My 10 Favourite Brain Training Apps

24 January 2020
It’s common to hear of people training their bodies to build physical strength, but how many times per week do you train your brain to keep mentally fit? I mean, do you even lift, bro?

While you may think your brain remains pretty steady until retirement age, some studies indicate your brain actually reaches peak processing performance at around 16-25 years, and thereafter cognitive functioning declines. So, what does that mean for my (definitely over 25-year-old) brain?

The good news is your brain has the ability to learn and grow as you age, which is a process called brain plasticity. However, it needs to be trained regularly to benefit. Active leisure activities, including mental activities like puzzles, games and quizzes, have in some studies been linked to a slower rate of cognitive decline in older adults (although the earlier you start, potentially the better).

Brain training has been touted as helping improve memory, cognitive functioning, mental agility and concentration, and said to help keep our brains healthy as we age. Luckily then that just as there’s a fitness app for your 30-day ab challenge, there are many dedicated brain-training apps too.

So, if your mind is more digital than analogue, and newspaper crosswords “don’t compute”, you might like to check out my 10 favourite brain training apps for a cognitive boost.

Elevate is currently Google’s Editor’s Choice for brain training and scores a 4.5 user rating in Google Play and a 4.7 in the App Store. It features over 35 brain games and personalised daily workouts that aim to improve memory, focus, cognitive skills and processing speed, focusing on math, articulation, writing, reading and listening. The difficulty of games changes as you progress.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available and a free 14-day trial of the premium version. (iOS and Android)

One of the world’s most downloaded brain training apps with more than 100 million members – Lumosity offers five-minute workouts based on neuroscience research. These brain games are easy to learn and are said to help improve memory, decision making, problem solving and attention to detail. I found these games to be lots of fun (doesn’t feel like ‘brain work’) and the difficulty is adapted in line with your strengths and weaknesses. The app won’t start until you complete a brain test to create a benchmark to track your progress from.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available and premium subscription options which include a personalised training program. (iOS and Android)

Peak is a highly rated brain training app and has been Editor’s Choice and won ‘App of the Year’ for Google Play and the App Store. It includes a mix of short, intense brain workouts that test focus, memory, problem solving and mental agility. It also includes ‘Coach’ that tracks your progress and shows you what areas you can improve. It’s kind of like a personal trainer but for your brain.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available but that offers a limited number of games without paying for the premium subscription. (iOS and Android)

How many words can you find with these letters?

Posted by Peak on Sunday, 12 November 2017

NeuroNation specialises in brain and memory training, designing and offering a range of scientifically backed online courses that could help improve concentration, memory retention and cognitive speed. It’s only natural they’d develop their own brain-training app. This app analyses your strengths and potentials and creates a personal training plan for you, offering 27 exercises on 250 levels to keep your brain #onfleek for years. I found it to have a clean interface and is easy to use.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available with premium subscription options. (iOS and Android)

More and more studies are showing that learning a language at any age could improve brain function. So if you are eager to not only train your brain, but also learn a practical new skill, Duolingo is one of the world’s most popular language-learning apps. It helps users practice speaking, reading, listening and writing skills in a range of languages (there are 30 to choose from). Bonjour second language!

Do I need to pay?

Free with the option to upgrade to premium. (iOS and Android)

For something a bit different, this app uses spaced repetition to help users “learn and remember anything” including phone numbers, interesting words or facts. It can notify you at increasing intervals to take a memory test, which helps you retain the information in your long-term memory.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available that offers a limited number of tests before you’ll need to pay. (Apple iOS only)

Source: Eidetic

Erring more on the science-y side of brain training, the Cognifit app was developed with the help of neuroscientists and validated by schools and universities around the world. It offers assessments that evaluate cognitive skills and games that aim to stimulate and train the brain. It also offers a range of programs targeted at people with different goals, including people with ADHD, depression, dyslexia or recuperating from a stroke.

Do I need to pay?

There’s a free version available with limited games before you’ll need to pay for a subscription. (iOS and Android)

This problem-solving app also claims to be a lot like a fitness coach. Each brain exercise adapts to your performance and gets more challenging as you improve. You can choose from a quick five-minute training session or an intense one-hour workout. Sweat bands optional.

Do I need to pay?

Free to download and includes one free exercise every day. For full access there’s a subscription. (iOS and Android)


We just created this new video about BrainHQ and thought our readers might be interested. Enjoy!

Posted by BrainHQ from Posit Science on Friday, 2 December 2016

Super pretty and computer game-like, this app tests your attention, dexterity, language, memory, and reasoning with a series of fun puzzles. It offers a personalised daily brain workout that adapts to your performance and the option to allow Petbots (animal characters that offer different ways of “lending a paw” [or tentacle]) to occasionally help you advance levels and boost your player score.

Do I need to pay?

Free to download and access a range of puzzles. There are in-app purchase options if you want premium access. (iOS and Android)

Introducing… Petbots!My new Steampunk friends (each one with its own special ability), will help you in-game and boost…

Posted by A Clockwork Brain on Sunday, 10 January 2016

Love solving riddles? This app uses logic puzzles to challenge your brain. Users are given a problem to solve which includes several clues describing a scenario. You’ll exercise your powers of deduction and work backwards to solve the riddle. It includes 5,000 puzzles and daily challenges that increase in difficulty.

Do I need to pay?

All free! There’s an in-app purchase option if you want to ditch the ads. (iOS and Android)

Do these brain-training apps actually work?

While they might be gaining popularity, science is still working out whether brain-training apps offer the benefits claimed. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania concluded that brain games have no effect on cognitive function and decision-making beyond the tasks included in the game – that is, you get better at playing the game. However, a number of other studies say otherwise. Research funded by Alzheimer’s Society in the UK found playing games can help people over 60 improve in daily activities over 6 months, and noted improvements in reasoning and verbal learning skills in people over 50.

The evidence may be mixed, but at the very least, these games could help you to have fun on your commute home, right?


Please note this is a selection of the apps I have come across, based on my personal use, the top-rating charts and peer recommendations. It’s important you do your own research to decide which of these apps, if any, are suitable for you

Cover image source: wowomnom (Shutterstock)

About Kelly

Kelly Stone is an experienced content writer with a Bachelor of Journalism, a Graduate Certificate in Communication at Griffith University and a Postgraduate Certificate in Business (HR) at the University of Southern Queensland. She’s long been the go-to writer for accountants and financial planners who need help making complex stuff, like finance, more enjoyable and accessible for their readers using simple, punchy words with zero jargon. Kelly is now a corporate writing and recruitment marketing specialist at Craft My Content.

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