ON PUZZLES AND ALGORITHMS. PART TWO. TRAINING THE BRAIN
“Neurons that fire together wire together.”
-Dr. Donald O. Hebb (1904–1985)
This article is going to be about how I went ahead with the assignment of helping Posit Science with the software localization of their brain training program BrainHQ. More specifically the internationalization part English to Spanish. To that purpose I think it will be helpful to define what a brain fitness program is all about. What is the aim of such a program? How does it achieve it? Perhaps as important to clarify what is not. With that in mind I am going to be referring to Posit Science’s BrainHQ.
Firsts let’s take a look at the brain. The human brain is composed of billions of neurons (brain cells) interconnected by billions of synapses (connections) that when fire in proximity bond together forming a connectome (network). These connectomes seem to play an important role in cognition. That is the ability of our brain to perceive and understand through our senses what we see, hear, taste, touch, memories, emotions, learning, and decision making. In other words a veritable wonders of wonders. The human persona!
One of the goals of this program (BrainHQ) is to improve that cognitive capacity. Brain training programs are designed to exercise particular areas of the brain so they are able to function better. A very important caveat is that the program has to be clinically validated.
An analogy. Come with me to our favorite gymnasium and let’s ask one the trainers to explain to us how a particular physical training program works. She or he will ushers us to the different exercise apparatus and explain to us: what group of muscles the machine exercises, how many repetitions will be necessary, how to operate the machine, and the number of days per week necessary to meet our physical fitness goals. That is exactly the way it is with a brain training program. You can equate if you will the exercise machine with a particular brain training exercise and groups of muscles with specific areas of cognition and you have the whole idea. As it is with physical training a brain training program is NOT a magic pill that act immediately and forever and ever. It takes hard work, perseverance and a clear mind about your objectives.
The translation of a brain fitness program has to take into consideration all of the above mentioned factors and then some. There are two additional essential factors to look at. The space limitations imposed by the use of HTML and the nature of the material to be translated.
HyperText Markup Language, commonly referred to as HTML, is the standard markup language used to create web pages. The original instructions and actual brain fitness exercises are conceived for a specific space within the realm of a web page. Now consider that the Spanish language is a “flowery language” as compare with the English language. That means that you are always “walking” literally at the edge of the page.
Then there is the case of the character of the material involved. The instructions to the users and the actual exercises. The instructions can present sometimes some difficulties because depending on the Spanish speaking country certain expressions could be offensive or confusing to the user. On the other hand the language used in the actual exercises has a precise connotation for the specific part of the brain that is trying to stimulate. In this case the translator has to search very deeply into her or his brain to come out with a particular word or expression that will equate the original.
With all these factors in mind I came out with an algorithm covering most of these variables. Ten steps in total. All the translated material was summited to proofreading and editing. For this I had the invaluable help of the same editor that I work with before Dr. Cristina Gomes-Gomes. Once more thank you Cristina.
We completed the software localization in five months. On Nov 12, 2015 at a summit in New York City, Posit Science unveiled the new site, BrainHQ en español, by offering a test-drive experience to national media to demonstrate the value of brain fitness to the Latino community. With over 40 million native Spanish speakers in the US alone, Spanish-language access to these exercises is critically important, providing an effective platform for making lasting improvements in brain function to the Spanish-speaking world. Curious? Please visit es.brainhq.com
In the immensity of our brain one single neuron does not amount to a hill of beans. But that neuron working together with trillions of other neurons that is what makes the different. That’s what makes us unique (our complexity) among all the species that populate our planet. Then again we feel our individuality. We insist and thrive on it. We have to learn from the behavior of our neurons. Namely that without forgetting our personas we have to accept the help of others and work for the betterment of humanity.
Disclosure: I am presently collaborating with Posit Science as administrator of es.brainhq.com