Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


New Report Finds A Brain Health Revolution in the Making, Driven by Digital Technology and Neuroplasticity Research

2010MarketReportIn spite of the recent eco­nomic down­turn, rev­enues for dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to assess, enhance and treat cog­ni­tion, or dig­i­tal brain health and fit­ness tools, grew 35% in 2009. “The con­ver­gence of demo­graphic and pol­icy trends with cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science dis­cov­er­ies and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion is giv­ing birth to a nascent mar­ket­place that can fun­da­men­tally trans­form what brain health is, how it is mea­sured, and how it is done,” says Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, mem­ber of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Coun­cil on the Aging Soci­ety and Editor-in-Chief of the report. “This ground­break­ing report can help pio­neers shape the emerg­ing toolkit to ben­e­fit an aging soci­ety that increas­ingly seeks new ways to enhance cog­ni­tive func­tion­al­ity and men­tal well­ness across the lifespan.”

As the brain is thrust into the cen­ter of the health­care ecosys­tem, inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions will play an increas­ingly impor­tant role in defin­ing neu­ro­cen­tric health,” adds Jake Duna­gan, Research Direc­tor at the Insti­tute For The Future.

Report: Trans­form­ing Brain Health with Dig­i­tal Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cog­ni­tion across the Lifes­pan: The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2010.

A major­ity among the 1,900+ decision-makers and early-adopters sur­veyed said they trusted the effec­tive­ness of non-invasive options above inva­sive options to enhance crit­i­cal brain func­tion­al­ity. Pro­fes­sional and intel­lec­tual chal­lenges were rated very effec­tive by 61% of respon­dents, aer­o­bic exer­cise and read­ing books by 42%, med­i­ta­tion by 38%, com­put­er­ized brain train­ing by 26%, tak­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs by 13%, tak­ing sup­ple­ments by 12%, and self-medicating with drugs by 1%.

These are among the key find­ings of a 207-page mar­ket report released today by Sharp­Brains and pre­pared in col­lab­o­ra­tion with 24 lead­ing sci­en­tists and 10 inno­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions — the most com­pre­hen­sive such research study done to ana­lyze emerg­ing research, tech­nolo­gies and marketplace.

We must do for brain health in the 21st cen­tury what we largely accom­plished in car­dio­vas­cu­lar health in the past cen­tury. It’s time to take sci­en­tific insights out of the lab and to iden­tify prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tions, mak­ing the main­te­nance of good brain fit­ness a pub­lic health pri­or­ity,” indi­cates William Reich­man, MD, Pres­i­dent and CEO of Baycrest.

Other Report High­lights are: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health News: Top Articles and Resources in March

There’s such a flood of very sig­nif­i­cant research stud­ies, edu­ca­tional resources and arti­cles related to brain health, it’s hard to keep track — even for us!

Let me intro­duce and quote some of the top Brain Health Stud­ies, Arti­cles and Resources pub­lished in March:

1) Cog­ni­tive Decline Begins In Late 20s, Study Sug­gests (Sci­ence Daily)

- “These pat­terns sug­gest that some types of men­tal flex­i­bil­ity decrease rel­a­tively early in adult­hood, but that how much knowl­edge one has, and the effec­tive­ness of inte­grat­ing it with one’s abil­i­ties, may increase through­out all of adult­hood if there are no patho­log­i­cal dis­eases,” Salt­house said.

- How­ever, Salt­house points out that there is a great deal of vari­ance from per­son to person

2) Cere­brum 2009: Emerg­ing Ideas in Brain Sci­ence — new book by the Dana Foun­da­tion that “explores the cut­ting edge of brain research and its impli­ca­tions in our every­day lives, in lan­guage under­stand­able to the gen­eral reader.”

A cou­ple of excel­lent chap­ters of direct rel­e­vance to everyone’s brain health are:
– Chap­ter 4: A Road Paved by Rea­son, by Eliz­a­beth Nor­ton Lasley

- Chap­ter 10: Neural Health: Is It Facil­i­tated by Work Force Par­tic­i­pa­tion?, by Denise Park, Ph.D

3) Stay­ing Sharp DVD Pro­gram: “Dr. Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Sec­tion at the National Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke out­side of Wash­ing­ton, DC, and a mem­ber of the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives, is your guide as we cover what to expect from the aging brain and what we can do to ‘stay sharp.’

For a free DVD of this pro­gram you can con­tact (they say free in their web­site, I don’t know if that includes ship­ping & handling)

4) Dri­vers to be tested on cog­ni­tive abil­ity start­ing at age 75 (Japan Times)

The out­line of a cog­ni­tive test that dri­vers aged 75 or over will be required to take from June when renew­ing their licenses was released Thursday…The test is intended to reduce the num­ber of traf­fic acci­dents involv­ing elderly dri­vers by mea­sur­ing their cog­ni­tive level.

5) Phys­i­cal Fit­ness Improves Spa­tial Mem­ory, Increases Size Of Brain Struc­ture (Sci­ence Daily)

- “Now researchers have found that elderly adults who are more phys­i­cally fit tend to have big­ger hip­pocampi and bet­ter spa­tial mem­ory than those who are less fit.”

6) Brain Train­ers: A Work­out for the Mind (Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can Mind)

I recently tried out eight of the lat­est brain fit­ness pro­grams, train­ing with each for a week. The pro­grams ranged widely in focus, qual­ity and how fun they were to use. “Like phys­i­cal exer­cise equip­ment, a brain exer­cise pro­gram doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use it, says Andrew J. Carle, direc­tor of the Pro­gram in Assisted Living/Senior Hous­ing Admin­is­tra­tion at George Mason Uni­ver­sity. And peo­ple tend not to use bor­ing equip­ment. “I remem­ber when Nor­dic­Track was the biggest thing out there. Every­one ran out and bought one, and 90 per­cent of them ended up as a clothes rack in the back of your bedroom.

The reporter used: Posit Science’s Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram Clas­sic, Hap­pyNeu­ron, Nin­tendo BrainAge, CogniFit’s MindFit/ Cog­niFit Per­sonal Coach, Lumos­ity, MyBrain­Trainer, Brain­Twister, Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Training.

7) The Lat­est in Men­tal Health: Work­ing Out at the ‘Brain Gym’ (Wall Street Journal)

- “Mar­shall Kahn, an 82-year-old fam­ily doc­tor in Fuller­ton, Calif., says he got such a boost from brain exer­cises he started doing at a “Nifty after Fifty” club that he decided to start see­ing patients again part-time. “Doing all the men­tal exer­cise,” he says, “I real­ized I’ve still got it.”

8) Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites (Wash­ing­ton Post)

- “New data from a large fed­eral study have reignited a debate over the effec­tive­ness of long-term drug treat­ment of chil­dren with hyper­ac­tiv­ity or attention-deficit dis­or­der, and have drawn accu­sa­tions that some mem­bers of the research team have sought to play down evi­dence that med­ica­tions do lit­tle good beyond 24 months.”

- “The study also indi­cated that long-term use of the drugs can stunt children’s growth.”

8) Adap­tive train­ing leads to sus­tained enhance­ment of poor work­ing mem­ory in chil­dren (Devel­op­men­tal Science)

Abstract: Work­ing mem­ory plays a cru­cial role in sup­port­ing learn­ing, with poor progress in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics char­ac­ter­iz­ing chil­dren with low mem­ory skills. This study inves­ti­gated whether these prob­lems can be over­come by a train­ing pro­gram designed to boost work­ing mem­ory. Chil­dren with low work­ing mem­ory skills were assessed on mea­sures of work­ing mem­ory, IQ and aca­d­e­mic attain­ment before and after train­ing on either adap­tive or non-adaptive ver­sions of the pro­gram. Adap­tive train­ing that taxed work­ing mem­ory to its lim­its was asso­ci­ated with sub­stan­tial and sus­tained gains in work­ing mem­ory, with age-appropriate lev­els achieved by the major­ity of chil­dren. Math­e­mat­i­cal abil­ity also improved sig­nif­i­cantly 6 months fol­low­ing adap­tive train­ing. These find­ings indi­cate that com­mon impair­ments in work­ing mem­ory and asso­ci­ated learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties may be over­come with this behav­ioral treatment.

9) Brain cor­tex thin­ning linked to inher­ited depres­sion (Los Ange­les Times)

- “On aver­age, peo­ple with a fam­ily his­tory of depres­sion appear to have brains that are 28% thin­ner in the right cor­tex — the out­er­most layer of the brain — than those with no known fam­ily his­tory of the dis­ease. That cor­ti­cal thin­ning, said the researchers, is on a scale sim­i­lar to that seen in patients with Alzheimer’s dis­ease or schizophrenia.”

Brain Training Games @ CNN

Crisp CNN article:

Boom times for brain train­ing games

Includ­ing my final quote “[Brain fit­ness] is not just some fad. The mar­ket is much deeper than Nintendo.”

The “brain fit­ness cen­ter” financed by Ontario is Bay­crest. Com­pa­nies men­tioned: Mind­fit, Posit Sci­ence, Nin­tendo, All­state, Brain­Builder, MyBrainTrainer.

The reporter and I also dis­cussed in depth the need for bet­ter con­sumer edu­ca­tion and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, so peo­ple can make informed deci­sions, and for cog­ni­tive assess­ments to serve as inde­pen­dent base­line, help iden­tify pri­or­i­ties and mea­sure results. Please note that our mar­ket esti­mates do include rev­enues of com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ments, today mostly used in clin­i­cal tri­als, and within the mil­i­tary and sports teams.

The Brain Fitness/ Training Market: An Executive Summary

Over the next weeks we are going to be shar­ing the Exec­u­tive Sum­mary of our mar­ket report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 with mem­bers and clients of sev­eral part­ner orga­ni­za­tions (the British Colum­bia Seniors Liv­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, where I will be speak­ing this Thurs­day, Neu­rotech Reports, where I will speak on Octo­ber 24th, and the Health 2.0 con­fer­ence, where we are spon­sor­ing a panel on gam­ing for health), so it is only fair that we first share it with our own readers.

Exec­u­tive Summary

A spate of recent global news cov­er­age on brain fit­ness and brain train­ing reflects a grow­ing inter­est in nat­ural, non drug-based inter­ven­tions to keep our brains sharp as we age. This inter­est is very timely, given an aging pop­u­la­tion, increas­ing preva­lence of Alzheimer’s rates, and soar­ing health care costs in the US that place more empha­sis than ever on pre­ven­tion and lifestyle changes.

US brain fit­ness mar­ket: sig­nif­i­cant and growing

We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness mar­ket was $225m in 2007 – more than dou­ble what it was in 2005. Whereas K12 school sys­tems were the largest buy­ers in 2005, con­sumers were respon­si­ble for most of the growth from 2005 to 2007. We esti­mate that the con­sumer seg­ment grew from a few mil­lion in 2005 to $80m in 2007, and fore­see sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket growth dri­ven not only by con­sumers but also by health­care and insur­ance providers.

Mar­ket dynamics

As we speak to diverse audi­ences about this emerg­ing field around the coun­try we are fre­quently asked the fol­low­ing questions:

- Why are we talk­ing about the brain fit­ness field at all?

Over the past decade, teams backed by neu­ro­sci­en­tists around the world Read the rest of this entry »

Lumos Labs (Lumosity) Brain Training Games

Press release: Here

– “Lumos Labs, devel­oper of, the lead­ing web-based provider of scientifically-tested brain train­ing games, today announced that it has raised $3 mil­lion of equity financ­ing from Pequot Ven­tures, Nor­west Ven­ture Part­ners (NVP), and exist­ing investors includ­ing Michael Dear­ing. The investor group brings exper­tise that will cat­alyze the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of and sup­port Lumos Labs mis­sion to improve lives by enhanc­ing brain fitness.

– “Lumos Labs is at the cen­ter of a boom­ing inter­est in cog­ni­tive exer­cise and the emerg­ing sci­ence about the remark­able plas­tic­ity of the brain, said Amish Jani of Pequot Ven­tures. has seen tremen­dous demand from users and part­ners alike by lever­ag­ing the power of the web to deliver a unique plat­form for brain fitness.

Great news for the sec­tor. The more tools avail­able for lead­ing men­tally stim­u­lat­ing lives, the bet­ter we will all be.Rubik's Cube brain exercise (click Here to get a sense of their games) pro­vides a great user expe­ri­ence at a rea­son­able cost. From an investor’s per­spec­tive, we believe Lumos Labs is a very seri­ous con­tender in the brain fit­ness space, and it has indeed been exe­cut­ing a very smart online strategy.

Now, I am not sure what “scientifically-tested brain train­ing games” really means. While prepar­ing our Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket Report we reviewed all pub­lished research on the effi­cacy behind dif­fer­ent pro­grams, and didn’t find any for Lumos­ity (which has some very inter­est­ing inter­nal, but not pub­lished, data).

We gave Lumos­ity a score of 2 ouf of 10 in Clin­i­cal Val­i­da­tion (with Nin­tendo Brain Age get­ting a score of 1, and NovaV­i­sion, cleared by the FDA for use with stroke/ TBI patients, get­ting a 5).

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Program: How to Evaluate and Choose One

The hol­i­days are approach­ing and you can expect many soft­ware and game devel­op­ers to adver­tise their prod­ucts SharpBrains Checklistaggres­sively, try­ing to get you buy their “brain train­ing” prod­ucts for you or as a gift for a loved one.

The good news is that there are more and more tools we can use to keep men­tally stim­u­lated and even train and improve spe­cific cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties (like pro­cess­ing speed, short-term mem­ory…). You may be read­ing about Nin­tendo Brain Age, Posit Sci­ence, Fast For­Word, Mind­Fit, Lumos­ity, Happy Neu­ron, MyBrain­Trainer, emWave, StressEraser and more. And, of course, there are also non-technology based interventions.

The bad news is that it is dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing from sci­en­tific claims, and to under­stand which one, if any, may be a good com­ple­ment to other healthy lifestyle choices.

To help you nav­i­gate this process, we are pub­lish­ing the Sharp­Brains Check­list below, based on dozens of inter­views with sci­en­tists, experts and consumers:

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (and a brief expla­na­tion of why each ques­tion is important)

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­ally neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tific advi­sory board Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers with a Neuroscience angle

Stroop Test Quick! say aloud the color you see in every word, DON“T sim­ply read the word.
The Stroop test is used in neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions to mea­sure men­tal vital­ity and flex­i­bil­ity, since per­form­ing well requires strong impulse-control capability.

This is one of the Top 10 Brain Teasers and Games we pro­file here.

Want more teasers? You can check our col­lec­tion here.



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