Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


10 Predictions on How Digital Platforms will Transform Brain Health in 2013

Just a quick note: we’ll host a webi­nar on Jan­u­ary 30th to dis­cuss key mar­ket pre­dic­tions based on “The Dig­i­tal Brain Health Mar­ket 2012–2020: Web-based, mobile and biometrics-based tech­nol­ogy to assess, mon­i­tor and enhance cog­ni­tion and brain func­tion­ing”, our new mar­ket report.

Here are 10 pre­dic­tions, many of which will likely be real­ized before the end of 2013: Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age, and Industry Webinar

Here you have the August edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tion Fron­tiers in Neu­ro­science recently pub­lished a spe­cial issue on Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion, and invited me to con­tribute with an arti­cle titled Prepar­ing Soci­ety for the Cog­ni­tive Age. Ground­break­ing brain research has occurred over the last 20 years. The oppor­tu­nity to improve brain health and per­for­mance is immense, but we need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, both through health­care and non-healthcare chan­nels. Click Here to read my article.


In May 2009 Sharp­Brains pub­lished The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009, the main indus­try report for lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions prepar­ing their mem­bers, their clients, and their patients for the cog­ni­tive age. 150-pages long, the report includes a mar­ket sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents, detailed analy­sis of 20+ ven­dors, research briefs writ­ten by 12 lead­ing sci­en­tists and data and trends for 4 major cus­tomer segments.webinar

Below we share the full Exec­u­tive Sum­mary of the report and announce an exclu­sive webi­nar on Sep­tem­ber 29th to dis­cuss the State of the Mar­ket in more depth with buy­ers of the report.

To order the report and access both the report and the webi­nar, you can click Here. (Only $975 –a 25% dis­count– using Dis­count Code Frontiers2009 before Sep­tem­ber 28th).

State of the Mar­ket

The brain fit­ness field holds excit­ing promise for the future while pre­sent­ing clear oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges today. The good news is that there are more tools avail­able than ever before to assess and train a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive skills. The bad news is that there are no magic pills and that con­sumers, while sat­is­fied over­all, seem con­fused by com­pet­ing claims on how to reduce one’s “brain age.” We do see signs that this early-stage mar­ket can mature in a more ratio­nal, struc­tured man­ner; but there is much work to be done. We esti­mate that the size of the U.S. brain fit­ness soft­ware (i.e., appli­ca­tions designed to assess or enhance cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties) mar­ket in 2008 was Read the rest of this entry »

Cars don’t work because they don’t fly

Study Ques­tions Effec­tive­ness Of $80 Mil­lion Per Year ‘Brain Exer­cise Prod­ucts Indus­try for Elderly (Sci­ence Daily)

- “There is much research on the ben­e­fits of cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion strate­gies among elderly who already expe­ri­ence mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dis­ease, as well as on the pos­i­tive impact of phys­i­cal exer­cise. The researchers, how­ever, wanted to eval­u­ate cur­rent research that would focus on the impact of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions in the healthy elderly population.”

- “…they con­cluded that there was no evi­dence indi­cat­ing that struc­tured cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion pro­grams had an impact on the pro­gres­sion of demen­tia in the healthy elderly population”

Com­ment:  we have not reviewed the analy­sis yet, so can­not com­ment in depth. How­ever, just from the press release, we see a few poten­tial prob­lems in how the study was framed, reduc­ing its prac­ti­cal value: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain fitness & training heads towards its tipping point

How do you know when some­thing is fast mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When health insur­ance com­pa­nies and pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers launch sig­nif­i­cant initiatives.

For exam­ple, the gov­ern­ment of Ontario recently announced a $10 mil­lion invest­ment with Bay­crest Research Cen­tre who will part­ner with MaRS Ven­ture Group to develop and com­mer­cialise brain fit­ness tech­nolo­gies. The invest­ment was matched by an addi­tional $10 mil­lion from pri­vate sources.

Another impor­tant devel­op­ment was the $18 mil­lion agree­ment between the Australian-based Brain Resource Com­pany (ASX:BRC) and OptumHealth in the US. This will allow for the pro­vi­sion of web-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments as part of a clinician’s deci­sion sup­port systems.

These are some ini­tia­tives cov­ered in a webi­nar Top Ten Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness Events of 2008 pre­sented in Decem­ber for Sharp­Brains’ clients. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez described the state of play and main dri­vers behind the growth of the bur­geon­ing brain fit­ness mar­ket — which I will try and sum­ma­rize here.

The key dri­vers seem to be Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Update: Best of 2008

Dear reader and mem­ber of Sharp­Brains’ com­mu­nity,
We want to thank you for your atten­tion and sup­port in 2008, and wish you a Happy, brain fitness and health newsletterPros­per­ous, Healthy and Pos­i­tive 2009!

Below you have the Decem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter. Enjoy:

Best of 2008

Announc­ing the Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008: Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Torkel Kling­berg has writ­ten a very stim­u­lat­ing and acces­si­ble book on a cru­cial topic for our Infor­ma­tion Age: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­ory. We have named it The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Kling­berg to write a brief arti­cle to intro­duce his research and book to you. Enjoy it here.

Top 30 Brain Fit­ness Arti­cles of 2008: We have com­piled Sharp­Brains’ 30 most pop­u­lar arti­cles, writ­ten by thir­teen Expert Con­trib­u­tors and staff mem­bers for you. Have you read them all?

November-December News: No month goes by with­out sig­nif­i­cant news in the field of cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Sum­ma­rized here are 10 recent devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion, includ­ing an upcom­ing brain train­ing prod­uct for ice hockey play­ers, my lec­ture at New York Pub­lic Library, and more.

Inter­views: Videogames, Med­i­ta­tion

Are videogames good for your brain?: A land­mark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues has shown that play­ing a strat­egy videogame can bring a vari­ety of sig­nif­i­cant men­tal ben­e­fits to older brains. Another recent study, also by Kramer and col­leagues, does not show sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to younger brains (despite play­ing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kindly agreed to serve on Sharp­Brains’ Sci­en­tific Advi­sory Board, elaborates.

Med­i­ta­tion on the Brain: Dr. Andrew New­berg pro­vides an excel­lent overview of the brain ben­e­fits of prac­tices such as med­i­ta­tion. He rec­om­mends, “look for some­thing sim­ple, easy to try first, ensur­ing the prac­tice is com­pat­i­ble with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match prac­tice with need: under­stand the spe­cific goals you have in mind, your sched­ule and lifestyle, and find some­thing practical.“

The Need for Objec­tive Assessments

Cog­ni­tive screen­ings and Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 given the right con­di­tions). Sharp­Brains read­ers, probed by Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man, seem to agree.

Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG for ADHD diag­no­sis: Dr. David Rabiner reports on the find­ings from a recent study that doc­u­ments the util­ity of Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG as an objec­tive test to assist in the diag­no­sis of ADHD. If this pro­ce­dure were to become more widely used, he sug­gests, the num­ber of chil­dren and ado­les­cents who are inap­pro­pri­ately diag­nosed and treated for the dis­or­der would dimin­ish substantially.

Shall we ques­tion the brand new book of human trou­bles?: The fights over the new ver­sion of the psy­chi­atric diag­nos­tic man­ual, the DSM-V, are start­ing to come to light. Dr. Vaughan Bell won­ders why the pub­lic debate avoids the key ques­tion of whether diag­no­sis itself is use­ful for men­tal health and why psy­cho­met­rics are sim­ply ignored.

Resources for Life­long Learning

Edu­ca­tion builds Cog­ni­tive Reserve for Alzheimers Dis­ease Pro­tec­tion: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reviews a recent study that sup­ports the Cog­ni­tive Reserve hypoth­e­sis — men­tally stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ences through­out life, such as for­mal edu­ca­tion, help build a reserve in our brains that con­tributes to a lower prob­a­bil­ity of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

5 Tips on Life­long Learn­ing & the Adult Brain: Lau­rie Bar­tels asks us to please please 1) chal­lenge our­selves with new learn­ing, 2) remem­ber that neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis are hall­marks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learning on an ongo­ing basis, 4) more visu­als, less text, 5) move it, move it — start today!

Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts: We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science (SfN) has just released a user-friendly pub­li­ca­tion titled Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts, aimed at help­ing edu­ca­tors and the gen­eral pub­lic learn more about the brain.

Encephalon #61: Brain & Mind Reading for the Holidays

Wel­come to the 61st edi­tion Encephalon brain blog carnivalof Encephalon, the blog car­ni­val that offers some of the best neu­ro­science and psy­chol­ogy blog posts every other week.

We do have an excel­lent set of arti­cles today. cov­er­ing much ground. Enjoy the reading:

Neu­ro­science and Society

by Greg Downey
The Flynn Effect: Trou­bles with Intel­li­gence
Aver­age IQ test scores had risen about 3 points per decade and in some cases more. Tests of vocab­u­lary, arith­metic, or gen­eral knowl­edge (such as the sorts of facts one learns in school) have showed lit­tle increase, but scores have increased markedly on tests thought to mea­sure gen­eral intelligence.
by Vaughan Bell
Med­ical jar­gon alters our under­stand­ing of dis­ease
Under­stand­ing how pop­u­lar ideas influ­ence our per­sonal med­ical beliefs is an essen­tial part of under­stand­ing med­i­cine itself.
Cog­ni­tive Daily,
by Dave Munger
Is it sex­ist to think men are angrier than women?
Are we more likely to per­ceive a male face as angry and a female face as happy? A recent study sheds light on the issue.
Neu­r­o­critic Crime, Pun­ish­ment, and Jerry Springer
Judges and jurors must put aside their emotionally-driven desire for revenge when com­ing to an impar­tial ver­dict. Does neu­roimag­ing (fMRI) add any­thing to our under­stand­ing of justice?

Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Neu­rocog­ni­tive Health Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions).

Accord­ing to the press release,

- “The report shat­ters unsub­stan­ti­ated crit­i­cism and instead empha­sizes the safety and cost-effectiveness of these tools and calls on Con­gress to develop a national demen­tia screen­ing policy.”

- “Lift­ing the bar­ri­ers to early detec­tion is long over­due, Hall said. “Con­ver­sa­tions about brain health are not tak­ing place. We must edu­cate and empower con­sumers to talk openly about mem­ory con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly with pri­mary care providers, so they get the atten­tion and qual­ity of life they deserve.

- “Demand for screen­ings is evi­denced by the suc­cess of AFA’s recent sixth annual National Mem­ory Screen­ing Day held on Novem­ber 18, dur­ing which an esti­mated 50,000 peo­ple were given free con­fi­den­tial mem­ory screen­ings at nearly 2,200 com­mu­nity sites nation­wide. Dur­ing last year’s event, approx­i­mately 16 per­cent of indi­vid­u­als who had a face-to-face screen­ing scored pos­i­tive and were referred to their pri­mary care providers for follow-up. An AFA sur­vey of par­tic­i­pants revealed that fewer than one in four with self-reported mem­ory com­plaints had pre­vi­ously dis­cussed them with their physi­cians despite recent visits.”

Excel­lent report avail­able: here

Please note that the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion recently argued in the oppo­site direc­tion (no screen­ings) — which prob­a­bly trig­gered this response.

We see emerg­ing trends that sug­gest the posi­tion in favor of cog­ni­tive assess­ments may in fact gather momen­tum over the next few years: wide­spread com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive screen­ings in the US Army, insur­ance com­pa­nies like OptumHealth adding such tools to its clin­i­cal decision-making sys­tems, polls such as the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Aging’s a cou­ple of years ago indi­cat­ing a very strong demand for an “annual men­tal check-up”, the avail­abil­ity of use­ful assess­ment tools and research-based pre­ven­tive advice.

The start­ing point is to under­stand what those assess­ments are NOT: they are not diag­nos­tic tools. When used prop­erly, they can be used as a base­line to track per­for­mance in a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive domains over time, so that both the indi­vid­ual AND the physi­cian are not blinded by a one-time assess­ment, com­par­ing an indi­vid­ual with his or her peers (instead of his or her past per­for­mance) when seri­ous symp­toms have fre­quently already been going on for a while.

Our con­trib­u­tor  Dr. Joshua Sil­ver­man, from Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine, recently gen­er­ated a nice debate on the topic by ask­ing our read­ers their reac­tion to these 3 ques­tions: Read the rest of this entry »


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