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New You Chats with Dr. Faraz Farzin, Research Scientist for Lumosity.com

By New You Editorial
Posted On Dec 12, 2014

We at New You are all about effective, life-affirming personal training sessions. They work wonders for our bodies… and they can work equally as well for our minds. Brain-training website Lumosity.com is now a daily “must” for tens of millions of individuals across the globe, whose core cognitive abilities—speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving—are honed and measured through a series of engaging, fun to play games.

Dr. Farzin—a University of California, Davis alum and former staff scientist who boasts ten-plus years of studying brain development, visual perception, and cognitive psychology (including a postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford University)—leads her team in tracking and honing the potential of Lumosity’s training system. Here, Dr. Farzin shares the secrets to Lumosity’s success.

New You: Dr. Farzin, Lumosity has become a big part of so many people’s lives since it started in 2005. Why does it continue to grow in popularity, and what are people getting out of the experience?

Dr. Faraz Farzin: It’s always been our goal to create the best, most accessible cognitive training experience. I think what so many users enjoy about Lumosity is that it acts as a personal trainer to guide and motivate them through a fun and challenging experience, while also allowing them to track their activity over time, identify trends in their performance,and compare themselves to others.

NY: What is the most fascinating part about this stream of data that comes out of people’s participation with Lumosity? Are there certain areas that shock and surprise your team often?

Dr. F. F.: Lumosity games have now been played more than 2.2 billion times, so we have a wealth of data learn from. We’re now able to take an in-depth look at game performance and provide our users with a personalized analysis and more context about their Lumosity game performance. For example, in September we launched the Lumosity Performance Report that shows users how their Lumosity strengths compare to those found in individuals from 13 different professions.

NY: What is the way you describe the site to people unfamiliar with its various charms?

Dr. F. F.: Lumosity is like a gym for your brain, and we create the tools and technology that challenge core cognitive abilities. We’ve transformed common neuropsychological and cognitive tasks into more than 40 challenging and adaptive games available at www.lumosity.com, and is also available on iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android.

NY: What are the most popular games on the site?

Dr. F. F.: One of our most popular games is actually one of our newest games, called Train of Thought. This game requires users to operate switches in a railroad network to direct each train to a station of its matching color. It is designed to challenge divided attention, or the ability to simultaneously respond to multiple tasks or task demands. trainOfthought-web

Other popular games include Memory Matrix, a spatial recall task, and Word Bubbles Rising, a verbal fluency task.

NY: Do participants on the site get their competitive dander up via the metrics that are offered them after their sessions?

Dr. F. F.: We’ve found that many of our users enjoy competing against themselves and each other. The “How You Compare” feature is especially popular for users who want to see how they stack up against other users in the same or a different age group. We hope to offer more features and metrics like this so users can better understand their own data and identify trends in their performance.

NY: How has this gig changed or widened your notion of what we can achieve through online engagement of this sort?

Dr. F. F.: What’s unique about Lumosity is our ability to examine the data from performance on our games on a large scale to both improve Lumosity and advance neuroscience research. Our technology allows us to partner with outside researchers to run studies faster, more efficiently, and on a much larger scale. This is an opportunity not available in many academic labs.

NY: Lumosity has become a vital tool for researchers who are working to combat a spectrum of diseases. In what areas is Lumosity offering insight and, potentially, a way to combat degenerative diseases?

Dr. F. F.: We’re always looking for new applications of Lumosity. For example, in March Dr. George Ioannou, Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, published research suggesting that Lumosity games can be used to detect subtle cognitive impairments between patients with cirrhosis of the liver, pre-cirrhotic patients, and healthy individuals. We’re excited that our cognitive training program can be used in a variety of ways to study cognitive function in different populations, and are working to examine additional conditions.

NY: In what ways do you see Lumosity being an effective social impact factor?

Dr. F. F.: It’s an exciting time to be in the field of cognitive training, and I think the next few years will be transformative for the industry. New technologies combined with cognitive training presents exciting research opportunities, and combining datasets have the potential to provide powerful insights to consumers. We know much more about cognitive training today than we did five years ago, and because of products like Lumosity and our collaborative research efforts with neuroscientists, clinicians, and teachers, we will know even more five years from now.