Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Trend: Mobile, data-rich apps to monitor and promote neurocognitive health

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BrainCheck raises $3 million for app to monitor brain health (TechCrunch):

“A Houston-based startup called BrainCheck has raised $3 million in seed funding for an app that helps users understand, by simply playing some games on an iPad, if they or a loved one may have suffered a concussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Centre for Brain Fitness at Baycrest: Interview with Dr. William Reichman

In April 2008, Baycrest, a leading research institute focused on aging and brain function, received $10-million from the Ontario Government to create a groundbreaking Centre for Brain Fitness. Its stated goal was to “develop and commercialize a range of products designed to improve the brain health of aging Ontarians and others around the world”.

“Our government is proud to support Baycrest and its invaluable work, which is already leading to the discovery of important new tools and approaches to treating brain diseases associated with aging,” said Minister of Research and Innovation, John Wilkinson.

We have Baycrest’s CEO with us today, to explore why Ontario and Baycrest chose to Bill Reichman Baycrestbecome pioneers in this area, and discuss some of the main opportunities, and challenges. Dr. William E. Reichman is President and CEO of Baycrest. Dr. Reichman, an internationally-known expert in geriatric mental health and dementia, is also Professor of Psychiatry on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Alvaro Fernandez: Bill, thank you for your time. Let me start by asking, given that you just spoke at the recent Consumer Electronic Show, what do you make of the growing brain fitness field?

Bill Reichman: it looks like a classic example of a very promising but still early stage field – a lot of opportunity and enthusiasm, but also a lot of product claims that are not backed by solid research. Think about the physical fitness analogy: even today, after decades of progress, you still see people buying research-based products such as treadmills but also all types of random machines they see on TV and have not been subject to any validation. Similarly, consumers today do not know what to make of growing brain fitness claims. As another speaker pointed out, for the industry to fulfill its promise, it will need to be careful with research and claims, not to end up like the nutraceuticals category.

By the way, let me recognize that the work you are doing with SharpBrains reports and your website is very important to offer quality information.

Thank you. Let’s step back for a moment. Taking a, say, 10 years view, what is the main opportunity that technology-based brain fitness can offer to society?

First of all, let me say that I think we have an opportunity to make major progress in Brain Health in the XXI century, similar to what happened with Cardiovascular Health in the XX, and technology will play a crucial role.

Given the rapid advances we are witnessing today in the research and technology arenas, I feel confident in saying that in less than 10 years we will have both valid and reliable assessments of cognitive functions, that will be used both by Read the rest of this entry »

Your comments on cognitive training, Posit Science, Alzheimer’s Australia, gerontology, games

I have fallen behind on answering a few excellent recent comments -on cognitive training overall, Posit Science and Alzheimer’s Australia, gerontology and the brain, the value of videogames-, so let me address them here:

1) Nicks says (Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist)

“This report is interesting and it addresses many very important questions that cognitive neuropsychologists, such as myself have. I feel that many of the products on the market now make claims which are generally unsubstantiated.

I find it concerning that many of these programmes have been marketed to target older adults in particular without making any specific statement on whether the activities are beneficial and have been supported with empirical research.

i have recently conducted a cognitive intervention study which used a large array of outcome measures which focus on Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist

During the research phase before the publication of the special report Brain Fitness Centers in Seniors Housing – A Field in the Making, published by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), we realized that there were equal amounts of interest and confusion among executives and professionals thinking about adding computer-based cognitive exercise products to their mix of health & wellness activities, so we included the Evaluation Checklist that follows.

The real-life experiences at leading organizations such as Senior Star Living, Belmont Village Senior Living, Erickson Retirement Communities and others were instrumental in the development of the Checklist. We hope it is useful.

Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist

Over the next several years, it is likely that many seniors housing operators will begin to carefully evaluate a growing number of options to include “brain fitness centers” in their communities.

Some options will require purchasing a device, such as Nintendo products, or the Dakim touch-screen system. Others will require installing software in PCs in existing or new computer labs, such as Posit Science, Cogmed or CogniFit’s programs. Others will be fully available online, such as those offered by Lumos Labs, Happy Neuron and My Vigorous Mind. And still others may be technology-free, promising engaging combinations of interactive, group-based, activities with pen-and-paper exercises.

Creating a solid business case will help communities navigate through this growing array of options. We suggest communities consider this SharpBrains Checklist for Brain Fitness Centers:

1. Early Users: Who among our residents is ready and willing to do the program? How are they reacting to the pilot testing of the program?

2. Cognitive benefits: What are the specific benefits claimed for using this program? Under what scenario of use (how many hours/week, how many weeks)? What specific cognitive skill(s) does the program train? How will we measure progress? Read the rest of this entry »

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