Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


New Interview Series (Part 1 of 10): Why Care About Brain Fitness Innovation?

Every Mon­day dur­ing the next 10 weeks we’ll dis­cuss here what lead­ing indus­try, sci­ence and pol­icy experts –all of whom will speak at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011)– have to say about emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to address, over the next 10 years, the grow­ing brain-related soci­etal demands.

With­out fur­ther ado, here you have what four Sum­mit Speak­ers say…

Alvaro Pascual-Leone is the Direc­tor of the Berenson-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Invasive Brain Stim­u­la­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

Phys­i­cal fit­ness can refer to an over­all or gen­eral state of health and well-being. How­ever, it is also often used more specif­i­cally to refer to the abil­ity to per­form a given activ­ity, occu­pa­tion, or sport.

Sim­i­larly brain fit­ness might be used to refer to a gen­eral state of healthy, opti­mized brain func­tion, or a more spe­cific brain-based abil­ity to process cer­tain, spe­cific infor­ma­tion, enable cer­tain motor actions, or sup­port cer­tain cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Impor­tantly though, I would argue that phys­i­cal fit­ness REQUIRES brain fit­ness, while brain fit­ness ben­e­fits from, but does not require phys­i­cal fitness.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

A) Edu­ca­tion; B) Access to sup­port; C) Individually-tailored pro­grams that can be truly deployed as ther­a­pies and can be appro­pri­ately mon­i­tored in their efficacy.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

The estab­lish­ment of a reli­able screen­ing test to assess indi­vid­ual brain health that might be used to opti­mize inter­ven­tions and assess their efficacy.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

Con­duct­ing research, clin­i­cal pro­grams, devel­op­ing edu­ca­tional pro­grams. Our main web­site is: Berenson-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Invasive Brain Stim­u­la­tion.

Brief bio: Dr. Pascual-Leone researches the phys­i­ol­ogy of higher cog­ni­tive func­tions and the study of brain plas­tic­ity in skill acqui­si­tion and recov­ery from injury. He is also the Pro­gram Direc­tor of the Harvard-Thorndike Clin­i­cal Research Cen­ter of the Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter. Dr. Pascual-Leone obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Neu­ro­phys­i­ol­ogy from the Fac­ulty of Med­i­cine of Albert Lud­wigs Uni­ver­sity in Ger­many, and trained at the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota and the US National Insti­tutes of Health. He greatly enjoys teach­ing and is the recip­i­ent of numer­ous awards.

Nathanael Eisen­berg is the CEO of CogniFit.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

To the extent that body fit­ness or phys­i­cal fit­ness can be main­tained or improved by phys­i­cal exer­cise of motor mus­cles, sim­i­larly, the term brain fit­ness, as it is used today, mir­rors that cere­bral health (cog­ni­tive, emo­tional, bio­log­i­cal) might be main­tained or improved by exer­cise of dif­fer­ent kinds, both phys­i­cal AND cognitive.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

The aging pop­u­la­tion, men­tal health needs and chang­ing socio-economic real­i­ties will demand sig­nif­i­cant inno­va­tion and appli­ca­tions in the next decade to improve life­long qual­ity of life and pro­duc­tiv­ity. It will be key to to make cog­ni­tive train­ing enjoy­able and fun while improv­ing con­sumers’ cog­ni­tive reserve in tar­geted ways.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

Chang­ing con­sumers’ habits towards brain health, to make them more proac­tive and per­son­ally relevant.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

We have ini­tia­tives and busi­ness rela­tion­ships with a diverse group of part­ners rang­ing from direct to con­sumers offer­ing to health provider, physi­cians, men­tal health asso­ci­a­tion, dri­ving schools and insur­ance com­pa­nies. Peo­ple can learn more at: Cog­niFit. Also, just pub­lished a nice arti­cle on a recent study based on one of our prod­ucts to see whether Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Can Improve Phys­i­cal Fit­ness.

Brief bio: Mr. Eisen­berg started his career in bank­ing at Schroders before work­ing as a finan­cial ana­lyst in the Trad­ing Room of the Union Ban­caire Privé. Mr. Eisen­berg then worked for the IT Con­sult­ing firm Cap Gem­ini, and was recruited by Proc­ter and Gam­ble to man­age sev­eral mar­ket­ing and home care ini­tia­tives. After this, Mr. Eisen­berg co-founded ven­ture fund Milk Cap­i­tal, which became a major investor in Cog­niFit. Nathanael Eisen­berg is grad­u­ated from the HEC Lau­sanne with a Mas­ter of Man­age­ment and Busi­ness Administration.

Ken­neth Kosik is the Co-Director of UC Santa Bar­bara Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute, and Founder of Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and Inno­v­a­tive Ther­a­pies (CFIT).

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

The brain is sim­ply an organ in the body with all the health require­ments of any other organ. There­fore, I am trou­bled by the “ver­sus” in your ques­tion. Why set up an unnec­es­sary dual­ism? I can see the point of talk­ing about two his­tor­i­cal move­ments, but would rather dis­cuss how they com­ple­ment each other.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

These pro­grams could reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Rig­or­ous stud­ies are needed to val­i­date this hypothesis.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

The chal­lenge is lay­ing the research ground­work that will put brain fit­ness on a firm sci­en­tific basis.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

I’d sug­gest check­ing out my recent book The Alzheimer’s Solu­tion: How Today’s Care is Fail­ing Mil­lions and How We Can Do Bet­ter, and the web­site for CFIT.

Brief bio: Dr. Kosik received his M.D. degree from the Med­ical Col­lege of Penn­syl­va­nia, com­pleted a neu­rol­ogy res­i­dency from Tufts New Eng­land Med­ical Cen­ter, and held var­i­ous appoint­ments at the Har­vard Med­ical School. In the fall of 2004 he assumed the co-directorship of the Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute and the Har­ri­man Chair at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Bar­bara. He has received mul­ti­ple awards, includ­ing a Whitaker Health Sci­ences Award from Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, the Derek Denny-Brown Neu­ro­log­i­cal Scholar Award from the Amer­i­can Neu­ro­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, the Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion, and a NASA Group Achieve­ment Award.

Ken Gib­son is the Pres­i­dent of LearningRx.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fitness”?

If phys­i­cal fit­ness is the “abil­ity to func­tion effi­ciently and effec­tively with­out injury, to enjoy leisure, to be healthy, to resist dis­ease, and to cope with emer­gency sit­u­a­tions” then brain fit­ness is the abil­ity to men­tally func­tion effi­ciently and effec­tively at work, play, or leisure, to be sharp, to resist men­tal dis­ease, and to cope with men­tally demand­ing sit­u­a­tions. Com­po­nents of brain fit­ness include cog­ni­tive skills needed for fast, easy, and bet­ter learn­ing or work per­for­mance such as: atten­tion, work­ing and short term mem­ory, pro­cess­ing speed, logic and rea­son­ing, and audi­tory and visual pro­cess­ing. The rel­a­tive impor­tance of each of the com­po­nents varies for each task a per­son performs.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­nity for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

Because brain fit­ness doesn’t require the space and equip­ment of phys­i­cal fit­ness it can become parts of many venues (insur­ance pro­grams, total fit­ness cen­ters – brain and phys­i­cal, school and job train­ing pro­grams, etc). We believe a major shift will be made in
cog­ni­tive rehab – from accom­mo­dat­ing cog­ni­tive weak­ness to train­ing skills.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

Whereas phys­i­cal fit­ness can result in seen phys­i­cal changes or func­tions (weight loss, larger mus­cles, run longer, more energy, etc) brain fit­ness results in harder to define results – that con­nec­tion will have to be made convincingly.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

We’re grow­ing a net­work of phys­i­cal loca­tions (cur­rently there are 71 Learn­ingRx Brain Train­ing Cen­ters, mostly help­ing kids with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties), expand­ing online activ­i­ties,  and look­ing for inde­pen­dent research val­i­da­tion of our mostly inter­nal tri­als (we have over 15,000 stu­dent records with over 20 pre/post train­ing test results – WJ3 Cog & Ach – and over 100 Hx Dx data field – all avail­able to researchers). Our main web­site is: Learn­ingRx.

Brief bio: In 2002, Dr. Gib­son founded Learn­ingRx, a net­work of more than 60 cen­ters across the United States and abroad offer­ing cog­ni­tive skills test­ing and train­ing. The com­pany has been named to Fran­chise Times “Fast 55” and Fran­chise Mar­ket­ing Magazine’s “Top 100 New Fran­chises,” as well as an hon­or­able men­tion on the Fran­chise 50 list put out by Fran­chise Busi­ness Review.

To Learn more and Reg­is­ter: click on 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit. Remem­ber that we offer friends of Sharp­Brains a 15% dis­count using dis­count code: sharp2011

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