What’s your Peak Brain Score? Is your Peak Brain Map accurate? Are Elevate, Lumosity and Peak brain training scores correct? I asked Peak’s expert!
You know those days when you simply can’t accomplish what you set out to do?
To train my focus, I’ve been using the Peak brain training app (for iOS and Android) consistently, for over a year.
Still, whenever I have one of those unproductive days, I can’t help ask myself the world’s shortest question: “WHY?”
Was it yesterday’s workout? Too much food? Too little? The wrong kind of food? Did I get enough quality sleep? Did I drink coffee yesterday? Lots of factors to consider.
Such questions are very hard to answer with any degree of verifiable certainty though. There are so many data-points/variables involved, that’s it’s impossible to keep track of. And even if one did go all in, tracking every little cup of coffee, what one eats, when one sleeps, how much one has worked (and what kind of activity): the interplay between all those activities explode into an almost infinite palette of possible cause and effect scenarios.
I still love tracking myself, though. Provided it happens automatically, on auto-pilot; requiring no manual input by me.
One app I’m using, is RescueTime. It tracks what I’m doing on my MacBook Pro, 24/7. By categorizing the activities, I get a good overview of my current procrastination vs productivity level. I personally find self-tracking enlightening and useful.
Instead of meditating traditionally, I’ve used an EmWave biofeedback device by HeartMath regularly for years now. I love how technology can improve our lives in meaningful ways. The EmWave measures HRV (heart rate variability) – and helps me find a state where my breathing pattern is soft, and my mind in a state of flow. Difficult to describe. It’s the same feeling I’ve felt everytime I’ve experienced synchronicities in my life. An “openness of the heart” is how I can best describe it.
Lately, I’ve been eyeballing (read: drooling over) the Basis Peak “smart watch” made by Intel (I believe they know what they’re doing). In fact, I decided to order it from Amazon today! Woohoo! Anyway (getting my hands down…) the Basis Peak wrist watch can measure your heart rate, sweat levels, skin temperature, calories burned, sleep cycles, and it can even automatically track walks, runs and cycling/bike rides. How cool’s that?
Update December 10, 2017: when Intel withdrew the Basis Peak from the market, and asked all customers to return it for a full refund, I instead purchased the Fitbit Blaze, which isn’t as advanced as the Basis Peak, but nevertheless: I’m very happy with it!
Incidentally, I also play a brain game called Peak on my iPhone on a daily basis. Like Peak’s more well-known competitors Lumosity Elevate, and CogMed, Peak is based on the idea of neuroplasticity. In layman terms, your brain is a giant moldable, elastic, ever-changing mass, always growing new neurons and pathways. To adapt to your life, environment and tasks. What does that mean? It means I’m not as dumb as I once were! Haha. Kidding aside: I (and you too!) can train your brain to become better at f.e. problem-solving or speaking more fluently.
There’s some controversy going on in neuro science circles, though. Some argue that by playing f.e. Lumosity, Elevate, and Peak brain training games, you’ll just get better at playing those exact games. The improvements aren’t carried over to other games or tasks, where your brain training should have made you more adept at doing them, as a result of your brain game training.
Other scientists, and it has to be said, that it’s often those who are closely associated with brain training games (like Elevate, Lumosity, CogMed and Peak) counter with the stance that training key cognitive skills like problem-solving and working memory does indeed work – i.e. it does carry over its benefits to other, similar tasks that are part of daily life and work.
Does Peak brain training work? Can you trust your Peak brain map and Peak brain score? I’m not sure yet, and neither are the brain-scientists! But I’m giving it a fair chance. My own “sense” is that it is working. But: can I trust myself to fairly judge how I’m doing? Hey, nice segway, ’cause that’s exactly what the rest of this article is about! 😀
You see, a few days ago, I got this (self-professed) “amazing” idea:
Since I do my Peak brain training every day, and at different times of day – it should (apart from calculating my Peak Brain Score) also be able to, over time, track how good I am at problem-solving tasks on f.e. Tuesday evenings… right?
That way, I could soon be finding patterns, and schedule problem-solving oriented work for those days where I’m statistically best at doing so (aka: scoring highest in Peak). Right?
Proactive, and proud of my “genius” thinking, I decided to shoot an email to the Peak developers, right away!
But was it really such a genius idea? Is it doable? Feasible?
Below, I’ve reproduced the ensuing conversation. I asked and got permission to do so, with a quick disclaimer:
“Feel free to quote me but do note that I didn’t necessarily discuss these matters with the games development team, so it’s always possible that they see it differently or that a different direction will be taken in the future.”
When you read the following, notice THE AMAZING SUPPORT EXPERIENCE provided by Maya, the supporter who replied to my email. In-depth, and super interesting angles on my idea. In a way, I got owned – pwnd. I like that though – it’s always great to have my ideas challenged by people who know more about a subject than I do.
Hi Peak’ers 🙂
In addition to my Peak brain score, a metric I’d LOVE to see in Peak, is time of day (and perhaps also day of the week) I’m usually at my brightest. If you’re über-cool, you can also show me this data, split up into categories: When is Oliver best at problem-solving? Friday mornings? Aha, then I know I should schedule tackling business challenges for Friday mornings, for example!
Would be so useful for planning my work days, if I could, as an example, clearly see that I’m no good at words (language) in the evenings, so I should ideally never attempt to write blog posts in the evening.
Maya from Peak responded back very quickly – and thoroughly. Lovely! Here’s her reply:
Thanks for your suggestion! I will pass it on to development.
I think it would be difficult to do for a number of reasons though. Changing time zones is one that pops into my head, but the main issue I see is that there are dozens of other factors that impact your performance way more than time of day. Are you tired? Feeling sick? Lots of adrenaline? Hungry? Happy? All of these things will probably be of much greater importance than the time of day.
The results might also be skewed because to know when you perform best, we would need data for every single moment of the day – but you won’t play every single moment. So it would be very difficult to say anything sensible about it, I think.
Thanks for your interest in Peak and have a good day!
Maya @ Peak
And what I wrote back to Maya:
Thank you for an interesting take on this. I can definitely see what you mean.
Then, I’d love to see you tracking those parameters, asking me (when I launch the app to play) how I’m feeling, whether I feel tired or well-rested, hungry, full, or in between 🙂
I know it probably goes beyond the scope of Peak, but on the other hand, Peak is quite complete, stat-wise, compared to many other brain games, and that’s what I like about Peak. And to measure the stats I’m referring to, brain games are needed, to measure cognitive performance. An app that asks me for the above (mood, hunger, sleep) + additional questions like “do you feel good at problem-solving right now” obviously wouldn’t work well, as the answer to such a question would be subjective and hard to measure. Furthermore, the gamification aspect would be missing, leading to less involvement/engagement with the app, leading to fewer data points, etc.
Again, shortly after, another brilliant, in-depth reply from Maya:
Sure, I have thoughts on that 🙂
I acknowledge that it would be great if we would be able to measure all of those things and feed the information back to you. However, the problem you mention of ‘do you feel good at problem solving-questions’ being subjective, also goes for any other data we ask of you. You might be able to tell us if you’re hungry or not, but then again our brain often mistakes thirst for hunger. Some people are always hungry also when they’re full. So it would tell us more about your subjective experience than your factual state, if that makes sense. We can’t check if you recently ate, and what. Likewise, if you’re feeling tired, you might have slept too little or you might have eaten too much sugar and be on a low. (We could ask you these sub-questions rather than just ‘are you tired’, but there will always be too many factors to control for).
My fear is that if we would start asking these sorts of things, we’d descend into a sort of pseudo-scientific field where we don’t want to be. Right now Peak is solidly science-based – we want to keep it that way, ergo we want to work with actual measurables rather than suppositions. We want to be accurate, and I think in a scheme like this we couldn’t be.
My last qualm is that even though you would be really excited, most of our users would start hating us 🙂 some object even to having to give their email address, so any other data we ask would be too much.
You’ll be interested to know though that we do work together with universities to test Peak in scientifically measurable ways in specific contexts.
So there’s definitely movement in the crossover field between science and games, I just don’t think we could realise the same results just yet with only users telling us how they feel 🙂
I hope that helps!
Maya @ Peak
Isn’t that an impressive case of amazing customer support? I think so.
I love that Maya didn’t just leave her reply to me at “Thanks for your suggestion! I will pass it on to development.” – she went on and explained the challenges involved in implementing my idea.
So yeah… I still can’t get/find the answers to those questions I posed at the beginning of this blog post. One thing is sure though: Self-tracking (quantified self) is the future. If you sometimes procrastinate, and wonder where your time went, and haven’t yet at least tried RescueTime – you really owe it to yourself. I’ve used RescueTime for several years now.
Another example: medical companies are doing lots of research in being able to measure which patients will respond to a particular drug, with fewest side-effects, making it a matter of a simple blood-test to gauge whether this particular treatment/drug will work for you. And that’s just one example. We need to understand ourselves better, and objectively, if we are to evolve into the best beings we can be, each one of us. We’re all unique, individuals, and that’s the great challenge here. It’s also the biggest opportunity.
But what about you… do YOU track and improve your yourself? Doing Peak brain training? Prefer playing Elevate? Lumosity? What’s your Peak brain score?