15 Jan 2015

Early bird or night owl? New free psychology app analyses brain performance

A new research-focused psychology app, from The Open University (OU) and recruitment leaders Reed, will test just how well your brain performs at different times of the day.

The free Brainwave app – part of a wide-ranging OU research project focused on cognitive performance – is now available for download to mobile and tablet devices.

By playing five games, developed from the latest psychology research, users will build a picture of how their cognitive functions perform throughout the day. The outcome will ultimately answer the age-old question of whether users are “early birds” or “night owls”. Users will be encouraged to play the games at various times of the day to see how performance varies. Personal scores, presented as a graph or ‘Brainwave’, will show users when exactly it is that they perform at their best.

All game scores will remain anonymous and will be sent to researchers at the OU who will analyse the data to see how everyday rhythms, and the time of day, affect how the games are played by individuals and how this affects brain performance. The app will also assess how mood impacts on performance. In addition, by providing information on sleep habits, this will help the team to analyse the brain’s functions at different times of the day, linking to Circadian rhythms.

The project is being led Dr Darren Langdridge, Dr Martin Thirkettle and Professor Graham Pike. It will have access to a wealth of anonymous data to assess variations across all sections of society, as well as the impact of mood on brainpower and performance.

Dr Thirkettle, said: “This is set to be fascinating for both us and the user. For example, knowing that you’re at your sharpest during mid-morning might change the way you plan your work for the day or schedule job interviews. Capturing Big Data is vital to enable our research to be far more representative; in terms of having information that covers as wide a range of participants as possible. As well as that, for the game player it’s a lot of fun and definitely one to share!”

Professor Tim Blackman, Acting Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said: “Apps are a fantastic way of tracking your daily habits and making improvements in life. The Brainwave App can help users determine when they perform best and will also enable our researchers to pool that anonymous data for research purposes.”

The Brainwave App began as an original idea by Sir Alec Reed in conversation with Martin Bean, former Vice-Chancellor, The Open University.

Sir Alec Reed, who has a long history of funding education projects, said: “The aim of the app is to help capture a user’s cognitive ‘temperature’ at different times of the day. This will then help them to make informed decisions on how to plan their workload or prepare for important events such as interviews or exams.”

Find out more about the app and the games included:

Download the app:


Notes to editors
About Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the exploration of the brain and mental processes; it’s the science of how we think. Cognitive psychologists study everything from perceiving the world around us to remembering recent events and they use experimental tasks that isolate these processes or break them apart in order to study how they work.

To find out more about Psychology courses at the OU:

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has around 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.

The OU is rated in the top ten of UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, since the survey began in 2005. In 2013/14 it had a 91% satisfaction rating. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.

The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC and has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to co-producing prime-time series such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, Britain’s Great War, I Bought a Rainforest and Business Boomers. Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads.

About Reed

As well as being the number one recruitment brand in the UK, Reed has also invested millions into different charitable projects over the years. This joint venture is part of Sir Alec’s continual dedication to innovation, and joins two successful establishments who are both focused on education and personal improvement.

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