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Cognitive Health News Round-Up

Round-up of interesting recent news on cognitive health and fitness: the field is in motion.

1) Baycrest creates Centre for Brain Fitness with $10-million Investment from Ontario Government (Canada NewsWire)

2) Cognitive tests are the best way to select medical students (EurekAlert)

3) High blood pressure hard on the aging brain (Reuters)

4) Alzheimer’s tests beneficial for seniors (Atlanta-Journal Constitutional)

5) Dementia-Dreading Baby Boomers Spur Race to Invent Brain Games (Bloomberg)

6) Vivity Labs launches Fit Brains brain-training game site (VentureBeat) 

7) Depression and Alzheimer’s (NHS Choices)

For selected quotes and comments,

1) Baycrest creates Centre for Brain Fitness with $10-million Investment from Ontario Government (Canada NewsWire)

– “Today the Ontario Government took a large step in this direction by
announcing it is investing $10 million dollars to create the Centre for Brain
Fitness at Baycrest.”

– “Baycrest will partner with the Toronto-based MaRS Venture Group to
develop and market scientifically-proven products for the clinic, workplace
and home environments.”
– “Products in development over the next 10 years will include cognitive
assessment software (in a portable computer tablet) that allows clinicians to
measure in a simple and rapid manner memory and processing in people who have had a stroke, may have Alzheimer’s or other memory challenges; brain fitness
products to help healthy aging adults (ages 45-75) maintain their cognitive
functions, plus an additional product suite for caregivers to provide
cognitive rehabilitation to people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia
who live in long-term care facilities and retirement homes; executive training
program for corporations wishing to help their aging employees improve
cognitive functions to remain productive; and an internet-based outreach
program to support people caring for loved ones with mild to medium cognitive
impairment.”
Comments: Fascinating. And very well timed.

 

2) Cognitive tests are the best way to select medical students (EurekAlert)

– “Cognitive ability tests are the best way for medical schools to select their entrants, rather than interviews and psychological tests, says an editorial in this week’s BMJ. (Note: British Medical Journal)”

– “According to the authors, doctors should have three broad attributes—cognitive ability, humanity, and diligence. While it would be desirable to screen potential doctors for all these attributes, the evidence suggests that only cognitive ability can be assessed with reasonable accuracy in the context of mass selection.”

– “The authors therefore suggest that tests of cognitive ability are the best way to select medical students because the processes they test are similar to those used in clinical practice—the application of knowledge to a problem.’

Comment: what specific mix of cognitive abilities are we talking about? for what specific jobs? there is no single overarching “cognitive ability”. Having said that, the concept is appealling.

3) High blood pressure hard on the aging brain (Reuters)

– “Optimal control of blood pressure may be beneficial in attenuating the risk of cognitive decline as the population ages,” they conclude.

Comment: the study talks about “associations”. Now, which is the egg and which the chicken? can it be that persons suffering cognitive decline on, for example, self-regulation or executive skills, can’t manage their diet and lifestyle as well thereby contributing to blood pressure problems?

4) Alzheimer’s tests beneficial for seniors (Atlanta-Journal Constitutional)

– “Solomon, clinical director of the Memory Clinic in Burlington, Vt. “But senility and cognitive deficits are not typical of the aging process. They signal a disease process.”

– “Doctors argue that older people need to think of the function of their mind as they would the condition of their heart or the stability of their blood pressure”

Comment: couldn’t agree more with these statements. We predict we will start to see mainstream, good, inexpensive baseline assesments of cognitive function (not clinical diagnosis) in a few years.

5) Dementia-Dreading Baby Boomers Spur Race to Invent Brain Games (Bloomberg)

– “Insurance companies including Humana Inc., the second- largest seller of Medicare drug plans, are encouraging policyholders to use the games. Treating Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in 2005 cost the U.S. government’s Medicare and Medicaid health programs $112 billion, a total that will reach $184 billion by 2015, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.”

– “In Merzenich’s view, the only way to reinvigorate the brain is through continued learning. That stimulates neurons, the nerve cells that carry messages in the brain, to fire and form new branches. Solving crossword puzzles or playing bridge keeps the mind active but doesn’t make it perform new tasks, he says.”

Comment: I am quoted several times in the article, which is overall pretty good. But the reporter and I did talk about many other areas not mentioned-I do find it fascinating to observe that, whereas the research for cognitive training is much more solid in other areas, healthy aging and dementia is getting all the media attention now.

6) Vivity Labs launches Fit Brains brain-training game site (VentureBeat) 

– “We call it guilt-free gaming,” said Cole, whose company (Note: FitBrains) recently raised $1 million in funding from undisclosed angels. “We’ll go after the casual games audience that wants to keep their minds sharp.”

Comment: how will the increasing number of “brain training” websites differentiate themselves?

7) Depression and Alzheimer’s (NHS Choices)

– “This study challenges the theory that depression and dementia are caused by another factor. It therefore adds weight to, but does not prove, the theory that depression is a risk factor for dementia. However, this study has shortcomings, and further research that is free of these should provide a clearer picture. Until more is known, depression sufferers should not be overly worried that they will develop dementia.”

Comment: I guess that last sentence offers good news…

 

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