My downfall was caused by the Monster Garden.
I am now in the 94.8th percentile of brain power in my age group. However, I did cheat.
I am referring to my performance in the brain exercise program at www.Lumosity.com that I joined earlier this summer. It was launched in 2007 with ongoing involvement by neuroscientists at Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, and I am now among some 20 million participants in 180 countries. The goal is to improve core cognitive abilities like memory, attention, and intelligence.
There are 35 computer games involved, and if I trained every day, I’m sure I would be a lot smarter. However, I will never know the truth about my intelligence. I can’t remember if I cheated before or after writing my post about Lance Armstrong. Of course if it wasn’t right for him to cheat, it wasn’t right for me to cheat either. Funny how we don’t put these things together.
My downfall was caused by the Monster Garden, which involves remembering where monsters popped up in a grid. I had progressed to a 25-square grid with as many as seven or more monsters in play. I wasn’t doing very well, so I drew up a whole set of grids, and then I quickly marked each square when a monster appeared and then recorded it.
My score soared, and if this activity is designed to increase your intelligence, didn’t I prove mine?
“No,” said my younger sister, Kate, who has also signed up. She found it dishonorable and counterproductive. She’s not in the same age group so we’re not competing. I’ve always thought that she is smarter than I am anyway, but if we do eventually compare scores when we are briefly in the same cohort and hers is higher even though I cheated—well, this will be hard for me.
But that’s not the point. I have noted significant improvement in my awareness, and of course excelling in certain ways enhances cognition through confidence. I’m good at anything that has to do with words because that’s my world, and my unused math skills advanced rapidly. However, I struggle with some other activities. For example, there are a number of games where images flash on the screen and you’re supposed to identify the number, the series, or the location. I sometimes curse.
There are other exercises that have caused me to realize unexpected brain potential. These have to do with speed and recognition, and sometimes I get into a flow of accuracy that I can’t explain. It’s as though the brain in some ways interferes with a certain quality of knowing, and if you can set effort and intention aside you perform better.
And possibly as a result of all this exercise, I’ve noticed something unusual out in the real world. This has become a consistent pattern. I’m not a speed demon, but it seems that whenever I am stopped at a red light with one or more other cars, they are still sitting there when I move on as the light turns green. Check it out. Is alertness in general deteriorating? Can a collective distraction be measured in seconds? I have imagined slipping into a world where everything and everyone else is frozen and only I am moving. Perhaps I should talk to someone about this.
Which brings me to my favorite game so far. For some reason I have always been good at mazes, quickly seeing the path. In this exercise, you are a penguin racing another penguin to a fish in a maze. As your scores improve, however, the maze on an iceberg begins to twirl with increasing speed. North, south, east and west rotate, and you have to adapt with the directional arrows on the keyboard. My heart pounds with excitement. I have never wanted anything so badly in my life as I want to reach that fish first. The victory beep is thrilling. I think this is preparing me to survive global warming.
Anyway, this whole effort is a tremendous amount of fun, and it’s interesting to explore under what circumstances one’s performance is highest—morning, afternoon, or evening with sparkling water, wine, or vodka. Whatever it takes. I’m going for the 99th percentile—just no more cheating.