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Brain Fitness Survey: We Need More Brain Awareness Weeks!

If you subscribe to our monthly newsletter, you may remember we ran a survey in January. Well, the response rate and the quality of the responses were nothing short of spectacular, in many dimensions. The responses from over 2,000 participants (out of 21,000 subscribers) reinforce the need for public awareness initiatives and quality information to help evaluate and navigate product claims.

I have been presenting the results from one of the questions (see below), yesterday at the ASA/ NCOA (American Society on Aging) event, today at IHRSA (International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association), as part of more comprehensive presentations of what is going on in the brain fitness and cognitive health field.

An obvious implication for the survey result reinforces the need for brain-related public awareness campaigns such as the ongoing Brain Awareness Week. Every year, landmark research findings open new opportunities to help maintain lifelong cognitive health and brain fitness. The opportunity is immense – but we will need to ensure the marketplace matures in a rational and sustainable manner, helping consumers and professionals separate hope from hype and make informed decisions.

Robin Klaus, Chairman of Club One Fitness Centers (the company is a client, he is an advisor), just gave us a nice quote saying that “as our population ages the fields of physical fitness and brain fitness will naturally merge and, as this happens, a whole new field of valued added services will emerge for our members. High quality informational resources such as SharpBrains’ are crucial to the success of this merger.”

The Survey: Results to Key Question

Asked, “What is the most important problem you see in the brain fitness field and how do you think it can be solved?” respondents identified the following six problems in rank order:

#1: Public Awareness (39%)
– “Getting people to understand that heredity alone does not decide brain functioning.”
– “An expectant public will first want to believe that a “miracle” drug is to be soon available (to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease).”

#2: Navigating Claims (21%)
– “How to separate marketing hype from stuff that really works?”
– “The lack of standards and clear definitions is very confusing, and makes a lot of people sceptical.”

#3: Research (15%)
– “Determining what activities are most beneficial to the user with the minimum level of effort or most overlap of the already existing efforts.”

#4: Healthcare Culture (14%)
– “Integration within existing healthcare infrastructures – this will require research, education, and culture change. If brain fitness remains a niche alternative approach for the well-healed, we will have failed.”

#5: Lack of Assessment (6%)
– “Lack of development of standardized and easily accessible assessments of cognitive status that could be used by individuals and organizations to test the efficacy of cognitive improvement methods.”

#6: Other problems (5%)
– “Lack of information and products available to people – perhaps a drive to get the products and information in public libraries would help.”

Note: The full results and analysis of the complete survey will be included in the upcoming SharpBrains market report, The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009.

What can be done to solve these problems?

#1 Public Awareness: Participate in Brain Awareness Week activities!

#2 Navigating claims: we are publishing shortly 2 new resources to help executives, professionals and consumers understand the emerging field and navigate the multiplicity of claims:

1) Market Report- The State of the Brains Fitness Software Market 2009 (April 2009): A comprehensive report reviewing the state of the research and market, including 2008 market data, an analysis of the landscape and trends in 4 major market segments, 10 research executive briefs written by leading scientists, deep profiles of over 20 companies, and the results of the full market survey introduced above.

2) Consumer Guide- The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews to Keep Your Brain Sharp (May 2009): In seven well-researched and fully annotated chapters, the guide provides a concise overview of the four pillars of lifelong brain maintenance and an invaluable perspective on the growing field of Brain Fitness. The guide evaluates the most current evidence behind a number of products making brain fitness claims so that readers can make informed decisions and better understand emerging trends.

Fyi, the market report will explore all identified problems in more depth (including research, health culture, lack of assessment, other), and suggest actions to solve them and help the field mature in a more rational and structured manner.

Everyone: Have a great Brain Awareness Week!

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