Jan 19, 2008
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Did you read about the recent experiment where young chimps displayed amazing visual working memory capability, beating humans?
- You can watch a short video here.
- Lumos Labs has released a very fun game to test your own skills: try out this Chimp Game!
Also, some very good recent news articles:
1) Is it worth going to the mind gym? (New Scientist). This is one of the best articles we have read in a while (unfortunately requires subscription).
- “Birdwatching is the brainchild of San Francisco-based Lumos Labs, just one of the dozens of companies that have sprung up in recent months to cash in on the “brain-training” craze. Like most of its competitors, the theory behind …”
Comments: the article introduces readers to much of the research and scientists we discuss in our blog, such as Torkel Klingberg’s work and recent results from the IMPACT study. The article would have been even better had Daniel Gopher been interviewed on his work improving cognitive performance of military pilots and basketball players.
2) Innovation: Your Brain Needs Just as Much Exercise as Your Body (Fox Business Network)
- “The market, however, is still small. According to Alvaro Fernandez , who co-founded market research and consulting firm SharpBrains, which is focused solely on the field of brain fitness, in 2007 the market was valued at $225 million, which is up from $150 million in 2005. Fernandez thinks there is potential for it to surge, reaching more than $2 billion by 2016.”
Comments: Very good article. Those estimates refer to the whole brain fitness software market to assess and train cognitive skills, including education, consumer health, and clinical applications, not just “brain games” for adults. Also, for context, Americans spend $16 billion a year in health club memberships (IHRSA, 2006): that’s why the reporter says “The market, however, is still small”.
3) Six Ways to Stop Memory Loss (Newsweek)
- “The research is beginning to bear fruit: it’s clear that a healthy lifestyle and mental exercise can measurably improve cognitive functioning.”
- “Software has been used for years to help people who have suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries regain specific mental abilities. Healthy folks have their choice of a host of products, including one, Posit Science’s Brain Fitness Program, whose effectiveness is backed by a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. Posit found that healthy people over the age of 60 tested about 10 years younger on standardized tests after using the product. Even playing Sudoku helps keep your mind in shape. For more software check out SharpBrains.com, which promotes science-based cognitive training.”
Comment: First, we are honored Newsweek offered our site as a resource. A clarification: when someone says “10 years younger on standardized tests”, we need to understand that doesn’t mean “your brain gets 10 years younger” or similar. It means that our performance in that one very specific cognitive skill (out of dozens of them), in the case of the study mentioned above auditory processing and auditory memory, improves by a significant percentage.
4) Figaro! Figaro! Training the Multitasking Brain (New York Times)
- “But now I fear I just have a lazy untrained brain. Some other men musical conductors multitask just fine, and it is possible that this skill can be learned if you’re just diligent enough to rewire your brain, according to a study published in NeuroReport by researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.”
- Comment: the key for “cognitive training” is well-directed and intensely practiced mental exercise. There are several vehicles for that, from low-tech (meditation, cognitive therapy) to high-tech (such as computer-based programs). And, as that report notes, musical training. Each type of exercise is a different “tool” that may enable us to improve specific cognitive skills.
Can you recall any experience when “mental exercise” enabled you to improve some mental abilities? what did you do? what did you notice?
Enjoy the weekend