Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive assessments: the importance of cognitive baseline tests

acMany studies have shown that when the right group of people uses the right tool, significant benefits can occur. The question then becomes, “What assessments may help pinpoint who may benefit from what type of training, and set up objective, independent baselines for cognitive performance over time?”

Users of brain fitness products will need assessments to identify cognitive bottlenecks, that is, the cognitive skills that constrain the others and that, if improved, can have a positive impact on other functions. The development of inexpensive and widely available, yet valid and reliable, cognitive assessments will then be critical to the mainstream growth of the brain fitness field.

Most assessments today that require the participation of trained professionals are expensive and present limited scalability. A major issue in the use and refinement of cognitive training tools for the appropriate groups today and in the future is the time and economic investment involved in mostly face-to-face neuropsychological assessments.

To address this issue, a number of fully-automated computer-based cognitive assessments are being used more frequently in large-scale clinical trials, helping pharmaceutical companies identify and evaluate potential cognitive effects of drugs. The primary goal behind the design of these neurocognitive batteries is not to diagnose individual patients, but to measure cognition with enough reliability and validity to show objective baselines and any changes relative to this baseline in large subject samples.

This may well open the way for such assessments to be made available for a wider array of consumer uses. Potentially, these assessments could be repurposed to help establish a cognitive baseline, assess mental functioning before and after clinical conditions, track the consequences of aging, identify priorities for cognitive training, and measure progress independent from the training itself in individual patients and healthy individuals.

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This new online resource is based on the content from the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fernandez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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