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.


Brain Training: Twenty Days In

Maybe it is just the competitor in me, but I am looking for some meaningful way to judge my performance on these brain training games.  Maybe it is just a lust to be the best at something or to feel myself superior to others, but, darn it, it seems meaningless to go on when you really don’t understand whether you are making progress or not.  I look at the percentiles reflected on my “progress” chart and they don’t seem to change, even when I make progress on one game or another.

Here’s another thing: in some areas, my percentile ranking seems to drop with the introduction of new and harder tests.  Why?  I can understand, of course, why my score – my raw, absolute score – would diminish as the tests get more difficult.  But it does not make sense to me that my ranking relative to every other test taker would drop as I take on harder testing.  It seems like the increase in difficulty would affect everyone.  It’s also very frustrating to keep working and see the percentile numbers drop.

I’m still bought-in and I think I have already started to notice some positive changes.  It may be autosuggestion – I do read the testimonials, over and over – but I find myself concentrating a little better, a little longer, and I seem to be sticking with the work of remembering the name of some character or even the actor who played that character in some old movie.  My recall is often not immediate, but since the training, I seem to be more determined to stay with it and I have found that the effort here is often rewarded.  That is, I do finally remember the actor or character’s name after a longer effort that I would have expended before.

I think I am perhaps a little more attentive in conversations, too, and maybe in a brighter mood, generally.

But I still want to know more about how to do this the right way.  The best, most productive way.  Again, is twenty minutes an ideal session?  That’s what they give me, day by day.  Is that because thy find that that is the best for training or because they find that it is best for their marketing.  Those two goals may not be met by exactly the same2 program length.

Many of the testimonials speak of a kind of “aha” moment, when things “clicked” and the trainee was able to perceive what a wonderful difference the training has made for them.  But they don’t say how much training they had completed before that happened.  How many weeks and months and how many hours and minutes per week?
I am in my early sixties and I can do 65 pull-ups in three sets.  I don’t know where that would put me in terms of percentile ranking for my age group, but I think I’d be way up there.  Point is, I would not be doing that many if someone at the gym had not taught me that I had been doing too many sets and too few reps per set.  I changed my way of going about it, based on that advice – went from doing five sets to doing three sets, and I have in fact gotten stronger.  The progress has not been what I would call dramatic, but it has been steady and real.

This is the kind of progress I am hoping for with this brain training and I am looking for advice analogous to what my friend in the gym gave me about the pull-ups.  Again, the difference between those folks who are serious about physical workouts and those who do not is so obvious and, to my mind at least, so meaningful.  Will brain training make the same kind of difference?

One last note:  I have been surprised at how uneven or varying my percentile rankings have been from category to category.  But the physical analogy is obvious here.  What muscles have I neglected in my life – and how long and how much real effort will it require to get those areas into top shape and what will the dividends for that work and improvement actually be?