Sep 13, 2007
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Growing media attention on the brain fitness field. At least on the “Healthy Aging” segment (I predict the media with catch up soon with developments in other areas, from cognitive training for kids and adults with ADD/ ADHD to stroke and TBI rehabilitation, to peak performance for corporate training).
First, a superb article by Leslie Walker at the Washington Post: Cross-Training Your Brain to Maintain Its Strength
Quotes: “A growing body of research suggests that mental activity in middle age and earlier can help later in life. As a result, Web sites such as HappyNeuron.com are springing up to offer online games to people of all ages, while blogs like SharpBrains.com provide commentary on the fledgling industry.” (Note: we can also provide commentary on the commentary!)
“People who engage in very challenging tasks — not just in work but during leisure activities such as reading, crossword puzzles, bridge, chess and travel — tend to slow down their mental aging process very significantly,” says Breznitz, who is also a member of Israel’s legislature and has developed a brain-training program called MindFit.”
“Also contributing to the brain workout boom are state-of-the-art imaging techniques that have allowed scientists to validate a theory developed decades ago. By taking detailed pictures of brain neurons, scientists watch parts of the brain that had seemed dormant light up and assume new responsibilities in response to stimuli. Theoretically, this means brain decay can be halted or even reversed.”
“The brain is constantly rewiring and recalibrating itself in response to what you do,” says Henry Mahncke, who holds a PhD in neuroscience and is vice president of Posit Science, the San Francisco developer of the Brain Fitness software. “It remakes itself into a more efficient operation to do the things you ask it to do.”
Comments: the article touches many key points. I especially enjoy the quote “To be effective, scientists say mental activity must become progressively more challenging. Otherwise, the brain adjusts and learns to perform repetitive tasks with less effort”, a key message I make often in my lectures to explain why well-designed programs can be more effective than doing crossword puzzle number 512,789. The article also relates how many retirement communities and senior centers and individuals are trying out the new brain fitness programs coming to market, and shows some healthy skepticism on the state of the research. Now, this is an invitation to the reporter to interview neuropsychologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg to get the full picture of the science behind the field, since these programs haven’t appeared in a vacuum. Our 10-Question Evaluation Checklist can provide useful guidance to anyone considering a program.
Boomers use online brain games to stave off dementia (AccountingWeb)
Quotes: “The Internet offers a plethora of brain games for those who don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper or don’t want to purchase games. AARP, for example, offers plenty of free games on its site. More games appear at SharpBrains.com, including a page that contains the Top Ten Neuroscience Brainteasers, and you can sign up to have the College Board e-mail you the SAT question of the day.”
“The generation that refuses to age is not going to sit back and wait for Alzheimer’s Disease and other signs of dementia to take hold. Instead, savvy Baby Boomers are expanding their minds (no, not the way they did in the 60s) with the aid of the computer, puzzles, and games. A brain health movement is sweeping the nation, and 60+-year-olds are riding the crest of the wave.”
Comments: we don’t mind at all being quoted in the same paragraph as the AARP and the College Board. It shows the breadth of the brain fitness movement and, who knows, maybe we will grow so big one day…
It is fascinating to participate and see in real-time how the Health and Gaming markets are finding a clear point of convergence. Brain fitness is becoming one of the most promising real-world applications of the Serious Games. In Key Health Industry Organizations Join Serious Games Community, Eliane says
“One of our goals with the Games for Health Project was to see key health industry organizations, such as Humana, join the community and make their considerable knowledge, leadership, and partnering resources available, said Ben Sawyer. “More importantly, Humana has expressed its dedication to understanding the industry and getting it done.