause, people are experiencing varying degrees of cognitive decline after therapy and there is no recommended treatment or medication to alleviate the symptoms.

While the cause remains unclear, some studies have shown that playing brain training games may increase memory, heighten attention span, and increase focus. The studies, though small, showed promising results. A Lumos Labs study lead by a Stanford researcher found brain training games improved processing speed, word finding, and verbal memory in women who had previously been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer. Another study conducted by Posit Science yielded similar results.

The idea that brain training games increase cognitive function is not new. In fact, several large studies have shown that games, puzzles, and other mentally stimulating activities may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

There are several software programs utilized by neuroscience professionals, such as Cogmed and Cognifit to increase cognitive function. None were specifically developed for mild cognitive deficit after chemotherapy. Research is ongoing into how these science-backed software programs may boost brain performance in chemobrain sufferers.

Unfortunately, these software programs are costly and not covered under most insurance plans. The good news is that there are several free or low cost brain training games online that may help increase cognitive function.

These apps, with the exception of Lumosity and Brain HQ, have not been included in research concerning chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficit. Research involving brain training games and other conditions and diseases that similarly affect cognitive abilities have yielded positive conclusions.

Brain Training Apps

1. Lumosity

Lumosity, a website and mobile app, aims to "improve your memory, attention, and overall brain performance through scientific brain workouts". Created by Lumos Labs, Lumosity was created by neuroscientists and has been proven to be effective in several studies, including one involving chemobrain sufferers. As a consumer, I appreciate the effort to scientifically back up their product.

After completing an initial assessment, Lumosity creates a personalized training program based on your results.

After reviewing assessment results, you are given the option to sign up for an expanded version of the program for a fee. If you choose to upgrade, there are several plans that include a family plan and a lifetime subscription. I have found the free version to include a considerable amount of activities and features, but I can see why so many people upgrade.

2. Happy Neuron

Like Lumosity, Happy Neuron is a brain training website that offers a mobile version of the program. In fact, Happy Neuron has a few different apps that target specific cognitive functions. The website looks outdated and less professional than Lumosity, but the games are aesthetically pleasing and quite entertaining. While the games are challenging, they are fun and don't feel clinical. Activities are designed to stimulate cognitive function in the areas of memory, language, visual-spatial, reasoning, and attention.

3. Fit Brains Trainer

Fit Brains Trainer, a website with a mobile version available, features games that focus on language, problem solving, concentration, memory, and spatial abilities. I was drawn by Uber Brain, a Fit Brains website game, that is tagged as a "crosstrainer" incorporating all 5 cognitive areas into one game. Like Lumosity and Happy Neuron, free accounts are available, but you need a paid subscription to access more games. Fit Brains Trainer games are entertaining, but I found the graphics/animation were better suited for children than adults, even though the target audience is adults.

4. Brain HQ

Posit Science's Brain HQ brain training program has been proven effective in over 60 peer reviewed studies, including research involving their software and chemobrain patients. The website and apps are well designed, user friendly, and pleasing to the eye. I like that they incorporate information about brain training's effect on diseases and condition, including chemobrain, TBI, and HIV. The website and app games are interesting and entertaining, but require a subscription to gain access to more.

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