Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Study finds n-back cognitive training can increase fluid intelligence (especially outside the USA)

workingmemoryImprov­ing fluid intel­li­gence with train­ing on work­ing mem­ory: a meta-analysis (Psy­cho­nomic Bul­letin & Review):

…due to the broad inter­est in cog­ni­tive train­ing, lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world are inves­ti­gat­ing the effects of train­ing and trans­fer. In fact, the first study of n-back train­ing on Gf (fluid intel­li­gence) was con­ducted in Switzerland…and from our own expe­ri­ences con­duct­ing research both inter­na­tion­ally and in the U.S., we have anec­do­tally observed Read the rest of this entry »

Can You Make Yourself Smarter? Yes. Real question is, How?

A new arti­cle in The New York Times, Can You Make Your­self Smarter, pro­vides a great overview of work­ing mem­ory and cog­ni­tive training:

- “We see atten­tion and work­ing mem­ory as the car­dio­vas­cu­lar func­tion of the brain,” Jaeggi says.“If you train your atten­tion and work­ing mem­ory, you increase your basic cog­ni­tive skills that help you for many dif­fer­ent com­plex tasks.” Read the rest of this entry »

Education for Mental Fitness: “A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond”

Kudos to Patri­cia Cohen for one of the best arti­cles I have read in The New York Times in a long time: A Sharper Mind, Mid­dle Age and Beyond, by Patri­cia Cohen. These are a few quotes — please do read the arti­cle in full, it is worth it.

  • Some peo­ple are much bet­ter than their peers at delay­ing age-related declines in mem­ory and cal­cu­lat­ing speed. What researchers want to know is why. Why does your 70-year-old neigh­bor score half her age on a mem­ory test, while you, at 40, have the mem­ory of a senior cit­i­zen? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Brain Fitness/ Training Report Finds Market Growth, Potential, and Confusion

After many many months of men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and the cer­tain need for stress man­age­ment… we have just announced the release of the The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 report, our sec­ond annual com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket analy­sis of the US mar­ket for com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools. In this report we esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $265M in 2008, up from $225M in 2007 (18% annual growth), and from $100m in 2005. Two seg­ments fuelled the mar­ket growth from 2007 to 2008: con­sumers (grew from $80m to $95m) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $65m to $80m).

The 150-page report finds promis­ing research and ini­tia­tives to drive sig­nif­i­cant growth, com­bined with increased con­sumer con­fu­sion given aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims and lack of edu­ca­tion and stan­dards. The report includes:
– The com­plete results of an exclu­sive Jan­u­ary 2009 Sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents
– A pro­pri­etary Mar­ket & Research Momen­tum Matrix to cat­e­go­rize 21 key ven­dors into four cat­e­gories
– 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs writ­ten by lead­ing sci­en­tists at promi­nent research labs
– An analy­sis of the level of clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion per prod­uct and cog­ni­tive domain

Top 10 High­lights from the report:

1) Con­sumers, seniors, com­mu­ni­ties and insur­ance providers drove year on year sus­tained growth, from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008. Rev­enues may reach between $1 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion by 2015, depend­ing on how impor­tant prob­lems (Pub­lic Aware­ness, Nav­i­gat­ing Claims, Research, Health Cul­ture, Lack of Assess­ment) are addressed.

2) Increased inter­est and con­fu­sion: 61% of respon­dents Strongly Agree with the state­ment Address­ing cog­ni­tive and brain health should be a health­care pri­or­ity. But, 65% Agree/Strongly Agree. I don’t really know what to expect from prod­ucts mak­ing brain claims.

3) Invest­ment in R&D seeds future growth: Land­mark invest­ments by insur­ance providers and government-funded research insti­tutes test­ing new brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions planted new seeds for future growth.

4) Becom­ing stan­dard in res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties: Over 700 res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties mostly Inde­pen­dent and Assisted Liv­ing facil­i­ties and CCRCs have installed com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing programs.

5) Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion: Con­sumers seem more sat­is­fied with computer-based prod­ucts than paper-based options. But, sat­is­fac­tion dif­fers by prod­uct. When asked I got real value for my money, results were as fol­lows: (65% Agree), Puz­zle Books (60%), Posit Sci­ence (52%), Nin­tendo (51%) agreed. Posit Sci­ence (53% Agree) and (51%) do bet­ter than Puz­zle Books (39%) and Nin­tendo (38%) at I have seen the results I wanted.

6) Assess­ments: Increas­ing adop­tion of computer-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments to base­line and track cog­ni­tive func­tions over time in mil­i­tary, sports, and clin­i­cal con­texts. The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica now advo­cates for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after 65–75.

7) Spe­cific com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing and videogames have been shown to improve brain func­tions, but the key ques­tions are, Which ones, and Who needs what when?

8) Aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims are cre­at­ing con­fu­sion and skep­ti­cism, result­ing in a dis­tract­ing con­tro­versy between two mis­lead­ing extremes: (a) buy­ing prod­uct XYZ can reju­ve­nate your brain Y years or (b) those prod­ucts don’t work; just do one more cross­word puz­zle. The upcom­ing book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness aims to help con­sumers nav­i­gate these claims.

9) Devel­op­ers can be clas­si­fied into four groups, based on a pro­pri­etary Mar­ket and Research Momen­tum Matrix: Sharp­Brains finds 4 Lead­ers, 8 High Poten­tials, 3 Cross­words 2.0, and 6 Wait & See companies.

10) Increased dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion: Lead­ing com­pa­nies are bet­ter defin­ing their value propo­si­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels to reach spe­cific seg­ments such as retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties, schools, or health­care providers.

Lead­ing researchers pre­pared 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs:
- Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man (Einstein-Monteore): Neu­ro­pro­tec­tion via cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties
– Dr. Jerri Edwards (South Florida): Assess­ments of dri­ving fit­ness
– Dr. Susanne Jaeggi and Dr. Mar­tin Buschkuehl (Bern, Michi­gan): Work­ing mem­ory train­ing and  intel­li­gence
– Dr. Torkel Kling­berg (Karolin­ska): Work­ing mem­ory train­ing, dopamine, and math
– Dr. Liz Zelin­ski (UC Davis): Audi­tory pro­cess­ing train­ing
– Dr. David Vance (UAB): Speed-of-processing train­ing
– Dr. Jerri Edwards (South Florida): Cog­ni­tive train­ing for healthy aging
– Dr. Daphne Bave­lier & Dr. Shawn Green (Rochester): Action videogames and atten­tional skills
– Dr. Arthur Kramer (Illi­nois): Strat­egy videogames and exec­u­tive func­tions
– Dr. Yaakov Stern (Colum­bia): The cog­ni­tive reserve and neu­roimag­ing
– Dr. David Rabiner (Duke): Objec­tive assess­ments for ADHD

Table of Contents

Exec­u­tive Sum­mary
Chap­ter 1. Bird-Eye View of the Grow­ing Field
Chap­ter 2. Mar­ket Sur­vey on Beliefs, Atti­tudes, Pur­chase Habits
Chap­ter 3. The Emerg­ing Com­pet­i­tive Land­scape
Chap­ter 4. The Sci­ence for Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 5. Con­sumers  Adopt­ing Cross­words 2.0?
Chap­ter 6: Health­care and Insur­ance Providers — A Cul­ture of Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 7: K12 School Sys­tems– Ready for Change?
Chap­ter 8: Mil­i­tary, Sports Teams, Com­pa­nies,  Brain-Performance Link
Chap­ter 9: Future Direc­tions‚ Pro­jec­tions and Bottlenecks

Com­pa­nies pro­filed include: Advanced Brain Tech­nolo­gies, Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing, Brain Cen­ter Amer­ica, Brain Resource, CNS Vital Signs, Cogmed, Cogstate, Cog­niFit, Cog­ni­tive Drug Research, Dakim, Houghton Mif­flin, Learn­ing Enhance­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, Learn­ingRx, Lumos Labs, Mar­bles: The Brain Store, Nin­tendo, NovaV­i­sion, Posit Sci­ence, Sci­en­tific Brain Train­ing, Sci­en­tific Learn­ing, Trans­An­a­lyt­ics, vibrant­Brains, Vig­or­ous Mind, Viv­ity Labs.

More on the report by click­ing on The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009.

Nintendo Brain Age/ Training vs. Crossword Puzzles

Nin­tendo brain-trainer ‘no bet­ter than pen­cil and paper’ (The Times):
“The sur­vey of ten-year-old chil­dren found no evi­dence to sup­port claims in Nintendo’s adver­tis­ing cam­paign, fea­tur­ing Nicole Kid­man, that users can test and reju­ve­nate their grey cells. The Nin­tendo DS is a tech­no­log­i­cal jewel. As a game it’s fine, said Alain Lieury, pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Rennes, Brit­tany, who con­ducted the sur­vey. But it is char­la­tanism to claim that it is a sci­en­tific test.

Com­ments: as we have said before, Nin­tendo Brain Age and Brain Train­ing should be seen as what they are: a game. And the con­struct of one’s hav­ing a  “brain age” makes no sense.

Hav­ing said that, the researcher quoted then offers, out of the blue, a highly inac­cu­rate statement:

The study tested Nintendo’s claims on 67 ten-year-olds. “That’s the age where you have the best chance of improve­ment,” Pro­fes­sor Lieury said. “If it doesn’t work on chil­dren, it won’t work on adults.”

That asser­tion (that some­thing won’t “work” on adults because it won’t “work” on kids) makes even less sense than hav­ing a “brain age”. The Cog­ni­tive Reserve research shows the need for life­long men­tal stim­u­la­tion — and the real­ity is that kids are more exposed to nov­elty and chal­lenge all the time, whereas older adults may not be. Fur­ther, that claim (some­thing that doesn’t “work” on kids won’t “work” on adults) has already been tested and proven wrong:

In a cou­ple of recent tri­als, dis­cussed here, the same strat­egy game (Rise of Nations, a com­plex chal­lenge for exec­u­tive func­tions), played for the same num­ber of hours (23)  showed quite impres­sive (untrained) cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits in peo­ple over 60 — and no ben­e­fits in peo­ple in their 20s.

How can this be? Well, we often say that our brains need nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge — and it should be obvi­ous that those ingre­di­ents depend on who we are Read the rest of this entry »

The Overflowing Brain: Most Important Book of 2008

We have tracked for sev­eral years the sci­en­tific stud­ies pub­lished by Torkel Kling­berg and col­leagues, often won­der­ing aloud, “when will edu­ca­tors, health pro­fes­sion­als, exec­u­tives and main­stream soci­ety come to appre­ci­ate the poten­tial we have in front of  us to enhance our brains and improve our cog­ni­tive functions?”

Dr. Kling­berg has just pub­lished a very stim­u­lat­ing the Overflowing Brain by Torkel Klingsbergpop­u­lar sci­ence book, The Over­flow­ing Brain, that should help in pre­cisely that direc­tion. Given the impor­tance of the topic, and the qual­ity of the book, we have named  The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­ory The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Kling­berg to write a brief arti­cle to intro­duce his research and book to you. Below you have. Enjoy!

Research and Tools to Thrive in the Cog­ni­tive Age

By Dr. Torkel Klingberg

Do we all have atten­tion deficits?

The infor­ma­tion age has pro­vided us with high tech­nol­ogy which fills our days with an ever increas­ing amount of infor­ma­tion and dis­trac­tion. We are con­stantly flooded with on-the-go emails, phone calls, adver­tise­ments and text-messages and we try to cope with the increas­ing pace by multi task­ing. A sur­vey of work­places in the United States found that the per­son­nel were inter­rupted and dis­tracted roughly every three min­utes and that peo­ple work­ing on a com­puter had on aver­age eight win­dows open at the same time. There is no ten­dency for this to slow down; the amount and com­plex­ity of infor­ma­tion con­tin­u­ally increases

The most press­ing con­cerns with this envi­ron­ment are: how do we deal with the daily influx of infor­ma­tion that our inun­dated men­tal capac­i­ties are faced with? At what point does our stone-age brain become insuf­fi­cient? Will we be able to train our brains effec­tively to increase brain capac­ity in order to Read the rest of this entry »

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