Doctor Behind Brain Age Has No Time for Games or Money

Dr. Ryuta Kawashima is hardcore. He’s so hardcore, he makes his family cry.

Better known to some as “the disembodied talking head guy” from Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, Dr. Kawashima has helped create a 22 million dollar (2.4 billion yen) franchise… and hasn’t taken a single penny from it. Under the rules of his employer, the state-funded Tohoku University, he could receive up to half of the proceeds, with the rest going to the school.

“Not a single yen has gone in my pocket,” he says. “Everyone in my family is mad at me but I tell them that if they want money, go out and earn it.” Instead, he’s content to get by on his annual salary of 11 million yen– or $100,000, if you prefer.

That’s hardcore.

The 48-year old Kawashima is a self-professed workaholic, researching and creating new inventions to help aid Japan’s growing elderly population, such as the Brain Training software designed to help ward off senility. And as such has no time for playing video games– not even those whose boxes his face adorns. “To hear this may put you off — but my hobby is work.”

That… is hardcore.

When asked whether or not he’d ever even considered just taking the money and going off to a tropical island, he only said “I wouldn’t know what to do there. If I had such time to spare, I want to do my research.”

When deciding to lose some weight, 44 pounds of it, the doctor simply chose to stop eating as much. “If there is time for physical exercise, I want to use it for research.”


In fact, his four sons may think that Dad is just a little too hardcore; he stopped using his own software to keep his brain healthy, confident that his work would be enough. And despite his working relationship with Nintendo, his sons, ages 14 to 22, are not allowed to play games on weekdays, and are only allowed one hour on weekends. And he means it: He once destroyed a disc when the rules were broken.

(On a side note, think of how many weeks it would take to get through some of the more popular titles out there today if you were only to play an hour a week.)

“What is scary about games is that you can kill as many hours as you want. I don’t think playing games is bad in itself but it makes children unable to do what they should do such as study and communication with the family,” he says.

In addition, he feels that young children need strict discipline, and is against the idea of making studying fun. “Having fun is not studying. Making them study is not to entertain children but to pressure them to make efforts. People fall to lower and lower places unless they are driven to go higher,” he said.


Kawashima’s latest efforts are on creating a car with Toyota that will keep elderly drivers mentally fit and alert, so as to prevent accidents.

In the end, if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that when Dr. Kawashima passes on, he’ll still have a fully-functional brain running on all cylinders, right? Actually…

“I’m confident I’ll go senile,” he said when asked about growing old.

“Researchers, especially those in medical fields, are said to die of what they are studying. Since I’ve been studying the brain, I’ll die of a brain disease,” he said with a grin.