Games to Keep Your Brain Agile

If you don't want to lose your mental muscle, you need to use it.

Various techniques to keep your brain young.

Consumers have been snapping up software and high-tech games that challenge their synapses. If you want to invest in some workout equipment, here are a few popular choices:

Brain Fitness Program: The only commercial software backed up by published research suggesting it enhances brain function. Users wear headphones and use a computer to perform audio exercises: identifying whether a tone is ascending or descending in pitch and distinguishing between two similar syllables, say. Such fine-tuning, developers claim, "repairs the machinery" of the brain, so it conveys information more precisely from one region to another and improves overall brain performance.
Cost: $395 for one user, $495 for two.

MindFit: PC software offering exercises to improve short-term memory, reaction time, eye-hand coordination, and more. Tracks performance over time.
Cost: $139 (download) or $149 (CD) for one user; additional users, $99 each.

Brain Age: Inspired by the research of a Japanese neuroscientist, this game for Nintendo's hand-held DS system includes 15 different puzzles and exercises, plus 100 Sudoku puzzles.
Cost: (for the game): $19.99.

Big Brain Academy: For Nintendo's Wii or DS hand-held systems. Up to eight players compete in myriad activities, from memorization to math problems to matching shapes to pictures.
Cost: (for the game): $49.99 (Wii); $19.99 (DS).

My Brain Trainer: A website offering 39 exercises.
Cost: $29.95 for one year.

Radica Brain Games and Brain Games 2: Mattel's hand-held games feature exercises that ask you to complete sequences, find hidden words, solve math problems, and more.
Cost: (for game and unit): $19.99