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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