Mind Over Matter

Best Brain Training Apps In 2024: Elevate vs Lumosity vs BrainHQ vs CogniFit vs Peak vs NeuroNation

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Cartoon of brain jumping rope with other sports equipment nearby
So many brain training apps and so little time. Which ones actually work?

Do you lose your keys frequently or find yourself reading a paragraph multiple times to fully comprehend it? Or maybe you want to brush up on your math or problem-solving skills. If so, it’s time to flex your brain muscles and improve your memory with a brain training app.

Each brain-training app offers different games and features to boost your brain power. I personally spent hours testing eight different popular brain-training apps to bring you my findings. Save yourself time—and money—by reviewing my top picks.

Why Brain Training Apps?

Brain training apps have gained popularity in recent years—and for good reason. Research suggests that brain training enhances cognitive function in people of all ages:

  1. An FDA-approved brain-training game is being used to treat ADHD in children.
  2. Scientific American reported that short-term working memory training can benefit high functioning individuals, such as college students.
  3. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that brain-training apps can improve cognitive performance and processing speed in older adults.

While more research needs to be done, puzzles and cognitive training may also help keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay. The Bronx Aging Study found that self-reported crossword puzzle use was associated with a 2.54 year delay in dementia onset. This suggests that brain-training is a low-risk way to stimulate your brain and delay cognitive decline.

Brain-training apps claim that users see improvement in memory, problem-solving, and comprehension in just 15 minutes a day (or every other day) playing brain games. It seems like a worthwhile investment, especially if it makes you a little sharper today and keeps your brain strong into your later years for a better quality of life.

Best Brain Training Apps

Most of these programs are also available as apps, so you can use them while enjoying your morning cup of coffee, on your commute, or during your lunch break. (I like to practice before bedtime to help wind down.)

Deal Alert! CogniFit Summer Promo: 50% Off
Cognifit, our honorable mention winner, has a 50% off everything promotion that our readers can take advantage of by clicking here and using promo code SUMMER23.

Winner: Elevate Review

Elevate logo

Visit Website | Apple App | Google Play

The Elevate app was released in 2014 and won Apple’s App of the Year award that same year. The app aims to strengthen your writing, speaking, reading, memory, and math skills.

When I opened the Elevate app, I was prompted to complete a two-minute skills assessment, including grammar, vocabulary, and math problems. Once complete, I was given my Elevate Proficiency Quotient (EPQ), which ranks my performance in each learning category. Elevate then created a personalized daily workout based on my skill level and the goals I selected.

Elevate app screenshots showing a personalized workout routine, brain games, and study materials.
Elevate personalized workouts may include writing, speaking, reading, math, or memory games.

Elevate’s Training Sessions

Once my account was created, I began training right away. Elevate allowed me to choose between my five-part personalized training workout or select individual games. The personalized training sessions change every day and gradually becomes more difficult with repetition.

Elevate also includes a “study” section that covers public speaking, speed reading, mathematics, and vocabulary building. Each of these sections includes tips and tests to help boost proficiency.

During Elevate’s games, users receive tips if the app recognizes they may need help. I found this particularly helpful during my math training session, one of the areas I selected for improvement. The game paused, gave me the tip, and brought me back to the training session to implement what I’d just learned.

Elevate’s training sessions are challenging, and I really felt like I was strengthening my brain when using this app.

Elevate app screenshots showing math and reading games.
Choose between games or study sessions that cover public speaking, speed reading, and vocabulary building.

Tracking Your Performance

Elevate tracked my performance and allowed me to see how I performed compared to other users. While training, I also received achievement badges for progress and performance streaks, including time trained, game score, and EPQ milestones. For each achievement, more sections are unlocked, which prevents boredom from repetition.

Elevate app screenshots showing the app's performance tracking.
Elevate’s EPQ ranks user performance throughout all brain training categories.
Available on iOS and AndroidLimited features without subscription
Creates personalized workouts based on your goals and tracks your performance
Games available for writing, speaking, reading, math, and memory
Study sections cover tips for public speaking, speed reading, mathematics, vocabulary building
Sends reminder notifications to practice
7-day free trial


  • Monthly Subscription: $4.99/month
  • Annual Subscription: $39.99/year
  • Lifetime Subscription: $199.99

Runner-Up: Lumosity Review

Lumosity logo

Visit Website | Apple App | Google Play

You probably think of Lumosity immediately when you hear brain exercise games. Since its launch in 2007, Lumosity has offered games claiming to improve memory, attention, decision-making, and processing speed.

After downloading the app, Lumosity asked me to select the areas I’d like to practice. I chose memory, attention, speed, and math. From there, I took a fit test to determine my baseline in three cognitive games. Lumosity used my fit test score to compare my performance against other users and tailor a training program specific to my needs.

The games are challenging, but does the app really work? This question seems relevant since, in 2016, Lumosity agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a $50 million settlement over claims that “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease” without having the science to back up its ads.

Still, users give this app a 4+ rating on both iOS and Android. (A basic study published in Medical Science Monitor Basic Research, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, also found that Lumosity enhanced cognitive function, including attention and motor speed, in healthy subjects.)

Lumosity app screenshots showing areas of study (memory, attention, flexibility, problem solving, speed, math, and language) and the fit test.
Lumosity offers various training categories, including memory, attention, language, and math.

Lumosity’s Training Sessions

Users can access a free daily workout containing three games or pay for a premium membership. I chose the premium membership, which includes a personalized daily workout—centered around my selected areas of practice—and 40+ games additional games.

The free exercises change each day, making it an excellent basic option; however, I recommend paying for the premium plan. (You can always try the two-week trial before making your decision.)

Lumosity app screenshots showing brain workout options (math, language, favorites, and areas to strengthen) and various attention games.
Games like Train of Thought and Trouble Brewing work on developing attention skills.

Tracking Your Performance

Lumosity assigned me a Lumosity Performance Index (LPI) calculated from all my game scores. I can see where I fall in each category—to focus on areas of improvement—and compare myself to other Lumosity users. Every game I play unlocks additional insights, allowing me to view my progress in each game.

Lumosity app screenshots showing  performance tracking.
I track my progress in each game and compare my performance to others in the Lumosity community.

Our Team’s Personal Experience

I’ve trialed several brain training apps, and although my ‘scientist mom’ (she’s a retired neurobiologist) was trying to convince me BrainHQ by Posit Science is backed by the most research studies, I found myself enjoying the Lumosity games and interface the most. I like that I can track my personal scores in various categories (speed, memory, attention, flexibility, and problem solving) and compare them to other users in my age range and demographic (I can also compare myself today vs. how I performed 5 or 10 years ago).

I can play a random daily or recommended game or I can choose a category where my scores are lower (problem solving as of recent) and work on raising that score.

Alex Schenker, Editor, Safe Smart Living
Available on iOS and AndroidGames can feel repetitive if you use them every day
14-day free trialLimited features without a subscription
Sends reminder notifications to practiceExpensive
40+ games with a subscription
1 free workout/day


  • Monthly Subscription: $11.99/month
  • Annual Subscription: $59.99/year ($4.99/month)

3rd Place: BrainHQ Review

brainhq posit science logo

Visit Website | Apple App | Google Play

BrainHQ’s predecessor, Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, was created to help seniors improve their memory and listening skills. Today, BrainHQ is aimed at all adults and helps with the items above and more.

BrainHQ was designed by a team of neuroscientists led by Dr. Michael Merzenich. Merzenich is a professor emeritus in neurophysiology and has a long list of achievements, including being the co-inventor of the cochlear implant and having more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and 100 patents. The exercises focus on improving attention, memory, intelligence, navigation, brain speed, and people skills. Each exercise includes a description of the game from the neuroscientist that created it.

BrainHQ app screenshots showing areas of study and the BrainHQ personal trainer, featuring a free daily exercise.
To begin with BrainHQ, I chose my areas of study and completed my free daily exercise.

BrainHQ’s Training Sessions

BrainHQ offers one free daily exercise—called a Daily Spark. My first exercise was an attention game where I was instructed to keep track of objects in motion, as this skill could help “track cars, pedestrians, and other things that you need to follow in order to be safe.” The graphics were painfully slow, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say that could be slow for the target audience.

With a subscription, users can set a specialized focus—from attention and brain speed to navigation and people skills. There are a total of 29 exercises with a subscription to the app.

BrainHQ app screenshot showing mental map game.
In this BrainHQ game, Navigation: Mental Map, I practiced the ability to remember the relative location of objects from different viewpoints.

Tracking Your Performance

BrainHQ showed my progress after each exercises and gave me feedback on my performance. I was awarded badges for completing levels and scoring in the top 25 percent of an exercise.

Pros Cons
Available on iOS and AndroidGraphics are rudimentary and not fun
Creates workouts based on your goal (memory, attention, or brain speed)Expensive
Brain strength categories: attention, brain speed, memory, people skills, intelligence, and navigation
Schedule reminders for practice
1 free exercise/day


  • Monthly Subscription: $13.99/month
  • Yearly Subscription: $94.99/year ($7.92/month)

Honorable Mention: CogniFit Review

Cognifit logo

Visit Website | Apple App | Google Play

CogniFit’s approach focuses on supporting brain training no matter the learning style. The program can be purchased for individuals, clinicians, schools, researchers, and families.

After downloading the app, I was prompted to select areas I’d like to improve: memory, reasoning, concentration, coordination, perception, or relaxation. From there, I created an account and took the initial 10 to 13-minute cognitive assessment—with written and video instructions—covering reasoning, memory, attention, coordination, and perception skills. This assessment gave me a starting cognitive score, which ranges from 0 to 800. From there, the seven-day free trial gave me free rein to explore games, training sessions, and cognitive assessment tests (excluding the 20-minute General Cognitive Assessment (CAB).

CogniFit app screenshots showing the first four slides when entering the app.
The Cognifit app uses an evaluation and training system to improve cognitive health.

Cognifit’s Training Sessions

Each CogniFit training session focuses on multiple brain skills. The first game in my personalized session, Words Birds, instructed me to rearrange birds carrying letters to form words representing a displayed picture. According to CogniFit, this game targeted naming, updating, and visual scanning.

Unique features include CogniFit’s guided meditation exercises to support productivity and clarity of thought and various cognitive assessment tests.

CogniFit app screenshots showing areas of study (concentration, coordination, memory, and reading), mindfulness exercises, and practice games.
Choose between personal training sessions, mindfulness exercises, and other brain games.

Tracking Your Performance

CogniFit gave me a Cognitive Score after my initial assessment. By completing sessions and games, I increased my overall score. I was also able to review my cognitive age and specific skills, including visual scanning, processing speed, spatial perception, short-term memory, and planning. CongiFit gets major points for its comprehensive performance tracking, which allows users to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie for improvement.

Cognifit app screenshots that show performance tracking and brain assessment tests.
CogniFit offers detailed performance tracking and other brain assessment tests.
Available on iOS and AndroidThe programming doesn’t feel as slick as other apps
10-13 minute introductory cognitive assessment60+ hours of guided video coach training
Focuses on helping people with impairments (training for driving, coordination, etc.)
Exercises for memory, reasoning, concentration, coordination, perception, and relaxation
Sample videos plus text instruction
60+ hours guided video coach training
50+ brain games
10+ cognitive assessments
7-day free trial


CogniFit Summer Promotion: 50% Off
Get 50% off everything by clicking here and using promo code SUMMER23.
  • Monthly Plan: $9.99/month
  • Annual Plan: $59.99/year

Other Brain-Training Apps

Dakim | Impulse | NeuroNation | Peak

Dakim BrainFitness Review

dakim logo


Dakim offers two web-based brain-fitness programs: BrainFitness Active for adults 50+ living at home and BrainFitness Professional for senior living providers. Each program features games clinically proven to strengthen attention, focus, and concentration.

I visited Dakim’s website for a tour of five of the 100+ exercises offered in the BrainFitness Active program. After the tour, I signed up for a three-day free trial.

Dakim app screenshot of game that asks you to flip the cards and match the tiles into pairs.
This memory game directed me to flip the tiles and match them to form a pair.

Dakim’s Training Sessions

Dakim recommends training five times per week for optimum results. Each 20-minute session is led by a narrator wielding plenty of dad jokes and era references. To the right of the game screen, users can see which brain area they’re working on (for example, I played the Mind Over Mystery game to develop executive function and short-term memory). I liked that I could follow my session progress and see my current session score.

Dakim app screenshot showing memory game.
Mind Over Mystery had me decode the word, press the telegraph key, and type the word onto the next screen.

Tracking Your Performance

Dakim includes performance tracking for each brain-strength category (short-term memory, computation, etc). I could also view my historical performance from seven days to 36 months.

Available on PC, Mac, and iPadNo mobile app
Created for adults 50+Requires audio
Brain strength categories: short-term memory, language, executive function, visuo-spatial, computation, and long-term memoryNo free games after the trial period
Available for individuals or senior living providersNo personalized workouts
3-day free trial


  • Monthly Plan (individual): $14.95/month
  • Annual Plan (individual): $79/year
  • Professional Plan: $3,500/year

Brain training can help keep an aging mind sharp. Curious about other ways to care for an aging family member? We cover 10 home safety tips to care for a loved one, keeping seniors safe and healthy.

Impulse Review

impulse brain training logo

View Website | Apple App

Impulse is a free brain-training app, although users can make in-app purchases to remove the ads. The app aims to improve memory, attention, problem-solving, and mental math skills. In 2022, Impulse ranked in the world’s top three most downloadable Health & Fitness iOS app and led the brain training segment by both revenue & downloads (according to Similarweb).

The first time I opened the app, I answered a few questions based on my goals. Directly from there, Impulse led me to a personalized workout routine.

Impulse app screenshots showing app setup.
Impulse asked me to choose my goals and begin a personalized workout routine.

Impulse’s Training Sessions

Besides personalized daily workouts, Impulse offers various other challenges to test cognitive abilities:

  1. Games: Includes categories for memory, attention, mental math, problem-solving, and language.
  2. Puzzles: Each puzzle offers various rounds of difficulty. A new level unlocks each time you finish a puzzle.
  3. Tests: Use Impulse to test your IQ, emotional intelligence, or whether you’re a left or right-brain thinker

Some users may find that this app isn’t challenging enough. For example, when choosing areas of improvement, one of the categories I selected was memory—something I’m sorely lacking. I was then presented with a memory game called Hidden Ghosts, where I had to memorize where ghost images appeared on a tile board before they disappeared. The game was easy, and this speaks volumes as someone who always performs terribly in memory games.

That being said, this app includes some of my favorite games from all the apps I’ve reviewed. My favorites include Draw One Line, where users trace the picture in a single line without lifting their finger, and Candy Sort, where players organize the candy containers so each contain candies of the same color.

Impulse app screenshots showing various puzzles and games.
Impulse offers over 25 games and 200 puzzles.

Tracking Your Performance

Impulse tracks my progress in all training categories, including an overview of each category and my score and rank for each game. I received badges for completing games, and Impulse tracks my workout streaks.

Impulse app screenshots tracking performance.
Earn badges, check progress, and take additional cognitive tests.
Free (if you’re willing to sit through the ads)Only available on iOS
3-day free trialSome users may find the exercises to be not challenging enough or repetitive
Can set workout reminders for a specific time
Areas of study: memory, attention, mental math, problem solving, and language
25+ games and 200+ puzzles
Tests for ADHD, trauma and fear response, personality, left brain/right brain, and IQ
Optional colorblind mode


  • Weekly Plan: $6.99/week
  • Annual Plan: $29.99/year
  • Lifetime Plan: $49.99

NeuroNation Review

neoronation logo

Website | Apple App | Google Play

Developed with help from the Free University of Berlin, NeuroNation features 30+ science-backed brain training exercises that get more complex each time you play.

To start, NeuroNation had me take a short brain evaluation to gauge my strengths and weaknesses. From there, I was led to my personalized training program that encompasses four areas of study: attention, memory, reasoning, and speed.

NeuroNation app screenshots showing initial evaluation and personalized schedule options.
NeuroNation offers many personalization options, including training schedules and adjustments for special needs, like color vision deficiency and arithmetic impairment.

NeuroNations’s Training Sessions

While many brain apps offer personalized training sessions, NeuroNation’s top the list. Based on my evaluation, NeuroNation set my training priorities as memory, attention, reasoning, and speed—with memory being the area where I have the most significant potential for improvement (I agree with this assessment). In some sessions, a brain exercise is performed twice in a row; repetition challenges the brain and deepens the training effect. With a subscription, you can unlock additional exercises not part of your training plan.

NeuroNation includes additional NeuroBoosters, which a mini-exercises to refresh the body and relax the mind. Exercises include eye relaxation, stretches, and meditation.

NeuroNation app screenshots showing Clockwise game, where you follow the movement of the clock hand.
In NeuroNation’s game Clockwise, I was instructed to follow the clock hands and answer questions about their movements.

Tracking Your Performance

After completing so many sessions, NeuroNation asks users to perform another evaluation to track improvements. Users can move through 250 levels in the 30 brain exercises.

Available on iOS, Android, and desktopCan set workout reminders for specific days and time
Areas of study: attention, memory, reasoning, and speedDoesn’t cover math, reading, or language
Can set workout reminders for specific days and timesGames can feel repetitive if you use them every day
30+ exercises for memory and concentration
7-day free trial


  • Monthly Plan: $4.83/month
  • Annual Plan: $57.99/year

Peak Brain Training Review

peak brain training logo

Website | Apple App | Google Play

The Peak Brain training app features short, interactive games that fit any schedule. The app is well-designed and easy to use.

To start, Peaks asked me to set my areas of improvement: memory, focus, problem-solving, linguistic skills, or emotional processing. From there, I completed an initial assessment and was guided through the basics of the program.

Peak app screenshots showing initial setup, including training goals, assessment, and app settings.
Peak asked me to set goals and adjust my app settings for the best brain training.

Peak’s Training Sessions

My first personalized workout contained language, focus, and mental agility games. The games were quick and enjoyable—the key to getting me to come back and play day after day. As each play, the difficulty level increases.

Peak offered unique games when comparing it to other apps. One of my favorites was Grow. In this game, I was given the beginning of a word and asked to type as many words as possible that begin with the same letters. The longer the word, the more points I received (and the bigger my tree grew).

Peak app screenshots showing training and games.
Peak workouts focus on users-chosen areas of improvement.

Tracking Your Performance

Peak assigned me a Peak Brain Score (PBS) to measure overall improvement in all categories. I can view performance insights for each game and area of training. I can also see how I perform compared to other Peak users in my age group.

Peak app screenshots tracking performance.
PBS measures my progress and shows how I stack up against other players.
Available on iOS and AndriodLimited features without subscription
Limited features without a subscriptionNo math games
Free daily brain workout
48 brain training games
7-day free trial


  • Monthly Plan: $4.99/month
  • Annual Plan: $34.99/year
  • Lifetime Plan: $99.99

What About Cogmed?

Cogmed is a personalized brain training program designed to improve attention and working memory in those with ADHD. Clinical neuropsychological tests validate the five-week program and have been published in peer-reviewed scientific papers. Cogmed is available only through a licensed provider. (You can find a provider near you via the Cogmed website.

Do Brain Training Apps Work?

Are you unsure about brain exercise games? You’re not alone! Many people are skeptical as to whether or not these memory exercises actually help you or if they’re a joke. Watch this video below to see why they work!

What Are The Best Math Brain Training Apps?

We use brain training apps for various reasons: reading comprehension, memory, focus, problem-solving, and more. And while the apps in this article are excellent at covering multiple topics, sometimes you want a tool that dives deeper for more significant results.

A survey of U.S. adults found that 93% reported experiencing some level of math anxiety. To tackle this problem, many companies are now releasing math-specific apps. If you’re ready to improve your math abilities, view our picks for the best math brain training apps.

Expand Your Brain Power Further With Language Learning

Did you know that learning another language is one of the most effective and practical ways to increase intelligence, keep your mind sharp, and buffer your brain against aging? A study published in PNAS suggest that bilingualism improves the brain’s executive function.

Why wait? You can start right now by downloading one of the apps in our language learning comparison.

Have you seen improvement in your memory, processing speed, and problem-solving since using a cognitive training program? Let us know in the comments!

Tara Maurer

Since joining the Safe Smart Living team, Tara has covered topics ranging from home security and identity protection to smart travel and educated living. After graduating with a BA in Multimedia Journalism from Simpson College, Tara began work in the wellness industry. In the past seven years, she has personally tested countless supplements and holds a holistic nutrition certification. Tara is passionate about personal safety, especially for women. It’s a sad truth that most women experience harassment while in public spaces during their lifetime, and we must learn tactics to protect ourselves. As a female runner, Tara has tested various safety products, including alarms, pepper sprays, reflective gear, and tracking devices. When not working, you’ll most likely find Tara running, reading the latest fantasy novel, or trying out a new healthy recipe.
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