When my grandfather struggled with Alzheimer’s disease, it was my mission to halt or reverse the trend. With the best nootropics I could muster, there was only one realistic way I’d know if my therapies were working: Cambridge Brain Sciences.
My grandfather loved me, but didn’t always trust his young grandson to know what he was talking about. My mother often convinced him to take the tests and I’m glad she did.
The Cambridge Brain Sciences suite of cognitive tests allows users to evaluate cognitive performance without visiting a neuroscience lab.
Since 2009, the Cambridge Brain Science website has been cited in 300+ scientific studies and over 7 million tests have been completed including a few dozens from my grandfather .
What is Cambridge Brain Sciences?
The Cambridge Brain Sciences cognitive tools are the brainchild of Dr. Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist and founder of the project who spent time researching the brain at Cambridge University . For many years, the tools were freely available with no profit motive.
The cognitive tests are helpful as diagnostic tools not necessarily for improving intelligence. Their team members understand the science isn't there yet to definitely indicate that brain training games improve markers of intelligence.
There is evidence that brain games like Lumosity don’t improve intelligence or markers of cognition. They simply increase performance on the specific test .
For nootropics users (or those altering cognitive performance with lifestyle changes), Cambridge Brain Sciences provides cognitive tests to better understand changes over time.
A standard scientific experiment has two basic parts:
- Baseline – this is a measurement of cognitive performance without any substance or change. The longer the baseline (i.e: 2 weeks vs. 1 day) the more accurate the data.
- Intervention – after seeing brain performance without any substance, add nootropics or a lifestyle change and check whether it influences cognitive performance.
Here is an example scenario from the nootropic world. Many people use drugs like piracetam to improve their memory formation and learning. To test whether this is true for you, take various cognitive tests online for 2 weeks to get a baseline, then track piracetam usage over 2 weeks.
Because there is scientific evidence that piracetam works better after 14 days than 7 , your example self-experiment should give you empirical evidence about the drug’s effects.
Recent Changes to Cambridge Brain Sciences
The Cambridge Brain Sciences of 2009 looks quite different than that of today. In fact, as of May 2017 the site has experienced a complete overhaul.
The recent change isn’t only visual. Cambridge Brain Sciences seemed to have no profit motive in the past (in fact, I believed it was a non-profit sponsored by the university). Today the site is headquartered in Canada and has a paid subscription plan.
I imagine some people are groaning at the change from humble non-profit to profit seeking business, but rest assured it is in our best interest.
It’s still possible to sign up for a free account and utilize tests (you can do so here). Everything that was possible with the classic Cambridge Brain Sciences is still available (you can even visit the classic page here).
A paid membership (which costs only $10 / month or $110 / year) comes with additive tests created within the past few months. To hire the engineers to fix bugs and create new tools, it’s going to require money and I’ve got no problem with that.
Is Cambridge Brain Sciences Worth It?
The free Cambridge Brain Sciences version provides many of the tools anyone would need to test cognitive performance. Between the 4 daily brain tests and brain report, there is plenty of data for the avid biohacker.
That being said, the paid plan provides unlimited test plays, personal insights and as many reports as necessary. It also includes the opportunity to upload lifestyle data (such as exercise, sleep, and stress). This will hopefully include integrations with sleep trackers, HRV devices, etc. as they develop their software.
The Cambridge Brain Sciences team seems pretty stellar. From neuroscientist Dr. Adrian Owen to business development CEO, Marc Lipton, all bases seem to be covered. The company has four additional scientists on board, which keep the quality of Cambridge Brain Sciences high.
All of these benefits aside, what is the actual cost to you?
Calculating the most expensive scenario, let’s assume you’re paying $10 per month. Compared to most nootropics, this is cheap. Buy phenylpiracetam and you will pay $18 for a month.
The greater question is whether it’s worth the time to take tests. It takes no longer than 2 – 3 minutes to take each trial.
Over the course of a month, it might require 1 hour and $10. Assuming liberally that you make $50 per hour, that is a small price to pay to know whether nootropics and smart drugs are having their intended consequences.
Take Self Tracking to a New Level
There are a variety of different Cambridge Brain Sciences cognitive tests. Here are a few of them with a brief explanation of what you can expect:
Working memory test – there are numerous working memory tests including monkey ladder, paired associates, spatial planning, and spatial span.
Monkey ladder – one of the more famous tests from Cambridge Brain Sciences, monkey ladder helps track memory and concentration.
Digit span test – the digit span memory test is yet another popular Cambridge Brain Sciences measurement.
Concentration test – Cambridge Brain Sciences has many concentration tests. These obviously track concentration, which is similar to the test I took at Peak Brain Institute with phenylpiracetam.
Mental rotation test – when a map is flipped upside down, must you reorient or can you mentally rotate the objects? This test helps quantify with this cognitive measure.
Beyond these tests, there are at least half a dozen more to measure verbal fluency, reasoning, and all the markers of cognitive performance you could need for diagnostics.
The original and modifications to Cambridge Brain Sciences make it a useful tool for any nootropic user. The free tools are worthwhile enough, but spending $10 or less to see whether expensive nootropics actually helps is a worthwhile investment.