Thinkie headband review – Yoga for your brain

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REVIEW – My grandmother used to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! every day because she thought it might keep her brain sharp as she aged.  Maybe it did — she lived to be 104 and she stayed relatively sharp enough to enjoy her life for most of that time.  For a while, she even started speaking Swedish, which is something she only did as a child and took the family by surprise.  Grandma might have been on to something with game shows because research shows that if you can boost brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, you can significantly improve your brain function well into old age.  I gave it a try and found it a fun way to stimulate my brain.

What is it?

A headband with a sensor and a tablet with special brain-boosting games designed to improve mental speed, memory, concentration, attention, and prediction. The device provides feedback about brain activity in real time.

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What’s included?

  • The tablet and power supply
  • A machine washable headband
  • The sensor and power supply
  • Directions and literature about how the Thinkie system works.

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Design and features

The Thinkie system consists of a headband and a tablet pre-loaded with games and tests that will give you real time feedback about how hard your brain is working as well as an evaluation that will give you a “brain age.”  You can use the Thinkie with the specially designed games and exercises or use it with your own activities.  Either way you will see how hard your brain is working right away.

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Assembly, Installation, Setup

Until recently, the Thinkie system has been marketed toward senior communities who want to offer it as an activity to residents, but in a few months, they will be letting regular folks buy their own.  For that reason, my own experience isn’t exactly what the typical person who was using the system would be asked to do.  In my case, however, I had to scan a QR code so that I could set up my account on the tablet.  Then, I had to figure out how the sensor snapped into the headband.  It wasn’t obvious, but the instructions showed that the snaps fit into some fairly inconspicuous rectangular holes on the sensor.  Once I had the sensor and the tablet ready to go, I started playing some of the games.

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Playing Games

The Thinkie games on the tablet are broken down into categories that you can pick from.  They are mental speed, memory, concentration, attention and prediction.  I chose several games and they are all fairly simple to learn.  Before you start playing, the headband takes a base reading for 15 seconds where you are supposed to relax and count backward.  Your performance on the games gives you “Thinkie points” based on how hard your brain worked, but that measurement is only as good as your base reading, so I tried to really relax and clear my mind when I did my Thinkie base reading.

Some of the games will seem quite familiar if you’ve ever played Simon or a memory matching game.  Others are more unique, for example for one game you are given three symbols and you are supposed to tap them all as fast as you can.  When you get them all, you are given another set of symbols to find.  Most games last a minute or two, so the time commitment isn’t huge, but many games involve time.  I get quite flustered when I’m asked to do things with a timer involved, so I think my performance suffered in the beginning because of that.  However, I had a dialogue with someone who worked at Thinkie and he said that the Thinkie isn’t about “beating” anyone or being the fastest.  It’s about working out your brain, so whether that means you clear the board of symbols 12 times in the time allotted or just three times, it’s not really about that.  It’s about working out your brain.  It’s kind of like yoga.  It’s not the event, it’s the journey.

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This helped me just relax and do the games and not worry so much about whether I was “good” at the game.  However, as a pretty competitive person, I still found it hard to forget about the timer and doing well.  You are supposed to work on going as fast as you can at the games.

After you’ve done a few of the games, you are able to do an evaluation that gives you your “brain age.”  I was still kind of caught up in the timer thing and bumbling my way through the games and so my brain age was about 10 years older than my actual age.  However, I got a spare QR code so my boyfriend could try it.  His brain age was about 10 years less than his actual age.

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Some of the games awarded me a lot of Thinkie points.  Others gave me zero.  Sometimes, I was doing my brain workout at the end of a long day and I was pretty exhausted, so I think that’s why I wasn’t getting many points for some of the activities.  I could have had an inaccurate base reading, or it could also be that the particular game wasn’t much of a workout for me.  My boyfriend got very low points for game involving math or numbers.  He’s an engineer and uses math all the time.  Those games just weren’t very challenging for his brain.

You might be wondering how the Thinkie measures your brain activity.  The sensor on the headband uses fNIRS (Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy) to measure blood flow in your pre-frontal cortex.  That’s the area of the brain associated with planning, decision-making and problem-solving.  Basically, it’s involved in higher level cognitive functions.  More blood moving through that area means your brain is being stimulated and the results are given immediately, which studies show lead to more efficient brain training.

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There is one more fun thing you can do with the Thinkie headband that you can’t do with other “brain trainers” we’ve reviewed. There is a function called the “brain meter” which gives an immediate readout showing how much brain activity is happening at any given time.  You can use this to measure your brain while you do your own games.  Is Wordle giving your brain a workout?  You can find out right away using the Thinkie system.  Is playing sudoku helping your brain improve?  You’d know right away if you had the Thinkie on.

The Thinkie has undergone extensive research to develop the device and its games, and there’s a whole bunch more research that supports its effectiveness in improving brain function. I didn’t explore any of that in my review, but it’s available on their website if you are interested.

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What I like about the Thinkie system

  • Real time feedback about any activity.
  • Relatively fun, short games that can have a noticeable affect on our brain and its performance.

What needs to be improved?

  • To have separate accounts you have to have separate QR codes and those are easy to lose. (But this might not be the case when they release this product to the general market).
  • It asks you to scan you QR code fairly frequently.

Final thoughts

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Overall I really enjoyed the Thinkie games and when I’m not working I plan on devoting a part of each day to exercising my brain.  It was a fun and easy experience that could help me as I age.

Price: retails for $449 and requires a $20/mo subscription to access all features. Contact Thinkie for a demo.
Where to buy:  Interested customers can sign up to be notified when it’s available at Thinkie
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by ThinkieThinkie did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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