Way back in the dark days of computing, I used to conduct training classes for people who were seeing Windows and using a mouse for the very first time. In those classes, we insisted that solitaire wasn't a game: it was a training device to help people learn how to click and drag things.
I was reminded of this experience when I test-drove Lumosity, a "brain fitness program" that gives you access to a series of Flash-based exercises that bear a suspicious resemblance to some of today's casual games. Along with improving our physical fitness, web workers certainly need to keep their mental fitness tip-top, so I gave it a test drive.
The idea behind Lumosity is simple. They say that an NIH-funded study has demonstrated the proper training can improve memory, attention, and processing speed, and their exercises are designed to administer this training (while admittedly also letting you have a little fun). Click your camera on the birds, match the shapes, or help the farmer get past the monsters to water the flowers, and you'll be training your brain in short easy sessions, almost without knowing it.
Along with the exercises, Lumosity tracks your history and charts it to demonstrate how your brain is improving, and calculates a "brain performance index" for you. You can even sign up to participate in their ongoing research. Does it work? Darned if I know; you can read about the science at their site, or sign up for a two-week free trial to test it for yourself. After that it's $9.95 per month to keep using the service. And remember, if your boss catches you matching the colorful shapes, you're only trying to improve your performance on those boring work-related tasks.