Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain?

About Brain Training

Watch this short video to discover how Brain Training and Nintendo DS can help you train your brain in just a few minutes a day.

Exercises

When you first start Brain Training, you will be asked for your date of birth and to confirm whether you are right or left-handed. Then your current score in the form of a ‘DS Brain Age’ is determined by a quick test which measures the speed and accuracy with which you perform the exercises.

Once you have confirmed your Brain Age, it’s time to start training your mind to improve your score. Brain Training includes more than a dozen different numerical and verbal exercises which are designed to be played for just a few minutes a day. A built-in calendar tracks your progress and you get a ‘stamp’ for completing each day’s exercises.


Sudoku

Brain Training also features sudoku for when you want a break from training.

Normally played with a pen and paper, sudoku is played on Nintendo DS using the stylus. Numbers can be written on the Touch Screen and you can also make notes along the edge of the grid, like in the paper-based puzzle.

There are three difficulty levels of puzzle available and also a tutorial mode for players who are new to sudoku.


Meet Dr. Kawashima

Dr Ryuta Kawashima was born in 1959 in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. A graduate of the Medical Department at Tohoku University, he went on to complete his study at the university’s post-graduate program. He has been a guest researcher at the Swedish Karolinska Institute, an assistant at Tohoku University, a lecturer, and is now a professor at Tohoku University. He is a doctor of medicine and a former member of the Subdivision on National Language within the Council for Cultural Affairs. He is the leading figure in Japan in 'Brain Imaging Research', the investigation into the functions of each areas of the brain.

In 2004, Dr Kawashima’s book, ‘Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain’, became an instant hit in Japan, selling millions of copies. It went on to sell a further 2.5 million copies when released worldwide.

The principles of the book have been developed into Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain?

A few words with Dr Kawashima

Dr Kawashima, please explain why you believe people should ‘train their brains’.

If we only use our body in routine movements in our day to day life, physical strength actually weakens. This means that using our bodies in routine ways is not enough to maintain and improve our physical strength.'

We can say the same about our brain. When we use our brain every day in a routine manner, this may not be enough to challenge it. Therefore we should consciously challenge our brain to do different things for about 5–10 minutes every day at least.'

We have learnt from our experiments that the brain can be trained in this way. Just as you can challenge and train your body, so can you challenge, train and stimulate your brain.'

Does the brain get older in the same way as the body?

In certain respects the brain is not different from the rest of our body. The more you use the brain in a challenging way, the better it can work. On the other hand, we know that the mental processes of our brain start to weaken if we only use it within our normal routine daily life. So, if you stimulate your brain in a challenging way regularly every day even for a short time, you may notice that your brain starts working more efficiently.'

What are the best ways to train the brain?

There are three principles involved in challenging and training your brain. First of all “read, write and calculate”, second, “communicate with other people efficiently” and third, “create something using your fingers”. By combining these three principles into our everyday life in a challenging and creative way, we can help maintain the sharpness of our brain.'

What is the scientific reasoning behind your ‘brain training’ method?

During the "brain imaging" research, in which we capture the activity of the brain in photographic images, we focused on the relationship between our brain and our body. We hypothesised that the more you train your brain the better the brain can function, just as we can also train our body to help keep it fit.'

What role does the prefrontal cortex of our brain play?

The prefrontal cortex is a part of our brain which is developed only in humans and gives us the mental processing functions which are typical of humans.'

Thinking, creating something new, effective communication with other people, high aspirations, and concentration – we know that all these functions are influenced by the prefrontal cortex. It is also thought to be a place for processing and integrating information, such as the proper evaluation of information in accordance with the context and the initiating of an activity. It is also very influential in coordinating the control of our emotions and actions.'

About Nintendo DS

The unique technology contained within Nintendo DS is what makes Brain Training possible.

Nintendo DS has two screens - the lower of which is touch-sensitive. By holding the system sideways, like a book, users can write on the Touch Screen with the stylus as if you were writing with pen and paper. (Left-handed users can turn the Nintendo DS around so that the Touch Screen is on the left side.)

Nintendo DS also features an in-built microphone so you can perform some of the exercises simply by speaking. Plus, Nintendo DS’s wireless communication technology allows for up to 16 people to take part in a Calculation Battle using just one copy of the game. It is also possible to send a demo version of the game to another Nintendo DS.