Hey, foxy lady. Did anyone ever tell you you have the brain of a 24-year-old?
Okay, so that's not a popular pickup line — yet. But now that Nintendo has come out with a game that can supposedly measure your brain's age and lower it (20 is the goal), brains are about to become the latest body part everyone wants to buff up.
As a gal who always liked brains buffed the old-fashioned way — by, say, reading - I dread the smarties-come-lately bragging, "I'm a 28!" "Get a load of those prefrontal lobes." "Hey, baby, my matter ain't gray."
For this brave new world (that's a literary reference), we must blame Brain Age, the Nintendo DS game that debuted in Japan a year ago and proceeded to sell 3 million copies - possibly because 20% of the people there are over age 65 and worried that their brains are turning into tuna belly. But even here in robust America, the game just came out and has already hit No. 2 on Amazon. What gives?
Well, I grudgingly admit: It's fun. You just turn on your Nintendo DS (or, if you're over 40, you have your kid do this for you) and the sleek little device proceeds to gauge your age. It does this by flashing the words "yellow," "black," "red" and "blue" at you - written in the wrong colors. The faster you shout out the actual color you see — "blue" when the word "yellow" is written in blue — the younger your brain.
Supposedly. Of course, if you really want to see how young someone's brain is all you have to do is flash a picture of Hilary Duff and ask, "Who's this?" Anyone who gets it right is young. Anyone who answers, "Rita Hayworth" is ready for pet therapy.
Anyway, once you find out your brain's age, you will despair. Everyone I loaned the game to had a brain much older than their years. The road to redemption?
Brainteasers. So says Japan's Prof. Ryuta Kawashima. It was his best-selling book on brain exercise that inspired this game.
Ryuta's smiling, digitized face will lead you through 14 tasks ranging from silly (connect the dots) to tense (how fast can you subtract?) to completely impossible (I forget what exactly it was, but it was hard). (Oh, wait! It was memorization.)
The first day is very demoralizing. But everyone seemed to do a little better the next. And the next day, even better. As they saw their brains getting "younger," the game grew irresistible. Unfortunately, so did the urge to check, "How old am I right now?" And therein lies the problem.
We are already a society that counts our calories, carbs, heartbeats — even sperm. Adding brain age to the mix just means having another number to fret about.
Since the jury is out on whether the game actually does any good — "You can't really prevent Alzheimer's," says gerontologist Sandra Timmermann at the MetLife Mature Market Institute — a "young" brain simply becomes a bragging right.
In real life, it's the older brains that have read, lived, made stupid mistakes and sometimes even learned from them. The word for this isn't "aged brain." It's wisdom.