Brain Games (National Geographic)

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Brain Games
Presented by
Country of originUnited States
Running time33 minutes (approx.)
Original networkNational Geographic Channel
Original releaseOctober 9, 2011 (2011-10-09) –
March 20, 2016 (2016-03-20)
External links

Brain Games is a popular science television series that explores cognitive science by focusing on illusions, psychological experiments, and counterintuitive thinking. Neil Patrick Harris was the unseen narrator in the first season, replaced by Jason Silva for the remainder of the series as its host and presenter; in addition, sleight-of-hand artist Apollo Robbins has been a frequent consultant and illusionist guest on the show. The show is interactive, encouraging television viewers, often along with a handful of live volunteers, to engage in visual, auditory, and other cognitive experiments, or "brain games", that emphasize the main points presented in each episode. The series debuted on the National Geographic Channel in 2011 as a special.[1] Its return as an original series in 2013 set a record for the highest premiere rating for any National Geographic Channel original series with 1.5 million viewers.[2] Season 7 aired in 2016. National Geographic announced that the show would return as a 2-hour live event in the fall of 2018.[3] As of December 2018, no live event ever took place.

The series is deemed acceptable for use toward E/I credits, and Litton Entertainment added repurposed reruns of the show to its One Magnificent Morning block in fall 2017.[4]

On May 14, 2019, it was announced that a revival of this series, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, will premiere on December 1, 2019.[5]




Episode list[edit]

Season 1 (2011)[edit]

Season 1 consists of three one-hour pilot episodes.

No. Title [6]

Original air date

1"Watch This!"October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
Explore optical illusions and how our brain can mislead us.
2"Pay Attention!"October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
David Copperfield explores how we use attention throughout our everyday life.
3"Remember This!"October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
Former detective Greg Walsh exposes memory weakness in a staged scenario where a guy's camera is stolen and the eyewitnesses provide conflicting accounts of what happened.

Season 2 (2013)[edit]

No. Title [7]

Original air date

1"Focus Pocus"April 22, 2013 (2013-04-22)
Highlights our misconception that your brain is able to focus on everything important at any given time. Games and scenarios involving football and cheerleaders, and a dinner scenario.
2"It's About Time"April 22, 2013 (2013-04-22)
Topics on how the brain tries to measure time to speed up or slow down depending on the situation. Games and scenarios involving bullriders, counting intervals, information overload, audio and visual syncing, and a bar trick on snatching money.
3"Motion Commotion"April 29, 2013 (2013-04-29)
Explore how your brain uses and reacts to motion in order to make decisions. Games and scenarios where images appear to be moving a certain way when they are not, sleight-of-hand trick with Apollo Robbins, the effect of sound on perception, and when focusing on one object causes ones in the periphery to move differently.
4"Don't Be Afraid"April 29, 2013 (2013-04-29)
How fear plays into your perceptions on things. Games and scenarios involving trying to remember things when there is fear involved, how sound effects and music can make a scene look scary. Silva plays a Russian-roulette type of game where he experiences the powers of dread. Trying to remember objects in a haunted house. Volunteers go into a dark room and encounter creepy things.
5"Power of Persuasion"May 6, 2013 (2013-05-06)
How marketers and advertisers manipulate your brain to persuade you. Games and scenarios involving priming, a demonstration involving smashing crates, a guy impersonates a reporter, a game where the viewer chooses the winners of an election based solely on their headshots, and an interview scenario about first impressions.
6"What You Don't Know"May 13, 2013 (2013-05-13)
Topics on how the brain tricks you into thinking you know more than you do. Silva asks a class to try to figure out how a zipper works, and to draw a bicycle, later showing what those designs would actually look like. A series of questions where the viewer is asked to give a range for their answer and how confident they would be in it. How the brain discards information when focusing on a certain task or assumes words were there when they were not.
7"Battle of the Sexes"May 20, 2013 (2013-05-20)
Men and women compete in a series of tasks to see whether their gender makes a difference. Games involving color swatches, putting together pieces to make a shape, following directions on a list, matching faces of people, and packing a trunk.
8"Seeing is Believing"May 27, 2013 (2013-05-27)
Illusions highlight how your visual perceptions can be surprisingly off. Scenarios and games involving perspective such as the cube of fire, a distorted chair, the Ames room, and a dining table. Basketball players put on goggles that distort their perspective. Puzzles involving the spinning ballerina, Einstein's mask, and how resizing a picture can make it look like two different people. Using anamorphic art to place a cube in a room.
9"You Decide"June 3, 2013 (2013-06-03)
The subject of decisions. A demonstration of the paradox of choice in choosing ice cream. A game where the person chooses one of two people, but ends up talking about the other. Trick questions that can be answered if the person slows down to think about it. A marketing trick where placing an intermediate item in a comparison can trick the person into favoring a certain choice. An experiment where folks end up finding differences among identical items.
10"Use it or Lose it"June 10, 2013 (2013-06-10)
The brain can be exercised like muscle. Games and puzzles such as connecting nine dots with three lines, using thinking like a child to come up with creative ideas, another sleight-of-hand trick with Robbins, trick questions, using mnemonics to remember people's names, and solving a puzzle using ordinary items in a way they were not originally designed.
11"Illusion Confusion"June 17, 2013 (2013-06-17)
Optical illusions highlight how powerful our minds can really be.
12"Liar, Liar"June 24, 2013 (2013-06-24)
Learn how to determine if someone is lying.

Season 3 (2014)[edit]

No. Title [8] Original air date
1"In Living Color"January 6, 2014 (2014-01-06)
How can things as simple as color fool you?
2"Laws of Attraction"January 13, 2014 (2014-01-13)
It shows how attractions come down to basic math.
3"Trust Me"January 20, 2014 (2014-01-20)
It shows how can you find out who to trust.
4"Battle of the Ages"November 11, 2013 (2013-11-11)
The mental differences between kids, teens, and adults.
5"Stress Test"January 27, 2014 (2014-01-27)
Explains how much stress you can handle before you "collapse" under pressure.
6"What's Going On?"February 3, 2014 (2014-02-03)
How things aren't like you think they are.
7"Retrain your Brain"February 24, 2014 (2014-02-24)
Explains how to make your brain healthier.
8"Mind your Body"March 3, 2014 (2014-03-03)
Who wins in your life, your body or your brain?
9"In It To Win It"March 10, 2014 (2014-03-10)
How does competition affect your brain?
10"Follow The Leader"March 17, 2014 (2014-03-17)
Everyone likes to think they're unique, but like it or not, much of your behavior is influenced by copying other people. We're going to mess with your mind as we put you through a series of games and experiments designed to show you why a yawn is so contagious, how imitation leads to flattery and how to discover whether your brain is a born leader ' or a born follower.

Season 4 (2014)[edit]

No. Title [9] Original air date
1"Compassion"July 14, 2014 (2014-07-14)
Discover if you're compassionate or psychopathic in a series of games and experiments.
2"Addiction"July 14, 2014 (2014-07-14)
Discover how addiction affects your brain, and whether addictions are necessary.
3"Language"July 21, 2014 (2014-07-21)
Discover how your brain handles language, and why words mean what they do.
4"Risk"July 21, 2014 (2014-07-21)
Are you risk-taking or cautious? Put your betting skills to the test.
5"Battle of the Sexes 2"July 28, 2014 (2014-07-28)
It's "male vs. female" again with more games and experiments.
6"Superstitions"July 28, 2014 (2014-07-28)
Discover how your brain is designed to believe in various superstitions.
7"Food"August 4, 2014 (2014-08-04)
Find out that restaurants trick you, and how the looks of food can turn you away.
8"Anger"August 11, 2014 (2014-08-11)
Find out what happens in your brain that causes you to get angry.
9"Patterns"August 18, 2014 (2014-08-18)
Find out how many patterns are in the world, and the pros and cons of patterns.
10"Intuition"August 25, 2014 (2014-08-25)
What happens when you make "on-the-fly" decisions in life? That's the key of intuition.

Season 5 (2015)[edit]

No. Title [10] Original air date U.S. viewers
1"Common Sense"January 19, 2015 (2015-01-19)686,000[11]
2"Left vs. Right"January 19, 2015 (2015-01-19)714,000[11]
3"Morality"January 26, 2015 (2015-01-26)773,000[12]
4"Money"February 2, 2015 (2015-02-02)743,000[13]
5"Paranormal"February 9, 2015 (2015-02-09)711,000[14]
6"Memory"February 16, 2015 (2015-02-16)699,000[15]
7"Misconceptions"February 23, 2015 (2015-02-23)702,000[16]
8"Peer Pressure"March 2, 2015 (2015-03-02)575,000[17]
9"Logic"March 9, 2015 (2015-03-09)680,000[18]
10"Faces"March 16, 2015 (2015-03-16)685,000[17]

Season 6 (2015)[edit]

No. Title [19] Original air date U.S. viewers
1"Positive Thinking"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)[20]524,000[21]
Do you think half-full or half-empty? Watch to learn how to avoid negative thoughts.
2"Scams"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)[20]489,000[21]
Watch how easily your brain falls for various scams.
3"Sleep"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)[20]476,000[21]
How does 36 hours without sleep affect your brain? Learn the dangers of sleep deprivation.
4"Perspective"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)[20]481,000[21]
Learn how a simple shift in perspective can change your entire view of the world.
5"Animal vs Human"June 29, 2015 (2015-06-29)[20]400,000[22]
Can a parakeet beat a competitive eater? Watch how humans fare against animals.
6"Imagination"June 29, 2015 (2015-06-29)[20]475,000[22]
Learn how important your imagination is to your everyday life.

Season 7 (2016)[edit]

Special episodes[edit]

No. Title [23] Original air date U.S. viewers
1"Meet The Brain"February 14, 2016 (2016-02-14)N/A
Take a tour and see how the city of London is just like your brain in a series of games.
2"The God Brain"February 21, 2016 (2016-02-21)N/A
Jason travels the world to see how the belief in God may be implanted into our brains.
3"Brains Behaving Badly"February 28, 2016 (2016-02-28)N/A
Jason heads to New Orleans to see how the seven deadly sins affect your brain.
4"Life Of The Brain"March 6, 2016 (2016-03-06)N/A
5"Super Senses"March 13, 2016 (2016-03-13)N/A
6"The Survivor Brain"March 20, 2016 (2016-03-20)N/A
No. Title [24] Original air date U.S. viewers
"Mind vs. Body"September 5, 2014 (2014-09-05)N/A
"Brain Trust"September 5, 2014 (2014-09-05)N/A
"Fair Game"January 2, 2015 (2015-01-02)N/A
"Try this at home"October 26, 2015 (2015-10-26)N/A


Year Award Category Result Ref.
2013 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Informational Series or Special Nominated
2015 Imagen Foundation Awards Best Variety or Reality Show Nominated


  1. ^ "Brain Games - About". Nat Geo. 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  2. ^ O'Connell, Michael (April 23, 2013). "TV Ratings: 'Brain Games' Premiere Sets Nat Geo Record". Archived from the original on March 21, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  3. ^ "Brain Games Renewed For Season 8 As Live Event!". 18 April 2018.
  4. ^ "The CW Announces Fall 2017 'One Magnificent Morning' Saturday Morning Line-Up". TV News Desk. Broadway World. September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "National Geographic Announces Keegan-Michael Key as Host of "Brain Games"". The Futon Critic. May 14, 2019.
  6. ^ "Brain Games Season 1 Episodes",TVGuide. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  7. ^ "Brain Games Season 2 Episodes",TVGuide. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  8. ^ "Brain Games Season 3 Episodes",TVGuide. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  9. ^ "Brain Games Season 4 Episodes",National Geographic. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  10. ^ "Brain Games Season 5 Episodes",TVGuide. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 1.19.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  12. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 1.26.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  13. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 2.2.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  14. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 2.9.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  15. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 2.16.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  16. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 2.23.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  17. ^ a b "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 3.2.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  18. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 3.9.2015 (Updated)". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Brain Games Season 6 Episodes",National Geographic. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  20. ^ a b c d e f "TV Guide Daily Listings". Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  21. ^ a b c d "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Sunday Cable Originals: 6.28.2015". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  22. ^ a b "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Monday Cable Originals: 6.29.2015". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  23. ^ "Brain Games Season 7 Episodes",National Geographic. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  24. ^ "Brain Games Special Episodes",National Geographic. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  25. ^ "Brain Games". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  26. ^ "2015 Imagen Awards Winners, Honorees & Nominees". The Imagen Foundation. Retrieved July 25, 2014.

External links[edit]