Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


New Report Finds A Brain Health Revolution in the Making, Driven by Digital Technology and Neuroplasticity Research

2010MarketReportIn spite of the recent eco­nomic down­turn, rev­enues for dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to assess, enhance and treat cog­ni­tion, or dig­i­tal brain health and fit­ness tools, grew 35% in 2009. “The con­ver­gence of demo­graphic and pol­icy trends with cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science dis­cov­er­ies and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion is giv­ing birth to a nascent mar­ket­place that can fun­da­men­tally trans­form what brain health is, how it is mea­sured, and how it is done,” says Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, mem­ber of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Coun­cil on the Aging Soci­ety and Editor-in-Chief of the report. “This ground­break­ing report can help pio­neers shape the emerg­ing toolkit to ben­e­fit an aging soci­ety that increas­ingly seeks new ways to enhance cog­ni­tive func­tion­al­ity and men­tal well­ness across the lifespan.”

As the brain is thrust into the cen­ter of the health­care ecosys­tem, inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions will play an increas­ingly impor­tant role in defin­ing neu­ro­cen­tric health,” adds Jake Duna­gan, Research Direc­tor at the Insti­tute For The Future.

Report: Trans­form­ing Brain Health with Dig­i­tal Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cog­ni­tion across the Lifes­pan: The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2010.

A major­ity among the 1,900+ decision-makers and early-adopters sur­veyed said they trusted the effec­tive­ness of non-invasive options above inva­sive options to enhance crit­i­cal brain func­tion­al­ity. Pro­fes­sional and intel­lec­tual chal­lenges were rated very effec­tive by 61% of respon­dents, aer­o­bic exer­cise and read­ing books by 42%, med­i­ta­tion by 38%, com­put­er­ized brain train­ing by 26%, tak­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs by 13%, tak­ing sup­ple­ments by 12%, and self-medicating with drugs by 1%.

These are among the key find­ings of a 207-page mar­ket report released today by Sharp­Brains and pre­pared in col­lab­o­ra­tion with 24 lead­ing sci­en­tists and 10 inno­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions — the most com­pre­hen­sive such research study done to ana­lyze emerg­ing research, tech­nolo­gies and marketplace.

We must do for brain health in the 21st cen­tury what we largely accom­plished in car­dio­vas­cu­lar health in the past cen­tury. It’s time to take sci­en­tific insights out of the lab and to iden­tify prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tions, mak­ing the main­te­nance of good brain fit­ness a pub­lic health pri­or­ity,” indi­cates William Reich­man, MD, Pres­i­dent and CEO of Baycrest.

Other Report High­lights are: Read the rest of this entry »

What impressed the Judging Panel re. Innovation Awards Winners and Finalists

Let me now share what the Judg­ing PanelAlvaroFer_finalfile_180310 and the Sharp­Brains team found most impres­sive from each Win­ner and Final­ist of the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards, accom­pa­nied by some addi­tional infor­ma­tion on each of these 10 note­wor­thy ini­tia­tives and case studies.

Grand Prize Winner

USA HockeyUSA Hockey, Inc., is the National Gov­ern­ing Body of the sport of ice hockey in the United States. With a mem­ber­ship of nearly 600,000 play­ers, coaches, offi­cials and vol­un­teers that span all 50 states, USA Hockey seeks to pro­mote the growth of hockey and pro­vide the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence for all par­tic­i­pants by encour­ag­ing, devel­op­ing, advanc­ing and admin­is­ter­ing the sport.

Project Scope: The National Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram (NTDP), a USA Hockey body, is a full-time devel­op­ment pro­gram aimed at prepar­ing under-18 student-athletes for par­tic­i­pa­tion on US National Teams. Its efforts focus both on high-caliber par­tic­i­pa­tion on the ice and indi­vid­ual skill devel­op­ment. The pro­gram is com­posed of two squads: the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams.

Dur­ing the past hockey sea­son, the NTDP imple­mented a cog­ni­tive train­ing sys­tem designed to help hockey play­ers develop per­cep­tion and decision-making skills called The Hockey Intel­li­Gym. Designed to enhance ‘Hockey Sense’—or the way play­ers gather infor­ma­tion from their sur­round­ings, make and exe­cute decisions—The Hockey Intel­li­Gym train­ing sys­tem uti­lizes a software-based train­ing envi­ron­ment with cus­tomized algo­rithms that adjust train­ing pro­grams to indi­vid­ual play­ers accord­ing to abil­ity and progress. Play­ers engaged in a twice-a-week cog­ni­tive train­ing reg­i­men that became an inte­gral part of their over­all train­ing pro­gram dur­ing which time cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists mon­i­tored play­ers’ per­for­mance and pro­vided coach­ing staff with analy­ses and progress reports. Among sta­tis­ti­cal fig­ures mea­sured, the most notable was the win ratio of teams involved, as Intel­li­Gym trained team won more games.

The Intel­li­Gym pro­gram took more than two years and $2 mil­lion to put together with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing (ACE) and was enabled by a grant from the BIRD Foun­da­tion who sci­en­tif­i­cally reviewed the plan and finan­cially sup­ported it.

Project Leader: Scott Mon­aghan, Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, USA Hockey National Team Devel­op­ment Program

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Excel­lent team approach between spe­cial­ist, coach and player. Great con­cept and need, and insights/model could apply very broadly to skill devel­op­ment. The adap­ta­tion of cog­ni­tive train­ing to this par­tic­u­lar sports domain is clever and can be gen­er­al­ized to a wide range of other activ­i­ties. I was impressed with the USA Hockey National Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram and their Hockey Intel­li­gym. To develop/adapt such a pro­gram and clearly demon­strate it’s impact on real-life per­for­mance, is fan­tas­tic. There is also a great oppor­tu­nity to expand this to even more ath­letes and sports and to every­day life.

Sil­ver Prize Winners

AllstateAll­state (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest pub­licly held per­sonal lines insurer. All­state is rein­vent­ing pro­tec­tion and retire­ment to help indi­vid­u­als in approx­i­mately 17 mil­lion house­holds pro­tect what they have today and bet­ter pre­pare for tomorrow.

Project Scope: All­state embarked on a jour­ney with Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion to eval­u­ate the inter­est in and effec­tive­ness of Posit Science’s software—leveraging tech­nol­ogy shown in National Insti­tutes of Health funded stud­ies to improve visual pro­cess­ing skills impor­tant for safe driving—to test a soft­ware pro­gram (Insight) in Penn­syl­va­nia. Selected dri­vers, 50 years and older, were invited to help val­i­date the impact cog­ni­tive train­ing has on dri­ving safety.

The project was a “proof of con­cept” for what may turn out to be a sig­nif­i­cant effort by All­state to pre­vent injuries and save lives, enable older peo­ple to main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer and pro­vide peace of mind to adult chil­dren faced with dif­fi­cult deci­sions as par­ents age. The most impor­tant reduc­tion was in insured losses and result­ing injuries, trauma and dis­rup­tion to the lives of those involved in auto col­li­sions. After observ­ing the acci­dent behav­ior of those who com­pleted the Posit pro­gram, rel­a­tive to a well selected con­trol group, All­state saw a mea­sur­able decline that was sta­tis­ti­cally valid.

Project Leader: Tom War­den, Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent, All­state Research and Plan­ning Center

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: The poten­tial impact of this pro­gram is sec­ond to none. I was impressed with Allstate’s project and their results that showed that the Posit Sci­ence soft­ware pos­i­tively impacted the acci­dent records of those com­plet­ing the pro­gram. All­state should be com­mended for try­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent and for cre­at­ing such an ini­tia­tive. Pretty soon I can imag­ine brain fit­ness dis­counts along­side safe dri­ver and other discounts.

images (1)Nation­wide, based in Colum­bus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diver­si­fied insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. and is rated A+ by A.M. Best. The com­pany pro­vides a full range of per­son­al­ized insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices, includ­ing includ­ing auto and life insur­ance, pen­sions, health and pro­duc­tiv­ity ser­vices, and more.

Project Scope: Nation­wide Mutual Insur­ance worked with ben­e­fits provider OptumHealth and their part­ner Brain Resource to add a Web based brain train­ing tool (MyBrain­So­lu­tions) to help employ­ees enhance pos­i­tiv­ity, emo­tional resilience and deal with oth­ers more effec­tively — all key ele­ments to pro­duc­tiv­ity. More than 500 employ­ees enrolled in the company’s ‘Healthy Hol­i­day Chal­lenge’ dur­ing the first week. The results of the new resource led to more pos­i­tive behav­ior changes and greater pro­duc­tiv­ity among the workforce.

As part of the MyBrain­So­lu­tions launch, asso­ciates were asked to reg­is­ter, take a base­line brain assess­ment, accu­mu­late a tar­get num­ber of points dur­ing a 30-day period and then take a sec­ond brain assess­ment. The com­pany found that aspects of pos­i­tiv­ity, emo­tional resilience and social skills improved in the short 6-week ini­tia­tive and saw small changes in pro­duc­tiv­ity were notice­able as well. 87% of those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram indi­cated they were plan­ning to take addi­tional steps to improve health after par­tic­i­pat­ing while 33.5% wouldn’t have accessed other resources to address health and well­be­ing if it weren’t for the initiative.

Project Leader: Kath­leen Herath, AVP Health & Productivity

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Har­vard Busi­ness Review esti­mated a cou­ple years ago that $150B is lost annu­ally as a result of lost employee pro­duc­tiv­ity. Given all of the life events and tran­si­tions that indi­vid­u­als expe­ri­ence each year that can dis­tract, this pro­vides a fea­si­ble and attrac­tive lever for employ­ees to take advan­tage of. Employ­ers of the future that can imple­ment inno­v­a­tive mod­els such as these to adapt to the chang­ing needs of employ­ees, enhance employee pro­duc­tiv­ity, and help to rede­fine what work means by infus­ing the pro­fes­sional with the per­sonal will win, and have as a reward loyal employ­ees, a happy cul­ture, and an over­all higher per­form­ing work­force. The pos­i­tive self-report mea­sures were impres­sive as well as the improve­ments in such a short period of time. Seems to have poten­tial for replic­a­bil­ity with scal­able, low-cost pro­grams. In prin­ci­ple this approach could have large soci­etal ben­e­fits. Imple­ment­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing in a work place is novel and taps into the desire to opti­mize pro­fes­sional func­tion­ing as well as stave off decline.  The emo­tional and self-regulation train­ing is extremely impor­tant in the work­place setting.

Rest of Top 10 Finalists

(Note: out of the 40 orga­ni­za­tions that sub­mit­ted entries to the inau­gural 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards, 10 became Top 10 Final­ists. Here we want to rec­og­nize the orga­ni­za­tions which, while not win­ning the over­all con­test, did impress the judg­ing panel with the qual­ity of their ongo­ing ini­tia­tives. They are ordered by the approx­i­mate age of their end user pop­u­la­tion, from younger to older:

Most Inno­v­a­tive Spe­cial Ed School

Arrowsmith SchoolArrow­smith School offers a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, tar­get­ing 19 areas of the brain most com­monly involved in learn­ing. The Arrow­smith Pro­gram, which orig­i­nated in Toronto, is now offered in schools in Canada and the US.

Project Scope: Help reme­di­ate Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties by devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing a pro­pri­etary suite of neuroplasticity-based exer­cises in 3 for­mats: computer-based, audi­tory, pen and paper.

  • Project Leader: Bar­bara Arrow­smith, Director
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel:  How easy would it be to say “they’s not smart enough” or “they’re mak­ing excuses”, instead of “they have a cog­ni­tive short­com­ing that can be addressed.” The tar­get audi­ence of 5–10% of school chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties can now have a fight­ing chance if mod­els like these can be scaled through pol­icy and/or repli­ca­tion. This gets my vote as the model cre­ates almost immea­sur­able life­time impact for those for­tu­nate enough to be reap all the cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits of the pro­gram. Arrow­smith efforts since 1979 puts them in a class of their own as pio­neers. Arrow­smith also has a process learn­ing from and refin­ing its ini­tia­tives. Pro­gram can be built fur­ther on very solid foundations.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Behav­ioral Health Provider

UBHCUni­ver­sity Behav­ioral Health­Care (UBHC) was estab­lished in 1971 as a divi­sion of the Uni­ver­sity of Med­i­cine and Den­tistry of New Jer­sey (UMDNJ) and is one of the largest providers of behav­ioral health­care ser­vices in the country.

Project Scope: Reme­di­ate cog­ni­tive impair­ments asso­ci­ated with severe men­tal ill­ness by devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing an inno­v­a­tive cur­ricu­lum and pro­pri­etary man­ual for cog­ni­tive rehab sup­port groups, com­bin­ing best of Cog­ni­tive Behav­ioral Ther­apy, cog­ni­tive train­ing, and social skills training.

  • Project Leader: Steven M. Sil­ver­stein, Ph.D., Direc­tor, Divi­sion of Schiz­o­phre­nia Research & Direc­tor of Research
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Note­wor­thy person-centered approach, focused on how to impact qual­ity of life with self-empowerment tools and social support.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Foundation

aaaftslogoThe AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safetyhas a mis­sion to iden­tify prob­lems, fos­ter research that seeks solu­tions, and dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als that pro­mote good safety practices.

Project Scope: Improve dri­ving safety among older adults by  pro­mot­ing and test­ing visual pro­cess­ing train­ing pro­gram InSight by Posit Science.

  • Project Leader: Peter Kissinger, Pres­i­dent and CEO
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Very high qual­ity pro­gram Inno­v­a­tive. Emi­nently scal­able. Ben­e­fits users, AAA, and com­mu­nity at large – very good synergy.This approach grounds cog­ni­tive train­ing in an activ­ity that for many is crit­i­cal to inde­pen­dence. The tie to insur­ance will moti­vate the train­ing which may increase road safety and have broader ben­e­fits for cog­ni­tive health.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Hospital

Saint Lukes Brain and Stroke Institute LogoSaint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Insti­tute, part of Saint Luke’s Health Sys­tem in Kansas and Mis­souri, cov­ers the entire spec­trum of care includ­ing acute inter­ven­tion, pre­ven­tion of com­pli­ca­tions, sec­ondary pre­ven­tion and neurorehabilitation.

Project Scope: Help extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing and address cog­ni­tive impair­ments by mak­ing acces­si­ble a Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter that com­bines edu­ca­tion, assess­ments, lifestyle advice and tar­geted neu­rocog­ni­tive and mindfulness-based training.

  • Project Leader: John Cor­ba­ley, M.S., M.A., CCC/Sp., Direc­tor, Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter, Saint Luke’s Hos­pi­tal of Kansas City
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Saint Luke’s pro­gram was impres­sive in a num­ber of ways. I liked that they worked with mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines to cre­ate a holis­tic pro­gram focused on improved brain health through cog­ni­tive train­ing, nutri­tion and exer­cise as well as other activ­i­ties. It is no sur­prise that they have a wait list of users eager to join their program.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Adult Education

OUSD Logo Color JPEG
Oak­land Uni­fied School Dis­trict has a mis­sion to ensure that all stu­dents grad­u­ate as car­ing, com­pe­tent, and crit­i­cal thinkers, as well as fully-informed, engaged, and con­tribut­ing cit­i­zens, pre­pared to suc­ceed in col­lege and career. Adult and Career Edu­ca­tion ser­vices empower adults through through edu­ca­tion and training.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing (for new pilot: improve aca­d­e­mic suc­cess among at-risk stu­dents) by offer­ing a Brain Fit­ness Class that com­bines cur­ricu­lum, dis­cus­sions and com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing (by Posit Sci­ence, for older adults; by Lumos Labs, for new pilot with young adults).

  • Project Leader: Teri Barr, Brain Health Pro­gram Coordinator
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Strong approach to over­come some of the age bound­aries among tar­geted pop­u­la­tions. What I love the most about this won­der­ful suc­cess story is how this pro­gram has been able to appeal to indi­vid­u­als across socio-economic, demo­graphic, and edu­ca­tional back­grounds, and in the process deliver both real and per­ceived value. One way I think it has done this is through pre­sent­ing a multi-faceted value propo­si­tion (i.e., build cog­ni­tive health + build com­mu­nity + have fun in the process) in a sin­gle set­ting. Lessons learned were also very well artic­u­lated, and the approach of com­bin­ing high-tech with high-touch I thought was inge­nious and real­is­tic given the context.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Men­tal Health Association

1-12754The Men­tal Health Asso­ci­a­tion of Rock­land County, in New York State, is a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion with a mis­sion to pre­vent men­tal ill­ness and fos­ter men­tal well­ness through com­mu­nity out­reach, direct ser­vice and advo­cacy for leg­is­la­tion and programs.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing by offer­ing a cog­ni­tive health series of live events to engage the com­mu­nity with a stigma-free, proac­tive brain fit­ness mes­sage, sup­ported by pro­fes­sional train­ing, social­iza­tion plat­forms and cog­ni­tive train­ing (by CogniFit).

  • Project Leader: Karen Oates, Director
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: So great to see a Men­tal Health Asso­ci­a­tion pro­mot­ing this impor­tant project and ally­ing with so many groups and orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Cog­niFit, in doing so. Great that they have been able to over­come the stigma so often asso­ci­ated with aging and men­tal fit­ness through the project. With the man­ual and pam­phlet, there are excel­lent repli­ca­tion possibilities.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Health Plan

logoSCAN Health Plan has been focus­ing for more than 30 years on the unique needs of peo­ple with Medicare and is now the country’s fourth largest not-for-profit Medicare Advan­tage plan. The com­pany cur­rently has nearly 120,000 mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia and Arizona.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing by devel­op­ing the con­cept of a “SCAN Van” to deliver health screen­ings & edu­ca­tion com­bined with phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive exer­cise (Wii gam­ing; touch screen-based cog­ni­tive train­ing by Hap­pyNeu­ron) in places where seniors gather.

  • Project Leader: Lena Perel­man, Direc­tor of Com­mu­nity Outreach
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: A clever plan for the deliv­ery of cog­ni­tive exer­cises. SCAN’s is inno­v­a­tive not only because its mobile but because it presents a more holis­tic approach to brain health with its “multi-pronged” program.

Here you can learn more about the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards.

Announcement: USA Hockey takes gold at Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, Allstate & Nationwide Mutual Insurance runners-up

Please join us in con­grat­u­lat­ing USA Hockey, All­state, and Nation­wide, for reach­ing the podium of the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards, unveiled today.

imagesThe podium’s top posi­tion went to USA Hockey National Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram (NTDP), a full-time devel­op­ment pro­gram aimed at prepar­ing student-athletes for par­tic­i­pa­tion on the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams, for its inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive train­ing sys­tem designed with the help of Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing (ACE) and the BIRD Foun­da­tion to help hockey play­ers develop per­cep­tion and decision-making skills. More than two years in the mak­ing and $2 mil­lion to pro­duce, the Hockey Intel­li­Gym offers play­ers a video-game-like train­ing envi­ron­ment to enhance ‘hockey-sense’-the infor­ma­tion gath­ered from sur­round­ings to make and exe­cute play­ing deci­sions on-ice. Accord­ing to sta­tis­tics, Intel­li­Gym train­ing helped NTDP teams win more games than non-trained teams.

Judges selected the entry for its inspir­ing team approach-an inter­sec­tion between spe­cial­ist, coach and player. To adapt such a pro­gram and demon­strate its impact on real-life per­for­mance, they felt, opened new oppor­tu­ni­ties for exten­sion to other sports and every­day life.

We’re extremely hon­ored that the Hockey Intel­li­Gym is being rec­og­nized with this pres­ti­gious award,” said Dave Ogrean, exec­u­tive direc­tor of USA Hockey. “Together with ACE and the BIRD Foun­da­tion, we’re proud to have devel­oped what is a truly inno­v­a­tive train­ing prod­uct that helps enhance the decision-making skills of our athletes.”

allstate_protectionEntries from All­state and Nation­wide Mutual Insur­ance rounded out the competition’s other top-performers. Nation­wide Mutual Insurance’s ‘Healthy Hol­i­day Chal­lenge’ offered a Web based tool-MyBrainSolutions-to help employ­ees enhance pos­i­tiv­ity, emo­tional resilience and deal with oth­ers more effec­tively — all key ele­ments to pro­duc­tiv­ity. images (1)In Penn­syl­va­nia, All­state invited selected dri­vers, 50 years and older, to help val­i­date the impact tar­geted cog­ni­tive train­ing such as Posit Sci­ence InSight can have on dri­ving safety in an effort to pre­vent injuries, save lives, enable older peo­ple to main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer and pro­vide peace of mind to adult chil­dren faced with dif­fi­cult deci­sions as par­ents age.

The remain­ing Top 10 Final­ists included (in alpha­bet­i­cal order):

  • AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety
  • Arrow­smith School
  • Men­tal Health Asso­ci­a­tion of Rock­land County
  • Oak­land Uni­fied School District
  • Saint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Institute
  • SCAN Health Plan
  • Uni­ver­sity Behav­ioral HealthCare

In its first year, the com­pe­ti­tion showed con­sid­er­able promise with 40 entries from pres­ti­gious orga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies around the world. “We’re delighted to have so many entries which show­case that brain fit­ness is for every­one at any age,” said Sharp­Brains’ CEO and Co-Founder Alvaro Fer­nan­dez. “The brain fit­ness field is still in its infancy but given today’s longer life spans and the accom­pa­ny­ing desire to make those years healthy and pro­duc­tive, we believe it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize those orga­ni­za­tions pio­neer­ing the way and adding to col­lec­tive learning.”

-> To learn more about the Inno­va­tion Awards, click Here.
-> To down­load full Press Kit, click Here (includes logos, FAQ, ini­tia­tive descrip­tions, PR contacts).

A full 200+ page mar­ket report detail­ing all ten final­ist case stud­ies in the con­text of over­all research and mar­ket trends will be avail­able next month.

Press con­tact:
Rebecca Brink
PR Rep — Sharp­Brains
rebecca at brinkcon­sult­ing dot biz

About Sharp­Brains and the Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards

Sharp­Brains is an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm cov­er­ing the emerg­ing brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health mar­ket. Its flag­ship indus­try report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket and con­sumer guide The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness help deci­sion mak­ers and con­sumers nav­i­gate the emerg­ing brain fit­ness field based on evidence-based infor­ma­tion and inde­pen­dent analy­sis. The orga­ni­za­tion also hosts the 3-day online global and vir­tual Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, a first of its kind con­fer­ence, engag­ing pro­fes­sion­als across the globe on the state of cog­ni­tive fit­ness research, tech­nol­ogy and mar­ket trends., the firm’s edu­ca­tional blog and web­site, is a mem­ber of the Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can Part­ner Network.

Designed AlvaroFer_finalfile_180310to fos­ter inno­va­tion and best prac­tice shar­ing, the Awards cel­e­brate out­stand­ing pio­neers apply­ing neuroplasticity-based research and tools in the ‘real world’. Put on by inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm Sharp­Brains of San Fran­cisco, the Awards rec­og­nize orga­ni­za­tions devis­ing and imple­ment­ing results-oriented, scal­able ini­tia­tives demon­strat­ing com­mit­ment to the brain fit­ness of orga­ni­za­tion clients, mem­bers, patients, stu­dents or employees-and show­case inno­v­a­tive uses of non-invasive tools to improve cog­ni­tive and emo­tional functions.

5 Quotes on Neuroplasticity-Based Healthcare and Innovation for an Aging Society

marian_diamondMar­ian Dia­mond, UC-Berkeley: “Peo­ple fre­quently do the same level of cross­word puz­zles to stim­u­late their brains year after year. They do not chal­lenge their brains with more dif­fi­cult lev­els of puz­zles. In our research, we showed that if we chal­lenged the rats to reach their food cups by hav­ing to climb over many obstruc­tions, their brains increased more than those of rats who could walk unhin­dered to their food cups. Chal­lenge increased brain size.”

tom_pic.thumbnailTom War­den, All­state: “… we see the oppor­tu­nity that cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­vides as just the next evo­lu­tion of things that we can advo­cate and get behind that ulti­mately make for a bet­ter dri­ving expe­ri­ence, a safer dri­ving expe­ri­ence for peo­ple. Not only for our insureds, but to help the roads be safer for everyone…what we did is to attempt to repli­cate the results that were observed in the lab­o­ra­tory envi­ron­ment where older dri­vers who have com­pleted a good amount of train­ing, 10 hours or more of train­ing, had shown that the risk of crash could be reduced by up to about 50%.”

whitehouse_large-150x150David White­house, OptumHealth Behav­ioral Solu­tions: “Man­aged care has not always been on the fore­front of inno­va­tion and it has been, for us, a chal­lenge and an excite­ment to think about how best to incor­po­rate the lat­est find­ings in neu­ro­science. If I was to give you the major areas that we think are impor­tant, one is the impor­tance of neu­ro­science capa­bilit­ties to improve triage, the sec­ond is the impor­tance that this has on increas­ing access to much bet­ter func­tional assess­ments and its rela­tion­ship to safety. The third is in the area of clin­i­cal deci­sion sup­port and the fourth is in brain health. First and fore­most, why is it that in every other organ we have objec­tive data of the organ itself doing its work under var­i­ous loads to help us when we need to make deci­sions about its health and dis­ease state and how best to sup­port it and intervene.”

meet_bill_DrWilliamEReichman_-150x150William Reich­man, Bay­crest: “…we must do for brain health in the 21st cen­tury what we largely accom­plished in car­dio­vas­cu­lar health in the past century…that includes an increased focus not only on ter­tiary pre­ven­tion, but on pri­mary and sec­ondary prevention…approximately a year and a half ago the Ontario gov­ern­ment made a deci­sion to invest $10 mil­lion in Canada’s first cen­tre for brain fit­ness to be housed at Bay­crest at the Rot­man Research Institute.…Here in Canada I think that we’ve been able to make a com­pelling case main­tain­ing good brain fit­ness needs to be a national pri­or­ity for this coun­try and we have been engaged in dis­cus­sions with the gov­ern­ment, both fed­er­ally and provin­cially, that brain health pro­grams really need to begin in childhood.”

murali-150x150P Murali Doraiswamy, Duke Uni­ver­sity: “… you don’t want to walk into a gro­cery store or into a gas sta­tion and see a brain game claim­ing that they’re a neu­ro­plas­tic­ity brain game or a bot­tle of water that’s claim­ing it’s a cog­ni­tive reserve enhancer because then I think you’re going to destroy the whole field key…So I think it’s essen­tial for acad­e­mia, for indus­try, for think tanks, for even the fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies such as per­haps Eng­land, US, Canada, to come together and form a set of guide­lines that can really guide the proper devel­op­ment of a lot of these prod­ucts and by prod­ucts I’m talk­ing about two types of prod­ucts. One is cog­ni­tive screen­ing instru­ments and the sec­ond is inter­ven­tion prod­ucts to either improve sort of nor­mal func­tion­ing or to increase resilience to stress or three, to pre­vent disease.”

(answer­ing to audi­ence ques­tion, “when do you believe that cog­ni­tive screen­ing may become a pretty rou­tine part of stan­dard med­ical care”) “I think it’s long overdue…the brain is the most impor­tant organ.”

In Jan­u­ary of 2010 Sharp­Brains pro­duced the inau­gural vir­tual, global Sharp­Brains Sum­mit on Tech­nol­ogy for Cog­ni­tive Health and Per­for­mance (Jan­u­ary 18-20th, 2010). The Sum­mit fea­tured a dream team of over 40 speak­ers who are lead­ers in indus­try and research to dis­cuss emerg­ing research, tools and best prac­tices for cog­ni­tive health and per­for­mance, and gath­ered over 250 par­tic­i­pants in 16 countries.

Are you inter­ested in what over 40 lead­ing sci­en­tists, clin­i­cians, exec­u­tives and tech­nol­o­gists have to say about the lat­est Tech­nol­ogy for Cog­ni­tive Health and Per­for­mance? Want to hear how they responded to more than 200 audi­ence ques­tions? You can Learn more Here (full tran­scripts are now avail­able). Sharp­Brains read­ers can get a 15% dis­count Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Expo Day; Top 15 Articles of 2009

In this Jan­u­ary issue of our eNewslet­ter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlight­en­ing demos that will take place on Wednes­day, Jan­u­ary 20th, as part of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, and then present the 15 most stim­u­lat­ing Sharp­Brains arti­cles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and dis­cuss the lat­est pro­grams and tech­nolo­gies for brain fit­ness, pre­sented by Sum­mit Spon­sors, Wednes­day Jan­u­ary 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 min­utes, fol­lowed by 15 min­utes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cog­nic­iti will intro­duce the new Memory@Work work­shop, designed to teach what mem­ory is, how lifestyle fac­tors such as dis­trac­tion and stress can affect mem­ory, and how to enhance mem­ory per­for­mance at work with the use of enabling strategies.

10am. Cog­niFit will demo Cog­niFit Per­sonal Coach and Cog­niFit Senior Dri­ver, two online pro­grams designed to assess and main cog­ni­tive func­tions for healthy liv­ing and safe dri­ving, respectively.

11am. Posit Sci­ence will demo InSight, a software-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pack­age designed to sharpen brain’s visual sys­tem. This is the pro­gram being tested by All­state for safer driving.

Noon. Happy Neu­ron will intro­duce HAP­PYneu­ron PRO, a new plat­form for pro­fes­sion­als for the effec­tive deliv­ery and man­age­ment of cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams in a patient cen­tric manner.

1pm. Sharp­Brains will help nav­i­gate this grow­ing field by dis­cussing The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware 2009 report and The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness con­sumer guide, and sum­ma­riz­ing key Sum­mit take-aways.

Learn more and reg­is­ter HERE. Please remem­ber that reg­is­tra­tion closes on Jan­u­ary 17th.

We want to thank our most recent spon­sor, the Arrow­smith Pro­gram, a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties avail­able in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in Canada and the U.S. More infor­ma­tion here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stim­u­lat­ing arti­cles of 2009.

The Big Picture

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine.

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Barry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodigy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learning.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to pre­vent mem­ory prob­lems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths.

Why is work­ing mem­ory rel­e­vant to read­ing and math­e­mat­ics: A recent large UK study iden­ti­fied 1 in 10 stu­dents as hav­ing work­ing mem­ory dif­fi­cul­ties. Dr. Tracy Alloway elab­o­rates why this matters.

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barger explains why new envi­ron­ments  force us to exit our rou­tines and actively mas­ter unfa­mil­iar challenges.”


Retool­ing Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez dis­cusses why rou­tine, doing things inside our com­fort zones, is the most com­mon enemy of the nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge our brains need.

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, dis­sects a cou­ple of recent press releases and the under­ly­ing stud­ies to clar­i­fy­ing what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled trial on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans offers a  thought­ful review of the evi­dence and asks, “Now, is this the right question?”

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reports good news (long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­eral brain functions).


Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When insur­ance com­pa­nies and pol­icy mak­ers pay atten­tion, Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore reports.

Visual Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the State of the Mar­ket 2009: Paul Van Slem­brouck beau­ti­fully presents the main find­ings of our 150-page mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fit­ness: neu­ro­sci­en­tist Michael Merzenich dis­cusses neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, tech­nol­ogy, safe dri­ving, men­tal health, and the need for stan­dards, auto­mated assess­ments and “per­sonal brain trainers”.

Brain Teaser

Stim­u­late your Con­cen­tra­tion Skills: when one really wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon chal­lenges you to count a few sim­ple letters.


Finally, an arti­cle that may inspire some New Year Res­o­lu­tions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpower, Daniel Gole­man dis­cusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to other brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­fully, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Wish­ing you a Happy and Pro­duc­tive 2010, and look­ing for­ward to meet­ing many of you (200 so far) at the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit!

Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers

Dr. Michael Merzenich Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, is a lead­ing pio­neer in brain plas­tic­ity research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invented the cochlear implant. In 1996, he was the found­ing CEO of Sci­en­tific Learn­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (Nas­daq: SCIL), and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Sci­en­tific Offi­cer of Posit Sci­ence. He was elected to the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences in 1999 and to the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine this year. He retired as Fran­cis A. Sooy Pro­fes­sor and Co-Director of the Keck Cen­ter for Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cisco in 2007. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV spe­cials, mul­ti­ple media appear­ances, or neuroplasticity-related books.

(Alvaro Fer­nan­dez) Dear Michael, thank you very much for agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit in Jan­u­ary, and for your time today. sharpbrains_summit_logo_webIn order to con­tex­tu­al­ize the Summit’s main themes, I would like to focus this inter­view on the likely big-picture impli­ca­tions dur­ing the next 5 years of your work and that of other neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research and indus­try pioneers.

Thank you for invit­ing me. I believe the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will be very use­ful and stim­u­lat­ing, you are gath­er­ing an impres­sive group together. I am look­ing for­ward to January.

Neuroplasticity-based Tools: The New Health & Well­ness Frontier

There are many dif­fer­ent technology-free approaches to har­ness­ing –enabling, dri­ving– neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. What is the unique value that tech­nol­ogy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

It’s all about effi­ciency, scal­a­bil­ity, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­ogy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-optimally-efficient brain-training strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­ogy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each person’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tively addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cially impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­ogy is the scal­a­bil­ity that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neuroplasticity-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Internet!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intuitive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-processing if all one cares about is œmem­ory? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to really change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age older per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equally effort­ful business!

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teens and Adults

Safe dri­ving seems to be one area where the ben­e­fits are more intu­itive, which may explain the sig­nif­i­cant traction.

Yes, we see great poten­tial and inter­est among insur­ers for improv­ing dri­ving safety, both for seniors and teens. Appro­pri­ate cog­ni­tive train­ing can lower at-fault acci­dent rates. You can mea­sure clear ben­e­fits in rel­a­tively short time frames, so it won’t take long for insur­ers to see an eco­nomic ratio­nale to not only offer pro­grams at low cost or for free but to incen­tivize dri­vers to com­plete them. All­state, AAA, State Farm and other insur­ers are begin­ning to real­ize this poten­tial. It is impor­tant to note that typ­i­cal acci­dents among teens and seniors are dif­fer­ent, so that train­ing method­olo­gies will need to be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent high-risk populations.

Yet, most dri­ving safety ini­tia­tives today still focus on edu­cat­ing dri­vers, rather that train­ing them neu­ro­log­i­cally. We mea­sure vision, for exam­ple, but com­pletely ignore atten­tional con­trol abil­i­ties, or a driver’s use­ful field of view. I expect this to change sig­nif­i­cantly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insur­ance com­pa­nies will ulti­mately see sim­i­lar ben­e­fits, and we believe that they will fol­low a sim­i­lar course of action to reduce gen­eral med­ical and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease– (Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s– and Parkinsons-) related costs. In fact, many senior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties are among the pio­neers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vitality

Main­stream media is cov­er­ing this emerg­ing cat­e­gory with thou­sands of sto­ries. But most cov­er­age seems still focused on does it work? more than “how do we define It”, what does work mean? or work for whom, and for what? Can you sum­ma­rize what recent research suggests?

We have seen clear pat­terns in the appli­ca­tion of our train­ing pro­grams, some pub­lished (like IMPACT), some unpub­lished, some with healthy adults, and some with peo­ple with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment or early Alzheimers Dis­ease (AD). What we see in every case: Read the rest of this entry »

New Speakers, Sponsor, Partners, for SharpBrains Summit

Our inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit con­tin­ues to grow momen­tum — here goes a quick update.

New Speak­ers:

tom_pic.thumbnailThomas M. War­den is Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent and Leader of Allstate’s Research and Plan­ning Cen­ter (ARPC). He helps sets ARPC’s research agenda and man­age its exe­cu­tion by 60-member ARPC staff, lead­ing the devel­op­ment of sig­nif­i­cant inno­va­tions that con­tribute to Allstate’s prof­itable growth. He is a Char­tered Finan­cial Ana­lyst and has an M.B.A. from Har­vard University.

lmh_face-inwhite_resizedDr. Lau­rence Hir­sh­berg directs the Neu­roDe­vel­op­ment Cen­ter and serves on the fac­ulty of the Depart­ment of Psy­chi­a­try and Human Behav­ior of the Brown Uni­ver­sity Med­ical School as Clin­i­cal Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor. The Neu­roDe­vel­op­ment Cen­ter is one of the 20 research sites world­wide par­tic­i­pat­ing in the largest study of neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal mark­ers for depres­sion. Dr. Hir­sh­berg is a licensed clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and cer­ti­fied in EEG biofeed­back by the Biofeed­back Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Insti­tute of Amer­ica, and recently served as Guest Edi­tor and con­trib­u­tor to a spe­cial issue of Child and Ado­les­cent Psy­chi­atric Clin­ics of North Amer­ica devoted to emerg­ing inter­ven­tions in applied neu­ro­science, includ­ing neu­ro­feed­back and other brain based interventions.

New Sil­ver Sponsor:

AGE_Matters_logo_v2A.G.E. Mat­ters is a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary Adult and Geri­atric Eval­u­a­tion Clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with a mis­sion to pro­vide swift and con­tin­u­ally upgraded access to community-based, com­pre­hen­sive assess­ment of cog­ni­tion, func­tion and behav­ior; per­son­al­ized pro­grams of pre­ven­tion, coun­sel­ing, edu­ca­tion and treat­ment; and nutri­tional and lifestyle rec­om­men­da­tions, cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, and med­ica­tions of proven benefit.

New Part­ners:

ADDF-Tight-LogoThe Alzheimer’s Drug Dis­cov­ery Foun­da­tion was estab­lished in 2004 as a pub­lic char­ity to sup­port the advance­ment of drugs to pre­vent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s dis­ease, related demen­tias, and cog­ni­tive aging. Our strat­egy of ven­ture phil­an­thropy is based on the idea that our research grant recip­i­ents are engaged in projects that are poten­tially viable in the mar­ket­place with a pos­si­ble return on investment.

pg_icaa_main_enThe Inter­na­tional Coun­cil on Active Aging® (ICAA) was founded in the belief that uni­fy­ing the efforts of the orga­ni­za­tions focused on older adults ben­e­fits both the peo­ple they reach and the orga­ni­za­tions them­selves. Today, the vision is shared by over 8,000 orga­ni­za­tions con­nected to the ICAA network.

kmdi_logo_vertThe Knowl­edge Media Design Insti­tute (KMDI) is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research and teach­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto. Our work spans the sci­en­tific study of the ways in which media and media tech­nolo­gies shape, and are shaped by, human activ­ity, and the prac­ti­cal work of found­ing an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary nexus for the design of such media. Adopt­ing a human-centred and par­tic­i­pa­tory approach to design, our goal is to enhance human skill rather than dimin­ish it, and to encour­age cre­ativ­ity and innovation.

LDS-logoThe USC Davis School of Geron­tol­ogy has con­sis­tently pio­neered inno­v­a­tive edu­ca­tional pro­grams includ­ing the world’s first Ph.D. in Geron­tol­ogy, the first joint Master’s degree in Geron­tol­ogy and Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, and the first under­grad­u­ate Health Sci­ence Track in Geron­tol­ogy. Research in mol­e­c­u­lar biol­ogy, neu­ro­science, demog­ra­phy, psy­chol­ogy, soci­ol­ogy and pub­lic pol­icy is con­ducted under the aus­pices of the Ethel Percy Andrus Geron­tol­ogy Cen­ter, founded in 1964.

Still much much more work ahead…but we are excited to see how this is shap­ing up!

For more infor­ma­tion, and to Reg­is­ter a early-bird rates, click on Sharp­Brains Sum­mit.

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