Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Can Brain Training and Biofeedback Help Prevent Depression

In two inno­v­a­tive pilot stud­ies, Ian Gotlib and his col­leagues at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, Cal­i­for­nia, showed that brain train­ing can be used to help elim­i­nate depres­sion, even before it starts. They stud­ied young girls (10 to 14 year old) whose moth­ers were depressed and who thus were at higher risk of devel­op­ing depres­sion them­selves later-on. The girls had not expe­ri­enced depres­sion per se but already showed behav­iors typ­i­cal of depressed brains, such as over­re­ac­tion to neg­a­tive stim­uli. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Brain Training Trends — Putting our Cognitive Reserve to Work

Yes­ter­day I had the chance to chat with Yaakov Stern, lead­ing Cog­ni­tive Reserve researcher at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, and then with a group of 25 life­long learn­ers in Ari­zona who attended a brain fit­ness class (hello, Robert and friends!) based on our con­sumer guide The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness. On reflec­tion, I found both con­ver­sa­tions to be very stim­u­lat­ing for the same rea­son: they were forward-looking, focused not so much on sta­tus quo but on how emerg­ing research, tech­nol­ogy and trends may impact our soci­ety and lives in years to come. Let’s con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion. Let me share the 10 main trends that we analyzed/ fore­casted in our book, and then ask you, sharp read­ers, to add your own 2 cents to the dis­cus­sion. 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 »

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 »

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 »

Mind Games @ Venture Capital Journal

The August issue of Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Jour­nal brings a very good piece on the emerg­ing brain fit­ness soft­ware  (also called “neu­rosoft­ware”) category:

Mind Games (sub­scrip­tion required)

– Dakim, Lumos Labs, Posit Sci­ence and other brain fit­ness star­tups are start­ing to gain mind share and cap­i­tal from ven­ture firms.

The reporter and I spoke as Lumos Labs received its $3m round, and we dis­cussed other fund­able start-ups, fea­tur­ing Cog­niFit. Which, as men­tioned over the week­end, just raised $5m.

If case you are a new Sharp­Brains reader, per­haps vis­it­ing us after read­ing this VCJ arti­cle, let me pro­vide a quick overview of the cat­e­gory and our Mar­ket Report (which is annual, not quar­terly as the arti­cle states):

A) Report High­lights

We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $225M in 2007, up from $100m in 2005 (50% CAGR), ana­lyz­ing the size and brain fitness/ training markettrends of four cus­tomer seg­ments: con­sumers, health­care & insur­ance providers, K12 school sys­tems, and for­tune 1000 com­pa­nies, mil­i­tary, and sports teams. Two seg­ments fueled the mar­ket growth from 2005 to 2007: con­sumers (grew from $5m to $80m, 300% CAGR) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $36m to $65m, 35% CAGR).

Ten Spe­cific High­lights from The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 report include:

1) 2007 was a sem­i­nal year for the US Brain Fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket, which reached $225 mil­lion in rev­enues up from an esti­mated $100 mil­lion in 2005.

2) Over 20 com­pa­nies are offer­ing tools to assess and train cog­ni­tive skills to four cus­tomer seg­ments: con­sumers; health­care and insur­ance providers; K12 school sys­tems; and For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies, the mil­i­tary, and sports teams.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training Top 10 Future Trends

In an emerg­ing, dynamic, high growth mar­ket, like brain train­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to make pre­cise pro­jec­tions. But, we can observe a num­ber of trends that exec­u­tives, con­sumers, pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers, and the media should watch closely in the com­ing years, as brain fit­ness and train­ing becomes main­stream, new tools appear, and an ecosys­tem grows around it.

1. We pre­dict an increased empha­sis on brain main­te­nance in loca­tions rang­ing from retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties to gyms. As a computer-savvy baby boomer pop­u­la­tion looks for ways to stay men­tally fit, brain fit­ness, or brain train­ing, is becom­ing part of their vocab­u­lary and concern.

2. Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise will be bet­ter inte­grated. Phys­i­cal exer­cise has been shown to increase the rate of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, whereas men­tal exer­cise helps ensure the sur­vival of any newly cre­ated neu­rons. Today both activ­i­ties usu­ally take place in very dif­fer­ent set­tings: the for­mer, in health clubs, the later, in uni­ver­si­ties. We pre­dict that the bor­ders between them will become more dif­fuse. Expect new pro­grams such as brain fit­ness pod­casts that allow us to train work­ing mem­ory as we jog or exer­cise bikes with built-in brain games.

3. Watch for a Read the rest of this entry »

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