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10 apps that will sharpen your mind and memory

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So you go to the gym five times a week and drink Muscle Milk to keep your body tight, but do you ever think to exercise your brain? The brain can be easily forgotten when doing pull-ups and eating kale, but exercising it is arguably more important than staying in shape. When your muscles fail you in the coming decades, your brain will be the only thing left. Lucky for you, there are apps that can help keep those synapses firing just as fast as the first time you learned how to properly do a squat. Here is a list of 10 that won’t take too much time and might actually help you remember where you put the remote. 

Fit Brains Trainer (Freemium)

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We have already done a full review on this gem and the conclusion that it’s not too bad. It offers 10 different game sets to help different areas of the brain such as concentration and memory. It wants you to go through a task from each category every day and keeps track of your progress in a color coded graph, so interpreting the data is like another test. Our guinea pig ended up improving with a week of daily work, so it is very possible it might do what it claims. It couldn’t hurt, either way. 

Lumosity ($15/mo) Image used with permission by copyright holder

Perhaps the most well known of the brain training apps, Lumosity appears regularly on TV commercials, so that must mean something – they have a big marketing budget. Lumosity is widely considered the cream of the crop when it comes to brain training apps. Unlike Fit Brains, Lumosity only asks for three to five days of training a week in various categories. The games are fun with a better variety of challenges, so it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same thing over and over again. We have a feeling that the numbers it shows at the beginning are extra low so you feel like you’re improving, but if it motivates you, why not. 

Brain School (Free)

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This app features a psychedelic Einstein mascot, so there no way this couldn’t work. Brain School isn’t as structured as Lumosity. It allows you to play whatever game and solve whatever puzzle you want, when you want. This open approach is ideal for those who don’t like to be told what to do and simply want to play the brain games of their choosing. Brain School claims it offers more than 100 levels in 20 different games but they are easy to blow through. It also doesn’t show you your progress in a convenient graph, but it is a fun way to pass the time and actually think a little bit for once.  

Sudoku (Free)

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If you haven’t heard of Sudoku, you haven’t been in an airport or a bathroom in the last 10 years. This puzzle became all the rage a few years ago when people realized they sucked at crosswords and wanted something challenging but beatable. Basically, you have a grid with random numbers filling some of the spaces. You have to make it so that all the numbers in each box, row, and column add up to 10. It’s difficult to explain, but there are instructions in the app. Things can get pretty wild. The New York Times did a piece on how it can help with memory and list making skills, so if you’re lacking in those areas download this baby. It comes with three levels of varying difficulty so you can progress through the app and still stay sharp. 

Clockwork Brain (Freemium)

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“Train your brain the steampunk way” is what the motto for this app reads, basically summing up the puzzles perfectly. Most of the games are similar to those in Fit Brains Trainer and Luminosity but they are explained by a little gold robot and everything looks like it came right out of a factory during the Industrial Revolution. So really, the only added thing you’re getting with Clockwork Brain is the unique look and feel of the games. However, it is cheaper than the other two.

Next Page: Five more great brain training apps

New York Times Crossword (Freemium)

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The New York Times Crossword has long been considered the standard by which all crosswords should be held, and deservedly so. But with its brilliant structure comes often brutal difficulty, especially in the oversized layout of the Sunday edition (the difficulty ramps up throughout the week with the Monday edition being the easiest). For the uninitiated, crosswords are sort of the anti-Sudoku. Instead of dealing with numbers, you try to figure out words from cryptic clues. This puzzle will lift you up and then break you down all within a matter of seconds as you constantly count out letters over and over hoping the word you want will magically fit. It isn’t easy but it can be fun if you are someone who likes words and has a basic knowledge of history and pop culture. This app provides the daily crossword that is found in the paper but there is the possibility of buying more if one a day isn’t enough. 

Braingle (Free)

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Instead of reaction and memory tests, Braingle offers riddles and optical-illusions to keep the reasoning parts of the brain sharp. This is a fun app to share with other people and see if your friends and family can figure out the riddles as fast as you did. It has a pretty basic look with one menu that leads to different options to tease different parts of the brain. 

Not the Hole Story (Free)

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This app offers exclusively riddles, but hard riddles. It has a super simple interface, you just click on a book with a hole in it and read the riddle. Then, after you are inevitably stumped, you’re given two hints before it finally reveals the answer after you’ve given up completely. Not the Hole Story not only stretches your brain by making you think in different ways, it also provides you with an awesome and annoying party game. Try to stump everyone around you then mock them when they can’t figure it out. If that doesn’t say life of the party, I don’t know what does.  

Duo Lingo (Free)

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Duo Lingo provides a fast and easy way to learn a new language or practice one you haven’t visited in awhile. The app features writing and speaking challenges and demands the user keep a tight schedule so the lessons stay fresh. Each lesson goes pretty quickly and at the end, the app highlights you weakest areas so you can redo those sections or practice outside of the app. Although it’s free, it is surprisingly useful and would be a great tool for anyone heading abroad for a short period. The only languages supported are Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and English, so if you’re looking for other languages you might have to wait for a couple updates to go through.

IQ Test (Free)

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Once you have spent months and months working out that brain muscle, it is important to see if it is working. Take this Best IQ test and see if you go up any points. Though there are other ways to see benefits of these apps, such as improved memory or concentration, this is an accomplishment you can use to compare yourself to those around you, which is one of the best reasons to do these exercises anyway.

That’s it for today. If we missed some brain apps in this roundup, let us know. Maybe we should start using one of these apps more regularly.

Emily Schiola
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Emily Schiola is an editorial assistant at Digital Trends where she covers mostly social media and how-to pieces. In her…
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