Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Council Update: Upcoming call, industry news, and more

(You can learn more about the Sharp­Brains Coun­cil Here. If you par­tic­i­pated in the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit and want to join Coun­cil on a com­pli­men­tary basis before 01/31, please con­tact us.)

Dear Coun­cil Members,

First of all, have an excel­lent 2012. Here you have a few impor­tant updates, includ­ing our first con­fer­ence call in 2012: Read the rest of this entry »

Transcript: Alvaro Fernandez on Brain Health and Non-invasive Cognitive Enhancement

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion yes­ter­day on life­long cog­ni­tive fit­ness, “men­tal cap­i­tal­ism”, and more,  with Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, co-author of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, mod­er­ated by Harry Moody, Direc­tor of Aca­d­e­mic Affairs at AARP.

Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Monthly Insights: How will we assess, enhance and repair cognition across the lifespan?

When you think of how the PC has altered the fab­ric of soci­ety, per­mit­ting instant access to infor­ma­tion and automat­ing processes beyond our wildest dreams, it is instruc­tive to con­sider that much of this progress was dri­ven by Moore’s law. Halv­ing the size of semi­con­duc­tor every 18 months catal­ysed an expo­nen­tial accel­er­a­tion in performance.

Why is this story rel­e­vant to mod­ern neu­ro­science and the work­ings of the brain? Because trans­for­ma­tive tech­no­log­i­cal progress arises out of choice and the actions of indi­vid­u­als who see poten­tial for change, and we may well be on the verge of such progress. Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Weekly Update: 54 Members, Events, Industry, Research, Ideas

Let me pro­vide an overview of the great things going on with the Sharp­Brains Coun­cil for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion — start­ing this week, we will share a brief update like this every Fri­day to main­tain Sharp­Brains col­leagues and read­ers informed. Please note that all links below require access to the Council’s online platform.

Coun­cil Membership
We have 54 Coun­cil Mem­bers right now (47 are already active in the Council’s online plat­form). To help Mem­bers quickly see who we all are and what we are inter­ested in, there is a Mem­ber List avail­able in the Library.

This week, based on level of Coun­cil par­tic­i­pa­tion and on hav­ing a nice pro­file pic, we are fea­tur­ing 7 Coun­cil Mem­bers: Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, Philip Toman, Jamie Wil­son, Luc Beau­doin, Joshua Stein­er­man, Adam Gaz­za­ley and Sher­rie All. Read the rest of this entry »

NovaVision selling assets (neuroplasticity-based Visual Restoration Therapy)

We men­tioned in our recent mar­ket report that NovaV­i­sion had declared bank­rupcy. The com­pany tried to trans­form its busi­ness model in the last cou­ple of years — obvi­ously it didn’t work. Now the trustee is shar­ing a few more details and look­ing for ways to dis­pose of its assets:

NovaVision’s FDA-Cleared Visual Restora­tion Ther­apy (VRT) Sys­tem and Com­pany Assets Now Avail­able (press release)

The bank­ruptcy trustee has engaged The Mag­num Group, Inc., to solicit offers for NovaVision’s assets which include the NovaV­i­sion Visual Restora­tion Ther­apy (VRT) sys­tem, a neu­ro­plac­tic­ity (sic) plat­form that has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) for the treat­ment of stroke, trau­matic brain injury, ambly­opia (“lazy eye”) and optic nerve damage.

NovaV­i­sion has received a total invest­ment of $49,200,000 since its found­ing in 2003 and has gen­er­ated rev­enues of approx­i­mately $1,000,000 each year for the past three years. The company’s non-invasive computer-based neu­ro­plac­tic­ity (sic) prod­ucts have treated more than 3,000 patients world­wide. NovaV­i­sion esti­mates the total mar­ket oppor­tu­nity for its port­fo­lio of prod­ucts to exceed 300,000 units in U.S. optom­e­try, oph­thal­mol­ogy, neu­rol­ogy, and pri­mary care prac­tices as well as reha­bil­i­ta­tion centers.

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 »

Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers

Dr. Michael Merzenich Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, is a lead­ing pio­neer in brain plas­tic­ity research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invented the cochlear implant. In 1996, he was the found­ing CEO of Sci­en­tific Learn­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (Nas­daq: SCIL), and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Sci­en­tific Offi­cer of Posit Sci­ence. He was elected to the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences in 1999 and to the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine this year. He retired as Fran­cis A. Sooy Pro­fes­sor and Co-Director of the Keck Cen­ter for Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cisco in 2007. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV spe­cials, mul­ti­ple media appear­ances, or neuroplasticity-related books.

(Alvaro Fer­nan­dez) Dear Michael, thank you very much for agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit in Jan­u­ary, and for your time today. sharpbrains_summit_logo_webIn order to con­tex­tu­al­ize the Summit’s main themes, I would like to focus this inter­view on the likely big-picture impli­ca­tions dur­ing the next 5 years of your work and that of other neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research and indus­try pioneers.

Thank you for invit­ing me. I believe the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will be very use­ful and stim­u­lat­ing, you are gath­er­ing an impres­sive group together. I am look­ing for­ward to January.

Neuroplasticity-based Tools: The New Health & Well­ness Frontier

There are many dif­fer­ent technology-free approaches to har­ness­ing –enabling, dri­ving– neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. What is the unique value that tech­nol­ogy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

It’s all about effi­ciency, scal­a­bil­ity, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­ogy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-optimally-efficient brain-training strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­ogy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each person’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tively addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cially impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­ogy is the scal­a­bil­ity that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neuroplasticity-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Internet!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intuitive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-processing if all one cares about is œmem­ory? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to really change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age older per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equally effort­ful business!

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teens and Adults

Safe dri­ving seems to be one area where the ben­e­fits are more intu­itive, which may explain the sig­nif­i­cant traction.

Yes, we see great poten­tial and inter­est among insur­ers for improv­ing dri­ving safety, both for seniors and teens. Appro­pri­ate cog­ni­tive train­ing can lower at-fault acci­dent rates. You can mea­sure clear ben­e­fits in rel­a­tively short time frames, so it won’t take long for insur­ers to see an eco­nomic ratio­nale to not only offer pro­grams at low cost or for free but to incen­tivize dri­vers to com­plete them. All­state, AAA, State Farm and other insur­ers are begin­ning to real­ize this poten­tial. It is impor­tant to note that typ­i­cal acci­dents among teens and seniors are dif­fer­ent, so that train­ing method­olo­gies will need to be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent high-risk populations.

Yet, most dri­ving safety ini­tia­tives today still focus on edu­cat­ing dri­vers, rather that train­ing them neu­ro­log­i­cally. We mea­sure vision, for exam­ple, but com­pletely ignore atten­tional con­trol abil­i­ties, or a driver’s use­ful field of view. I expect this to change sig­nif­i­cantly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insur­ance com­pa­nies will ulti­mately see sim­i­lar ben­e­fits, and we believe that they will fol­low a sim­i­lar course of action to reduce gen­eral med­ical and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease– (Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s– and Parkinsons-) related costs. In fact, many senior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties are among the pio­neers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vitality

Main­stream media is cov­er­ing this emerg­ing cat­e­gory with thou­sands of sto­ries. But most cov­er­age seems still focused on does it work? more than “how do we define It”, what does work mean? or work for whom, and for what? Can you sum­ma­rize what recent research suggests?

We have seen clear pat­terns in the appli­ca­tion of our train­ing pro­grams, some pub­lished (like IMPACT), some unpub­lished, some with healthy adults, and some with peo­ple with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment or early Alzheimers Dis­ease (AD). What we see in every case: Read the rest of this entry »

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