Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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 stayingsharp@dana.org. (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 Lumosity.com, 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 Lumosity.com 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. Lumosity.com 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

Lumosity.com (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 »

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