Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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



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, 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™ 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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