Lumosity is a serious game that intends to provide measurable cognitive benefits through the frequent 'exercise' of the brain in various small games. These games each focus on specific cognitive functions. Users have access to graphs that display their performance over time and how they compare to the rest of the user base. Free users are limited to three activities per day, whereas premium users are trained in all categories each day. Statistical detail is also provided in much greater depth to premium users.

Below is a detailed analysis of this game roughly following Brian Winn's1 Design/Play/Experience framework, including:


  1. Speed
  2. Memory
  3. Attention
  4. Flexibility
  5. Problem Solving

Lumosity’s documentation claims that successful brain training is dependent on a number of factors - Targeting, Adaptivity, Novelty, Engagement, and Completeness

  • Targeting - Lumosity games are individually aimed to improve specific areas of brain function - each game has a focused cognitive target
  • Adaptivity - User performance within Lumosity games is tracked by the software and used to modify the difficulty of brain games continually, in order not to discourage the player with challenges that are either too basic or difficult
  • Novelty - Lumosity aims to make use of original games that force the user’s brain to function in ways they haven’t before - challenges are designed to be unlike other common games
  • Engagement - Lumosity’s games aim to both entertain the user and provide positive feedback if the user performs well. These built-in reward systems are intended to keep the player interested in completing their brain-training
  • Completeness - Lumosity includes games and assessments that intend to train and evaluate many different cognitive functions, in order to provide as wide improvement as possible. Narrowly-focused brain training is compared to using one machine at the gym.



    The aforementioned training areas and principles are integral to the design of the various training games. The following examples cover the full set of training areas and illustrate those principles.

  • ‘Speed Match’, a Speed training game, shows the player colored shapes in sequence (each shape has its own color, making them more distinct) and asks whether the currently visible shape is the same as the one previously shown. The binary yes-or-no answer supports rapid responses, and the Novelty element here is that the shape to compare to is both continually changing and not presently visible.
  • ‘Pinball Recall’, a Memory training game, presents a set of diagonal bumpers in a grid for a brief moment. After the bumpers disappear, a pinball’s starting position is indicated and the player has to determine where it will end up after reflecting off of the bumpers in its path. Novelty comes from the unorthodox method of answering and the more complex information in each cell (ternary rather than binary); the latter is manageable because the set of bumpers that needs to be remembered is relaxed to a modest subset once the player sees the general path of the pinball. Adaptivity is also present here, in that the grid size and number of bumpers both increase with repeated successes.
  • ‘Eagle Eye’, an Attention training game, asks the player to stare at a dot in the center of the viewing area. For a brief moment, a bird silhouette appears somewhere in the viewing area, and a number is displayed in the center for this during this same window. The player must click where they remember the bird being, and also select the correct number when prompted. Adaptivity is well-represented here, as increased difficulty means a larger viewing area, a shorter duration for the appearance of the bird and number, and inclusion of distracting decoy silhouettes. The game rewards the player with pieces of images of birds for each correct response, which is meant to aid Engagement.
  • ‘Color Match’, a Flexibility training game, is conceptually similar to the classic Stroop Test, in which the test subject has to say the color of a shown word while being misled by the fact that the words themselves refer to colors. For ease of answering and some Novelty, a variation is present: the player must instead indicate whether the color of the left word matches the meaning of the right word, which means that they must rapidly switch between visual and verbal processing.
  • ‘Pet Detective’, a Problem Solving training game, displays a map on which various pets, their matching houses, and the player’s vehicle appear. The player must move the pets to the appropriate houses within the vehicle’s fuel limit. The challenge and Novelty arise from the multiple pets, which represent multiple start and end points that must be visited.

User Experience

  • The visual interface is very clean, with a mostly consistent style and layout across the set of games. (The main exceptions to consistency are the older Flash-based games.)
  • Unambiguous audiovisual feedback is provided so that the player immediately knows if their answer was correct or incorrect. For example, in Speed Pack, which tasks the player with placing a camera into a folding suitcase conveniently divided into square tiles, the folding process is animated so the player can see whether the camera fits into the folded suitcase.
  • As a general rule, an individual game will only have one method of control, which helps the player to focus on the game itself. For some games, the mouse is used to select objects. Other games use the arrow keys (left, right, and sometimes down) for selecting an answer. A few games use the keyboard for text entry.
  • The only exception to the one-method rule in the free game set is ‘Familiar Faces’: the mouse is used to drag food and beverages to the appropriate customer or ask for their name, and the keyboard is used to enter the customer’s name. This game, unlike most of the others, does not present any time pressure, therefore the slightly more complicated interface is forgivable.


  • Lumosity is available in-browser and as iOS and Android mobile apps, therefore supporting a particularly wide audience.
  • Lumosity games use either Adobe Flash or HTML5; the older Flash-based games have gradually been rebuilt in HTML5, largely for compatibility with Lumosity Mobile.
  • Most aspects of the web experience transfer well to the mobile version, but some complaints have been raised about the controls, mainly overly small buttons in some games.
  • Overall training statistics such as ‘LPI’ are shared between users’ web and mobile accounts, but individual game high scores and training session records are not.


  • Despite the claims put forth by Lumosity on their website, various neuroscientists dispute the effectiveness of using “brain training” games to improve cognitive function.
  • Lumosity’s website claims that “just 10-15 minutes of Lumosity training per day can lead to improvements in Lumosity over time” - however, this does not necessarily mean that overall cognitive improvement is present (transference is not promised).
  • Ulman Lindenberger of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development reveals that one of the key issues with brain training games is that they only focus on a particular set of tasks - users may improve in performing the tasks in question, but task performance outside the game environment may remain unaffected.


  • Lumosity’s variety of games can be both challenging and entertaining, however there is no scientific evidence that playing these games improve overall mental performance.
  • The games themselves provide engaging graphics and auditory feedback, and practice at each game can lead to improvement within the game over time.
  • However, such improvement within the Lumosity brain training environment is not necessarily applicable to real world tasks.


  1. Winn, Brian. The Design, Play and Experience Framework. In R. Ferdig (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2009, pp. 388-401.
  2. Hardy, Joseph, and Michael Scanlon. "The science behind Lumosity." San Francisco, CA: Lumos Labs (2009).
  3. Knibbs, Kate. "Lumosity's Brain Games Are Bullshit." Gizmodo. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.
  4. Redick, Thomas S., et al. "No evidence of intelligence improvement after working memory training: a randomized, placebo-controlled study." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142.2 (2013): 359.
  5. Smithers, Rebecca. "Brain Training? Think Again, Says Study." The Guardian. The Guardian, 25 Feb. 2009. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.
  6. Underwood, Emily. "Neuroscientists Speak out against Brain Game Hype." Neuroscientists Speak out against Brain Game Hype. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
  7. "Lumosity Mobile." App Store. Apple, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. .