Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The future (of brain health) is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed

We are pleased to announce two new resources for all pro­fes­sion­als, researchers, devel­op­ers, inno­va­tors and decision-makers in the field of brain health and cog­ni­tive fit­ness who are inter­ested in bet­ter track­ing and shap­ing the future that is already here.

First of all, we have opened up a “Friends of SharpBrains.com” pro­fes­sional net­work­ing group on LinkedIn. If you are already a LinkedIn mem­ber, you can join the 377 exist­ing mem­bers by click­ing Here.

Sec­ond, reg­is­tered par­tic­i­pants for the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30 — April 1st) can now con­nect with each other and with speak­ers, as well as access 10 exclu­sive Inno­va­tion Case Stud­ies pre­pared by the Win­ners and Final­ists of the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

What impressed the Judging Panel re. Innovation Awards Winners and Finalists

Let me now share what the Judg­ing PanelAlvaroFer_finalfile_180310 and the Sharp­Brains team found most impres­sive from each Win­ner and Final­ist of the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards, accom­pa­nied by some addi­tional infor­ma­tion on each of these 10 note­wor­thy ini­tia­tives and case studies.

Grand Prize Winner

USA HockeyUSA Hockey, Inc., is the National Gov­ern­ing Body of the sport of ice hockey in the United States. With a mem­ber­ship of nearly 600,000 play­ers, coaches, offi­cials and vol­un­teers that span all 50 states, USA Hockey seeks to pro­mote the growth of hockey and pro­vide the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence for all par­tic­i­pants by encour­ag­ing, devel­op­ing, advanc­ing and admin­is­ter­ing the sport.

Project Scope: The National Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram (NTDP), a USA Hockey body, is a full-time devel­op­ment pro­gram aimed at prepar­ing under-18 student-athletes for par­tic­i­pa­tion on US National Teams. Its efforts focus both on high-caliber par­tic­i­pa­tion on the ice and indi­vid­ual skill devel­op­ment. The pro­gram is com­posed of two squads: the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams.

Dur­ing the past hockey sea­son, the NTDP imple­mented a cog­ni­tive train­ing sys­tem designed to help hockey play­ers develop per­cep­tion and decision-making skills called The Hockey Intel­li­Gym. Designed to enhance ‘Hockey Sense’—or the way play­ers gather infor­ma­tion from their sur­round­ings, make and exe­cute decisions—The Hockey Intel­li­Gym train­ing sys­tem uti­lizes a software-based train­ing envi­ron­ment with cus­tomized algo­rithms that adjust train­ing pro­grams to indi­vid­ual play­ers accord­ing to abil­ity and progress. Play­ers engaged in a twice-a-week cog­ni­tive train­ing reg­i­men that became an inte­gral part of their over­all train­ing pro­gram dur­ing which time cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists mon­i­tored play­ers’ per­for­mance and pro­vided coach­ing staff with analy­ses and progress reports. Among sta­tis­ti­cal fig­ures mea­sured, the most notable was the win ratio of teams involved, as Intel­li­Gym trained team won more games.

The Intel­li­Gym pro­gram took more than two years and $2 mil­lion to put together with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing (ACE) and was enabled by a grant from the BIRD Foun­da­tion who sci­en­tif­i­cally reviewed the plan and finan­cially sup­ported it.

Project Leader: Scott Mon­aghan, Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, USA Hockey National Team Devel­op­ment Program

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Excel­lent team approach between spe­cial­ist, coach and player. Great con­cept and need, and insights/model could apply very broadly to skill devel­op­ment. The adap­ta­tion of cog­ni­tive train­ing to this par­tic­u­lar sports domain is clever and can be gen­er­al­ized to a wide range of other activ­i­ties. I was impressed with the USA Hockey National Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram and their Hockey Intel­li­gym. To develop/adapt such a pro­gram and clearly demon­strate it’s impact on real-life per­for­mance, is fan­tas­tic. There is also a great oppor­tu­nity to expand this to even more ath­letes and sports and to every­day life.

Sil­ver Prize Winners

AllstateAll­state (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest pub­licly held per­sonal lines insurer. All­state is rein­vent­ing pro­tec­tion and retire­ment to help indi­vid­u­als in approx­i­mately 17 mil­lion house­holds pro­tect what they have today and bet­ter pre­pare for tomorrow.

Project Scope: All­state embarked on a jour­ney with Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion to eval­u­ate the inter­est in and effec­tive­ness of Posit Science’s software—leveraging tech­nol­ogy shown in National Insti­tutes of Health funded stud­ies to improve visual pro­cess­ing skills impor­tant for safe driving—to test a soft­ware pro­gram (Insight) in Penn­syl­va­nia. Selected dri­vers, 50 years and older, were invited to help val­i­date the impact cog­ni­tive train­ing has on dri­ving safety.

The project was a “proof of con­cept” for what may turn out to be a sig­nif­i­cant effort by All­state to pre­vent injuries and save lives, enable older peo­ple to main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer and pro­vide peace of mind to adult chil­dren faced with dif­fi­cult deci­sions as par­ents age. The most impor­tant reduc­tion was in insured losses and result­ing injuries, trauma and dis­rup­tion to the lives of those involved in auto col­li­sions. After observ­ing the acci­dent behav­ior of those who com­pleted the Posit pro­gram, rel­a­tive to a well selected con­trol group, All­state saw a mea­sur­able decline that was sta­tis­ti­cally valid.

Project Leader: Tom War­den, Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent, All­state Research and Plan­ning Center

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: The poten­tial impact of this pro­gram is sec­ond to none. I was impressed with Allstate’s project and their results that showed that the Posit Sci­ence soft­ware pos­i­tively impacted the acci­dent records of those com­plet­ing the pro­gram. All­state should be com­mended for try­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent and for cre­at­ing such an ini­tia­tive. Pretty soon I can imag­ine brain fit­ness dis­counts along­side safe dri­ver and other discounts.

images (1)Nation­wide, based in Colum­bus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diver­si­fied insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. and is rated A+ by A.M. Best. The com­pany pro­vides a full range of per­son­al­ized insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices, includ­ing includ­ing auto and life insur­ance, pen­sions, health and pro­duc­tiv­ity ser­vices, and more.

Project Scope: Nation­wide Mutual Insur­ance worked with ben­e­fits provider OptumHealth and their part­ner Brain Resource to add a Web based brain train­ing tool (MyBrain­So­lu­tions) to help employ­ees enhance pos­i­tiv­ity, emo­tional resilience and deal with oth­ers more effec­tively — all key ele­ments to pro­duc­tiv­ity. More than 500 employ­ees enrolled in the company’s ‘Healthy Hol­i­day Chal­lenge’ dur­ing the first week. The results of the new resource led to more pos­i­tive behav­ior changes and greater pro­duc­tiv­ity among the workforce.

As part of the MyBrain­So­lu­tions launch, asso­ciates were asked to reg­is­ter, take a base­line brain assess­ment, accu­mu­late a tar­get num­ber of points dur­ing a 30-day period and then take a sec­ond brain assess­ment. The com­pany found that aspects of pos­i­tiv­ity, emo­tional resilience and social skills improved in the short 6-week ini­tia­tive and saw small changes in pro­duc­tiv­ity were notice­able as well. 87% of those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram indi­cated they were plan­ning to take addi­tional steps to improve health after par­tic­i­pat­ing while 33.5% wouldn’t have accessed other resources to address health and well­be­ing if it weren’t for the initiative.

Project Leader: Kath­leen Herath, AVP Health & Productivity

Selected com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Har­vard Busi­ness Review esti­mated a cou­ple years ago that $150B is lost annu­ally as a result of lost employee pro­duc­tiv­ity. Given all of the life events and tran­si­tions that indi­vid­u­als expe­ri­ence each year that can dis­tract, this pro­vides a fea­si­ble and attrac­tive lever for employ­ees to take advan­tage of. Employ­ers of the future that can imple­ment inno­v­a­tive mod­els such as these to adapt to the chang­ing needs of employ­ees, enhance employee pro­duc­tiv­ity, and help to rede­fine what work means by infus­ing the pro­fes­sional with the per­sonal will win, and have as a reward loyal employ­ees, a happy cul­ture, and an over­all higher per­form­ing work­force. The pos­i­tive self-report mea­sures were impres­sive as well as the improve­ments in such a short period of time. Seems to have poten­tial for replic­a­bil­ity with scal­able, low-cost pro­grams. In prin­ci­ple this approach could have large soci­etal ben­e­fits. Imple­ment­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing in a work place is novel and taps into the desire to opti­mize pro­fes­sional func­tion­ing as well as stave off decline.  The emo­tional and self-regulation train­ing is extremely impor­tant in the work­place setting.

Rest of Top 10 Finalists

(Note: out of the 40 orga­ni­za­tions that sub­mit­ted entries to the inau­gural 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards, 10 became Top 10 Final­ists. Here we want to rec­og­nize the orga­ni­za­tions which, while not win­ning the over­all con­test, did impress the judg­ing panel with the qual­ity of their ongo­ing ini­tia­tives. They are ordered by the approx­i­mate age of their end user pop­u­la­tion, from younger to older:

Most Inno­v­a­tive Spe­cial Ed School

Arrowsmith SchoolArrow­smith School offers a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, tar­get­ing 19 areas of the brain most com­monly involved in learn­ing. The Arrow­smith Pro­gram, which orig­i­nated in Toronto, is now offered in schools in Canada and the US.

Project Scope: Help reme­di­ate Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties by devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing a pro­pri­etary suite of neuroplasticity-based exer­cises in 3 for­mats: computer-based, audi­tory, pen and paper.

  • Project Leader: Bar­bara Arrow­smith, Director
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel:  How easy would it be to say “they’s not smart enough” or “they’re mak­ing excuses”, instead of “they have a cog­ni­tive short­com­ing that can be addressed.” The tar­get audi­ence of 5–10% of school chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties can now have a fight­ing chance if mod­els like these can be scaled through pol­icy and/or repli­ca­tion. This gets my vote as the model cre­ates almost immea­sur­able life­time impact for those for­tu­nate enough to be reap all the cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits of the pro­gram. Arrow­smith efforts since 1979 puts them in a class of their own as pio­neers. Arrow­smith also has a process learn­ing from and refin­ing its ini­tia­tives. Pro­gram can be built fur­ther on very solid foundations.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Behav­ioral Health Provider

UBHCUni­ver­sity Behav­ioral Health­Care (UBHC) was estab­lished in 1971 as a divi­sion of the Uni­ver­sity of Med­i­cine and Den­tistry of New Jer­sey (UMDNJ) and is one of the largest providers of behav­ioral health­care ser­vices in the country.

Project Scope: Reme­di­ate cog­ni­tive impair­ments asso­ci­ated with severe men­tal ill­ness by devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing an inno­v­a­tive cur­ricu­lum and pro­pri­etary man­ual for cog­ni­tive rehab sup­port groups, com­bin­ing best of Cog­ni­tive Behav­ioral Ther­apy, cog­ni­tive train­ing, and social skills training.

  • Project Leader: Steven M. Sil­ver­stein, Ph.D., Direc­tor, Divi­sion of Schiz­o­phre­nia Research & Direc­tor of Research
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Note­wor­thy person-centered approach, focused on how to impact qual­ity of life with self-empowerment tools and social support.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Foundation

aaaftslogoThe AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safetyhas a mis­sion to iden­tify prob­lems, fos­ter research that seeks solu­tions, and dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion and edu­ca­tional mate­ri­als that pro­mote good safety practices.

Project Scope: Improve dri­ving safety among older adults by  pro­mot­ing and test­ing visual pro­cess­ing train­ing pro­gram InSight by Posit Science.

  • Project Leader: Peter Kissinger, Pres­i­dent and CEO
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Very high qual­ity pro­gram Inno­v­a­tive. Emi­nently scal­able. Ben­e­fits users, AAA, and com­mu­nity at large – very good synergy.This approach grounds cog­ni­tive train­ing in an activ­ity that for many is crit­i­cal to inde­pen­dence. The tie to insur­ance will moti­vate the train­ing which may increase road safety and have broader ben­e­fits for cog­ni­tive health.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Hospital

Saint Lukes Brain and Stroke Institute LogoSaint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Insti­tute, part of Saint Luke’s Health Sys­tem in Kansas and Mis­souri, cov­ers the entire spec­trum of care includ­ing acute inter­ven­tion, pre­ven­tion of com­pli­ca­tions, sec­ondary pre­ven­tion and neurorehabilitation.

Project Scope: Help extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing and address cog­ni­tive impair­ments by mak­ing acces­si­ble a Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter that com­bines edu­ca­tion, assess­ments, lifestyle advice and tar­geted neu­rocog­ni­tive and mindfulness-based training.

  • Project Leader: John Cor­ba­ley, M.S., M.A., CCC/Sp., Direc­tor, Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter, Saint Luke’s Hos­pi­tal of Kansas City
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Saint Luke’s pro­gram was impres­sive in a num­ber of ways. I liked that they worked with mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines to cre­ate a holis­tic pro­gram focused on improved brain health through cog­ni­tive train­ing, nutri­tion and exer­cise as well as other activ­i­ties. It is no sur­prise that they have a wait list of users eager to join their program.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Adult Education

OUSD Logo Color JPEG
Oak­land Uni­fied School Dis­trict has a mis­sion to ensure that all stu­dents grad­u­ate as car­ing, com­pe­tent, and crit­i­cal thinkers, as well as fully-informed, engaged, and con­tribut­ing cit­i­zens, pre­pared to suc­ceed in col­lege and career. Adult and Career Edu­ca­tion ser­vices empower adults through through edu­ca­tion and training.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing (for new pilot: improve aca­d­e­mic suc­cess among at-risk stu­dents) by offer­ing a Brain Fit­ness Class that com­bines cur­ricu­lum, dis­cus­sions and com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing (by Posit Sci­ence, for older adults; by Lumos Labs, for new pilot with young adults).

  • Project Leader: Teri Barr, Brain Health Pro­gram Coordinator
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: Strong approach to over­come some of the age bound­aries among tar­geted pop­u­la­tions. What I love the most about this won­der­ful suc­cess story is how this pro­gram has been able to appeal to indi­vid­u­als across socio-economic, demo­graphic, and edu­ca­tional back­grounds, and in the process deliver both real and per­ceived value. One way I think it has done this is through pre­sent­ing a multi-faceted value propo­si­tion (i.e., build cog­ni­tive health + build com­mu­nity + have fun in the process) in a sin­gle set­ting. Lessons learned were also very well artic­u­lated, and the approach of com­bin­ing high-tech with high-touch I thought was inge­nious and real­is­tic given the context.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Men­tal Health Association

1-12754The Men­tal Health Asso­ci­a­tion of Rock­land County, in New York State, is a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion with a mis­sion to pre­vent men­tal ill­ness and fos­ter men­tal well­ness through com­mu­nity out­reach, direct ser­vice and advo­cacy for leg­is­la­tion and programs.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing by offer­ing a cog­ni­tive health series of live events to engage the com­mu­nity with a stigma-free, proac­tive brain fit­ness mes­sage, sup­ported by pro­fes­sional train­ing, social­iza­tion plat­forms and cog­ni­tive train­ing (by CogniFit).

  • Project Leader: Karen Oates, Director
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: So great to see a Men­tal Health Asso­ci­a­tion pro­mot­ing this impor­tant project and ally­ing with so many groups and orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Cog­niFit, in doing so. Great that they have been able to over­come the stigma so often asso­ci­ated with aging and men­tal fit­ness through the project. With the man­ual and pam­phlet, there are excel­lent repli­ca­tion possibilities.

Most Inno­v­a­tive Health Plan

logoSCAN Health Plan has been focus­ing for more than 30 years on the unique needs of peo­ple with Medicare and is now the country’s fourth largest not-for-profit Medicare Advan­tage plan. The com­pany cur­rently has nearly 120,000 mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia and Arizona.

Project Scope: Extend healthy inde­pen­dent liv­ing by devel­op­ing the con­cept of a “SCAN Van” to deliver health screen­ings & edu­ca­tion com­bined with phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive exer­cise (Wii gam­ing; touch screen-based cog­ni­tive train­ing by Hap­pyNeu­ron) in places where seniors gather.

  • Project Leader: Lena Perel­man, Direc­tor of Com­mu­nity Outreach
  • Selected Com­ments by Judg­ing Panel: A clever plan for the deliv­ery of cog­ni­tive exer­cises. SCAN’s is inno­v­a­tive not only because its mobile but because it presents a more holis­tic approach to brain health with its “multi-pronged” program.

Here you can learn more about the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards.

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