Brain Fitness, Day 8

Day 8, August 6, 2012

Today began with a video explanation about exercise difficulty. That is what the program was designed to create. It was almost on cue. I had been noticing a lack of progress!

According to the video, the brain only learns when it is challenged. This was likened to a musician who starts out with simple scales. Competency is established there and then more challenging pieces are assigned, long before the most difficult of arrangements that prove mastery. There is even a name for this, “Training at Threshold.” The science behind it involves using the difficulties and rewards for improvement to improve the production of brain neuromodulators. Specific neuromodulators targeted are dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine. When the production of these neuromodulators is up, the brain learns more easily.

High or Low began with a daily goal and then the usual warm up exercises. I was supposed to try to identify the sounds even when the gap between the sounds was reduced to 20 milliseconds. The challenge was built, set after set, getting me closer to the 20 millisecond gap. I had to pass through a few thresholds first. At one point, the challenge shortened the high and low sounds, and to compensate for the greater difficulty in hearing them, made the gap between the sounds larger. This simultaneously lowered the point rewards to 5. I wanted to beat my previous score, so I tried speeding up my answers. My score was too low to get to my point goal if I didn’t move along more quickly. After a couple minutes, the points started responding with 12, 15 and 16, then 20 and finally 30, allowing me to shoot past the previous point high. I reached 3592 this time, a nice improvement over 3337. The summary at the end explained, “This exercise aims to improve your focus and extend your attention span.” That’s perfect!

“Tell Us Apart” was difficult again today. It seems that I reached a threshold that I was unable to penetrate (for now) between level 7 and 8. Four or five times I was unable to break through level 8 and was sent back to level 7.

The improvement I did make was to finally understand the challenge meter for this exercise. (Incidentally, it helped me understand it for the following exercises as well.) The meter tracks correct and incorrect answers (that are identified as “correct” or “wrong,” which could be a bad word choice). To advance, I need 9 correct answers. If I get 4 incorrect before I get 9 correct, I will digress to the previous level to establish competence on a lower level.

I will add that the recordings of these sounds of “boo” and “due” do not sound like real speech to me. So I have to adapt to hearing the “boo” and “due” that they present them as accurate “boo” and “due” for now.

I did not advance my “boo” and “due” score today. Nor did I advance in “dah” and “gah.” But “doe” and “toe” increased in difficulty by two steps.

“Sound Replay” added the assignment of completing five more groups to move up to six in a row. (This must have meant more sounds in a row, rather than correct answers in a row.) The sounds are tricky to recall in order because they are so rarely heard on their own, much less put into any order. They aren’t like a five or six syllable word or a five or six-word sentence. The assignment is similar to hearing these sounds and then being asked to repeat their sequence: te, foe, vaa, low vaa.

Today the score was only 461. Previously, I had earned 538 and 936. This is not a great score and I earned no animations. Boo-hoo! (Or perhaps, “boo-due.”)

For “Listen and Do,” I remembered to look at the “Tips” before launching into the exercise. They helped, so I was grateful. I reached level 5, which I believe was better than my previous day, and I was advanced to level 6. But at 6, I got confused. I didn’t follow the tips and my brain started getting rattled. So I was sent back to level 4. At level 4, it was not all fun and ease. I was still suffering from the setback of confusion and I had more trouble than I expected. But my score did show improvement: 796, up from 700. I earned several animations, but skipped three so I could advance, if possible.

My daily summary graph showed improvement in “High or Low” and “Tell Us Apart.” There was no progress in “Match It” or “Sound Replay.” (I don’t understand this: I didn’t play “Match It,” so the lack of progress there is a no-brainer. But I did “play” “Listen and Do” yet there was no mention of it in the daily summary.)

Thanks for following this blog. I hope that it encourages others to blog for brain fitness, too. I have no doubts that recording my progress is more than self-revelation to many who do not know me. It helps my progress as well.

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