Day 63

I had the day off today and there is snow on the ground and so I spent an extra long training session at the keyboard this morning.  (44 minutes)  Made it through the company-arranged session with five stars in three of the four categories.  Still stuck on Target Tracker, which measures “attention.”  After that, did some memory work and some work on Card Shark.  Some progress in both areas.  My big takeaway today is the reality of mental fatigue.  Its no use continuing to do sets of push ups or pull ups one right after another in the hope of getting more reps the next time.  The muscles get tired and you can actually do less and less.  The progress – increased strength – shows up the next session – one or two days later – after your muscles have had time to replenish and grow.  Hoping to see the same thing with this mental exercise, but still in the dark about how much is too much at one time.

No doubt, though.  You do reach a point of fatigue and rapidly diminishing returns.

How Much Is Enough?

How Much is Enough?

I am about five weeks into my brain training regimen, using the Brain HQ exercises on their website. I have made substantial progress in some areas, but remain almost completely baffled by others. One exercise that gives me the most trouble is what they call “right turn.” You are shown like objects – baseballs, seashells, planets, etc and you have to compare them and decide whether the images are the same or mirror-images of each other. I test way lower on these than in any other tests I’ve yet taken. It’s frustrating, of course. Not only do I feel lost and inferior, I don’t feel like I am making any progress here. Not getting any better at it or feeling any sense of growing understanding or facility for this particular test.
I’ve said before that my trouble here makes me tend to trust the program more. They put this in the “navigation” category, and I have never been a natural in that area. I’ve known people who are. Guys who can drive along strange city streets and still keep an accurate sense of which way they are going. Guys who can walk three or four turns down a blind hallway and still know where they are in relation to where they started. Not me.
They tell you that the way to improve your standing – relative to everyone else involved in the training – is to spend time working in those areas where your scores are the lowest. So I’ve been spending time in Navigation and I have made progress in the other two tests I have worked on in that area – True North and Optic Flow. True North – where you are given a long set of directions and you have to determine the direction you need to go for each step based on the direction you just came from. This involves not only deducing or inducing (never could really distinguish those two things) the direction you need to go, but remembering the list of directions itself. It is real labor for me, but I have progressed in part because this exercise is not timed and I sit there and close my eyes and imagine I am looking across a map of the United States – looking toward Canada or the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic or Pacific – and getting my answer that way. It surprises me when I am wrong (this is not infrequent).
I seem to do a little better in the tests involving hearing than in those that are solely dependent on vision. Maybe that’s because I am in a profession than involves listening to people, day in and day out. But I wonder whether my scoring in the purely visual tests might be adversely affected by my eyesight. I know that the pitch here is that you see not only with your eyes, but with your brain. The eye itself is only a kind of gate that lets the images and information in and the brain processes it. Sometimes fast enough to give you a pretty complete picture.
I am sold on that idea and I do think that my processor speed has speeded up a little as a result of my training. But I do wonder how good my gate (eyes) itself is. Might I be affected by cataracts and not as able to see and take in a whole screen worth of images as another person might be?
I am going to stay with the Right Turn program, even though it frustrates me. I can believe that because I am not naturally strong in this area, I have failed to work that part of my brain as hard as I otherwise might have and so what was weak never got stronger. I don’t feel myself getting any better at this, but maybe that is okay, too. Maybe you just have to hand with it a while and then you’ll have a breakthrough. It will just come to you.
I still wonder if I am really training enough to expect to see real progress and expansion of my mental capabilities. I am not satisfied that the company has given me a candid answer about how much time is necessary in order to see maximum improvement. They say that they recommend three sessions per week, at 30 minutes each.
I can’t believe that an hour and a half a week is going to give you anywhere near maximum improvement. I compare this to physical training. I’ve been convinced lately that it is easy to overtrain and that too much running or too much weightlifting can be counter productive, but to really get stronger I don’t think half an hour, every other day, will do the trick.
I play guitar, too. To make real progress there seems like it takes an hour a day.

But I do feel like my playing has improved since I started the brain training thing. My finger placements are more precise and more effortless and I seem to have a longer hand stamina. That is encouraging.

I do wonder whether these exercises that teach attention and concentration ever improve anyone’s eyesight.
Stay tuned.