I find myself in cheery mood today. Maybe it has something to do with English sporting success over the last few days, beating Scotland 38-18 in the six Nations’ Rugby on Saturday or the England football team’s success, 2-1, against Brazil! I am not sure. It might also be affected by the fact that I have substantially finished my novel – 500 pages, 200,000 words (but a few small revisions that I already know I have to do…more about that another time.)
So, driving back from dropping Fatima at work it occurred to me to see if there was anything in the idea that one’s mood affects one’s ability to do things. I have always thought so and it has always FELT like it, but I have never had a clearly measurable way of proving it before. I have now.
You may or may not have heard of “Lumosity” but it is an internet oriented way of playing games which (it is claimed!?) helps to train the plasticity of newly growing brain cells to help offset the dying-off of brain cells which afflicts everyone, particularly as you get older. I have always liked playing games anyway…and these are supposed to do you good as you “train” your brain, so that seems like a good excuse to play! So, I have been a member of the Lumosity ‘community’… according to the publicity that includes about 20 million people around the world, who knows – it may even be true?… for about six weeks now.
Once you have played some of the games, it enables the system to calculate your BPI – Brain Profile Index, which is measured by comparing your performance with that of other members of the community and updating it after every game you play (amazing things these computers!) Your overall index is measured by putting together the measures of five components, each of which has its own BPI figure – these are Memory, Flexibility, Problem Solving, Speed, and Attention. Each component is measured using specifically arranged games which test these factors. All very scientific.
Once this Index figure is calculated for each component and the overall Brain Profile Index (BPI) worked out, the score then tells you where you are in the ranking system – so you may be in the 60th ‘Percentile’, for example, which means that out of every 100 people in your age group 59 are less good than you at the game and 40 people are better than you. The Lumosity promotion gave you three ‘free days’ of games to start with and then you had to pay to join and after that you can do as many as you want.
Well, the Memory games in the first three days seemed quite straightforward and so I scored well in those, but less well in the other areas, so I was around the 40th percentile for a couple of the games; around the 60th percentile for a couple of the others and nearly 90th percentile for Memory! This gave me an overall position somewhere around the 65th percentile for people of my age group (65-69) – so 64 people not quite so good, 35 people better!
Of course the low figures were a challenge and the Memory figure was very rewarding but Fatima didn’t believe THAT one and said they were just “Telling you what you want to hear – to get you to pay up and join!” – she can be a bit outspoken like that, my lovely wife! “Huh – Lumosity!” she would say, rolling her eyes. Anyway, if it was a deliberate strategy, it worked but I do enjoy playing games anyway and it was not particularly expensive to join – so I paid up. And I have been playing (training!?) ever since and enjoying the games, so I have no complaints on that score.
As I hoped and anticipated, once I got the hang of the games I got better quite quickly (apart from the Memory games where my scores dropped a bit – perhaps Fatima was right…?) and after a couple of weeks I was up in the 60-65th percentiles for four areas and Memory was still up in the 80s somewhere, so not too bad. I tried to target the weakest area first and then after that one improved I would have a go at what then became the weakest area after that one moved up and so on.
Then I really got the hang of the games one week and there was a sharp rise all around, including Memory I am pleased to say, so several games in the 70s and Memory close to 90 again – so only 10 out of every hundred better than me…!! Then I would do something like forgetting where I had put the car keys, or perhaps left a light on at the other end of the house and Fatima would roll her eyes and say “Huh, Lumosity!!” It is amazing how much doubtfulness Fatima can invest in one word when she tries!!
Then, over the last couple of weeks the scores have been creeping up (with one or two setbacks on days where I might have been rather tired at the end of the day when I was doing the games) – and this is where I get back to the opening sentence of this journal post and the second paragraph – I felt cheery …and wanted to measure if it had an effect.
So my plan was to get back and do my ‘Lumosity Training’ and see how the scores went. Well, I am very pleased to report that it seems to be true that you can perform better when you feel better (I am sure the sports psychologists knew that anyway!) Apart from an odd score that slipped a bit – and I would have another go at that game to correct the slippage – my game scores went consistently upwards and by the time I had finished, I achieved my goal of getting my overall Brain Profile index up to the 99th percentile, Memory was confirmed at the 99.4th percentile – so only six people out of every 1000 in my age group appear to have a better memory score and the other individual components were all at the 98th percentile.
Then I went to pick Fatima up from school and we had to go into town to collect some papers and then do some shopping because it is carnival week next week and we would prefer not to be shopping then. When we got home Fatima said “what did you do with those papers we collected?”
“You had them” I said and “…I think you put them in the glove box in the car?”
“No!” she said, “I gave them to you!”
“Are they in that envelope on the floor…?”
“No!” she said, “I gave them to you!”
…….. “Oh yes…..” I said, “…so you did….errm…I put them in the back pocket of my bag!”
And, of course, that is where they were! I remembered!
“Huh…..Lumosity…!” Fatima said, rolling her eyes!