Brain Games (2011 TV series)

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Brain Games
Presented by
Country of originUnited States
Running time25 minutes (seasons 2–6, 9)
50 minutes (seasons 1, 7–8)
Production companiesMagical Elves Productions
National Geographic Television
Original networkNational Geographic
Original releaseOctober 9, 2011 (2011-10-09) –

Brain Games is an American popular science television series that explores cognitive science by focusing on illusions, psychological experiments, and counterintuitive thinking. The series debuted on National Geographic 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 original series with 1.5 million viewers.[2]

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. As time passed, Magician Eric Leclerc took over this role in seasons 4 and 5. 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. Experts like Sri Sarma also explain why humans react in a certain way because of the brain.

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.[3]

In December 2019, it was announced that a new format of this series, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, would premiere on January 20, 2020; neuroscientist Daniel Levitin was brought in as a script consultant for the season to ensure accuracy. Its sneak peek was played on December 29, 2019.[4][5] On January 17, 2020, a ninth season was announced,[6] but production was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ninth season was branded as "Brain Games: On the Road",[citation needed] and was hosted by Chuck Nice and was released on both National Geographic and Disney+.





National Geographic announced that the show would return as a 2-hour live event in the fall of 2018,[7] but as of April 2020 no live event has been broadcast.


Series overview[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
13October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
212April 22, 2013 (2013-04-22)June 24, 2013 (2013-06-24)
310November 11, 2013 (2013-11-11)March 17, 2014 (2014-03-17)
412July 14, 2014 (2014-07-14)September 5, 2014 (2014-09-05)
510January 19, 2015 (2015-01-19)March 16, 2015 (2015-03-16)
66June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)June 29, 2015 (2015-06-29)
76February 14, 2016 (2016-02-14)March 20, 2016 (2016-03-20)
88January 20, 2020 (2020-01-20)March 2, 2020 (2020-03-02)
920February 25, 2022 (2022-02-25)March 2, 2022 (2022-03-02)

Season 1 (2011)[edit]

Season 1 consists of three one-hour pilot episodes.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
11"Watch This!"October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
Explore optical illusions and how our brain can mislead us.
22"Pay Attention!"October 9, 2011 (2011-10-09)
David Copperfield explores how we use attention throughout our everyday life.
33"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]

Jason Silva takes over as the new host.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
41"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.
52"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.
63"Motion Commotion"April 29, 2013 (2013-04-29)
Explore how your brain uses and reacts to motion 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.
74"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.
85"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.
96"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.
107"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.
11N/A"Blow Your Mind"May 24, 2013 (2013-05-24)
128"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.
139"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.
1410"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.
1511"Illusion Confusion"June 17, 2013 (2013-06-17)
Optical illusions highlight how powerful our minds can really be.
1612"Liar, Liar"June 24, 2013 (2013-06-24)
Learn how to determine if someone is lying.

Season 3 (2013–14)[edit]

Often games are less intense than season 2 and experiments with random people on the street are done.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
171"Battle of the Ages"November 11, 2013 (2013-11-11)
The mental differences between kids, teens, and adults.
182"In Living Color"January 6, 2014 (2014-01-06)
Color is simply too complex to simply be black and white.
193"Laws of Attraction"January 13, 2014 (2014-01-13)
It shows how attractions come down to basic math.
204"Trust Me"January 20, 2014 (2014-01-20)
It shows how can you find out whom to trust.
215"Stress Test"January 27, 2014 (2014-01-27)
Explains how much stress you can handle before you "collapse" under pressure.
226"What's Going On?"February 3, 2014 (2014-02-03)
How things aren't like you think they are.
237"Retrain your Brain"February 24, 2014 (2014-02-24)
Explains how to make your brain healthier.
248"Mind your Body"March 3, 2014 (2014-03-03)
Who wins in your life, your body or your brain?
259"In It To Win It"March 10, 2014 (2014-03-10)
How does competition affect your brain?
2610"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. Discover whether your brain is a born leader, or a born follower.

Season 4 (2014)[edit]

Graphics get an update. The show introduces new experts and illusionists/magicians.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
27N/A"Trust Me"July 6, 2014 (2014-07-06)
28N/A"Brain vs. Body"July 13, 2014 (2014-07-13)
291"Compassion"July 14, 2014 (2014-07-14)
Discover if you're compassionate or psychopathic in a series of games and experiments.
302"Addiction"July 14, 2014 (2014-07-14)
Discover how addiction affects your brain, and whether addictions are necessary.
333"Language"July 21, 2014 (2014-07-21)
Discover how your brain handles language, and why words mean what they do.
344"Risk"July 21, 2014 (2014-07-21)
Are you risk-taking or cautious? Put your betting skills to the test.
355"Battle of the Sexes 2"July 28, 2014 (2014-07-28)
It's "male vs. female" again with more games and experiments. And this time, we will have a winner.
366"Superstitions"July 28, 2014 (2014-07-28)
Discover how your brain is designed to believe in various superstitions.
377"Food"August 4, 2014 (2014-08-04)
Find out that restaurants trick you, and how the looks of food can turn you away.
388"Anger"August 11, 2014 (2014-08-11)
Find out what happens in your brain that causes you to get angry.
399"Patterns"August 18, 2014 (2014-08-18)
Find out how many patterns are in the world, and the pros and cons of patterns.
4010"Intuition"August 25, 2014 (2014-08-25)
What happens when you make "on-the-fly" decisions in life? That's the key of intuition.
4111"Mind vs. Body"September 5, 2014 (2014-09-05)
4212"Brain Trust"September 5, 2014 (2014-09-05)

Season 5 (2015)[edit]

Shocking fails, moments, and confusion show how the brain can be easily deterred from its goal. The show abandons the studio in favor of more real-life application.

No. in
TitleOriginal air dateUS viewers
43N/A"Fair Game"January 12, 2015 (2015-01-12)N/A
441"Common Sense"January 19, 2015 (2015-01-19)0.686[8]
What is Common Sense? Do we really know what it is? Learn how your common sense can either lead you astray or keep you on the right track.
452"Left vs. Right"January 19, 2015 (2015-01-19)0.714[8]
Find out the pros and cons about the two sides of the brain and how they help and conflict with each other, and if one side can dominate.
463"Morality"January 26, 2015 (2015-01-26)0.773[9]
Who are you most likely to help? The Trolley problem is explored. Are we inherently good or evil? Explore how your brain makes countless moral decisions every day.
474"Money"February 2, 2015 (2015-02-02)0.743[10]
Find out why money is so enticing to your brain. Money is present in every corner of our lives – But how does your brain understand it?
485"Paranormal"February 9, 2015 (2015-02-09)0.711[11]
Are ghosts real? Are mansions haunted? Find out what's your brain thinking. We'll test your sixth sense.
496"Memory"February 16, 2015 (2015-02-16)0.699[12]
Find out how to improve your memory, what it is, why we have it, and why you keep forgetting where to put those keys!
507"Misconceptions"February 23, 2015 (2015-02-23)0.702[13]
What is actually true and what's just a misconception? How much of what we think we know is actually true? Let's have the brain be the proof on Brain Games.
518"Peer Pressure"March 2, 2015 (2015-03-02)0.575[14]
Find out how others influence you to go with the crowd. If you think you have full control of your thoughts and actions – think again.
529"Logic"March 9, 2015 (2015-03-09)0.680[15]
Do you know what to do? Find out how you and your brain don't always meet eye to eye.
5310"Faces"March 16, 2015 (2015-03-16)0.685[14]
What is so special about a face? Find out why we remember faces so well and why our brains are so highly adept.

Season 6 (2015)[edit]

How the brain acts and thinks is explored. The show continues to abandon the transparent studio for real-life experiences.

No. in
TitleOriginal air dateUS viewers
541"Positive Thinking"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)0.524[16]
Do you think half-full or half-empty? Watch to learn how to avoid negative thoughts.
552"Scams"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)0.489[16]
Watch how easily your brain falls for various scams, but why it's necessary.
563"Sleep"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)0.476[16]
How does 36 hours without sleep affect your brain? Learn the dangers of sleep deprivation and how you can improve.
574"Perspective"June 28, 2015 (2015-06-28)0.481[16]
Learn how a simple shift in perspective can change your entire view of the world.
585"Animal vs Human"June 29, 2015 (2015-06-29)0.400[17]
Can a parakeet beat a competitive eater? Watch how humans fare against animals.
596"Imagination"June 29, 2015 (2015-06-29)0.475[17]
Learn how important your imagination is to your everyday life. This episode has the least amount of games overall and is the last 30-minute episode.
60N/A"Try This at Home"October 26, 2015 (2015-10-26)N/A
DIY experiments.

Season 7 (2016)[edit]

Episodes are now one hour. The show is told from a real-world perspective with Jason Silva outside in the world with real people. Small games the audience can play along with are shown as well.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
611"Meet The Brain"February 14, 2016 (2016-02-14)
Take a tour and see how the city of London is just like your brain in a series of games.
622"The God Brain"February 21, 2016 (2016-02-21)
Jason travels to Jerusalem to see how the belief in God may be implanted into our brains.
633"Brains Behaving Badly"February 28, 2016 (2016-02-28)
Jason heads to New Orleans to see how the seven deadly sins affect your brain.
644"Life Of The Brain"March 6, 2016 (2016-03-06)
See how your brain changes over the course of your life as Jason heads to the boardwalk on the beach.
655"Super Senses"March 13, 2016 (2016-03-13)
Jason head to Times Square to see how your senses can trick you, help you, and are there more senses than the basic five?
666"The Survivor Brain"March 20, 2016 (2016-03-20)
Jason travels to Colorado and shows how you'll need every skill your brain has to survive against all odds in the ultimate brain test.

Season 8 (2020)[edit]

No. in
Title [18]Original air date [18]
67N/A"First Look"December 29, 2019 (2019-12-29)
681"Male Brain vs. Female Brain"January 20, 2020 (2020-01-20)
"Battle of the Sexes" returns with celebrity couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell as competitors. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist, while neurologist Cara Santa Maria is also involved in a later game. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker also appear.
692"Ted Danson: Fact or Fiction?"January 20, 2020 (2020-01-20)
The episode discusses about how human can be easily deceived by fake news and false remarks. Playing in the episode is actor Ted Danson. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Also featured are professional poker players Liv Boeree, Wayne Chiang, Igor Kurganov, and Alec Torelli. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker also appear.
703"Drew Brees: Performance"January 27, 2020 (2020-01-27)
The episode discusses about how mind can actually improves the human's performance. Playing in the episode is Super Bowl winner Drew Brees. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Also featured is neurologist Cara Santa Maria who plays in a game. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker also appear.
714"Kids vs. Adults"February 3, 2020 (2020-02-03)
On-screen father-daughter of Black-ish, Anthony Anderson and Marsai Martin, are battling to prove whether kids' or adults' brain are the most reliable. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist.
725"Jack Black: Music"February 10, 2020 (2020-02-10)
The episode discusses about how far music can affect human's brain. Playing in the episode is actor-musician Jack Black. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Meghan Trainor plays alongside Black during the final game of the episode. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, Neurologist Cara Santa Maria, Kelly Clarkson, Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker also appear.
736"Mark Cuban: Power and Money"February 17, 2020 (2020-02-17)
The episode discusses about how a businessman's brain might differ from others'. Playing in the episode is entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Grandmaster of Memory Nelson Dellis and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin each made an appearance in one game. Actors Tim Allen and Tom Hanks explained the theories in videos. Simon Says professional caller Steve Max conducted a game involving Key, Cuban, and some of the audiences.
747"Rebel Wilson: Love and Attraction"February 24, 2020 (2020-02-24)
The show explores the subconscious' power when it comes to falling in love. Playing in the episode is Australian actress Rebel Wilson. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Kevin Hart, Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker also appear.
758"Tiffany Haddish: Movie Magic"March 2, 2020 (2020-03-02)
The shows explores how movie effects affect viewers' perception. Playing in the episode is actress Tiffany Haddish. Lior Suchard makes appearance as the show's master mentalist. Jordan Peele makes a cameo appearance, while Thomas Middleditch appears in a game's video. Cara Santa Maria meets with Foley artist Dan O'Connell and the video recording of this meeting is played during the show.

Season 9: Brain Games on the Road (2022)[edit]

The show is now a competition and takes place outside. Teams of 4 compete in challenges. This show is separate from the seasons before it, and is a spin-off series.

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
761"Raise Gospel vs. the Accidentals Quartet"February 26, 2022 (2022-02-26)
772"PFTP vs. The Awesome Saucers"February 26, 2002 (2002-02-26)
783"The Gills vs. Tribe Milligan"February 26, 2022 (2022-02-26)
794"The Faks vs. Team United"February 26, 2022 (2022-02-26)
805"Hungry Hippocampus vs. the Hot Wheels"March 5, 2022 (2022-03-05)
816"Taste Budz vs East Coast Swag"March 3, 2022 (2022-03-03)
827"Team Kodiak vs. Blast from the Past"March 3, 2022 (2022-03-03)
838"Team Elephants vs. Dad and His Girls"March 3, 2022 (2022-03-03)
849"Volt Squad vs. Community Carescapes"March 10, 2022 (2022-03-10)
8510"Team Apex vs. Team Serious Name"March 10, 2022 (2022-03-10)
8611"Team Titans vs. the Wolfpack"March 10, 2022 (2022-03-10)
8712"West Coasteres vs. Settlers of California"March 3, 2022 (2022-03-03)
8813"MTGA vs. the Sherlock Homies"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
8914"Team Snyder vs. Team Wimberly"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9015"Anibrainiacs vs. San Diego Roller Derby"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9116"Team Panacea vs. Team Hadez"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9217"Escape Artists vs Red Stick Renegades"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9318"Team Woo Woo vs Brainy Bunch"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9419"Fab 4 vs Bomb Schells"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)
9520"Can't DNEye Us vs SDBNA"March 17, 2022 (2022-03-17)


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


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External links[edit]