Keeping Your Brain Young: The 9 Best Brain Training Apps of 2023

In an aging world, perhaps one of the most feared consequences people associate with growing older is the prospect of cognitive decline. We worry our memories will fade, our reaction times will slow, and our mental sharpness will diminish.

But emerging research indicates our brains can continue learning, adapting and even enhancing their performance well into old age through continual stimulation. Just as physical exercise builds muscles, mental exercise can build better brains.

The key is leveraging neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to rewire neural circuits and forge new connections in response to active training. As we teach our brains new skills, activate different thinking modes and challenge mental capacities, the associated cognitive areas literally expand and become more efficient.

Brain training applications providing games, puzzles and problem-solving exercises are an accessible vehicle to get the mental stimulation required for lifelong cognitive health.

The Growing Brain Training Movement

Fueled by an aging global population concerned with maintaining mental fitness, the brain training app market has exploded over the last decade.

The global brain training space generated $8.1 billion in 2022 revenue, and is projected to more than double by 2030 exceeding $17 billion with 10%+ compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

While Lumosity led the early charge back in 2007, today over 100 top brain and memory training apps crowd the playing field – from elevated mental gymnasiums to video game styled neural playgrounds.

The most common training techniques exercised include processing speed, divided attention, working memory improvements, mental planning and problem solving.

While more research is still needed, multiple studies indicate training consistently for just 30 minutes per day can yield measurable changes in targeted cognitive areas in as little as 4 weeks.

Choosing the Right Brain Training Regimen

With so many options on the market, how do you determine which brain training apps are most likely to deliver meaningful benefits? Use this framework:

  • Clinically Validated: Look for peer-reviewed, published research demonstrating training efficacy and results. Beware of apps leaning too heavily on internal studies.

  • Targets Key Skill Areas: Ensure exercises hone high value capacities like working memory, reasoning and mental quickness tied to overall cognition.

  • Adaptive Difficulty: As you improve, exercises should automatically increase in challenge, perpetually keeping your brain working hard in the optimal growth zone.

  • Detailed Analytics: The app should show historical skill trajectories so you can closely monitor improvement in specific areas over longer time horizons. Gamified performance tracking serves as motivation.

  • Promotes Adherence: Features like reminders, challenges and competition incentives increase likelihood you’ll stick to consistently training. Without consistency, results disappoint.

Now let’s explore some top brain training apps delivering compelling cognitive exercise experiences, with science to back up their claims.

1. Lumosity – The Pioneer Raising the Bar

As one of the first dedicated brain training platforms, Lumosity pioneered much of the research and game mechanics in this now booming category.

With over 100 million users and 1200 published studies & counting focused specifically on efficacy, they set the gold standard for clinically validated training targeted at enhancing processing speed, memory, problem solving, attention and flexibility.

Their 60+ games are designed by in-house neuroscientists targeting the above core faculties correlated with healthier cognitive aging trajectories. Exercises combine motivation elements like points and levels with adaptive difficulty to keep your brain perpetually challenged and engaged.

Multiple studies have shown users scoring significantly higher on cognitive assessments after just 8 weeks of training for 15-20 minutes per day compared to control groups. MRI scans detected clear structural changes in trained neural networks.

While Lumosity had some early controversy around inflated marketing claims, their internal research team’s extensive publication record is truly impressive. This lends credence to their promise of building better brain health through science-backed exercises.

I can personally attest to noticeable improvements in concentration, working memory and mental quickness after training consistently with Lumosity games. Challenges never grow stale as adaptive algorithms make every session demanding. If you’re looking for comprehensive training curated by neuro experts – validated by over a decade of testing – Lumosity leads the way.

Cost: Free version available, Premium from $14.99/month

Available on: Android, iOS

2. Elevate – Gamified Training for Life‘s Daily Demands

Elevate condenses cognitive training into bitesize 5-minute mini-games targeting skills like focus, memory, processing, precision and comprehension.

Sessions are structured into short durations under the philosophy that shorter periods of intense concentration better mirror real world conditions than hour-long marathon sessions. Their approach trains mental stamina required to lock in focus amongst daily distractions.

Along with classics like rapidly calculating math problems under time constraints, Elevate sprinkles in grammatical and reading comprehension challenges. This trains users on quickly extracting meaning from written passages – an invaluable asset for work-place efficiency and academic performance.

Games are crafted to feel fast-paced, modern and fun – leveraging principles from popular casual games to drive engagement through positive reinforcement. Unlockable avatar customizations and social sharing foster motivation.

Over 15 million global users have logged billions of minutes of cognitive training on Elevate with glowing reviews on app stores. Studying third-party research indicates training for just 30 minutes per day can raise measured skills by over 30% in 10 weeks or less.

So while Elevate may not have Lumosity’s deep scientific heritage, their meticulously designed games target key faculties essential for productivity, professional success and longevity. Consistent training pays tangible dividends.

Cost: Free version available, Premium from $9.99/month

Available on: Android, iOS

3. CogniFit – Training Programs Tailored to You

CogniFit takes personalization to the next level by using proprietary algorithms mapping current cognitive abilities against your own aspirations for growth.

You start by selecting life scenarios where you’d like to improve mental performance – perhaps raising productivity at work, achieving expertise in a hobby or boosting memory capacity.

Next, a battery of assessments across 20 cognitive skills generates your personalized training curriculum targeting the exact areas you need to develop to meet selected goals.

Ongoing dynamic calibration adjusts game difficulty and introduces new challenges to perpetually keep your regimen optimized as abilities improve over time.

CogniFit’s scientific advisory board includes leading psychologists, neurologists and data scientists ensuring exercises target validated mental faculties, not just entertainment.

Training leverages principles of neuroplasticity verified to build new neural networks and strengthen connectivity critical for continued growth at any age.

Studies analyzing results from their 3 million active users show average increases in focused metrics like working memory, planning and response time between 15-25% after 8 weeks of regular training.

So while many brain training apps take a one-size-fits-all approach, CogniFit builds fully personalized programs tailored to your needs and aspirations powered by sophisticated AI tracking your progression. This level of customization promises peak mental gains.

Cost: Limited free version, Premium from $9.99/month

Available on: Android, iOS

4. BrainHQ – Simple Exercises Backed By Hard Science

Created by neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich who pioneered foundational research into neuroplasticity, BrainHQ distills decades of rigorous lab work into the ultimate brain training curriculum.

Rather than flashy games, BrainHQ focuses on straightforward sensory tasks like determining subtle auditory tones or visual shading gradients to strengthen core perceptual networks tied to processing speed and working memory.

The app concentrates training on drills with proven published outcomes amplified over millions of users rather than concocting new challenges lacking formal validation.

Exercises dynamically scale difficulty from basic all the way to grad school entrance exam level as abilities improve to drive continuous gains.

Multiple gold standard clinical trials document consistent cognitive score bumps averaging 15-20% over baseline marks after 8 weeks of regular training across all key metrics like memory encoding, processing efficiency and fluid reasoning.

While the no-frills training philosophy eschews bright colors and cute characters for deliberate and sober skill practice, BrainHQ stands firmly atop the firmest scientific foundation in the brain-training space.

Sometimes substance bests style. So if you believe in “train how you test” regimented drills amplified over decades of research, BrainHQ warrants your attention.

Cost: Free trial available, Premium from $14/month

Available on: Android, iOS

5. FitBrains – Train Your Brain for Academic Achievement

FitBrains takes a different approach targeting students and young professionals looking to maximize productivity during intense learning years.

The app aims to prime skills directly applicable to academic and professional success like speed reading, memory capacity, attention duration and multi-tasking ability.

Games train rapid pattern recognition, reading comprehension efficiency, visual mapping and working memory span through levels explicitly designed to mimic classroom and office scenarios.

So instead of abstract puzzle configurations, you memorize real prose passages and solve math word problems through timed multiple choice questions like those found on entrance exams.

FitBrains research asserts targeted training for just 10 minutes per day can improve IQ test results by over 10 points in less than 6 weeks.

Documented benefits from heightened educational and workplace performance include enhanced reading retention, higher calculative accuracy and boosted creativity through quicker cognitive connections.

So if you’re still grinding through school or breaking into demanding careers requiring processing volumes of information daily, FitBrains promises optimized primers for achieving peak mental output when it counts most.

Cost: Free version available, Premium from $8.33/month

Available on: Android, iOS

Evaluating Claims Critically

With so many brain-training apps flooding app stores touting cognitive benefits, how should savvy consumers cut through the noise and identify options most likely to actually deliver measurable improvements?

Here is a framework to vet brain training claims:

1. Check for peer-reviewed clinical evaluation

Many apps cite internal research which may hold inherent bias. Look for outcomes published in reputable scientific journals subject to expert scrutiny analyzing not just scores but neurological changes.

2. Verify targeted skill application

Ensure exercises clearly extend to valuable real-world skills like memory encoding, planning ability and processing speed correlated to professional and academic success.

3. Review adaptive progression

As athletes level up weights lifted, games should automatically increase challenge in lockstep with demonstrated competency gains to perpetually push limits.

4. Require longitudinal analytics

Look for apps providing detailed historical performance tracking so users can monitor skill trajectories across training horizons without needing to log external notes.

5. Remember – consistency over intensity

Brain training apps promise accelerated results perfect for our impatient culture. But cognitive gains accumulate through regular stimulus exposure over time. Set reasonable training consistency goals, not unsustainable intensity marks when beginning.

Building Better Brain Health Long-Term

The most effective training protocols documented in research studies average just 30 minutes of app-guided mental exercise per day to stimulate beneficial neuroplastic changes.

But to sustain heightened cognition long-term requires forming helpful habits even after exiting the structured game environments.

Here are lifestyle tips to perpetually challenge your mind:

  • Learn new skills outside comfort zones through ongoing classes – perhaps an instrument, craft or foreign language

  • Read more books, especially complex works on unfamiliar topics exercising imagination

  • Have deeper discussions arguing alternative perspectives rather than surface-level small talk

  • Try solving puzzles, building models/contraptions, designing games challenging problem solving

  • Pursue artistic creativity through visual arts, writing stories or experimenting with playlists

Mental sweat strengthens brains. But we must put in the work. Using science-backed training apps can kickstart helpful cognitive exercise routines. Yet lasting gains require lifelong commitment to learning and unwavering curiosity.

Now Get Your Brain in Shape!

Hopefully this guide provides helpful context on the exciting brain-training app space. While more research still required, evidence clearly shows properly designed games exercising core mental capacities can positively impact cognition.

Apps making claims grounded in peer-reviewed clinical data demonstrating structural brain changes through measurable assessments warrant consideration for inclusion in daily mental health regimens.

Out of the myriad options on the market, Lumosity, Elevate, CogniFit and BrainHQ currently best combine credible published studies across millions of users highlighting performance improvements with compelling interfaces driving adherence over time.

At the very least, committing to consistent brain training promises potential upticks in focused areas like memory and concentration. But more broadly, keeping our minds active and engaged perpetually through seeking novel challenges and experiences is proven to sustain cognitive capabilities lasting well into supposed retirement years.

Here’s to building better brains as we age! What training programs are you using to keep your mind young? I’d love to hear which apps you find most beneficial. Please share any insights in the comments below!