Brain training program Lumosity presented research yesterday at the 2014 Society for Neuroscience conference on how lifestyle factors such as sleep, mood, and time of day impact cognitive gameplay performance. The study, titled “Estimating sleep, mood and time of day effects in a large database of human cognitive performance,” analyzed over 60 million data points from 61,407 participants and found that memory, speed, and flexibility tasks peaked in the morning, while crystallized knowledge tasks such as arithmetic and verbal fluency peaked in the afternoon. Overall, they found that game performance for most games was highest after 7 hours of sleep and with positive moods.

“We were able to uncover these subtle differences in individual game play performance because of the diversity and depth of our online platform,” says Daniel Sternberg, PhD, data scientist at Lumosity and lead author of the study, in a release. “These findings, combined with other health and lifestyle data, have the potential to provide clear and actionable insights into how an individual’s daily life can impact cognitive performance.”

Participants completed 100 or more daily surveys on sleep (“?5” to “9+” hours of sleep) and mood (very bad, bad, neutral, good, or very good) over the course of a year. Gameplay performance data from nine popular Lumosity games, each challenging a distinct cognitive ability, and these surveys were analyzed to understand within-person effects and control for individual differences.

Following are the games and the order of their peak performance times throughout the day, with the training task in parentheses:

7:00 – 9:00 AM, Pinball Recall (working memory)
9:00 – 11:00 AM, Color Match (stroop task)
9:00 – 11:00 AM, Ebb and Flow (task switching)
10:00 – noon, Memory Matrix (visuospatial memory)
10:00 – noon, Speed Match (N-back)
10:00 – noon, Lost in Migration (flanker task)
1:00 – 3:00 PM, Word Bubbles Rising (verbal fluency)
2:00 – 4:00 PM, Raindrops (speeded arithmetic)
6:00 – 8:00 PM, Chalkboard Challenge (arithmetic reasoning)

This study suggests that there are subtle individual differences in gameplay performance that may be impacted by time of day, sleep, and mood. In addition, participants’ beliefs about when and how well they will perform are in line with their actual performance results. Sleep effects built on previous findings (Sternberg et al, 2013), and suggest there may be a way to optimize the scheduling of different tasks based on individual differences. Future studies can combine these findings with the growing health and lifestyle data from smartphones and wearable devices to help individuals and researchers better understand the relationships between our daily lives and cognitive performance.