Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Transcript: Dr. Gary Small on Enhancing Memory and the Brain

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion today on mem­ory, mem­ory tech­niques and brain-healthy lifestyles with Dr. Gary  Small, Direc­tor of UCLA’s Mem­ory Clinic and Cen­ter on Aging, and author of The Mem­ory Bible. You can learn more about his book  Here, and learn more about upcom­ing Brain Fit­ness Q&A Ses­sions Here.

Per­haps one of the best ques­tions and answers was:

Ques­tion: Gary, you’ve worked many years in this field. Let us in on the secret. What do YOU do you, per­son­ally, to pro­mote your own brain fit­ness?
Answer: I try to get at least 30 min­utes of aer­o­bic con­di­tion­ing each day; try to min­i­mize my stress by stay­ing con­nected with fam­ily and friends; gen­er­ally eat a brain healthy diet (fish, fruits, veg­eta­bles), and try to bal­ance my online time with my offline time. Which reminds me, I think it is almost time for me to sign off line. Read the rest of this entry »

Debunking 10 Cognitive Health and Fitness Myths

As part of the research behind the book The Sharp­Brains Guide for Brain Fit­ness we inter­viewed dozens of lead­ing cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and experts world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have a num­ber of take-aways to report.

What Santiago Ramon y Cajal can we clearly say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­ago Ramon y Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tury, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­ity in the XXI.

And trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process, since Read the rest of this entry »

News on physical, cognitive and emotional fitness

Brain Health NewsNice week­end read­ing mate­r­ial — recent news reiforc­ing emerg­ing trends on phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive and emo­tional fit­ness, but with new twists.

Fit teens could be smarter teens

Researchers from Swe­den and USC exam­ined data on 1.2 mil­lion Swedish men born between 1950 and 1976 who also enlisted for the country’s manda­tory mil­i­tary ser­vice. They looked at the par­tic­i­pants’ global intel­li­gence scores as well as log­i­cal, visu­ospa­tial, ver­bal and tech­ni­cal scores. The greater the car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness, the higher the cog­ni­tive scores at age 18. The asso­ci­a­tion between mus­cle strength and global intel­li­gence, in con­trast, was weak.”

UPMC Health Plan Offers Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware to Improve Health

UPMC Health Plan announced today that it has signed an agree­ment to offer award-winning brain fit­ness soft­ware from Posit Sci­ence®, at no cost, to all UPMC for Life Medicare Advan­tage mem­bers. This brain train­ing pro­gram is a new part of the UPMC Health Plan well­ness ser­vices, which focus on both mind and body fitness.

The brain fit­ness soft­ware, known as the Insight™ Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, is a suite of five game-like com­puter exer­cises that make brain train­ing chal­leng­ing and effec­tive. The pro­gram engages the brain’s nat­ural plas­tic­ity (the brain’s abil­ity to rewire itself) to improve basic brain function.”

Brain-fitness indus­try grows as baby-boomers work to stay sharp.

When we’re younger we’re learn­ing quite inten­sively,” she said. “By mid­dle age, we’re not learn­ing inten­sively any­more and just using skills we’ve already mas­tered. That’s why it’s impor­tant to stretch your brain.”

Brain fit­ness games also have the poten­tial to improve one’s emo­tional health, said Mark Bald­win, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at McGill Uni­ver­sity in Montreal.

Bald­win has devel­oped a num­ber of com­puter games based on keep­ing a brain active phys­i­o­log­i­cally, to improve it psychologically.

It’s about prac­tis­ing or using games to train ben­e­fi­cial habits of thought, ” he said.

Corporate Wellness Programs start to include Brain Health

Brain-fitness games join work­place, as well as senior cen­ter, arse­nals (MarketWatch)

- “Con­sumers and retire­ment homes have made brain-fitness games and exer­cises a com­mer­cial hit, but now some insur­ers and employ­ers are incor­po­rat­ing them into well­ness pro­grams that pro­mote health not just for the body but also for the mind.”

- “Improv­ing brain health can result in less pre­sen­teeism, the ten­dency to be at work but be dis­tracted and not able to focus,” he added. “If you look at dis­abil­ity costs, absen­teeism and pre­sen­teeism account for most of the med­ical costs, and that’s a good rea­son for employ­ers to be focused on brain health.” (accord­ing to Dr. Eugene Baker, vice pres­i­dent at OptumHealth’s Behav­ioral Solu­tions division)”

The arti­cle reviews inno­v­a­tive prac­tices at OptumHealth, Nation­wide Auto Insur­ance Com­pany, Humana, Penn Treaty Amer­i­can Corp, All­state, and the US Army. I am glad to see the media start to notice the impor­tance of cog­ni­tive assess­ments and the grow­ing activ­ity by insur­ers. Read the rest of this entry »

Announcing the Premium Research Sponsors program

Have you ever won­dered how we can main­tain Sharp­Brains web­site, blog and newslet­ter with­out sell­ing any prod­uct and with only lim­ited adver­tis­ing? Peo­ple often ask us that ques­tion, espe­cially once we explain that we don’t sell prod­ucts (sell­ing prod­ucts would present a con­flict of inter­est given our mis­sion to “pro­vide indi­vid­u­als, com­pa­nies and insti­tu­tions with high-quality, research-based, infor­ma­tion and guid­ance to nav­i­gate the grow­ing cog­ni­tive and brain fit­ness market”.)

The answer is, we offer pro­pri­etary mar­ket research and advi­sory ser­vices to orga­ni­za­tions such as these. They want to fully under­stand emerg­ing Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health trends, oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges, in order to make better-informed deci­sions. Examples:

- lead­ing health­care providers eval­u­at­ing cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing options.
uni­ver­si­ties and research cen­ters try­ing to bridge brain research and prac­tice.
devel­op­ers of tech­nolo­gies that help assess and/ or train cog­ni­tive func­tions who want a bet­ter view of mar­ket size, trends and the com­pet­i­tive land­scape.
con­sult­ing and train­ing com­pa­nies inter­ested in under­stand­ing mar­ket trends to scope their own poten­tial offer­ings.
ven­ture cap­i­tal firms look­ing for invest­ment ideas and due dili­gence on existing/ poten­tial deals.

We chose to focus our efforts on pro­vid­ing qual­ity mar­ket research and advi­sory ser­vices given the grow­ing con­fu­sion in the mar­ket­place and the need for an inde­pen­dent and qual­i­fied source of infor­ma­tion, mar­ket data and best prac­tices. The brain fit­ness soft­ware field (defined as soft­ware appli­ca­tions that help assess or train cog­ni­tive func­tions) is pro­jected to exceed $2B by 2015, fueled by an increas­ing amount of applied research on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and cog­ni­tion; a rapidly evolv­ing mar­ket­place of prod­ucts mak­ing cog­ni­tive claims; and grow­ing con­sumer and insti­tu­tional demand. Large and small orga­ni­za­tions are already tak­ing the first steps to lever­age those technologies.

We are now launch­ing a new Pre­mium Research Spon­sors pro­gram to part­ner with pio­neer­ing orga­ni­za­tions who want to col­lab­o­rate with us to shape the future of Read the rest of this entry »

The Brain Fitness/ Training Market: An Executive Summary

Over the next weeks we are going to be shar­ing the Exec­u­tive Sum­mary of our mar­ket report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 with mem­bers and clients of sev­eral part­ner orga­ni­za­tions (the British Colum­bia Seniors Liv­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, where I will be speak­ing this Thurs­day, Neu­rotech Reports, where I will speak on Octo­ber 24th, and the Health 2.0 con­fer­ence, where we are spon­sor­ing a panel on gam­ing for health), so it is only fair that we first share it with our own readers.

Exec­u­tive Summary

A spate of recent global news cov­er­age on brain fit­ness and brain train­ing reflects a grow­ing inter­est in nat­ural, non drug-based inter­ven­tions to keep our brains sharp as we age. This inter­est is very timely, given an aging pop­u­la­tion, increas­ing preva­lence of Alzheimer’s rates, and soar­ing health care costs in the US that place more empha­sis than ever on pre­ven­tion and lifestyle changes.

US brain fit­ness mar­ket: sig­nif­i­cant and growing

We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness mar­ket was $225m in 2007 – more than dou­ble what it was in 2005. Whereas K12 school sys­tems were the largest buy­ers in 2005, con­sumers were respon­si­ble for most of the growth from 2005 to 2007. We esti­mate that the con­sumer seg­ment grew from a few mil­lion in 2005 to $80m in 2007, and fore­see sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket growth dri­ven not only by con­sumers but also by health­care and insur­ance providers.

Mar­ket dynamics

As we speak to diverse audi­ences about this emerg­ing field around the coun­try we are fre­quently asked the fol­low­ing questions:

- Why are we talk­ing about the brain fit­ness field at all?

Over the past decade, teams backed by neu­ro­sci­en­tists around the world Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: December Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesI hope you are hav­ing a joy­ful hol­i­day sea­son, and wish you a Happy and Pros­per­ous 2008. The Brain Fit­ness field has made a great deal of progress in 2007, and we are look­ing for­ward the New Year.

Here you are have the Monthly Digest of our Most Pop­u­lar Blog Posts. You can con­sider it your monthly Brain Fitness/ Exer­cise Newsletter.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our blog RSS feed, or to our monthly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this monthly Digest by email).

Let me first of all intro­duce you to our new “Author Speaks Series”, where we will give lead­ing sci­en­tists and experts a forum to present their new brain-related books. We are hon­ored to kick­start the series with Larry McCleary, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal. You can read Here his arti­cle on how to keep a brain-friendly lifestyle. This series will com­ple­ment our ongo­ing Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series.

Brain Fit­ness in the News

Brain Fit­ness @ PBS: PBS fea­tured a fan­tas­tic spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and brain fit­ness dur­ing the month of Decem­ber. Before you ask: as of today, the DVD of the pro­gram is still not avail­able in PBS online shop. We expect to see it there in 2–3 weeks. We will keep you informed.

The Huff­in­g­ton Post started fea­tur­ing a col­umn writ­ten by me: you may enjoy tak­ing a look at Alvaro Fer­nan­dez — Liv­ing on The Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Jog­ging our Brains for Brain Vital­ity, Healthy Aging-and Intel­li­gence!: a roundup of sev­eral great recent arti­cles on mem­ory, aging, IQ and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as self-control.

Health & Wellness

Brain Train­ing: No Magic Bul­let, Yet Use­ful Tool. Inter­view with Eliz­a­beth Zelin­ski: Dr. Zelin­ski, lead­ing researcher of the IMPACT study, shares fas­ci­nat­ing insights. For exam­ple: “…cog­ni­tive enhance­ment requires the engage­ment in a vari­ety of activ­i­ties, those activ­i­ties must be novel, adap­tive and challenging-which is why computer-based pro­grams can be help­ful. But even at a more basic level, what mat­ters is being engaged with life, con­tin­u­ally exposed to stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, always try­ing to get out of our com­fort zones, doing our best at what­ever we are doing. A major typ­i­cal mis­con­cep­tion is that there is only one gen­eral intel­li­gence to care about. In real­ity, we have many dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, such as atten­tion, mem­ory, lan­guage, rea­son­ing, and more, so it makes sense to have dif­fer­ent pro­grams designed to train and improve each of them.”

How to Eval­u­ate and Choose a Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram: To help you nav­i­gate the grow­ing num­ber of computer-based pro­grams and games, we pub­lished this 10-Question Check­list, based on dozens of inter­views with sci­en­tists, experts and consumers.

Travel and Engage­ment as Good Brain Exer­cise: As we’ve seen, nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge are the key guide­lines for “brain exer­cise” that help build new neural con­nec­tions, force one to be mind­ful and pay atten­tion, improve abil­i­ties such as pattern-recognition, and gen­er­ally con­tribute to life­long brain health. In this post we fea­ture the brain build­ing / mind expand­ing expe­ri­ence of a Sharp­Brains friend work­ing in Namibia.

Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion and Diag­nos­tic Tests: analy­sis of sev­eral recent arti­cles on emerg­ing research behind Alzheimer’s diag­nos­tic and prevention.

Cor­po­rate Well­ness and Training

Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Intel­lec­tu­ally Demand­ing Jobs: a recent study shows how “Intel­lec­tu­ally demand­ing work was asso­ci­ated with greater ben­e­fit to cog­ni­tive per­for­mance in later life inde­pen­dent of related fac­tors like edu­ca­tion and intelligence.”

Cog­ni­tive Health and Baby Boomers– 6 Points to Keep in Mind: based upon an excel­lent McK­in­sey report titled Serv­ing Aging Baby Boomers, we dis­cuss a vari­ety a news arti­cles, includ­ing inter­est­ing num­bers, some bad news, and some good news.

Life­long Learn­ing Is Chang­ing My Brain: Andreas, the neu­ro­science PhD stu­dent who spent last sum­mer work­ing with Sharp­Brains, writes some reflec­tions on his expe­ri­ence and on how sci­en­tists and busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als can learn from each other.

Brain Teasers

Trav­eler IQ Game: Check out this stim­u­lat­ing online game…


Learn­ing & The Brain Con­fer­ence, Feb­ru­ary 5–7 2008, San Fran­cisco: Sign up now for this great con­fer­ence for edu­ca­tors who want to learn about the lat­est brain research find­ings and impli­ca­tions. I will be speak­ing at the con­fer­ence giv­ing an overview of inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams. The orga­niz­ers are offer­ing a Spe­cial Dis­count for Sharp­Brains read­ers until Jan­u­ary 25th 2008, so click here if interested.

If we don’t talk beforehand…Happy New Year!


You can also enjoy our pre­vi­ous edi­tions of our Brain Fit­ness Newsletter:

- Novem­ber Edition

- Octo­ber Edition

- Sep­tem­ber Edition

- August Edi­tion

- July Edi­tion

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