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free brain gamesImprove your working memory and fluid intelligence by playing a game. This isn’t some vapid marketing claim; it’s the result of various scientific tests.

Brain Workshop, a free brain game you can install on Linux, Window and Mac machines, creates the exact circumstances of an activity shown in three different academic studies to improve one’s short-term memory and problem solving skills. To quote the game’s website, “these findings are important because fluid intelligence was previously thought to be unchangeable.”

Don’t believe a game can improve your brain? This being a free game, it won’t cost you anything to find out.

What It Does

As I said, this free brain game can improve certain aspects of your mental faculties, as this 2008 article in Wired pointed out. The main improvement this gives your brain is the ability to think on your feet. To quote the article,

Fluid intelligence measures how people adapt to new situations and solve problems they’ve never seen before. Fluid intelligence differs from crystallized intelligence, which takes into account skills and knowledge that have been acquired — like vocabulary, grammar and math.

This is significant. Before the method employed by Brain Workshop was created and tested it was assumed that fluid intelligence could not be improved.

Want to know more about how this process works? You can read the original study, if you want, or the other two separate confirmations. All seem to agree that playing regularly, around 20 minutes a day, is ideal.

How To Use It

So what does this software look like? The best way to get an idea is to watch this video:

As you can tell, the game is not focused on graphics:

free brain games

The point is to increase the function of your memory. In each round, a square shows up in a particular part of the grid, and a letter is read aloud. You must keep track of what letters are read and where the square was when they were read, then find matches later. If you find a match you press one or two keys in order to point out what you’ve found. The default mode, Dual 2-Back, means you must remember what was on the board two rounds ago.

brain games fun

Do well and you’ll hear some nifty music. You are scored after each game, and will move up to harder versions of the game as you improve. The step after Dual 2-Back, for example, is Dual 3-Back. This means you must match squares and letters from three rounds ago. This, to me, is a great deal harder, but I imagine it will seem easy if I ever get to Dual-16 Back.


You can download Brain Workshop here, if you’re interested. It works on Linux, Windows and Intel/PPC Macs. The main interface might be a little foreign to some users, because it’s keyboard driven instead of mouse driven. Having said that, it’s not too hard to figure this out.

free brain games

Similar, albeit not academically researched, ideas include:

Let us know how much smarter you become in the comments below, or please do recommend other free brain games you may know about.

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  1. Abhi Sar
    July 5, 2011 at 7:03 am

    The game didn't run on my XP SP3 system. Tried many versions, installers as well as zip files, but none ran. There is an error message everytime that says, "Refer to log file for details". The log says something like, "Exception: invalid reference 0x000000".

    • jhpot
      July 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      I'm not sure, Abhi. I dug up my old XP machine to test this and it runs fine for me. Why don't you ask the people at MakeUseOf Answers?

  2. Horace Sequeira
    July 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I'll play for 19 days and then i'll share my results here 

    • Ayoub El Asry
      July 31, 2011 at 12:15 am

      So ... Progress ?

  3. James Bruce
    July 3, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Ok, I read through those articles and at least the abstracts of the linked studies and they're quite flawed - both in numbers of participants (24 subjects on one, 10 on the other?!) and scientific method. Both have assumed a control group of "no additional study program", when a correct control group ought to test the validity of this particular new brain training software over other similar software. It's already been proved that games like dr kawashima's brain training on the DS show no significant improvement in mental abilities, so pit this software against that and see what happens. I suspect that both would show similar "improvements" in ability, probably due to a form of placebo effect. Of course, the group told they're going to use some software to make them smarter will do better over the group that just did the test again!

    You can't make idiots smarter. Period. If any of this crap really did work, I think it would fundamentally change humanity in such profound ways. Who wouldnt spend 20 minutes a day for 50% more intelligence (apologies, I mean this in a colloquial sense, not as an overarching term for the multiple intelligence theories that are popular now - "my kid's not stupid! he's just more "socially intelligent")! I suspect that really, this software shows the same improvements in decision making that playing fast paced FPS games does to you. Pfft, why learn math and foreign languages when you we all be playing FPSs and brain training software in school!!! 

    Still, as you say, it's free, so will give it a go and report on how much cleverer I feel tmrw. lol. I don't mean to be scathing here, but I think it's important to remain sceptical at all times, especially when it comes to miracle pills, alternative medicine, religious healing, and... brain training software ;)

  4. WindGhost
    July 3, 2011 at 7:24 am

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