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Puzzles with a Purpose – Clinically Applied Neuroscience since 1982


  • Overview: Strong Mind Puzzles App

  • Sample Screens

  • Instructional Video

  • Press / Releases

  • Blog Entry #1

  • Social Media

  • Donalee's Biography

  • Published Book Details

  • Donalee Markus Photos

  • Calendar

  • Interviews and Articles

  • Contact Information

  • Project Developers

  • Overview of the Strong Mind Puzzles App
    The Strong Mind Puzzles App is designed to:
     • Improve concentration
     • Enhance memory
     • Sharpen problem-solving skills
     • Expand mental agility


    Effective problem solving and decision-making is based, at least in part, on the number of variables a problem solver or decision maker is capable of evaluating. With deliberate rehearsal, individuals can learn to increase the number of variables they use to make a decision. This skill reduces impulsivity and encourages the mental manipulation of ideas. Individuals develop a filter to think before they act or make a decision.

    Why finding Mistakes develops critical thinking behaviors.
    The Strong Mind Puzzles app gives individuals practice in identifying and learning to anticipate errors, and with practice, this develops an error-detecting reflex.

    Strong Mind Puzzles Target Brain Functionalities
    LinksPrefrontal Cortex
            • Activate the meta-cognitive conversation
            • Awareness
            • Selected attention
            • Planning
            • Concentration

    Strong Mind Puzzle 2Visual Cortex and Associated Areas
            • Visual Processing
            • Spatial Orientation

    Strong Mind Puzzle 3Whole Brain
            • Maintain a Goal
            • Memory Retention (working memory)
            • Decision Making
            • Critical Thinking
            • Reflexive Thinking
            • Mental Flexibility

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    Sample Screens

    Level 5 Screen
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    Puzzles with Purpose Puzzles with Purpose
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    Strong Mind Puzzles - Instructional Video
    The Strong Mind Puzzles App has a built-in video that explains how to play the various levels of the game. For your convenience, we have included the video below.
    Instructional Video

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    Press Releases

    Media Contact
    Elia Nikitas
    773.663.6637

    elia.nikitas@gmail.com

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    October 25, 2010


    APP BRINGS EXPERT'S "BRAIN GAIN"
    PUZZLES TO iPHONE USERS

    Innovative Approach to Building Intelligence,
    Critical Thinking Now Available by Download


    For over 30 years, neurocognitive learning specialist Donalee Markus created puzzles with a purpose. She's developed them, one at a time, for individual clients, professionals, corporate executives – for people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, children with learning difficulties, adults with memory issues due to aging brains and NASA engineers who want to maximize intelligence and catalyze creativity.

    "I have well over 18,000 puzzles by now in my repertoire." Focusing on enhancing the plasticity of the brain and its billions of neural connections, Markus is a firm believer that intelligence can be affected and optimized through exercises that target specific areas of the brain as well as the brain as a whole.

    Now Markus, who holds a PhD from Northwestern University and has been helping individuals and corporations exercise their mental muscles since 1983, is bringing the fruits of her pioneering work and successful professional practice to an audience that's a quantum leap wider – users of the iPhone. Donalee chose the exercises that make the greatest change in the shortest amount of time for her first iPhone Application, Strong Mind Puzzles App.

    "I want to reach out globally to give people the exercises that meet the most critical needs of the population today," she says. To Markus, this means the "executive" functions that are located in the prefrontal cortex — where we have a conversation with ourselves about what we want to say or do before we go ahead and say or do it.

    STRONG MINDS PUZZLES APP/Add One
    "It's not just people with brain injuries or in a chemo fog or who are aging who have issues with memory or concentration," she says. "People don't take time to understand instructions and are impatient when it comes to rehearsal or practice." She adds that the only way to change your brain is to focus, be mindful, and strengthen your neuro networks or build new ones through practice, similar to the basketball star who practices a shot 10,000 times so it comes naturally during the big game.

    To help achieve this, Markus has carefully created a hierarchy of nine puzzle levels, based on increasingly complex rules and variables. The first level features 25 puzzles with only one variable, which are sorted randomly by color, shape, size, or orientation of the object. The user can reset the level as often as they like, and the permutations are random and complex. The game provides 1000's of different puzzles to give the user the rehearsal that he/she needs to think smarter not harder. In this game, you are the teacher. Every level demands that the user get 80% correct to move up a level – the player looks for the errors that someone else made when they played the game. To find someone else's mistakes is more fun than editing one's own work and best of all the, the editing skill is transferred to other tasks. Dr. Markus makes the levels more complex by increasing the number of variables, the use of deductive and inductive reasoning, and ambiguity. The game demands that the player thinks…and if the player makes a mistake, there is a second chance to solve the problem and to learn from the error.

    The user gets to figure out their own mistakes, which helps he/she learn from them and better understand how their mind works. According to Dr. Markus, this translates to improved memory, concentration and problem solving. Strong Mind Puzzles provides 1000's of different opportunities to exercise the brain.

    Dr. Markus' app can be downloaded on the iPhone at 
    http://appshopper.com/games/strong-mind-puzzles for $ 1.99. She is currently working on an expanded version for the larger-format iPad. Also, creating an app for other smartphones is in the works, from a selection of her additional 18,000 paper and pencil puzzles.

    "It's fun, and the workout makes your brain feel good," declares Markus. "We spend so much time sitting passively: It's time to be mindful and start thinking."


    # # #

    To learn more about Donalee Markus' work, visit DesignsForStrongMinds.com


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    Blog Entry #1
    Got a long plane ride coming up or are you a daily commuter on the train? Maybe you can use that down time to get through all nine levels of the recently launched iPhone puzzle app, Strong Mind Puzzle, downloadable for $9.99 at appshopper.com/games/strong-mind-puzzles. The app is the brainchild, literally, of neurocognitive learning specialist Donalee Markus, a PhD who for over 30 years has created puzzles to optimize brain plasticity for individual and corporate clients — people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, children with learning difficulties, adults with memory issues due to aging brains and NASA engineers who want to improve their critical thinking.

    Dr. Markus believes that all of us can use a brain workout to increase our concentration and memory, improve decision making and abstract thinking, and become more mindful by getting to know how our minds work. To create the app, Dr. Markus handpicked some 300 puzzles from her cache of 18,000, converting them into code and sequencing them in a way designed to strengthen our neuro networks, or build new ones, through practice.

    To help us achieve this, Markus leads us through a hierarchy of nine puzzle levels based on increasingly complex rules and variables. The first level features 25 puzzles with only one random variable — color, shape, size, or orientation of the object. As you ascend the levels (and you must get 80% correct to move up a level), you look for errors of omission and commission and cope with increasing numbers of variables, as well as ambiguity. You get to figure out your own mistakes, which helps you learn from them and better understand how your mind works. Best of all, it's fun.


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    Social Media: Find Us on Facebook and Twitter
    Information about Donalee Markus' work, as well as conversation and reviews about her Strong Mind Puzzles App is now available on Facebook and Twitter. Click the links below for details.
    Facebook
    Twitter

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    Donalee Markus biography
    Since 1983, Donalee Markus and her Designs for Strong Minds™ associates have been maximizing intelligence for individuals and corporations throughout the U.S. An innovative program of exercises, Designs for Strong Minds™, uses game-like, content-free exercises to filter out emotional influences, allowing the participants to work solely on skills.

    Dr. Markus has designed programs for children, adolescents, professionals, and aging adults. Dr. Markus has had tremendous success working with individuals who have suffered traumatic head injuries. In addition, she was selected to design a program for NASA's Critical Thinking Skills Project.

    Most people play to their strengths, avoiding situations where they need to use skills with which they are less comfortable. However, through content-free exercises, Dr. Markus helps these individuals improve on their weaknesses by building and exercising their mental muscles.

    The Designs for Strong Minds™ exercises allow individuals to hold more information, sort and organize information in innovative ways, and collect information from a broader base. These skills then help participants:
     • Enhance their communication skills
     • Increase their flexibility and risk taking
     • Improve their analytical ability
     • Optimize their creativity

    Designs for Strong Minds™ maximizes intelligence by making participants aware of the ways in which they think. The program:
     • Allows participants to understand their thought processes
     • Gives them insight into their problem solving strategies
     • Gives them the courage to take risks
     • Presents them with options for change and change to come
     • Offers the opportunity to habituate new processing behaviors

    Dr. Markus earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1983. She did post-doctoral work under Reuven Feuerstein (see pic below) at the Hadassah-Wizo Research Institute, Jerusalem, Israel.



    Reuven Feuerstein
    April 2007


    Reuven Feuerstein
    1984

    Curriculum Vitae (.doc)

    CFO Presentation AICPA Proposal (.doc)

    Los Alamos Colloquium Proposal (.doc)

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    Book Details
    Donalee Markus has written two books which are available for sale on Amazon.com.
    Retrain your Business Brain

    Retrain Your Business Brain:
    Outsmart the Corporate Competition

    by Donalee Markus, Lindsey Markus, Pat Taylor

    Everyone talks about thinking "outside of the box", but no one teaches how - until now. In her new book Retrain Your Business Brain: Outsmarting the Corporate Competition, Dr. Markus presents 101 original, visual perception and context-free puzzles that can actually change the way employees integrate information, opening the door to an unlimited number of new possibilities. These puzzles represent the prerequisites for thinking, and readers will walk away with ways they can improve their "brain elasticity."

    In Retrain Your Business Brain, restructuring expert and business consultant Donalee Markus, Ph.D., presents a challening new approach that will result in reenergized business decisions and practices.


    Call or email if you would like to purchase this book,
    now in its 7th Edition!


    The Road Trip

    The Road Trip: A parable about where to lead, when to follow, and how to get out of the way
    by Donalee Markus, Ph.D., Lindsey Markus, M.A.

    This management book about leadership identifies eight problem solving models and illustrates the advantages of using specific perspectives to solve different types of problems. Smart people make dumb mistakes when they do not challenge their belief systems. The repeated error that these people make is that they defend their viewpoint vehemently and refuse to change their minds once they have made a decision. The Road Trip challenges the belief that any particular perspective is sacred and immutable. The message of this book is that we can choose how we respond to any particular problem.


    Call or email if you would like to purchase this book,
    now in its 7th Edition!


    Links

    Donalee Markus Photos:
    If you would like a photo for use in an article, we have provided low- medium- and high-resolution images for print and online use. To download on a PC, click right-shift-click, and "Save image" to your desktop. On an Apple computer, simply drag image to your desktop. Call or email with questions or technical issues. We request that you credit each photo with the words: PHOTO: © 2011 DONALEE MARKUS
    Donalee Markus


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    Donalee Markus


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    Links

    Calendar:

    Dates are coming soon!

     



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    Interviews and Articles

    article
    Crains Chicago Business
    Five trends that will affect your small business in 2011
    Lisa Bertagnoli - Crains  Lisa Bertagnoli, Crain's Contributing Writer
    December 13, 2010

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    Donalee Markus invested almost $100,000 in an
    iPhone app for her business, Designs for Strong Minds.

    Photo by: Stephen J. Serio

    Mobile technology: Michael Galiga owns Barcode-source Inc., a Glen Ellyn seller of bar-coding equipment and supplies. He uses an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air to run the business, which grosses $2.5 million a year, from his home office.

    Mr. Galiga, 47, goes to Google for e-mail and to share documents with employees in his virtual office. He runs payroll via an iPhone app. He's mulling making a smartphone app to allow his customers to compare vendor service and pricing.

    "It's the whole mobility thing," Mr. Galiga says.

    The world is increasingly turning from desktop to mobile computing: Smartphone sales are expected to eclipse desktop computer sales in 2012, according to research from Morgan Stanley & Co.

    As Mr. Galiga knows, mobile technology helps with workforce management. It's also what customers expect, says Joe Oleksak, manager of the Chicago security assurance and consulting practice at Plante & Moran PLLC.

    "The customer is already mobile," Mr. Oleksak points out.

    He sees small businesses using mobile technology for credit card transactions, product demos and sharing information with customers. "It's an opportunity to get more in front of customers, beyond the traditional storefront," he says.

    DIGITAL AGENDA
    Going mobile takes some planning; configuring websites for cell phone use is one example, says Michael Lavista, founder and CEO of Caxy Inc., a Chicago-based web consulting and development firm.

    To be mobile-friendly, websites need bigger bars (to accommodate thumbs) and streamlined, easy-to-read graphics. Mr. Lavista compares them to billboards: "Good ones have four or five words," he says, "bad ones, you have to get a magnifying glass to read."

    Smartphone apps are another mobile option, especially for businesses whose clients use iPhones. Apps are rare now for small businesses, but Mr. Lavista sees them catching on, particularly for short sales presentations.

    Apps are "really sexy," he says, but have drawbacks: IPhones currently do not allow Flash applications (although Android phones do), and app development is expensive.

    Still, Donalee Markus took the plunge, investing almost $100,000 to have Caxy design an iPhone app for her business, Highland Park-based Designs for Strong Minds.

    The app, a game called Strong Mind Puzzles, is the electronic version of a paper-and-pencil game Ms. Markus, a neurocognitive learning specialist, developed years ago. The app costs $9.99; the analog game, $100.

    Ms. Markus, 65, sees the app as a way to attract a larger audience for her products and, she hopes, land her a development deal with a big gaming company. "For years I've said I want to be the Martha Stewart of education," she says.

    COST'S REWARDS
    Going mobile is an investment, but it has its own economic rewards, says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Assn., an Oakbrook Terrace-based trade group.

    "No need to do data backups because of cloud (computing), no servers in the environment. . . . All those things are trending toward cost reduction for small businesses," Mr. Thibodeaux says.

    He sees almost all upside, aside from lost phones or poor connections. "There are not tremendous drawbacks," he says. "It's making a paradigm switch."

    © 2010 by Crain Communications Inc.
    article
    article
    IntoMobile
    Strong Mind Puzzles apparently helps iPhone users
    build intelligence and critical thinking

    Dusan Belic - IntoMobile  Dusan Belic, Senior Editor of IntoMobile.com
    Monday, November 15th, 2010 at 12:59 AM PST

    Neurocognitive learning specialist Donalee Markus has been creating brain-developing puzzles for over 30 years, helping its clients — including people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, children with learning difficulties, adults with memory issues due to aging brains and NASA engineers. During that 30-year period, she has made more than 18,000 puzzles and now select few are available to the iOS device owners through the app called Strong Mind Puzzles. Apparently, the exercises chosen make the greatest change in the shortest amount of time.

    The application comes with 9 puzzle levels, based on increasingly complex rules and variables. The first level features 25 puzzles with only one variable, which are sorted randomly by color, shape, size, or orientation of the object. You can reset the level as often as you like, and the permutations are random and complex. The game provides 1000′s of different puzzles that should make you "think smarter not harder." Every level demands that you get 80% correct to move up a level.

    As we mentioned, the levels get more complex as you progress, requiring the use of deductive and inductive reasoning, and ambiguity. You get to figure out your own mistakes to apparently learn how your mind works and eventually "improve memory, concentration and problem solving."

    I'm not sure I'm that convinced, but considering Strong Mind Puzzles costs only 2 bucks, I'm willing to try it out.

    Strong Mind Puzzles ($9.99) 
    [iTunes link]
    Click for full article

    Dusan Belic, Senior Editor of IntoMobile.com, has been using smartphones since their introduction and is now following the latest trends in the industry. The "convergence" is what he's most excited about, and writing about it is the next logical thing to do. He thinks that using a smartphone is what everyone who cares about their time should do.

    In addition to his interests in mobile phones, Dusan also loves to experiment with the latest web and mobile 2.0 services. The idea of accessing and managing your information from any device no matter where you are simply amazes him. Whether it's an online to-do list, note taking service or a video sharing social network, he's there to try it out. He admits though, he's still searching for the ultimate web-based organizational tool, which "sings" perfectly with the mobile PIM application. Dusan used to run SymbianWatch.com which later became part of IntoMobile. He lives in Serbia, South-East Europe, from where he edits the site on a daily basis.

    IntoMobile delivers breaking news, information, and analysis on the latest mobile phones and mobile technology. IntoMobile is the leading and most read daily mobile technology news site that caters to early adopters, mobile professionals, technology enthusiasts, and technology consumers alike. Founded in late 2005, IntoMobile now serves a global audience of over 3.5 million monthly unique visitors* looking for complete coverage on mobile technology – making us the most trafficked mobile tech news resource on the web!

    article
    article
    Better Brain Better Life
    Brain Training with iPhone App
    Paddy Kamen - Better Brain Better Life PADDY KAMEN, Publisher
    FEBRUARY 1, 2011

    Donalee Markus certainly knew what she was doing when she designed Strong Mind Puzzles as an app for the iPhone. With 29 years of neuro-cognitive development practice under her proverbial belt, she is an expert in helping people to become more intelligent, largely through the use of puzzles, of which she has created thousands, some for general use and others for very specific neuro-developmental challenges.

    Markus did post-graduate work in communicative disorders, and has a Ph.D in business administration and management sciences from Northwestern University. She is president of Designs for Strong Minds and co-author of 'Retrain your Business Brain', and 'The Road Trip: A parable about where to lead, when to follow and how to get out of the way'.

    With a private practice in a suburb of Chicago, Markus works with children, adolescents and adults to strengthen weak thinking skills. The work could be as relatively 'simple' as helping someone who is weak in math become competent in it, or as complex as helping a child born with half a brain to develop as robust a cognitive reality as possible. She developed a critical thinking skills program for NASA scientists to catalyze communication skills and creativity and has worked with major corporations to enhance mental flexibility and complex problem solving.

    The iPhone app, known as Strong Mind Puzzles is designed to enhance concentration, memory and problem-solving skills. There are nine levels in the game, constituting thousands of individual exercises. Players become better at learning from past experiences and generating alternative solutions to problems. It is easy to learn the rules for the game and, from my personal experience, pretty addictive once one starts playing. I got to Level 8 and had to tear myself away!

    Markus chose puzzles for the iPhone app that would benefit the greatest number of people. "The puzzles address the pre-frontal cortex and therefore the executive functioning of the brain," she explains in an interview with Better Brain Better Life. "I wanted to help the most people in the most significant way, whether children, seniors, people with traumatic brain injury or busy executives. My husband, a plastic surgeon, enjoys the app and uses different strategies each time he plays the game to think faster and to habituate generating alternatives more quickly."

    The benefits of using puzzles as teaching tools are many, according to Markus. "There's a playfulness about doing puzzles and we can approach them with a sense of humor, not taking ourselves too seriously. Puzzles also help to develop a propensity for risk taking. One can say, 'Oh, I don't know how to do this so I am bound to make mistakes and that is O.K'. It's about learning a process, rather than focusing only on the product."

    The puzzles are culture-free and don't require any special knowledge. Early levels involve looking at a grid with four possible basic shapes: a mask, a bus, an apple and a bell. On each screen the player is asked to match the center image with surrounding images, based on 'same' or 'different' colors and shapes (later screens increase the number of variables and the use of inductive and deductive reasoning skills). One completes a level of 25 screens and is then advised if there are errors, which one can go back and try to correct. Strong Mind Puzzles are fun, good for the brain and inexpensive.

    Markus made quite an impression on me an innovator and someone who cares deeply about helping people live happier and more satisfying lives. Stay tuned for a feature story on her life and work.


    Tagged as: brain games, brain training, communicative disorders, critical thinking skills, donalee markus, iphone, iPhone app, kellogg graduate school of management, mental flexibility, mind puzzles, nasa scientists, neuro-development, problem solving skills, retrain your business brain

    Paddy Kamen is an experienced communicator: for governments, professional associations, politicians, publications. The majority of Paddy's work has been the written word, but she is also involved in media relations, public speaking, and adult education. Paddy's goal is to bring her digital magazine on brain science to a wide audience.
    article
    article
    iPhone Journal
    Strong Minds iPhone Game
    ina the Stay At Home Mom TINA (The "Stay At Home Mom" - SAHM), Reviewer
    05 DECEMBER 2010

    Donalee Markus and her Designs for Strong Minds Associates put their knowledge and research together to create the Strong Mind Puzzles app. Playing this simple game will help improve your brain function. Their experience includes working with children through adults, brain injured patients, and NASA employees. DesignsForStrongMinds.com

    When I first installed this app and started playing it, I thought to myself, "This is cake." Apparently, I was wrong. The first level is fairly simple and the difficulty goes up as the levels increase. Each level has 25 screens in which you need to select matches to the center object according to the top right grid. For instance, the grid will have "Same color" and "Different Shape"; you select all of the eight objects that meet these criteria. At the end of each level you receive a score and breakdown on which boards you got correct and which ones were wrong. You then have the option to go back and fix the ones that were wrong.

    All in all, I liked this app. It was interesting to see how well my brain functions in the morning compared to late at night. This may bother some people, but I actually enjoyed the fact there was no sound. It allowed me to either concentrate completely on the puzzle game or listen to my own music.

    Requirements and Information:
    • Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
    • Requires iOS 4.0.2 or later
    • Size: 5.2
    • Price: $9.99

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    Contact Details
    Dr. Donalee Markus conducts individual consultations and classes in Highland Park, Illinois. Current classes include children, adolescents, and women professionals. Dr. Markus conducts seminars for groups of 12 or more.

    To arrange a private consultation, seminar or for more information about Designs for Strong Minds™, please contact us.


    Donalee Markus & Associates
    484 Hillside Drive
    Highland Park, IL 60035-4826

    PHONE: (847) 433-7878
    EMAIL:  drdots007@aol.com

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    Project Developers
    Two firms combined to deliver the Designs for Strong Minds App.

    CAXY is a Web consulting and custom web development company in Chicago specializing in open-source technology including Drupal, Wordpress, ExpressionEngine, Codeigniter, X-Cart, Javascript/Ajax, Linux, PHP, MySQL and Mobile APP development. 

    REEDnWRITE is a Chicago-based communications strategy and execution company, focused on graphic design, branding and online marketing.

    Powered by CAXY Design: REEDnWRITE

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    Designs for Strong Minds™ • 484 Hillside Drive, Highland Park IL 60035
    P: 847.433.7878 • F: 847.433.6760 • info@designsforstrongminds.com
    All images, text and games are copyright © 2008 Design for Strong Minds™
    and may not be used without permission. All rights reserved.
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