Bernadette Tynan, best-selling author, TV personality and expert in the field of mind, brain and learning, reveals how playing echochrome can help keep your mind fit and active – whatever your age!
Can echochrome - the PSP and PlayStation 3 puzzle game where players manipulate 3D mazes – help develop your brain power? Yes it can – that's according to Bernadette Tynan, international best-selling author, president of the UK registered children's charity Beautiful Minds and a regular guest on worldwide TV programmes about the brain and learning. Educated at the universities of London, Cambridge and Harvard, and with over 20 years of study across the fields of neuroscience, psychology, brain development and education, Bernadette is interested in computer games that stimulate problem-solving skills and higher level thinking. Having played echochrome for a couple of weeks, read her thoughts on how she believes echochrome can keep your mind fit and active.
Is it actually possible to develop your brainpower as you get older?
Yes. In the last 20 years, the advent of neuroscience and new research in learning and education has brought an explosion of new knowledge and we know that it's a myth that the brain cannot be trained better as you get older. Neuroscience now tells us that, with a balanced diet for both body and brain, and by challenging the brain to learn new things, the brain is stimulated to grow new cells and neuron connections. Brain and learning is a lifelong journey; we are born with 100 billion brain cells waiting to be developed, so our brain power is both phenomenal and limitless, making the possibilities endless.
How can playing echochrome exercise the brain?
echochrome is particularly good at training the brain in spatial awareness – namely, figuring out what goes where when and how. It also trains the brain in metacognition - that's what the brain does when it is thinking about things from different perspectives. Some people are naturally good at spatial awareness - for example, the best footballers have the ability to see the field fully and, at high speed, to place the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. echochrome encourages you to think critically and analyse a problem from different perspectives first, rather than just jumping in with a solution. It is like toning the thinking muscles of the brain to perform better whilst at the same time honing and encouraging better spatial awareness. These factors combine to make echochrome a great mind game.
Which parts of the brain are used when playing echochrome?
Players will to use both the right and left hemispheres. In simple terms, the left brain thinks about things logically, whilst the right brain is more about using creative ideas to tackle a problem. To succeed in echochrome you need to use both, and this is subtly encouraged by the game's rhythmic, calming music. Music like this encourages left-right brain connectivity and, combined with a focus on cracking the problems presented, encourages the brain to operate in a smart and alert yet relaxed state.
What can be learned in echochrome that is valuable in real life?
The overriding mind lesson learned from echochrome is think before you act and you will be rewarded. If you don't think, you won't get very far! In this way, echochrome trains the brain how to think and decide strategies that will bring success.
How would you compare echochrome to brain puzzles such as Sudoku and crosswords?
Sudoku is problem-solving that focuses on numerical problems; crosswords exercise the brain's lexicon of words, meaning and application. echochrome is pure problem-solving in 3D; it is about honing your ability to think, pure and simple. It's not dependent upon a person having any prior knowledge of any given subject area such as maths or English. For this reason, echochrome provides a very unique experience that gently tones the brain and rewards excellence in thinking.
How might playing echochrome differ from other forms of entertainment such as film or TV?
Videogames like echochrome interact with the brain in a very different way than TV or films. For example, take an adventure movie; your brain is being invited along on a series of adventures that are entertaining, but you don't really have any input or opportunity to put your ideas forward. In echochrome, your brain is engaged on many different levels: not only can you see and hear things but you're being invited to think about what lies before you in different ways and to make decisions that reward your thinking and strategy. The payback is immediate; the focus intense. When the brain is engaged in an interactive series of dilemmas like this, it is a great mind workout and afterwards you will feel mentally refreshed.
What makes echochrome so enjoyable?
echochrome focuses the mind to think, learn and succeed so that, whatever level you are at, you can feel good about yourself because you got there by keeping your focus and experimenting with different moves to bring you ultimate success. echochrome takes you into a world that you can shape and create using your own ideas, problem-solving skills and creativity.
Are there any particular people who would be good at echochrome?
People with a strong spatial ability such as architects, footballers and engineers will be attracted to echochrome because of its spatial factors. Having said that, I feel there could also be great benefits for people who are not particularly strong in literacy or numeracy but who have excellent problem solving skills. In such instances it could really demonstrate their strong thinking and problem-solving abilities to them. For example, if a child or adult has found that Sudoku or crosswords aren't their thing, they may find that echochrome is the game for them because it doesn't require any previous knowledge - it is pure problem-solving in action.
If somebody becomes a master of echochrome, how might other areas of their life improve?
Because echochrome doesn't require any previous knowledge to enjoy and is all about using your head wisely, it will give many people confidence in their problem-solving and strategic ability. The message of the game is a positive one for the brain: no matter how difficult or different a problem may look, you can overcome it and succeed when you use your head. This is a great brain lesson for young people as well as adults, and can be enjoyed by everyone, wherever they are in the world.
What is your favourite part of the game?
From the moment I started playing echochrome I was impressed with its ingenuity. I particularly enjoy the paradox of apparent simplicity in appearance versus the complexity of challenging perspectives that stimulate the brain to think both rationally and creatively to negotiate spatial relationships. It is captivating whilst also giving your brain a great workout - I haven't witnessed anything quite like this in the computer games market to date. It is very impressive. Plus, I love the music!
How good are you at echochrome?
I still need to work on my moves! But on a scale of one to 10 where 10 is the highest, I would give myself an eight! But then, I do love problem-solving and giving my brain a workout so this is really my kind of computer game.