BrainHQ's Scientific Design Principles
Using your brain’s ability to change for the better
Posit Science’s BrainHQ exercises are based on the science of “neuroplasticity,” also called “brain plasticity.” Brain plasticity is your brain’s natural ability to remodel itself throughout life. The brain is always changing, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. What BrainHQ’s exercises do is harness that change and direct it in ways that can enhance your overall performance and improve the quality of your life.
Given that the brain is the most complex machine on earth, this is no simple task for a brain plasticity researcher. Posit Science has gotten help in designing these exercises from dozens of world experts in this science. Each brings his or her own unique scientific expertise to our team. Their contributions have allowed us to develop brain-improving programs for many of the behavioral faculties that can be improved using your neuroplasticity.
BrainHQ exercises are grouped into six categories: Attention, Memory, Brain Speed, Intelligence, People Skills, and Navigation. Some of the exercises directly work out those skills, and you can see exactly how they might help you improve brain health. But, as you may have noticed, other exercises may not seem like they exercise those skills at all. Instead, they challenge you to improve in basic sensory skills—such as telling sounds apart or spotting objects quickly on screen. There’s a good reason to include such exercises when training your brain. Here’s why:
Sharpness starts with the sensesOur eyes, ears, and other sensory organs constantly send information to the brain. Our brains use this information to construct our experiences and memories, from the magnificent—a loved one’s face, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, a wedding proposal—to the mundane—an acquaintance’s name, a grocery list, a drive to a nearby store.
The more clearly our brain registers this information, the better we can respond to it and store it, so that we can remember it and use it later. It’s important that your brain does a good job with all of the small details of what you see or hear. Missing those details results in most of the errors and confusion that can limit you—and it’s often impossible to even know what you’re missing. A brain that misses lots of details also naturally slows down quite a lot, so that it has a better chance of not making mistakes. Most importantly, if your brain is fuzzy and imprecise in its most elemental operations, all of its higher operations in thinking and acting will suffer. You can practice them forever, but they just can’t improve very much if you must always rely on fuzzy or incomplete information.
Improving your brain’s sharp representation of the details of what you see, hear and feel is a key step in improving your overall brain function.
For this reason, many of Posit Science’s BrainHQ exercises are designed to increase the quantity of sensory information the brain takes in and improves the quality with which the brain processes and records this information. This improvement has a ripple effect, improving all of the “higher” functions of the brain that work with that information.
Think of it like a tree
Healthy roots able to absorb plentiful nutrients and water make for a stronger trunk, shinier leaves, and more fruit. A BrainHQ brain exercise strengthens the brain from the roots up. This approach is different from many others, which provide compensatory strategies, teach the brain “tricks” to remember, or drill the brain with memory exercises. Many scientific studies demonstrate that such a focus on caring for the fruit while ignoring the roots has only limited benefits.
Throughout life, our brains successfully absorb a lot of information from our senses. But for most of us, including almost everyone over age 40, our brains could do better. When we're in our 30s, six core trends begin to affect brain function. Over time, these have noticeable impacts on our memory, thinking, and focus. They include:
Brightness: “Tired” thinking and actingOur brain slowly turns down its ‘dimmer switch’ as we get older. It can take longer for us to be sharp in our mornings, and we can often find ourselves having moments of inattention or drowsiness that frustrate our getting the most out of our days. Sleep or rest does not restore our liveliness as well as it used to!
Speed: Slower processingOur brains gradually slow down—but the speed of information coming in from the senses (sights and sounds happening in our lives) does not. Over time, the brain begins to miss many details, making it more difficult to react to and remember what we saw or heard.
Accuracy: Missing the detailsLike the grooves of an old record, the brain’s pathways often get fuzzier, scratchier, or even distorted. You cannot expect your brain to make a good recording of what is happening when there is so much noise on your sound track, or when your brain’s recording of what you are seeing is blurred and indistinct.
Recognition: Poorer understandingWe have to combine information in special ways to understand and correctly interpret those things we see or hear. Losing the ability to recognize an old friend or misinterpreting their facial expression or intent is a common problem in an older life. Retaining keen abilities to recognize and interpret what we are seeing and hearing are of high importance.
Clarity: Interference from a noisy worldIn our youth, our brains were astoundingly good at cancelling out all of that noise that comes from the world, or that comes, as a barrage of disruptions, from a worrisome or distracted brain itself. But with age, interference starts to get in the way. This is partly due to a loss in our ability to really concentrate. It’s the true source of a lot of frustration, anxiety and error in an older life.
Recording: Poorer ability to control learning, or ‘rise to the occasion’The brain uses chemicals called neuromodulators to determine what information is important to record and process. With each passing decade, our brains produce fewer neuromodulators. A deficit of neuromodulators hinders the brain’s ability to record new information—in other words, its ability to learn and remember. If you want to continue to grow and flourish, you need learning- and memory-control machinery that is up to the task.
When these trends first begin, we don’t notice problems in the moment because we (unknowingly) use context to fill in what we missed. In other words, we draw on our extensive life experience to “fill in the blanks” and make sense of information that is incomplete. Although this compensatory behavior helps us in the immediate situation, it doesn’t improve the quality of the recording (the memory). As the years pass, the gaps can become too big for context to fill in. When this occurs, it can be hard to catch and respond to the information even at the moment.
Caring for the roots supports generalized benefitsMany of the BrainHQ exercises are designed to reverse these root problems. Their primary goals are to:
- Brighten your spirits
- Speed up brain processing
- Sharpen processing accuracy
- Improve fast-recognition abilities
- Knock down the disrupting noises that disrupt your attention, sensory accuracy and memory.
- Recover the power of the brain machinery that controls how well you learn and how much you remember
The BrainHQ roots-up approach emphasizes “generalization,” or the extension of benefits beyond the trained task. Here’s an example: Using a program in which you practice remembering a grocery list may help you get better at remembering grocery lists. With BrainHQ, you may never practice grocery lists. By exercising the roots of memory, however, you will likely find that not only can you remember grocery lists better, you can also remember conversations with your neighbor, tasks at work, a movie you saw over the weekend, that word that is on the tip of your tongue and where you left your keys. These “generalized” changes are what improve quality of life.