Pump up those brain gains!

Contrary to popular opinion, your brain isn’t actually a muscle. Though it does contain a bit of muscle, it’s actually a complex organ composed of cells, nerve fibers, arteries, and arterioles. It does, however, behave like a muscle and therefore should be treat as one! And what’s better for you muscles than regular daily exercise!

Created by health and education VR startup Virtuleap, Enhance VR uses specially created games to test your brains cognitive skills, including your memory, reasoning, problem-solving, motor control, spatial orientation, and other areas that will help you strengthen your brain.

Jumping into Enhance VR, you’ll be greeted by a virtual being named PICO, an AI powered personal brain trainer who will help you with each memory session. Like an actual gym trainer, PICO is able to assist you based on your past and present performances, and can even respond to requests and relate everything in a way that contextualizes the experience into something much more meaningful and impactful.

Each 10 minute gaming session is designed to assist you in improving your attention levels and promote mental fitness by engaging you in a multi-sensory virtual environment. The VR experience can even reveal if you might have cognitive illnesses, disorders, or learning challenges; though it is recommended you see an actual doctor for conditions such as those.

Enhance VR’s gaming library takes advantage of the power of VR through five different games:

  • React
    • Train your flexibility and attention skills. The aim is to make you more proficient in executing your ability to quickly shift attention from one task to another. It will improve your cognitive ability to rapidly adapt to different situations.
  • Memory Wall
    • Train your working memory and spatial recall skills. The aim is to make you more proficient in encoding and recalling your temporarily stored memories, also called short-term memories.
  • Hide & Seek
    • Train your spatial orientation skills, more precisely your auditory spatial cognition. The aim is to make you more proficient in the execution of your abilities to localize the source of a sound in your immediate environment.
  • Pizza Builder
    • Train your divided attention and planning skills. The goal is to assemble and cook pizzas as they are continually ordered according to a specific set of ingredients.
  • Balance
    • Train your motor control skills and divided attention. The goal is to catch and stabilize an increasing number and combination of colored balls that land on top of plates that rest on each of your hands.

Eventually, Virtuleap would like to expand its mind exercises to include well-known neuropsychological exercises such as the Stroop Color and Word Test where your brain needs to adjust to conflict. For example, you’ll see the word “Green” but the font color is in the color red. Bringing this into VR gives it depth and turns it into a more robust gamified experience. 

It all sounds very scientific, but that’s only because it is! You can look at how Virtuleap designed some of the early titles in a very scientific white paper released back in January, which I recommend because, you know, science is important.

Amir Bozorgzadeh, CEO and Founder of Virtuleap, talked with VRScout about the future of how experiences like this will improve brain function, saying, “Within the next decade, we think that VR and AR brain training will become normalized as part of a healthy routine and regime, just like going for a run and eating a healthy diet,” adding, “We believe that our technology will help extend the quality of life of the elderly, help children with learning challenges, and empower employees and the general population to perform at their peak cognitive levels, particularly by better understanding and being able to train their weakest abilities in order to become more wholesome as enabled individuals.”

Of course, people have been exercising their brains for long before the existence of immersive technology; so how does new VR or AR improve on the idea of a mental gym workout?

Bozorgzadeh explains that immersive tech maintains the quality of experience at an infinite scale, and doesn’t limit in terms of what you can creatively accomplish within the virtual environments to make each experience as engaging as possible. Using integrating third-party biometric tools, Enhance VR can link up your smart watch, for example, and make your data work for you in ways that traditional real-world approaches can’t match.

Virtuleap’s Enhance VR is so impressive that the Grandmaster of Memory and four-time Memory Champion, Nelson Dellis is on the executive team as “Chief Memory Officer” and is heavily involved with the vision and content of Enhance VR

“There’s no doubt that technology has an active part to play in helping us live fuller lives, and this is especially true when the solutions are science-driven,” said Dellis in a press release. “As someone who has been a brain training advocate for decades, having even consulted for a few of the major players, I can say that I am blown away by the doors that VR has opened for the industry and the scientific community. I’m really excited to take all of my experience in the memory world and turn them into ideas that will change the way we think about brain health.”

The big question is, by using Enhance VR and working out your brain day, could you eventually train your way to becoming a Jeopardy champion like Ken Jennings or Emma Boettcher? Like any athlete preparing for the big game, you need to train to be competitive. “Working out” your mind in VR can absolutely help your brain better process questions, react faster, and more efficiently seek out stored information from your head.

From Bozorgzadeh’s perspective, VR is forging new paths in what digital format is capable of doing, and not just in real world tasks, but also at the level of our biochemistry and neuropsychology.

“It’s too soon to tell, but I do believe that playing regularly will prove to make us more wholesome as individuals and perhaps also more “enhanced” in certain ways.”

You can download Enhance VR on Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and Viveport headsets here.

Image Credit: Virtuleap

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