May 20, 2008 10
By: Alvaro Fernandez
I wrote this article for the March/ April edition of the publication Aging Today, published by the American Society on Aging, and received permission to reproduce it here.
In recent years, most professionals in aging have become aware of the growing scientific evidence showing that human brains retain the ability to generate neurons and change over a lifetime, discoveries that have broken the scientific paradigm prevalent during the 20th century. Furthermore, neuroimaging and cognitive training studies are showing how well-directed exercise presents people major opportunities for healthy brain aging.
How can people use emerging technologies to keep their brains healthy and productive as long as possible? An emerging market for brain health– $225 million market in 2007, in the United States alone, of which consumers account for $80 million–is trying to address that question in a way that complements other important more traditional pillars (and multi-billion industries) of brain health, such as physical exercise, balanced diet, stress management (stress has been shown to actually kill neurons and reduce the rate of creation of new ones) and overall mental stimulation and lifelong learning.
2007 AN ACTIVE YEAR
A series of important events took place in 2007, a seminal year for the brain health field, beginning in January when many mainstream media publications, such as Time Magazine and CBS News, started to publish major stories on neuroplasticity and brain exercise. This media coverage followed the publication of the long-awaited results from national clinical trials showing that significant percentages of the participants age 65 and older who trained for five weeks improved their memory, reasoning and information-processing speed. Findings from the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) Study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Dec. 20, 2006) and revealed that even after five years, participants in the ACTIVE computer-based program showed less of a decline in information-processing skills than those in a control group that received no cognitive training.