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Five ways to improve brain power – PhillyVoice.com

Weve all been theretrying to remember an actors name, which is right on the tip of your tongue, only to hopelessly give in to Googles promise of a quick, correct answer. What about pacing around the house in a hurry, desperately trying to remember where you left your keys? Its incredibly frustrating to feel like your brain isnt working to its fullest potential. Luckily, there are ways to keep the mind sharp and strong, improving things like memory and recall speedsomething that becomes increasingly vital as we age.

Meditation is often referred to as exercise for the brain, training your focus and attention to be more present and mindful of tasks. Doctors have found that routinely engaging in meditation may help to reduce the thinning of the prefrontal cortex, which can keep memory loss and impaired concentration at bay.

After pulling an all-nighter or spending a night tossing and turning, trying to function quickly and effectively the following day is always difficult. Thats because sleep helps your brain work faster and more accurately, giving your neurons a break from the activities of yesterday, and preparing them for the stimuli of tomorrow. One City University of New York study showed that students who got inadequate sleep chose simpler math problems than those who slept well, meaning they were more likely to pass up difficult tasks, which is not exactly a promising way to get ahead. Sleep also improves memory attention, and the brain is actually better at establishing memories when youre not awake.

Weve all heard the phrase brain food or been urged to eat a balanced breakfast before a big meeting or exam. While theres no single food that holds the key to a strong mind, nutritionists urge that one of the most important strategies for maintaining a sharp brain is to follow a nutrition plan filled with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Certain foods, like berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens, are particularly helpful in improving overall brain health and cultivating mental function. To reap the full brain-powering benefits of a healthy diet, stay consistentthis will ensure the memory and mood boost that nourishing foods promise.

As kids and young adults, school requires us to continually develop our brain and improve the critical thinking skills required to expand brain power. But, as we age, were often less exposed to the kind of cognitive tasks that we encounter in school. This can make us more susceptible to conditions like dementia, making consistent brain stimulation as important as physical health. Many adults choose to continue their education in order to both develop their academic abilities and keep their minds sharp. Scientists have called it a fantastic tool for overall health and consider it a primary factor for brain health specifically. Consider joining a book club, taking classes at your local community college, or signing up for a foreign language course.

Though its recent popularity in the self-improvement field has positioned brain training as another fad, its fundamental to the maintenance of cognitive skills throughout life. Brain training helps with skills like attention, memory, problem solving, reading, and psychosocial functioning. Often used by psychologists and occupational therapists, the exercises include puzzle games like crosswords and sudoku, reading, writing, playing an instrument, and cooking a new recipe.

Our minds are the most powerful tool we have, deserving of respect and proper care. Prioritizing our brain power ensures we honor our greatest asset, helping us to stay sharp, clever, and high-functioning.

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Five ways to improve brain power - PhillyVoice.com

Best video games of the decade: The 10 greatest titles – Red Bull

A lot can happen in a decade. The 2010s saw the indie scene blossom into the brilliant behemoth it is now, turning out incredible titles on an almost weekly basis, while console giants dropped truly game-changing platforms (bless you, Switch), while testing the power of these platforms to deliver experiences that once would have seemed impossible in their scale and ambition.

We can only hope that the next 10 years are as fruitful as the last, but for now, we raise a glass to the 2010s, and champion our favourite games of the decade in no particular order.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

(CD Projekt Red, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

Sometimes sequels are derivative. Sometimes theyre iterative. For CD Projekt Red, it took three goes at making a game around Polish author Andrzej Sapkowskis series of fantasy novels to stick the landing. The first two games are forgettable, arguably even unplayable now, but the third? Oh boy.

Where do we start? Is it the vast, beautifully realised open world to explore? The deep combat, the fearsome foes? Is it the side quests that dont actually feel like an afterthought, but an extension of the central story? Is it the card battler Gwent, the greatest in-game game ever made (So good in fact, it received its own multiplayer spin-off)? Is it the two absolutely massive DLC installments that are as essential as the game itself?

The Witcher 3 was ostensibly the conclusion of the story of Geralt, a super-powered soldier who also likes to have sex in strange places. But really, The Witcher 3 was the first triple A blockbuster built from the ground up for the (then) new generation of consoles, the first to show us that open world roleplaying games could be as polished as they were epic in scope (looking at you Bethesda). It was a bold, incredibly expensive gamble, one that paid off, for Projekt Red, gamers and the industry as a whole many times over. While Netflix have striven to make clear their new fantasy series is based on the original Witcher books, make no mistake, its this game thats put the franchise on the cultural map, the reason that show exists. Do yourself a favour and find out why its even out on Nintendo Switch now, so youve really got no excuse.

Celeste

(Matt Makes Games, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)

This incredible twitch platformer from Matt Makes Games blends incredibly tight controls with stunning, pixel-rich visuals and a deeply lovely soundtrack, but thats really only scratching the surface of what makes the game great. Climbing the titular mountain as teen Madeleine, each short stage represents a litany of challenges to overcome, only to be tested afresh once you finally draw breath and finish the level.

Youll die, a lot, but it doesnt seem to matter embracing each failure and learning from them, the immense satisfaction Celeste offers is from taking something that, at some points, you feel could genuinely be impossible, and mastering it just a few (or a few dozen) tries later. Marry this with a sweet, heartfelt story with a great deal to say about mental health and self-acceptance, and Celeste becomes as surprising and moving an experience as it is a testing one. If youve not scaled the mountain yet, we really dont know what youre waiting for.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Where to start with a game that not only warrants a spot on this list, but has a genuine claim to the title of GOAT? Its easy to shower BOTW with superlatives which barely touch upon why its such a joy. Yes, its scale is immense, and yes, the ambition is huge, and yes, its world is sprawling and beautiful and on and on. But the Switchs flagship release deserves better than descriptors that can be issued to any number of open world adventures mainly because its so much more than that.

Open world games all offer their claims of freedom, so much so that BOTW seemingly defies description simply because it truly does deliver what has now become a clich. In BOTW, youre given so much freedom, that very few gaming experiences can even come close. Want to go climb that enormous mountain? Knock yourself out. Fancy wearing a monsters head to infiltrate their squad? Sure! Interested in trying to fight the final boss from the very beginning of the game? You can even do that!

In fact, its worth skipping discussions of the plot (OK, fine: get to the castle, free the princess), to instead touch upon the unique joys of BOTW, like being dropped into a landscape with no weaponry, no clothes and no clue and simply being told to get on your way and sort things out for yourself. Or the sense of achievement when you throw on that warm doublet and take to icy peaks in search of the glowing warmth of a shrine. Or the sheer life-affirming joy of standing atop a tower, seeing something vast and stunning and mysterious way, way in the distance, and just thinking, OK, lets go, before launching yourself towards it, and never being sure what youll see or achieve on your way.

In a genre teeming with open worlds, none have felt as open as Breath of the Wild. Put simply: weve never had it this good.

The Last of Us

Mention the names Ellie and Joel to the right audience and chances are youll be greeted with a flood of emotion usually reserved for a popular family members funeral. Such is the narrative skill, character building and emotional heft of Naughty Dogs 2013 classic, The Last of Us.

You almost certainly know the story already, but if youve somehow avoided it, TLOU sees you take on the role of Joel, a beardy sadsack (OK, with good reason) tasked with escorting a young Ellen Page-alike across the post-apocalyptic U.S. in a bid to find a cure for an epidemic which turned the majority of the population into frankly disgusting monsters (were looking at you, Clickers).

While this may be a story now well-worn in modern pop culture, the warmth of the writing and sheer affection for these damaged characters makes The Last of Us so much more than just another post-apocalyptic adventure. It also plays brilliantly mixing stealth and brutal combat to express the desperation of the protagonists actions, but this almost feels like an aside for what is a true feat of storytelling, in any medium.

Portal 2

(Valve, PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360)

Find your way in Portal 2

Valve

The cake may be a lie, but its an important one. Portal 2 might just be the smartest game of the decade. Its certainly one of the funniest. Valve took the polish it always brings and mixed it with the witty, charming style it was also once known for to come up with quite the most delightful puzzle game of all time. The first games central gimmick is just as appealing as ever: you can fire portals that appear on walls for you, or cubes, or paint, or cakes, to teleport through. But this time the puzzles, the plot and the jokes escalate to new heights, and depths, and heights again, and sometimes rapidly alternates between the two depending on where youve placed your portals. And when youre done, the fantastic co-op mode is there waiting for you.

In retrospect, what made Portal 2s impact so bittersweet was that, despite the critical acclaim the game received, it also marked the end of Valves interest in narrative led singleplayer games, pivoting as it did to focus on its multiplayer hits and its Steam download service instead. As good as these are, what we wouldnt do for Portal 3 right now. Perhaps Valves recent announcement of the VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx marks the start of another new chapter in the companys history. Good things come in threes, right?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

(Bethesda, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

Swords clash in Skyrim

Bethesda

The single player game on this list that weve sunk more time into this decade than any other, Skyrim is now slightly dated looking, somewhat janky, but remains glorious. Its open ended fantasy story, the flexibility it allows you with characters, all the dragons you get to kill; its the sort of game that lures you into its many systems until one day your significant other comes home and finds that youve neglected to do the real world chores in favour of getting better at virtual smithying. But what would they know? Armour bonus is life.

Its probably not fair to Skyrim to simply put it in our best games of the decade list. Perhaps more than any other game in this list, even the multiplayer ones, its more than that: its a way of life. Its a meme generator (Remember Arrow in the knee? Fus ro dah? Good times). Its a time sink. Its the game you go to whenever youre stuck for anything else. You finished the main story years ago, but thats not even the point. You explore. You replay. You potter. You install a new mod and play it. You mod it yourself. Its all things to all people. Its also available on every platform under the sun at this point, so if you havent rolled yourself a khajit archer already, what on Tamriel are you waiting for?

The Witness

(Thekla, PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android)

Ready for some brain teasers?

Thekla

The Witness is so simple, and yet, so fiendishly difficult. You stride around a compact, Myst-style island, solving puzzles on grids by drawing a line from start to finish, which sounds almost boring, but with each passing puzzle indie auteur Jonathan Blow and his team rip up the rules and your expectations, until suddenly youre hours in, have ploughed through an entire notepad of graph paper (Be warned, youll need a few reams) and are starting to see grids and lines everywhere, even the sky.

The Witness makes our best games of the decade list though for being something even more than this. Its Blows answer (as well as story consultant Tom Bissells) to the discourse around video game narratives. Neither are happy with how the medium has handled them until now, as wraparound for gameplay, endlessly copying cinematic tropes: The Witness is something brave, different, tangential. Something best left inferred. There actually is a story, but were not going to tell you where. Just be sure to complete the games second, secret ending for one of the most breathtakingly pretentious and inspired finale videos in any video game ever.

Inside

(Playdead, PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Switch)

Escape the horror of Inside

Playdead

Had Playdeads previous game, Limbo, released just a few months earlier, it would have been a surefire candidate for lists like this 10 years ago. Its impact when it landed on Xbox Live on 2010 was immediate, igniting the thriving indie scene still going strong today.

The reclusive studios 2016 followup, Inside, is on paper very similar game: you guide a nameless character through a monochromatic world, solving puzzles and avoiding being killed by guard dogs, shot or blown up. But Inside is somehow thematically much more ambitious, a 2D puzzle-platformer that transcends its genre and setting, moving from merely creepy into something absolutely extraordinary by the end of its several hours of playtime. Too say much more will spoil it, but suffice to say you will be put through the ringer of emotions along the way (but mostly scared silly).

A note of caution: If you start this game, you absolutely must see it through to the finish. On no account should you give up on it before reaching the ending. Youll see.

Soma

(Frictional Games, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac)

Horror comes in all shapes and sizes. Something like Until Dawn offers jump-y, cat-leaping-out-of-a-cupboard horror thats purely focused on spiking your adrenalin (and ace for it). Theres the doom-laden oppression of the Silent Hill series, pushing the boundaries of discomfort in all its psychosexual glory. And then theres Soma. Soma is unquestionably terrifying. The elevator pitch makes it sound a bit like BioShock bred with Frictional Games previous effort, Amnesia. After a brief prelude, youre plunged into a dilapidated underwater facility, seemingly overrun with insane robots. Well stop there to avoid spoilers, but its fair to say, that what follows is perhaps one of the most surprising, horrifying, and morally challenging game narratives of recent times.

Practically helpless against your robotic foes, the sneak-and-hide gameplay offers sweaty-palmed tension in abundance, but what gives this the edge over its genre mates is its willingness to frighten through asking the player questions theyd really rather not answer. How far would you go to escape an inescapable situation? What do you consider it is to be human? And how do you justify actions that may challenge this? Its a tough, complex game that fits a great deal into its short running time, and as your character searches for any one of a way out, the truth, or a semblance of hope, youll realise how few titles there are quite like Soma. Oh, and if the ending doesnt keep you awake at night well, perhaps youre less human than you think. Dive in.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

(Valve, Hidden Path, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac)

Fight fire with fire in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Valve

Counter-Strike has been the connoisseurs choice for online shooters since its arrival 20 years ago, with the originals mix of brilliantly simple set-up (terrorists vs counter terrorists, GO), superbly-designed maps and nail-biting combat built upon and refined with each passing instalment. This perhaps reached its apex with its fourth iteration in 2012s Global Offensive, which delivered some of the best levels multiplayer FPS games have ever seen, introduced brilliant new modes in Arms Race and Demolition, and tweaked existing and introduced new weaponry to bring even greater intensity to firefights. Its establishment as an esports phenomenon only furthers its case for being one of the best multiplayer shooters of the decade, and perhaps ever.

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Best video games of the decade: The 10 greatest titles - Red Bull

Exploring the tradition of Christmas greetings | News, Sports, Jobs – Iron Mountain Daily News

NIAGARA, Wis. Last week, we explored the topic of family traditions around the holidays and how important they were to establish and maintain family bonds. One of our traditions is sending out Christmas cards with an annual letter enclosed. I started this after our fourth year of marriage because by then we had moved away from the family hub of Menasha and Ripon. As we prepare each year for the holidays and the task list gets long, my husband will ask, When are you going to write the Christmas letter? I groan inwardly, because in that moment, I cannot see a way that I am going to have time to write it. There is, however, no way for me to discontinue this particular tradition because if I miss a year, extended family worries that something may be wrong.

I always start the process by reviewing the year that is nearly over and listing noteworthy happenings for each family member. I have never eliminated the challenges or disappointments in exchange for only commenting on the fun things or accomplishments. Good comes in the form of a lesson learned, even if the event was difficult at the time. I think that my all-inclusive approach to chronicling our lives has been one reason that the letter is appreciated. It is not all glitter full of trips, promotions and similar accomplishments. I have always included the ups and downs and struggles. Our families especially the older generations have always been able to relate, as they can remember similar challenges and be glad they are past the lean years. Younger family members may have learned from our mistakes. Whatever the reason, our Christmas letter has taken its place as a family tradition.

There have been two noteworthy side benefits of sharing this annual holiday letter. First, I now have nearly a 45-year history of our lives. It is a fun exercise and almost a tradition in itself to spend time rereading those old holiday letters. We are now part of the older generation who can rejoice in the passing of the more difficult years of our lives together. We are who we are, after all, because of them. The second benefit has been that we hear from extended family and old friends every year as they answer our card and letter. I know we would have lost touch long ago otherwise. So, even if it is only once each year, we still connect.

The history of the Christmas card is very interesting. The custom began in 1843 with Henry Cole, an Englishman who travelled among the social elite of the day and simply had too many friends. It was the custom at that time for friends to send holiday letters. That year marked the beginnings of the Penny Post an expansion of the British postal system that allowed the public to send a letter anywhere in the country by affixing a 1-cent stamp to it. Prior to this development, postage was so expensive that only aristocrats could afford to mail letters.

It was also the custom to answer this holiday correspondence and was considered quite rude if the recipients did not reply promptly. Poor Henry worried about his reputation as he watched his daily correspondence accumulate; he had to find a way to reply. He and his friend, John Horsley, an artist, designed a single card with a festive holiday celebration taking place in the center. This picture was flanked by two smaller panels showing fellow Brits aiding the poor. They had 1,000 cards printed, and the first Christmas card was born.

The first Christmas card appeared in the United States in 1875 and was designed by a Prussian immigrant named Louis Prang. He owned a print shop near Boston and designed a card with a single flower and the brief message, Merry Christmas. The first generation of American cards was not what we typically view as representative of the holiday season, but rather vivid, artistic images of nature, animals and scenes that could have taken place in October or February. However, interest grew in these cards to the point where each year the new designs were reviewed in newspapers, like books and movies are today. While reviewers of the day greatly appreciated the artistic renderings on the cards, they found the written sentiments on the back to be greatly lacking

The birth of the modern Christmas card occurred in 1915 when a Kansas City-based postcard company started by the Hall brothers adopted a new format. The new card was uniformly sized at 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall, was folded once, and inserted in an envelope. The Hall brothers eventually grew to become Hallmark, and their new book format for the cards became immensely popular. The new cards combined colorful holiday images both Santa and religious based with well written messages inside that better captured the spirit of the holidays. Throughout the 1930s to 1950s Christmas cards became very competitive, and Hallmark and its competitors looked for ways to sell their brand. They went so far as to commission famous artists of the day to design the cards. Consequently, artists such as Salvador Dali, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell had their work printed on Christmas cards.

In 1962, the Post Office released its first Christmas stamp depicting a wreath, two candles and Christmas 1962. The demand was incredible. The first printing of 350 million 4-cent stamps was not nearly enough. A total of one billion copies of that first stamp were printed before the year ended!

Despite the growth of high-tech communication, the Christmas card tradition continues. Indeed, this tradition has grown to include the printing of cards for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even the Winter Solstice. Granted, the stamps have certainly increased in price since the printing of that first one in 1962, but some things in life transcend their cost. Reaching out with a card and maybe even a letter in order to stay in touch with family and friends, from whom we have been separated by time and distance over the years, is simply priceless!

SENIOR LIVING

FACILITIES

Freeman

Kingsford

Sunday: Scenes and sounds, noon; toss across, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; brouhaha, 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; library cart, 1:30 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Craft, 10:30 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1 p.m.; Kentucky Derby, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee kiosk with cinnamon rolls/secret Santa, 8 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy, 10:30 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; Bible study, 1:15 p.m.; pokereno, 2 p.m.; Lawrence Welk, 4:30 p.m.

Friday: Whats cooking? 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:45 a.m.; parlor games, 1:15 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; scenes and sounds, 11:30 a.m.; oldies but goodies, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; evening news, 6 p.m.

Iron County

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30 to 11 a.m.; room visits 9 to 11 a.m.; How do you feel? 10 a.m.; bingorama, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Memory books, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Book club, 10 a.m.; Catholic Mass,10 a.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; animal kingdom, 2 p.m.; Christmas movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee social/current events, 10 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; Christmas bingo, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m.; Bible study, 1 p.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; Presbyterian church, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; monthly birthday party with music and cake, 2 p.m.; musical movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Price is Right board game and hang man, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.; card club, 6 p.m.

Manor Care

Kingsford

Wet your whistle: 9:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday.

Exercise: 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday.

Popcorn Day: Every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes, 10:15 a.m.; companys coming, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Christmas fun facts 10:15 a.m.; music with Bob Larson, 2 p.m.; pokeno, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Christmas traditions, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas party, entertainment by Paula D, 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Christmas social, 9:30 a.m.; Christmas bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; crazy for cards, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: Pokeno, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Help your neighbor, 10:15 a.m.; penny ante, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Spelling bee, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas party, 2 p.m.; Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Protestant service, 9 a.m.; current events, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Christmas trivia and hot cocoa, 10:15 a.m.; Christmas social/bingo, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; board game Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno, 2 p.m.

Friday: Exercise, 10:15 a.m.; trivia and hot cocoa, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour with Jim D., 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; crafts, 1:30 p.m.; pamper and polish, 2:30 p.m.; bingo, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Wednesday and Thursday.

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday except Wednesday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Music with Crystal, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.; football: Packers vs. Vikings, 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday: Left-center-right, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.;

Wednesday: Merry Christmas.

Thursday: Communion with Deacon Don, 10 a.m.; birthday party, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. daily except Wednesday.

Beauty shop open Tuesday and Thursday.

Snack cart, 7 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Sunday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; movie with snack, 2 p.m.; Pastor Miller, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; music with Larry J., 2 p.m.; football: Packers vs. Minnesota, 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday:Christmas jingo, 10 a.m.; eggnog party, 2 p.m.; reminisce, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Open Santa gifts Christmas morning; Christmas jingo/Christmas word games, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; music with Crystal, 10:30 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Friday: Catholic church service, 10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; Flippo, 2 p.m.; social hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo/family and friends social time,10 a.m.; coffee and chat, 11 a.m.; trivia, 2 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility

Powers

Sunday: Grace church, 10:15 a.m.; card games, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Santa visits, 9:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; ball toss, 3:30 p.m.; mind joggers, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Christmas movie 10 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; social circle, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Christmas social, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45; holiday happy hour, 2 p.m.; Family Feud, 3:30 p.m.; rummy, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Exercise, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 a.m.; bunco, 2 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Movie, 10:15 a.m.; spa treatments, 2 p.m.; sensory, 3:30 p.m.

SENIOR CENTERS

Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. Those who have meals delivered who will not be home should notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Menu for the week:

Tuesday: Center is closed.

Wednesday: Center is closed.

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Exploring the tradition of Christmas greetings | News, Sports, Jobs - Iron Mountain Daily News

This Portal-inspired platform-puzzle game is free for a limited time [Android Game of the Week] – Android Central

Portal is one of my favorite video games of all time. I love the concept and the gameplay, along with those the storyline twists, but above all else, I love the GLaDOS, the AI system with the razor-sharp wit that controls everything in the test environment.

So you can imagine my reaction when I stumbled upon this indie game called $ S.E.B. >, an indie puzzle-platformer that just so happens to be a wonderfully minimalist homage to Portal. Check out the trailer to see what I mean.

The game has you control a SEB square, just one of the thousands of identical test subjects that are stuck in a simulated test environment controlled by GUSTAV, an omnipotently present AI system that exists to configure and guide you through the testing protocols (sound familiar?).

You control the black square by tapping anywhere on the screen to make the square jump in the exact opposite direction. Each time you tap the screen, you'll see a line and angle that seems unnecessary at first, but you soon learn that the angle at which you tap is pretty crucial to mastering the precise controls required to clear the harder tests to come.

While there are no portals to be found in $ S.E.B. >, it is still a familiar physics-based puzzle game that develops itself into a delightful challenge as you progress. It also includes an evolving narrative that clearly was inspired by the first Portal game and that's exactly why you'll love it.

The game description says there's at least an hour's worth of gameplay here, which is probably true if you are able to speed run your way through the 100 or so levels some of which you're able to complete in just a few seconds. Others are not so easy and will test your mastery of the game's controls and physics.

$ S.E.B. > was released back in September, but I feel like the overly-stylized title is going to make it tough for anyone to just stumble across in the Google Play Store. I'm more than happy to give it the spot as my last Game of the Week recommendation for 2019. The fact that its also free to download for a limited time is a bonus, although this game is absolutely worth its usual asking price.

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This Portal-inspired platform-puzzle game is free for a limited time [Android Game of the Week] - Android Central

The 10 best Mac games of 2019 – Macworld

True to its name, A Short Hikeonly takes a couple of hours to finish. Im including it on this list, though, because I still find myself thinking about it a couple of months later. If Mr. Rogers had made a video game, I like to think it would have turned out something like this.

Youre a little bird in this tale, and with no greater goal than to reach the summit of the peak on the island where your family is vacationing. You technically dont even have to do much more than that. But the real A Short Hike, you might say, is the friends you make along the way.

Some folks you see need help, some want to chat, and some just want to play, but the beauty of A Short Hike is that youll want to help them and spend time with them. Its a game that says much with few words, and it captures the beauty of nature and flying even with its simplistic visual style. Itd be a perfect fit for Apple Arcade, but for now Ill just be happy we can play it on the Mac at all.

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The 10 best Mac games of 2019 - Macworld

Apple Arcades newest game is like Monument Valley with Lego – The Verge

Apple Arcade managed to squeeze its latest game in just before the holiday break and its yet another very welcome surprise. Called Builders Journey, its a puzzle / adventure hybrid that tells the story of a parent and child exploring a mysterious world. Its what would happen if you took Monument Valley and reimagined it with Lego bricks.

Builders Journey is divided into a series of distinct and adorable diorama-like levels. Each one is small enough that it fits on a single screen; you dont need to scroll around, though you can rotate each level slightly to get a glimpse from different angles. There are two characters, each made out of a handful of tiny Lego pieces (curiously there are no minifigs in the game). In most stages the goal is simply to get the pair to the end of the level, or to unite them. Sometimes you just need to build a nice sand castle. Naturally, you do this by playing with Lego.

You dont control the characters directly. Instead, in most cases what youre doing is creating a path to get them safely somewhere. That might mean erecting a bridge over a perilous, rushing river, or snapping together a series of ramps that one character can roll across on a skateboard. Initially, the premise and puzzles are fairly simple, as you guide the two through a quaint wilderness. But inevitably things get more complex. Soon enough youll be operating strange machinery and dealing with cheerful robots.

Much like Monument Valley and its ilk, Builders Journey tells its story entirely through animation and gameplay; there is no dialogue or narration. Its a simple tale, but touching in its way. And it feeds directly into the relaxing atmosphere. The controls can be a bit fiddly at times I struggled to place blocks exactly where I wanted them but otherwise, Builders Journey is a laid-back and intuitive experience.

Its particularly surprising as an official Lego product, given the companys history, which has primarily focused on family-friendly action games based on Star Wars and Harry Potter. But Builders Journey was developed by a brand-new internal studio called Light Brick, suggesting we might see more of these experimental, cerebral Lego titles in the future. In the meantime, Apple Arcade subscribers can check it out right now.

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Apple Arcades newest game is like Monument Valley with Lego - The Verge

The Top Ten VR Games of 2019 – Forbes

This year, virtual reality (VR) games have really come into their own, boasting higher quality gameplay than weve ever seen before. As were nearing the end of the year, its the perfect time to look back over all the incredible releases. Some of my personal favourites are listed below (in no particular order).

Although I havent included VR rhythm game, Beat Saber, in the listas it wasnt released in 2019it does deserve a mention for the Oculus Quest version, which has only been available from May this year (when the hardware was released). The freedom of the Quest unlocks the full potential for Beat Saber. If you havent given it a go yet, its an absolute must.

Asgards Wrath

This 25-hour fantasy role-playing epic is impressive. Many have said its the best VR game they have played to date. The fact it was built from the ground up for VR specifically makes it stand out. The game, which is developed by Sanzaru Games, is set in the universe of Norse mythology. During the experience, you switch back and forth between your towering God form and your mortal form, which has special powers. Its a rich and captivating adventure.

sanzaru

Pistol Whip

A VR rhythm shooter that engages your body in a unique and compelling way. Its pretty easy to pick up, but hard to master. Youre constantly moving through levels and need to dodge enemy bullets, Keanu Reeves Matrix-style, to pounding EDM music acting as the soundtrack to your adventure. If you love SUPERHOT VR and Beat Saber, this game is the perfect mix of the two!

Cloudhead Games

Stormland

This expansive VR game from Insomniac immerses you in the world of Stormland, an alien sky full of exotic life and scattered android civilization. Players step into the role of an android who has been shattered by the evil Tempest. While the cooperative play is fairly standardtwo players can explore, rather than oneits the freedom of the play that makes this experience unforgettable. Fight robots, soar across chasms, bound up cliffsthe environment is built to make the player feel powerful.

insomniac

Vader Immortal

Vader Immortal is composed of three episodes, each of which lasts less than an hour, although theres a non-narrative lightsaber dojo for long-term play. This Star Wars adventure was created by ILMxLAB and Lucasfilm in collaboration with Oculus Studios. In the experience, you are a smuggler, pulled into a scheme by none other than Darth Vader himself. With the help of your droid wingman, ZO-E3, you navigate the dangers of the fortress, hone your lightsaber skills, and meet new characters along the way. A must for Star Wars fans.

ilmxlab

Audica

This VR rhythm shooter combines award-winning music gameplay with precision shooting mechanics in a cosmic arena. Made by Harmonix, the guys behind Rock Band and Dance Central, the aim of the game is to smash targets to the beat of a soundtrack. Reminiscent of Beat Saber, theres a lot of sweeping gestures. Youll need to be accurate and focus on timing to ensure you hit the shot combos and succeed.

Harmonix Music Systems, Inc

A Fisherman's Tale

This is a mind-bending VR puzzle adventure game from InnerspaceVR. You play as Bob, a tiny fisherman puppet inside a model lighthouse. A storm means you need to leave your cabin and thats when you realise everything is not what you expected. The core mechanic of the puzzles in the game is that you can shrink and grow the size of any objects that are interactive. It takes a little getting used to, but youll soon be hooked!

Innerspace VR

Red Matter

Set during a fictitious cold-war, this retro-inspired puzzle adventure game challenges you to navigate Saturns moons to uncover a top-secret research project. In Red Matter, you play as Agent Epsilona super-spy astronautand you are equipped with various hi-tech tools to decipher hidden messages and investigate the facility. The graphics in this game are simply stunning and every tiny detail has been executed beautifullyits no wonder its being dubbed the best looking game on Quest. The gameplay is excellent toothe puzzles are unique to their environment and make you think, but are not too hard. The story is multi-layered with a number of twists, with the biggest at the end.

Vertical Robot

The Under Presents

First launched at Sundance Festival, The Under Presents is now available on Oculus Quest for anyone to try. If you do try it, you are in for something quite uniquelive theatre is integrated into the experience. Unlike other VR experiences, in The Under Presents, users are exposed to real actors giving live and scripted performances. The performances are expected to continue into early 2020. Players cannot speak in The Under, but the actors can. They also have the ability to take audience members on stage for interactive sections or even punish them for any misbehavior by putting them in a cage.

tender claws

No Mans Sky

The famous (and infamous) dense space exploration game can be enjoyed on the PlayStation 4s VR headset. Youre taken right into the heart of the new worlds you discover and you need to figure out whats at the center of the universe through piecing together clues and events that unfold. Youll never run out of new things to see and findtheres 30 hours of story contentas you hunt for resources to improve your ship and travel even greater distances.

Hello Games

Blood and Truth

This PSVR exclusive title has been a huge hit with players and critics alike. It is a first-person shooter that puts you in the shoes of a former Special Forces soldier who is fighting to save his family from a London crime boss. You start of armed with a single pistol, but you progress to owning much more firepower and using your hands to unpick locks. The number of positive reviews for this game firmly place it in this top 10. Im crossing my fingers that it will come out on Oculus/Vive as well in 2020.

SIE London Studio

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The Top Ten VR Games of 2019 - Forbes

Dig through a pile of indie deals in the Itch.io Holiday Sale – PC Gamer

Holiday sales are now ticking away at all the usual places: Steam, Epic, Origin, Ubisoft, Microsoft. And also over at indie storefront Itch.io, which is offering an array of "Holiday Picks" for 2019, and also a bunch of games that just happen to be on sale now.

One thing about Itch.io sales is that they generally don't have the bells and whistles, or basic organization, of those on the bigger sites. It's kind of like the MySpace of digital storefronts: It works, it's fine, but that layout is from a whole different era. It makes the sale more difficult to browse than it should be, which is a shame because there's some good stuff here. Such as:

Itch.io isn't going to offer the same sort of blockbusters as Steam or EGS (obviously) but it's a great site to go digging through for offbeat or experimental stuff. And you never know what you'll stumble across. I got pulled into the Rusty Lake series a few years ago via the very cheap Rusty Lake Hotel, and it's become one of my favorite super-bizarre puzzle-adventure series.

Itch.io's Holiday Sale ends on January 2.

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Dig through a pile of indie deals in the Itch.io Holiday Sale - PC Gamer

Madden 20 Ultimate Team: Absolutely everything you need to know about Zero Chill – Players, sets & challenges – RealSport

Zero Chill has arrived on Madden and keeps on being updated, and will do for the next three weeks. Keep up with all the updates here.

The Zero Chill program is officially back again in MUT and launched today with a bunch of new players, sets, challenges and packs. It has also arrived with another new currency, Kindling. Kindling is what youre going to need to buy packs and players from the store, much like you do with Training. As a bonus, when you first enter MUT you will receive a welcome pack with a NAT 82 OVR Bruce Smith along with a MUT Tip worth 25 kindling.

Here is everything you need to know about this years zero chill.

READ MORE:The good, the bad, and the ugly of Face of the Franchise

Of course, most peoples main concern with any new program is which new players they can add to their team. There are a total of 22 players available, ranging from 78 OVR up to 95 OVR.

In need of a dominant RE? Look no further. Smith is a beast, as you may expect. With 95 strength, 92 play recognition, 92 tackle, 93 block shedding, 95 power moves, and 90 finesse moves, good luck to anyone playing offense against you.

There is also a Power Up Bruce Smith card available.

There are three Gingerbread Masters to earn through sets.

While Hendricks may not be the most mobile LOLB in the game, he is going to be a beast against the run and a great pass rusher, particularly at defensive end in nickel packages. He has 85 strength, 90 tackling, 92 play recognition, 91 block shedding, and 89 pursuit. For what its worth, with 84 speed, 81 agility and 86 acceleration, he can do some damage in coverage when user-controlled.

X-Factor: Reinforcement

Tier 1 Ability: Secure Tackler

Tier 2 Ability: Enforcer

Tier 3 Ability: Run Stopper

Cooper has been one of the most impactful players for the Cowboys from the moment he arrived in Dallas, and this new card can be just as impactful for your Ultimate Team.

With 90 speed, 94 agility, 87 jumping, 89 catching, 86 catch in traffic, and 87 spectacular catch, added to his 88 short route running, 90 medium route running and 86 deep route running, he could be a nightmare to defend.

READ MORE:Lamar Jackson joins the most OP players in Madden history

X-Factor: Double Me

Tier 1 Ability: In Specialist

Tier 2 Ability: Out Corner Elite

Tier 3 Ability: Outside Apprentice

Of the three Gingerbread Masters, Peterson is the one Im least excited about, largely thanks to his abilities. While his ratings and abilities make him a very good power back, as should be expected, two of his abilities Bruiser and Bulldozer do the same thing. He basically has just two abilities.

Nevertheless, he is a good card.

X-Factor: First One Free

Tier 1: Ability: Bulldozer

Tier 2 Ability: Juke Box

Tier 3 Ability: Bruiser

The rest of the Zero Chill players can be found here.

READ MORE:Dallas Cowboys Franchise Mode guide

Along with the players, there are seven sets to be completed.

As Zero Chill goes on there will be more challenges, right now there is just one, along with a limited time House Rules solo and H2H.

Snow Day: 10 Challenges, 5,500 Coins, 100 Kindling, 50 Stars possible

A MUTmas Carol: 16 Challenges, 12,000 coins, 160 Kindling, 48 Stars possible

READ MORE:Live Playbooks & Players abilities changes

As more solos are released your rewards will stack, all the way up to 434 Stars. Along the way you will earn both Zero Chill uniforms, 12 Gingerbread Master collectibles, 200 Kindling, a Team Captain Token and 88-91 OVR NAT Zero Chill Player.

The Hearth is the new limited-time House Rules mode. The first is called Snowball Fight and will go on for the first week of Zero Chill, before a new set of rules takes over.

In solo Snowball Fight you get two points per reception, minus one point for an incompletion, and five points for an interception, with no special teams. You start with three minutes left in the third quarter, and have to fight back from a point deficit.

One star difficulty: Down by 25

Two star: Down by 40

Three star: Down by 55

READ MORE:The best money offensive & defensive playbooks

You can play these games as much as you like, and winning will unlock Hearth Packs that could contain Kindling, Frozen Players, Small Presents, or Holiday Puzzle Pieces.

These are the same rules, Snowball Fight, and the rules will reset every Monday but the rewards will stack. The only difference is the game lasts just a quarter. Wins reward Hearth Packs, and at specific win totals youll earn Gingerbread Master collectibles. They are: 5-15-30-50-70-90-100-110-120-130-145-160-175-190 wins. Rewards accumulate over the entire three week program.

Obviously, with a new currency, there is plenty new in the store.

READ MORE:How to go number one overall in Face of the Franchise

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Madden 20 Ultimate Team: Absolutely everything you need to know about Zero Chill - Players, sets & challenges - RealSport

Parents pay thousands for ‘brain training’ to help kids with ADHD and autism. But does it work? – NBCNews.com

So both of their families have reorganized their lives and spent thousands of dollars to enroll in intensive after-school brain training programs that offer the promise of permanent changes to the human mind.

The programs are part of a fast-growing industry thats based on the premise that targeted games and exercises can rewire the brain to boost memory, sharpen thinking or decrease the challenges associated with anxiety, autism, ADHD and other disorders. Brick-and-mortar training centers like Brain Balance Achievement Centers, which Izak attends, and LearningRx, Kyles program, are just one piece of a $2 billion global brain technology market that is increasingly going around the medical industry and marketing directly to consumers.

But the premise behind the programs has faced significant criticism from doctors and scientists who warn that some are making dubious claims. These personalized programs can cost $12,000 or more for six months of training, three days a week. Families have gone into debt or turned to crowdfunding sites to pay for them.

Theyre selling hope, said Eric Rossen, the director of professional development and standards for the National Association of School Psychologists. These organizations are not necessarily predatory, but they are definitely there and almost chasing the parents who are desperate, who are overwhelmed and who feel that they have no recourse.

As the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and autism surges in the U.S., according to federal data, and as parents become exasperated with treatments that dont work or involve medications that carry the risk of side effects, neurotechnology industry analysts predict the demand for programs like these will only grow.

NBC News spoke with more than a dozen scientists and experts who said that while theres promise in some forms of brain training, the field is so new that many companies are making claims that go far beyond what they can prove.

That hasnt stopped families from enrolling. NBCNews spoke to 22 parents of children who enrolled in Brain Balance or LearningRx, two of the largest one-on-one training programs, and many described positive results.

LearningRx makes you use your brain in a different way than you do in school, said Kyles mother, Alana Gregory, who says her son is focusing better and is less likely to hit other children than he was before he started the program in August. Its giving him skills to help when he is frustrated. And when he's not as frustrated, we don't have behavior issues.

But other parents say theyve seen only minor improvements if any despite months of hard work and high bills.

The whole thing is a hoax, said Atheer Sabti, who took out a $12,500 loan in 2017 to pay for a six-month Brain Balance program in Plano, Texas, to help his then 12-year-old son, who was getting into trouble and struggling to focus in school.

They took my money, Sabti said, and my son was the same.

Much of the growth in brain training is in apps and games that people use at home or in school, said Alvaro Fernandez, CEO of SharpBrains, a research firm that tracks the neurotechnology industry. The global market for direct-to-consumer technology grew from $475 million in 2012 to $1.9 billion last year, Fernandez said.

Those numbers dont include franchises like Brain Balance or LearningRX, which Fernandez says are more difficult to track financially. But these centers are now in most major U.S. cities. Brain Balance has 108 locations and said it brought in $51.3 million last year. LearningRx has 70 centers in the U.S. as well as 85 centers called BrainRx around the globe. The company declined to provide revenue numbers but says it hopes to add eight U.S. centers and 20 international centers next year.

Other companies include Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, which made headlines in 2017 when U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos disclosed that she and her husband are major shareholders.

Groups that advocate for people with autism and ADHD, including Autism Speaks and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or CHADD, warn parents to be wary of companies like these that claim to address a long list of disorders without much scientific proof.

We want science to drive treatment and intervention, not just anecdotes, said Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist in Cleveland and the co-chair of CHADDs professional advisory board.

Brain training companies are careful to comply with federal advertising laws, avoiding phrases like treat or cure. But some companies have run into trouble. LearningRx paid $200,000 in 2016 to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission about deceptive claims.

LearningRx maintained that the FTC had unfairly applied medical standards to an educational company, but decided that fighting in court would have been too expensive.

Neurocore, a program that blends diet, exercise, clinical talk therapy and an intervention called neurofeedback that involves attaching electrodes to peoples heads, last year agreed to alter its marketing when an advertising review board objected to ads promoting cures for a host of disorders. But just last month, Neurocore was the subject of a complaintfiled with the FTC by the ad watchdog Truth in Advertising.

Theyve continued to market in a really inappropriate way, said Bonnie Patten, Truth in Advertisings executive director. Theyre marketing unapproved medical devices as being able to treat ailments such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, migraines and memory loss when there's no reliable scientific evidence.

Neurocore CEO Mark Murrison points to research showing that neurofeedback works, though scientists say it has not been fully proven. He says Pattens organization has never reached out to him and he doesnt believe she understands his program.

His company has encountered skeptics, but thats to be expected when you offer an alternative to the status quo, he said.

The FTC declined to comment.

Brain Balance centers are colorful, cheerfully decorated places, often located in shopping centers in affluent neighborhoods. They each have a cognitive room where students play video games that target memory or brain function and a sensory motor room filled with mats, balance beams and monkey bars.

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On a recent afternoon at the Brain Balance in Oxford, about 40 miles north of Detroit, classical music played softly as coaches guided students through exercises designed to stimulate the left or the right side of their brains.

The Brain Balance program is demanding, calling on families to reduce childrens screen time and to cut most sugar, gluten and dairy from their diets. But what has raised eyebrows among mainstream scientists are some unproven theories that drive the one-on-one training.

One of those theories is the popular notion that the right and left side of the brain have different influences on personality. Brain Balance claims that a right brain weakness can cause impulsivity and anxiety, while a left brain weakness can lead to poor math or reading skills. Thats why kids remove just one sock: Brain Balance believes that as a bare foot makes contact with the floor, the opposite side of the brain will get more stimulation. Metronomes and shakers are placed on the same side as the bare foot.

Another Brain Balance theory has to do with primitive infant reflexes, which are the instincts babies are born with to help them survive. The rooting reflex, for example, supports nursing by leading babies to turn toward objects that touch their cheeks. The moro reflex, which likely evolved to help infants cling to their mothers, causes babies to extend their arms and legs when startled.

Doctors say that most people outgrow these reflexes by the time they start preschool. Robert Melillo, a chiropractor and author who founded Brain Balance in 2006, asserted that children who retain reflexes face academic and behavioral struggles. Brain Balance tests children for eight primitive reflexes and has exercises that target each one. The one that targets the moro reflex has children stretch their arms and legs, then curl into a ball.

Other exercises, such as standing on one foot, target balance and coordination to promote connectivity in the brain, said Rebecca Jackson, Brain Balances vice president of programs and outreach. I always like to tell the kids that its kind of like a workout for your brain, she said. We all have strong muscles and weak muscles, and its the same thing with the brain.

George Anderson, a senior research scientist in the Child Study Center at Yale University, is doubtful of this approach. He is among several university-affiliated experts and medical professionals who reviewed the research on the companys website and saw little proof to support the programs theories.

There is evidence that people with neurological issues like ADHD and autism are, in fact, more likely to retain primitive reflexes than their peers, Anderson said. But that doesnt mean that the Brain Balance exercises can eliminate retained reflexes, or that eliminating those reflexes would permanently reduce challenging behaviors.

There's just a lack of foundation for what theyre doing, he said. There are things that they really need to show, and Im surprised theyre in business and have 100 centers if they havent shown that. Actually, I'm not surprised theyre in business if they can get $12,000 for doing this. Its a way to make money. Im surprised they dont view this as unethical.

Daniel Simons, a University of Illinois psychology professor who has scrutinized 130 papers cited by brain training programs, said there is zero evidence to support the Brain Balance theory about problems being caused by a weakness on one side of the brain. This is pseudoscience at best, he said.

Brain Balance CEO Dominick Fedele says science supports the programs components, including the benefits of exercise for the brain. But he acknowledged that the company had not, until recently, attempted a comprehensive study comparing lasting outcomes for children who came through the program to a control group that did not. The company is now helping to fund such a study by a Harvard researcher.

We know there are skeptics out there and we suspect there will continue to be, but we want to be able to show that this is a program that truly makes a difference, Fedele said.

The company rejected the notion that selling an intervention that hasnt been fully proven is unethical. Many families report positive results and the activities arent harmful, said Jackson, the Brain Balance vice president.

Asked about downsides, Jackson replied, the downside is there is cost or time and money involved.

Melillo, who sold most of his stake in the company to a private equity firm several years ago, told NBC News that he honed the program over 10 years of working with children before he started charging for it.

The idea that we always have to wait to make sure we have absolute proof makes no sense, he said. The only way you know it works is by using it.

Parents who say the program doesnt work resent the thousands of dollars they spent to test it out.

Srikanth Mamidi was so angry about not seeing lasting benefits for his autistic son after six months in a Brain Balance program in Cary, North Carolina, that he tracked Melillo down at a ribbon cutting for another center and confronted him.

It was a time waster, an energy waster and a money waster, Mamidi said.

The program had seemed wacky to him, but he and his wife were determined to avoid giving medication to their son, who was 11 at the time and was struggling to make friends and pay attention in class, he said. They were hopeful when they paid $10,000 for the program and committed to driving 40 minutes each way for the training sessions.

But Mamidi said the small changes they saw in the beginning, such as a slight improvement in their sons ability to communicate, faded quickly.

When Mamidi confronted Melillo in 2016, the company founder just walked away, Mamidi said. They are interested in making money rather than improving peoples lives, he said.

Melillo said he did not recall the confrontation but notes that Mamidi is just one disgruntled parent among thousands who swear by the results.

Most Brain Balance reviews posted on Google and Yelp are glowing. Many franchise owners, including the couple who own the Oxford center, are former clients who tell moving stories about the relief they felt when they walked through the door after an overwhelming quest to help their children.

Izaks mom, Patty Lopez, says her son is a different child than he was when he started Brain Balance last spring. Back then, he was prone to daily tantrums that would last for an hour or more. When he was briefly in kindergarten last year, he trashed the classroom so many times that a teacher described him as the worst student that she had ever had in 18 years, Lopez said.

The family has made sacrifices to adopt the programs strict dietary and screen-time guidelines and make the hourlong drive to trainings. But its all been worth it, she said.

After seven months of Brain Balance, Lopez said Izak is doing well in school and now rarely has meltdowns, and she and her husband have been able to avoid giving him the medication that doctors wanted to prescribe. Its a huge change, she said. Its more relaxed. We can play. We can have conversations with him now.

Why do some families see benefits from brain training programs while others dont?

Experts say there could be lots of reasons all interventions, including medicine, affect children differently. Also, parents spending large sums of money can fuel the placebo effect, the belief that a treatment is working even if its not.

Children in the Brain Balance program are doing regular exercise and eating better than they may have been before, which can lead to better sleep. Many spend less time watching TV or staring at a phone. Theyre getting lots of personal attention from Brain Balances coaches. And theyre developing and maturing.

At the end of the year, they're better and many times they would have gotten better on their own, said Rossen, of the National Association of School Psychologists.

Many variables affect childrens lives new teachers, new schools, new milestones. It can be difficult to know what accounts for behavioral changes.

Ben Forbush, 19, a freshman at Michigan State University, said Brain Balance helped him with depression and anxiety when he enrolled as a high school senior.

He started eating breakfast and getting more exercise. He significantly curtailed the time he spent on his phone, and slept much better.

It might have been that the program enabled me to take care of myself a lot more than I had before, he said. Ill never know which aspect it was. Theres a chance it could have been any of them. If it works, it works. It definitely helped me a lot.

Crystal Hoshaw, a California mother, believes Brain Balance helped her son Noah, 7, with reducing repetitive behaviors related to autism and anxiety, such as sucking on his hands, that had been exacerbated by his parents separation and a move to a new home.

She credits Brain Balance with Noahs improvements because his tics were related to the nervous system, which the program targets. Noah also may have benefited from the extra time he and his mother spent together during the 45-minute drive to Brain Balance in San Francisco. The two stopped for burgers in what became little special dates, she said. To Hoshaw, the exact source of Noahs progress matters less than the results.

It doesn't have to be a hard line a good or a bad or a magic bullet or snake oil. It doesnt have to be so polarized, she said. It can just be one part of a holistic, well-rounded approach to helping a kid.

The LearningRX training center in Colorado Springs buzzed with activity on a recent afternoon as seven students and their trainers worked together at small tables. The noise level is intentionally loud to train clients to tune out distractions.

One child bounced on a mini-trampoline as she tried to recall all 45 U.S. presidents. Another child tossed a ball with his trainer as they took turns reciting the alphabet in time with a metronome, an exercise designed to help him multitask.

Many of LearningRxs brain games are similar to exercises that psychologists use to conduct IQ tests, including recalling numbers or shapes. Theyre given easy tasks to start and are rewarded with high fives from their coaches and points they can save up to buy prizes. When they can recite all of the presidents, their picture is posted on the wall.

LearningRX, which was founded in 2003 by an optometrist, initially as a vision therapy program, says it has always done research to show that the program can, for example, help the 29 percent of clients who have ADHD. The company has made a greater effort to publish that research since the FTC charges.

In the past three years, the company has published 11 peer-reviewed studies, said Amy Moore, an educational psychologist and research director of the LearningRxs research arm, the Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research. Among them is a small clinical trial published in a neuropsychiatry journal that found statistically significant improvements in a group of seven clients who had ADHD compared to a control group of six people with ADHD who did not attend LearningRx.

Prove is not in our language, but we have a convergence of evidence that shows that the program changes test results, Moore said. It changes connectivity in the brain and it changes real life.

But questions persist.

I would want a lot more evidence, said Thomas Redick, a psychology professor at Purdue University who has reviewed hundreds of brain training studies. He was among several experts who spoke with NBC News who noted that the peer-reviewed controlled trials and other studies touted on LearningRxs website were fairly small or lacked methodological rigor, such as measures to control for the placebo effect.

Redick added that he doesnt doubt that LearningRx clients do better on IQ tests after months of training, but he questioned whether the benefits translate to other settings. He is skeptical of LearningRxs claims that its clients have improved at school.

You can learn mnemonic strategies that are effective but that only works for those materials, he said. Its not changing whether or not you have ADHD.

Still, Alana Gregory, Kyles mom, said LearningRx has built confidence in her son, which has improved his behavior.

There is no magic pill, she said, but you have to find out what works for your individual child and go with it.

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Parents pay thousands for 'brain training' to help kids with ADHD and autism. But does it work? - NBCNews.com


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