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CogniFit Personal Coach: Personalized Brain Training that Works

CogniFit LogoBrain training games have gained popularity in the past few years, but few actually improve a user’s cognitive abilities and fewer still offer a personalized and structured program that adapts to a user as they progress.

CogniFit Personal Coach is different. The software identifies your strengths and weaknesses in 14 cognitive abilities like Visual Perception and Time Estimation, then builds an intensive 24-session program designed to improve areas you are weak in, while maintaining your skill in stronger ones.

Game Forward had the opportunity to evaluate the Personal Coach software and ask questions of its creator and founder of CogniFit, Dr. Shlomo Breznitz; a world-renowned psychologist and author. Read More…

When accessing the CogniFit Personal Coach software for the first time, it asked me a few questions about my lifestyle and what I wanted to get out of the program. After a brief introduction movie, I began a 15 minute baseline assessment consisting of nine tasks that tested my cognitive abilities in 14 areas.

I was then asked to come back in two days time to complete the baseline assessment. Regular training sessions are also scheduled by the software to take place every two days. “Research has shown that the best results occur with some “resting” time in between sessions so the brain can organize the learning. For this reason, the Personal Coach recommends that users schedule some time in between sessions.” explained Dr. Shlomo Breznitz in an e-mail interview with Game Forward.

Supermind is a Challenging and Rewarding TaskA cycle of Personal Coach training is 24 sessions long and the intention is to strengthen your ability in the areas the baseline assessment recognises as weak while maintaining or improving abilities you are already good at. A cycle will take at least seven weeks to complete if you are following the recommended schedule, though you can skip ahead if you wish. You can also revisit any task you have completed to practice outside of regular training sessions by accessing the Task Pool.

CogniFit Personal Coach is not a game; it requires a serious commitment on the user’s part to be effective. That is not to say using the software is not fun, however. The 20+ tasks that make up Personal Coach all have a very game-like nature and appeal that make using the program both entertaining and stimulating.

“If you buy a gym membership, but never go to work out, you won’t improve your fitness level. The same idea applies to CogniFit software. It is just as important that people use the program consistently as it is that the software itself is effective. Since CogniFit Personal Coach is visually appealing and provides a variety of game-like tasks, people are more likely to stay engaged and use the program.“

There are a wide variety of tasks to work out with, each designed to target a specific area of cognitive ability. When starting a training session, you will be presented with a group of three tasks. Those that target weak areas are highlighted, while those that work stronger areas are not.

Tasks like Memory Drills aim to improve short-term memory by asking you to remember and then input a number sequence. Mouse Challenge will change the way your on-screen cursor behaves as you try to click on objects in a specified order. Supermind is a code breaking task that tests planning ability and Keeping Track requires precision and hand-eye coordination to track a disc as it moves through a maze.

Many tasks require the precision of a mouse, so using CogniFit Personal Coach with the touchpad of a notebook computer is not recommended.  Though the software could likely find an audience on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform or the Nintendo Wii, porting it could affect the integrity of the software.

“Taking the program to a new device or console introduces new challenges, but we are constantly on the lookout for new technologies that will make CogniFit more accessible and effective.”

As an avid gamer, I find myself actively trying to improve on my previous performance in tasks when using Personal Coach. The software does an excellent job of tracking your statistics as you go and unlike other brain fitness programs or brain training games, Personal Coach actually scales the difficulty of each task in real time based on your performance.

“The program evaluates and assesses users’ progress and adapts while they work out to ensure that each session is never too hard or too easy for the individual user’s ability level. This not only makes certain that the user is training at the highest level possible, but also keeps them from getting frustrated and quitting when they are struggling with a task.” said Dr. Breznitz of this unique feature.

CogniFit Personal Coach is a browser-based program that requires a connection to the Internet. Though the tasks would remain effective at a default level, the capacity to tailor content to a user’s cognitive abilities and skill level is really what separates Personal Coach from other brain fitness and brain training applications. “With broadband connections increasingly available, it made sense to offer the program online, so CogniFit can adjust the training and to help us to easily add new exercises.”

I was immediately impressed with the audiovisual presentation that includes fully-voiced and subtitled instructions and narration, as well as a clean, polished look that does not suffer when viewed on an HD display. The software gives the air of an animated high school textbook and often uses a combination of photography and crisp hand-drawn imagery.

Some Tasks Require Multiple SkillsI do have some minor issues when using CogniFit Personal Coach, but these do little to detract from the overwhelmingly positive experience I’ve had thus far. The main issue I have has to do with wording in some tasks. I’ve made a number of frustrating mistakes like looking for “canoe” in a word search when the software wanted me to find the more generic “boat”. There are also other cases of objects being referred to in unfamiliar ways to me, likely because the development team is based in Israel and speaks a slightly different flavour of English than a native North American.

I simply forgot to do my scheduled training sessions a number of times during my evaluation of CogniFit Personal Coach. I found it important that the software did not punish me or detract from my overall results because I missed a scheduled session. I also appreciated that the software reacted to my absence in a positive way by welcoming me back, rather than berating me like popular brain training or physical fitness games tend to. I would like to see an option to have text or e-mail reminders sent to users in future updates.

Using CogniFit Personal Coach has completely changed the way I look at brain training or brain fitness software and it will be tough for me to ever go back to a generalized mass-market product like Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, Brain Voyage or My Word Coach. The high level of personalization, coupled with the software’s capability to adjust its difficulty on-the-fly create a very stimulating and rewarding experience that is unmatched by any other software I have tried.

When using the software, I can literally feel my mind “fire up” and I experience a genuine sensation of refreshment both during and after my 15-20 minute training sessions, which I generally do when I hit my afternoon wall around 2:00 PM. Tracking my own progress and seeing the improvement of my day-to-day cognitive abilities over time has proven thoroughly gratifying and is frankly not something I ever expected any software to provide.

Game Forward would like to express our thanks to Dr. Shlomo Breznitz and his PR team at CogniFit for providing us with the opportunity to evaluate CogniFit Personal Coach and for answering our questions. The software is available on a subscription basis for as little as $14.95 per month when purchasing an annual subscription. A free demo and a free seven day trial of the full program are both available from the CogniFit website.