Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Digital health–with a brain twist–sees increased military adoption

BrainAssessmentApp

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Mobile mashup: The military’s proliferating mix of smartphones and tablets (Defense Systems):

“Smartphones and tablets are rapidly making their way into military operations, trimming costs and giving warfighters tightly focused capabilities. But these benefits raise a host of challenges, ranging from security and the need for ruggedization, to requirements for Read the rest of this entry »

Monitoring stress-related use of antipsychotic drugs in the military

fog brainWar on Drugs (OpEd at the NYT):

“LAST year, more active-duty soldiers committed suicide than died in battle… Worse, according to data not reported on until now, the military evidently responded to stress that afflicts soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan primarily by drugging soldiers on the front lines…The trouble is that we have no idea whether it’s effective — or safe — to use antipsychotic drugs on a continuing basis to treat war-related stress or to numb or sedate those affected by it…The medical, military and civilian population share an interest in knowing about patient-level prescription trends, medical indications for use, effectiveness of conventional as well as off-label treatments, and longitudinal follow-up of those soldiers receiving psychotropic drugs.”

Related article: Misuse & Abuse of ADHD Meds among college students

June Update: High-Quality Summer Brain Reading

Let’s explore some  high-quality new resources, announcements and studies in this June edi­tion of the monthly Sharp­Brains eNewslet­ter. The field is clearly on the move!

Portraits of the Mind: Several sharp brains (Rick, Karen, John, thanks!) strongly rec­om­mend the recent book  “Por­traits of the Mind: Visu­al­iz­ing the Brain from Antiq­uity to the 21st Cen­tury” (which includes the image on the left) as great read­ing and as a beau­ti­ful cof­fee table book.

Promoting Healthy, Meaningful Aging Through Social Involvement: The cur­rent issue of Cere­brum includes the excel­lent in-depth arti­cle on the value of volunteering program Experience Corps to promote healthy and meaningful aging through social involvement.

Working memory training can improve fluid intelligence: Finally, a powerful voice of common sense. A new scientific study con­cludes that “cog­ni­tive train­ing can be effec­tive and long-lasting, but there are lim­it­ing fac­tors that must be con­sid­ered to eval­u­ate the effects of this train­ing, one of which is indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in train­ing per­for­mance. We pro­pose that future research should not inves­ti­gate whether cog­ni­tive train­ing works, but rather should deter­mine what train­ing reg­i­mens and what train­ing con­di­tions result in the best trans­fer effects, inves­ti­gate the under­ly­ing neural and cog­ni­tive mech­a­nisms, and finally, inves­ti­gate for whom cog­ni­tive train­ing is most useful.”

Lumos Labs raises $32.5m: Lumos Labs, the com­pany behind lumosity.com, has just raised the single largest amount of funding in the space.

Developing a Research Agenda for Serious Games: The recent trade book Com­puter Games and Instruc­tion brings together the lead­ing edge per­spec­tives of over a dozen sci­en­tists in the area of videogames and learn­ing, includ­ing this very insight­ful analy­sis by Harvard’s Chris Dede.

In the News: Brief arti­cles in the New York Times and a very pow­er­ful analy­sis in The New York Review of Books pro­vide use­ful clues about Brain Cal­is­then­ics, Bilin­gual Brains, and Debunk­ing Myths on Men­tal Ill­ness.

Emerging Military Applications: 2 recent announce­ments show, in a mil­i­tary con­text, innovative ways to enhance brain functioning and performance both to help “nor­mal” and “clin­i­cal” (post-TBI) pop­u­la­tions.

We hope you enjoyed this newslet­ter. Please do feel free to share this with friends and col­leagues via Face­book, Twit­ter and LinkedIn, and have a great weekend and month of July!

Brain Training to Enhance Performance, both post-Traumatic Brain Injury and for the workplace

A couple of very interesting recent announcements show (in a military context) how well-targeted brain training can complement and augment existing approaches, both to help “normal” and “clinical” populations, in ways that silo-based, rear-mirror thinking often misses: 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(TM) 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.

The Cognitive Health and Fitness Market On The Move

As you have probably seen, the Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness field is rapidly evolving, so let me highlight some of the main recent developments affecting the field:

1) Public policy initiatives:
– The Government of Ontario, Canada, announced a $10m investment in Baycrest Research Center to help develop and commercialize brain fitness technologies. This $10m investment was matched with an additional $10m by local investors.
– In the US, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was signed into law, included in the recently-approved economic bailout bill. The passage of this law has significant implications for healthcare providers and technology vendors alike.

2) Computerized Cognitive Assessments Used by the US Military:
The US Army launched a new policy requiring cognitive screenings of all soldiers before deployment (in order to better diagnose potential problems such as PTSD and TBI upon return). ANAM was the selected computerized battery of tests.

3) Venture & Angel Fundraising for Cognitive Training companies:
A number of developers have raised money. CogniFit received $5m (from Milk Capital), Lumos Labs $3m (FirstMark Capital -previously called Pequot Ventures-, Norwest Venture Partners), Scientific Brain Training $1.5m (issued shares), Vivity Labs $1m (undisclosed angel investors), This is, of course, on top of the February $10.6 investment in Dakim (Galen Partners) that we already included in our market report.

4) Major Initiatives by Insurance Companies:
– Allstate launched a large-scale research project to measure impact of Posit Science InSight (visual processing training) on driver safety for adults over 50.
– OptumHealth announced a 3-year, $18m agreement with Brain Resource to offer web-based cognitive assessments as part of clinicians’ decision support systems.
– Humana decided not to renew its agreement with Posit Science to offer Posit’s auditory processing training program to Medicare members.

5) New Research:
– In a significant new study, a team from the University of Michigan published a high-quality paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing how computerized working memory training can generalize and improve fluid intelligence (one of the domains that tends to decline with age).
– Learning and Teaching Scotland released an internal study showing how Nintendo Brain Training can help children’s math and concentration skills. The study gained significant media attention, despite the fact it hasn’t been published in a respected journal.

Note: This is an excerpt from the 6-Month Market Update we will  release later this month, covering the many important developments that have occurred since we launched the inaugural Brain Fitness Market Report in March this year. This special report will be available exclusively for our Premium Research Sponsors.

Wellness Coaching for Brain Health and Fitness

We just received this quote of how a major health system is using our Brain Fitness Market Report:

“At Sutter Health Partners we recognize the importance of brain health and how much the health of the brain and the body are interdependent.  The market report helped us further target our coaching efforts to integrate brain fitness and upgrade our entire coaching platform.  It is easy to read and gives you the industry perspective in a thorough yet concise manner.  I highly recommend it!”

— Margaret Sabin, CEO of Sutter Health Partners and VP, New Product Development, at Sutter Health.

You may wonder, “what is the link between  wellness coaching and brain fitness”?

In practice, good health and wellness coaches provide excellent brain health advice, given that the areas they focus on (nutrition, physical exercise, stress management) do play an important role in maintaining our brains in top shape.

Additionally, pioneers  such as Sutter Health Partners are adding a Brain “lens” to their work. How?

First, by better understanding and explaining the brain benefits of what they already do, in order to provide additional motivation to stick with healthy behaviors. For example, most people will be able to recite multiple benefits of moderate cardiovascular exercise. But how many know  that it can also contribute to neurogenesis -the creation of new neurons – in adult brains?

Second, by starting to offer brain fitness guidelines to clients who want too go beyond crossword puzzles and sudoku.

I had a great training session with a number of Sutter Health coaches last week – let me summarize some of the main points we covered. Read the rest of this entry »

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