Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


The Business and Ethics of the Brain Fitness Boom – Part 3: The Real Need

Engaging people where they are in the life-course

Eighty percent of the 38,000 adults over age 50 who were responders in the 2010 AARP Member Opinion Survey indicated “staying mentally sharp” was their top ranked interest and concern (Dinger, 2010). What exactly does this phrase mean? And what role can technology play in “staying mentally sharp”? Intel CEO Paul Otellini has said, “You have to start by thinking about what people want to do… and work backward.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Business and Ethics of the Brain Fitness Boom – Part 2: The Ethics

The terminology “fundamental attribution error” describes the tendency to overvalue personality-based explanations for observed human behaviors, while undervaluing situational explanations for those behaviors.  I believe that a primary reason behind many perceived and real ethical challenges in the brain fitness field is due not so much to certain stakeholders’ lack of personal or professional ethics, but derives from the flawed societal construct that underpins current, relevant innovations. To improve the ethics of the brain fitness business and its application (and empower consumers’ informed decision making), there must first be agreement about a meaningful, appropriate way to analyze and guide innovation. This is the crux of the problem. The current medical model is not up to the task at hand, since it is heavily skewed toward invasive drugs and devices driven by disease-based models, and fails to leverage Read the rest of this entry »

Do we all have a “brain age”?

Do we all have a “brain age”? Are all brain exer­cises equal? Does aging mean decline?

Answering these questions probably requires to debunk a few myths about the brain.

Understanding how our brain functions can help understand how it is possible for our brain to change, and what we can do to make these changes happen. This is why knowing how our brain works is the first habit to acquire on the road to boosting brain functions.

Wouldn’t it be very hard for a musician to get better at playing the clarinet if he didn’t know that it is the air that his mouth pulses into the instrument that creates its sounds? In the same way limited knowledge about the brain may be one of the reasons why many people do not take action to try to optimize the way their brain work.

Here are 10 Brain and Brain Fitness Myths, debunked for you: 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!

Brain Training Market Talk, at MIT/ BoomerTech Series

We’ll have an exciting session in Palo Alto on October 6th, as part of the BoomerTech series organized by the MIT Club and SmartSilvers. Let me share the details now.

Fact or Fad: Who is Shaping the Brain Fitness Market?
Description: Lots of buzz … Perhaps you think that “Senior Moments” are an inevitable part of aging. MIT Club Northern CaliforniaBut research shows you may be able to keep your brain young and fit the same way you do your body, with exercise and training. With the success of Nintendo’s Brain Age, Posit Science and dozens of new software programs and games that promise “brain fitness”, the real question is: “Are we experiencing a fad, or an emerging new consumer market?”

Join our speaker, Alvaro Fernandez, author of the new book, The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness, and our expert panel to discuss:

* What are the top products on the market today?
* Can the emerging field of Brain fitness improve your job performance?
* How will consumers make informed decisions on what to buy and use?
* What are the emerging trends to leverage for entrepreneurs to jump into the marketplace?

Click Here to Register

Speaker, Panelist & Moderator

Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains — Alvaro is co-founder and CEO of SharpBrains, a leading market research firm that tracks the market and research for cognitive assessments, training, and games. A member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils, he has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and more, and recently co-authored the book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp. Alvaro received masters’ degrees in education and business from Stanford University, and teaches at UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.


Roger Quy, General Partner, Technology Partners — Roger has been responsible for the life science practice of Technology Partners since 1989. He specializes in neurotechnology, investing in both biopharma and medical device companies. Roger began his career at the Queen Square Institute of Neurology, London where he was a Research Fellow for the British Medical Research Council. He developed and commercialized techniques for monitoring the brains of ambulatory patients. He contributed to a textbook on epilepsy and holds eight patents. Roger earned a BA with honors in psychology and law and a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Keele, England. He received an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jan Zivic, Founder, Vibrant Brains — Jan’s interest in Brain Fitness is very personal. She suffered a traumatic brain injury after an automobile accident several years ago, and experienced the concept of neuroplasticity first-hand as she rehabilitated from not being able to walk or think rationally to restoring much of her previous function.

Jan has served in a variety of leadership roles including: the Board of Directors of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts where she currently serves as President of the Board, the Library Commission of SF, the California Executive Recruiters Association (its first female President), the Katherine Delmar Burke Independent School, and The Family Services Agency of SF – President of the Board. Jan was recognized as The SF Cable Car Awards “Woman of the Year,” and later as the recipient of the Maya Angelou Community Leadership Award, from the University of California, San Francisco Medical School’s Center Of Excellence.

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2009


* 6:00PM Registration, Hors d’oeuvres and Networking
* 7:00PM Presentation and Panel Discussion


* $20.00 in advance on the website
* $25.00 Walk-ins at the door (cash or check please, no credit cards accepted at door)


Michael Sarfatti
tel 415-885-2293


Wilson Sonsini
950 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Click Here to Register

Learn more & Register

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

About SharpBrains

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