Brain training: Has anyone tried using ‘brain game... - Headway

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Brain training

Hetty56
Hetty56

Has anyone tried using ‘brain game’ apps, sudoko etc to help brain recovery? I’d be interested to hear if anyone found them useful. I know there’s evidence to show it may help with the onset of dementia but not sure of the evidence relating to brain injury. It certainly won’t do any harm and it may we’ll be beneficial

31 Replies
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Hi Hetty, I've done a whole raft of 'brain training'. I started down the game app road and did'nt really get anywhere other than learn the game or app. Sudoku is a logic game and is best done on paper because screens cause fatigue. Patience with cards is good also to get the thinking going but again goes no further than learning patience. Chess is brilliant but really hard work to begin with and Yatzee is good especially if you also keep score.

The mecca of brain training is mindfulness mixed with what is know as activities that are the scaffolding of the mind. These are things like balancing exercises such as 'tightrope' walking along raise surfaces. Then there are drawing exercises where you start off by doing 2D dot and line doodles which soon develop into 3D drawings and further into intricate pictures. It's not about the final picture but more about placing attention on what is being done and the level of concentration that builds while doing it. The mindfulness bit works by visualising the process before and after the exercise and to be mindful of all the actions taken in doing these activities. It can increase the effectiveness by 30%. The drawing exercises are based on the work of the psychologist Dr Donnalee Markus and has been proven to work over and over.

Think how a child develops when it is learning how to live and learn, basically the skills they learn go through changes but begins with balancing to walk, painting and drawing etc. It's the same thing and it redevelops the cognitive and other functions. The brain is messy after a brain injury and the mindfulness deals with the psychological issues also.

These exercises should be done in 8 week blocks (think of a term in school 6-8 weeks with half term included). It takes this time to hardwire the changes. This process takes time and commitment, it need to be done strictly otherwise it wont work. Only do one or two exercises at a time per block.

Another really important factor is sensory overload, if there are visual problems or hearing problems these need to be sorted first or while doing the exercises. If the visual processing is not stable then the learning is really hard because the visual messages going into the brain is unstable and the cognitive processes are disrupted. Quality of input maximises the output.

There are periods during the 8 week blocks where you seem to go through difficult periods, this is important and needs to be worked through, it's the integration process where the new skills begin to join with other skills and you become functional on a wider basis afterwards.

Hope that helps

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to pinkvision

Thank you for responding. What you've told me is absolutely fascinating. Will I find out more about the exercises by looking at Dr Markus work?

pinkvision
pinkvision
in reply to Hetty56

All of this information is out there but no one seems to have brought it together yet. Dr Markus is associated with Dr Zelinski from the mind-eye institute in Chicago US. They work in tandem, Dr 'Z', as her clients call her, deals with the sensory overload via vision and Dr Markus puts their cognitive functions back together. The mindfulness is part of other strategies to deal with psychological issues with BI and has been found to enhance cognitive redevelopment in BI patients. Use it all together, it works, I've done it, My GP and psychologist are astonished and can't believe it. I will hopefully be off to the Mindfulness research centre in Bangor Uni soon to bring this all together and build on it.

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to pinkvision

I use mindfulness myself and to see it being used with other strategies is really interesting. I'll follow this up - thank you - it's good to see strategies in use and apparently showing results

pinkvision
pinkvision
in reply to Hetty56

You'd better look at rebuilding automatic functions too, at least 70% of normal people's activities performed during the day are automatic and need no concentration at all. BI people lose their automatic functions, ie can't remember the steps it takes to make a cup of tea, to wash and keep clean etc. These can also be retrained with methods.

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to pinkvision

Thank you

magdolna
magdolna
in reply to Hetty56

Yes I did for a while. Decided not for me. i think neuroplasticity is the way to go. Seem to work for me.

tennijul
tennijul
in reply to pinkvision

Automatic function is stored in the automatic memory. It usually remains there unless there is specific damage. Well known examples are continuing to know how to swim once you have initially learned, off course riding a bike to but even more complex memories like knowing how to drive. They are not there when you are born. They are developed literally from memory. They got there by practice and repetition in the first place. If you loose them they can return by similar methods. But what is, good to remember is you learned them and put them in your memory so you did not have to think about doing them but in the beginning even the first time round they initially required active thought to initiate active steps. They just need replacing into the automatic memory. They are an automatic memory of how to function without engaging active thought, rather than an automatic function per set and memories can be re introduced

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to tennijul

That makes absolute sense and something that should be obvious but isn’t. Thank you

I used brain training apps for a couple of years. I believe they do help, possibly at getting better at the game/app. But on the big scale of life changing brain injuries, there are more important/useful activities.

If possible and by no means easy, conversations, outings, games (not on electronic devices), exercise, healthy foods, friends, doing something meaningful, all more important.

And of course, not overdoing it and getting fatigued.

I’ve now stopped doing the apps.

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to Plenty

Thank you - all things that can be carried on throughout life

sospan
sospan
in reply to Hetty56

I went through the "brain training" regime for a while. Then you notice that, as previously stated you are only getting better results in the game rather than life itself.

It is much better to gain your skills on practical things like cooking a simple meal. My first attempt was a cottage pie which took many, many hours to prepare and cook. Months and months later the quality and time to table was much improved.

Even knocking nails into a piece of wood will improve you hand / eye coordination and vent some frustration !

Something as simple as wordsearch or cross words is as good if not better than brain training and you can start and stop when you get stuck / tired.

Plenty out there just go to decide what is the best for you.

Can't remember the name and it may have been too early but I couldn't do it and it just made me exhausted trying.

I just did things I'd done before and very slowly got better but I made sure I stopped before being exhausted.

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to sealiphone

I think that’s key to recovery but we all think we can power through when that isn’t the right thing to do

I use the Word Calm app sometimes. I think it is, helping with word finding problems and sentence construction. Sometimes it's like the words are in my head but I can't quite get them to the forefront of my mind. I talk round what I actually want to say and I am filled with dispair when I am told at work I need to be more concise. I feel like shouting. Oh how I want to be, I am just really struggling here

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to tennijul

I’ve heard Sam say exactly the same thing - I feel your frustration

tennijul
tennijul
in reply to Hetty56

Thanks for the empathy and understanding. It means a great dea

I'd forgotten but my wife knew a Neuro OT and whilst I was in hospital she mentioned exercise, I recalled a method, which I can't remember I think may have been used in Romania, which involves controlled movements.

So I got it in my head to start swimming ,very slowly with maximum concentration on technique, did it help no idea but it made me feel better and stopped me sitting all day, on the sofa in a daze.

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to sealiphone

Thank you - something different to think about.

My husband sustained TBI 3mths ago, i asked the BI Team about this, and they said its fine but no longer than 10mins at this stage, they stated 20mins should be used when fatigue stable. However, weve not got to stage to use due to fatigue,poor concerntration and poor memory.

I do remember from when Sam was at that stage he was fresh from being cocooned in hospital and was itching to get going. Trouble was every time he did something new it floored him. I wish you and your husband a good recovery

I use Lumosity (that is the correct spelling!)for brain training; it includes a good variety of games the only one I still avoid involves remembering peoples names. Maybe one day I'll that back. My starting level was 370 and is now 1649; the scores are divided into problem solving; maths; attention; flexibility; memory and speed. Seeing how low my score was at the beginning was hard to take; I almost packed it in. But now I quite enjoy the training; given that it took a few years to regain my visual memory of places; perseverance is the key!

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to AliCathy

Sam used that in the early days. He found it rewarding to see his score rise - perhaps an idea to start up again

tennijul
tennijul
in reply to AliCathy

I have given up remembering names. I have resorted to honest apologies stating how I have a problem. Sometimes I just talk to people without addressing them by name. It amazing me how long I can actually keep that up. Just don't change your hair style as I may not recognise you any more. I get really strange looks. I usually say something like Where do I know you from again? People look at me sideways. Some even become annoyed. I can't do anything about it so I just let it go. I am not intending to upset. Sometimes it would be easier if my leg was injured not my brain. People could just see the injury then

I used the Nintendo ds at the beginning of my recovery of traumatic brain injury playing sudoku and other brain games i found this really helpful at the beginning and i would recommend it to anyone trying to get to grips with life after brain injury

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to Astley10

I’ve heard that soduko can be effective - definitely worth a try

Think everyone has covered it! I love lumosity, my husband and I did it long before his TBI. I do it happily every day, but I have to remind him to do it. Afterwards u always ask him which games he'd had, and he usually gets all 3 now, but never did when he first started ft them, so that's s positive.

Thanks to pinkvision I got him into donalee Markus' puzzles. The paper ones were expensive, the joining dots ones, and I carefully rubbed out all his pencil lines with a view to passing them on to someone on here, but unfortunately Headway said I can't due to the need for anonymity. I also bought him the app, with completely different puzzles. I find them hard sometimes,! He gets impatient with these, but I do think they are useful. They are called Designs for Strong Minds, the app cost about £30.

I was a bit concerned to hear that we haven't really done them right though, not in 8 week blocks, don't think he does them often enough.

But I do think brain gym is good for everyone. Good luck.x

Thank you. I was interested in looking more into Dr Markus ideas so I’ll look up the app

Yes I do think all those things are good for brain training , but you can’t do lots concentration at once because it makes your head hurt. So you need lots of breaks and do it on a quiet day for activities.

I have been doing many apps, sudoku, lumosity, word games, jigsaw puzzles, solitaire, mah jongg you name it i do it. I must spend at least 1-2 hours daily on them. They are all so useful.

I also do 2 magazine based puzzle books, one is a 16x16 sudoku and the other is called suguru.

In addition to these i knit and crochet, the patterns need some poring over to get them right now but actual jigsaws, paint by numbers and diamond painting help with the he fine motor skills.

Do try a selection find ones you like but stretch you( the large sudokus are amazing)

Janet x

Hetty56
Hetty56
in reply to Kirk5w7

Thank you Janet x

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