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Science History

25+ years in the making


Before computers, cognitive testing used paper, pencils, cards, and clunky gadgets. In one 1960 experiment, climbers on Mount Everest completed a card sorting experiment within their tents. It turned out that at such a high altitude, cognition operated a bit slower.

The 1980s

A team at the University of Cambridge began to harness the emerging technology of personal computers, building on earlier tests and growing scientific understanding of the brain to develop tests specifically designed to assess brain function.


By 1990, the idea of using computers for cognitive testing was still pretty radical, but the team at Cambridge, including Adrian Owen, moved forward with the use of computerized testing in neuropsychology.

Early versions of the Cambridge Brain Sciences tests were based on the study of patients with damage to specific parts of their brains. By knowing where the damage occurred, the tests could target the specific brain networks that underpin performance.

Rather than only measuring how good a person is at a test, these new tests targeted the brain regions responsible for functioning in everyday life.


With the advent of brain imaging, the tests were adapted so they could be used in scanning machines, leading to additional revolutionary discoveries about how cognition results from the structure and function of the brain.

The Cambridge Brain Sciences tests have the unique advantage of being built from the ground up to measure cognition based on what we know about the organ that gives rise to all of our thoughts and abilities: the brain.

1997 — 2009

Functional neuroimaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), continue to evolve.

By directly viewing the inner workings of the brain, the cognitive tests were further validated and refined, leading to discoveries about how our brains accomplish tasks we perform every day.


The Internet proved to be another enabling technology in the pursuit of understanding the brain. Moving the tests online unlocked the ability to conduct some of the largest cognition studies ever done.

Experiments with tens of thousands of participants all over the world have been published in high-profile journals.


In a paper published in Nature, the tests were used to put commercial brain training to the test.

Partnering with the BBC, and using an early version of the Cambridge Brain Sciences web site to collect data, the results were revealed on a special episode of the television series Bang Goes the Theory: commercial brain training did not have far-reaching effects on cognition.

It got us thinking: what does help boost cognition?


The concept of IQ was tackled next. Almost 45,000 people took the tests to see if intelligence could be boiled down to a single number. It turned out that it couldn’t.

At least three separate neural systems were required to explain performance: reasoning, short-term memory, and verbal ability.


With large-scale online studies proven to work, we opened these powerful tools up to the larger scientific community. Cambridge Brain Sciences for Researchers was launched in 2012 to allow any researcher to use our scientifically-validated tests in studies run over the Internet, significantly simplifying the data collection process while allowing anybody in the world to participate.

Since then, hundreds of trials have been run, with results published in top journals. Learn more about the research published using Cambridge Brain Sciences tests.


A chance connection led Adrian to Marc Lipton, an investor with a passion for neuroscience seeking out an opportunity in the brain health space.

2015 — 2016

It’s a match! Adrian and Marc, excited about the opportunity of using Adrian’s research to benefit everybody, begin to transform Cambridge Brain Sciences into a tool that individuals can use to learn about personal cognition and contribute to scientific research.

Together, they brought together a passionate team of scientists, product designers and software architects to build an entirely new offering, helping deliver validated brain insights to the masses in a modern and accessible way.


Now, the same tests that have been validated with over 25 years of research are available to the public through Cambridge Brain Sciences. The all-new Cambridge Brain Sciences was rebuilt from the ground up to combine the ability to track lifestyle factors proven to influence cognition, with tests proven to measure key areas of brain performance.

By putting the two together, Cambridge Brain Sciences lets you discover how your lifestyle affects your brain, so that you can live the patterns that result in the best you every day.