When you’re a startup and you can raise any kind of money you have to consider it a success. If you’re Monclarity then your success is a bit better than most, especially considering the amount raised. The aforementioned startup racked up a solid $5 million in seed funding from Access Industries and used some of that to create brain-training app Brainwell, which is available on iOS, Android, Kindle and the web.
Here’s the thing, though. Those brain-training games, like Lumosity, have been proven to imrpove specific skills and not intelligence or mental capabilities. So why even bother? Glad you asked! Monclarity’s founding team have some pretty solid credentials. The startup’s chief scientific officer, Elkhonon Goldberg, is a neuropsychologist and cognitive neuroscientist who’s also a neurology professor NYU’s School of Medicine and director of the Luria Neuroscience Institute.
“I think we are at a very interesting time,” said Goldberg. “It’s the pained birth of a new genre — when physical fitness was first appearing on the scene and kind of entering public consciousness, there were similar controversies raging.”
So, Goldberg isn’t exactly saying you should give all the brain-training games a shot, but does insist that there’s a scientific basis for for believing that these games can actually work and improve cognitive function. The science behind any one of these games can be sound, but without a proper design it won’t grab hold of the users.
“We take established paradigms which have vetted through neuroscience and neuropsychological research and adapt them,” he said. “These paradigms, the way they are implemented in neuropsychological test design, are basically boring things. It’s a pill which is useful, but it’s a bitter pill. The challenge is to sweeten the pill.”
It’s like anything, really. You can’t get a kid to eat vegetables unless you come up with a fun way to do it. You won’t get most kids to learn something they’re not interested in unless you find an engaging way to do it. That’s the challenge that Goldberg and his team face with their Brainwell app. When it launches it’ll include 50 games with focuses on six cognitive domains: memory, attention, critical thinking, language, visual and problem solving.
Upon opening the app for the first time you’ll be able to select which areas you want to improve and will then take “a cognitive fitness test” to see where you stand. The app then recommends certain games to increase bolster your cognitive fitness. For a week the app will be free and you’ll be offered three free games per day after that seven-day period. But to access the full catalog of games you’ll need to pay a $9.99 monthly subscription.