Cognitive games are games and exercises which are designed to help people improve cognition. These games can be used in many different settings. Children are sometimes exposed to cognitive games to stimulate learning and to prepare them for the classroom environment, for example, while such games may be used with victims of stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other neurological events to aid recovery. Some people also just enjoy cognitive games as a recreational activity which can also be beneficial to the mind.
These games are very diverse in nature. Cognition, the process of thinking, requires activity in various regions of the brain as the brain responds to stimuli and processes information. Cognitive games are supposed to do things like improving reflexes, helping people learn, promoting critical thinking, and helping people with pattern associations. A cognitive game can also be used to help someone learn a foreign language, memorize materials, or perform other learning-related activities.
Whether or not cognitive games are truly beneficial is a matter of debate. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle; not all games labeled as “cognitive games” really stimulate cognition, but cognitive games are not entirely useless, either. Working with some games does appear to improve cognition in some studies, and some studies also suggest that different people respond differently. A game heavy on visual stimuli, for example, might improve cognition in one person and do nothing for another.
Examples of cognitive games include computer games, exercises on computers, flash cards, board games, physical puzzles, and some physical activities. One advantage of cognitive games is that they can be tailored to an individual, which can be especially important when they are used in a therapeutic setting. A stroke victim with impaired vision, for example, might benefit from games and activities directed by a therapist which stimulate the other senses, while a young child who does not enjoy sitting still might like physical activities like puzzles, which can also improve fine motor skills in addition to activating areas of the brain involved in problem solving.
Claims made on the packaging of cognitive games are fairly unreliable. Professionals such as neurologists and developmental psychologists may have recommendations for particular games which they think are beneficial. These games can include activities which don't require any purchases of products, such as making up mnemonics at home with a young child to help the child learn and process material learned in the classroom.