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Reprogramming the brain, one game at a time

By Hannah Croft, Student Writer/CHASS Marketing and Communications |

They are everywhere. You may already know one, or even be one.

Every year, more than a thousand UCR students pass through the doorways of the Brain Game Center for Mental Fitness and Well-Being. Located in University Village, UC Riverside students participate in controlled, non-invasive psychological and neuroscientific research through interactive games and apps.

“I did three different gaming sessions, one over the course of a month and the other two were one to two day sessions.” said psychology student Sammi Miller.. “The first one was an app on an ipad that they give you to play, and all the games are actually in the app store available to download. It actually did help with my memory, because now I have instances where I remember random stuff I don’t think I would’ve remembered in the past.”

The games are created through collaboration with students and faculty in music, creative writing, art, and psychology. Topics cover everything from hearing to visual memory to autism. Studies can last anywhere between a week and nine months, depending on the types of tests.

“When you think about what the brain does, in principle, you think about the brain as circuits or muscles that can be improved, but how to do it is complicated.” said Aaron Seitz, UCR psychology professor and director of the Brain Games center. 

The goal of Seitz’s center is to increase mental plasticity and cognition. The center is open for all students to utilize, with monetary compensation or extra credit for certain classes provided.

“The goal is to try and understand individual differences as well as the extent to which different people require different interventions,” Seitz said, “and how to work out these details.” 

Study results have been published in various academic journals and the center has received many federal grants to fund its research. The center has also been able to collaborate with many other UC campuses, including UC San Diego, UC Irvine and UCLA.

“We are running acoustic studies on Autism Spectrum Disorders, which has an unusual, characteristic auditory profile,”  lead programmer Trevor Stavropoulos said. “A lot of our work has sort of a direct humanitarian application, which brings attention and prestige to the university, CHASS especially.”

Find our more or participate in an upcoming study by visiting