October 10, 2008
Discovery Channel
Eric Bland

The effects wear off after several months, but replaying the games restores them.

As we age, typically silent neurons in the brain start firing randomly, says Joe Hardy of Posit Science. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, but the increase in activity creates excessive noise. What is clear is that Posit’s games help turn down the extra noise and let the brain focus on what is important.

The games train players to identify and track objects amid cluttered backgrounds. In one game, Jewel Diver, a player must keep track of multiple hidden jewels while traveling around a cluttered screen. When driving, the honed ability translates into a better ability to track cars, pedestrians and other roadside objects.

In another game, Route 66, the player identifies a car or truck in the center of the screen while keeping track of periphery signs. Route 66 improves on a player’s useful field of vision, or the ability to quickly identify important details and react appropriately to them.

Allstate says that depending on the results of its study, expected to last until March, it may offer drivers a discount on their automobile insurance if they complete the games.

InSight, which retails for about $495 but Allstate provided free of charge, is actually Posit’s second brain-training game. It first was focused not on visual but auditory training. Posit is developing brain-training games for other senses, and other groups, such as high-risk teenage drivers.

While it remains to be seen if Posit’s software will change the insurance industry, it is already changing how scientists view the brain.

“In the past we thought that the brain was this static object, and after it became fully developed it slowly declined,” said Hardy. “Now through the right exercises you can maintain a high level of function coupled with the experience age brings.”