Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most popular question we got when we announced that PBS had a great special on Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity in December was, when will the DVD be available?

Well, finally here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fitness Program DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This program presents a workout to help viewers get their brains in better shape. The Brain Fitness Program is based on neuro-plasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of scientists has developed computer-based stimulus sets that drive beneficial chemical, physical and functional changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the University of California San Francisco and his colleagues around the world have been leading this effort; he brings the research findings, along with a scientifically based set of brain exercises, to PBS viewers in this innovative and life-altering program. Peter Coyote narrates. ”

To purchase: click Here.

You can watch a 3-minute trailer: click here.


Note: How can anyone take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which seem to contradict each other?

Do supplements improve memory? Do you need both physical and mental exercise –or is one of them enough? Why is managing stress so important to attention and memory? Which brain training approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

SharpBrainsGuide_3DIf you have these questions, check out this new book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness:

“Finally, an insightful and complete overview of the science, products and trends to debunk old myths and help us all maintain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Gloria Cavanaugh, former President & CEO of the American Society on Aging and founding Board member of the National Alliance for Caregiving
Kudos for an excellent resource! This SharpBrains Guide is full of top notch information, provides practical tips and helps separate hype from hope in the brain health arena.”
Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer, Alzheimer’s Association
“A masterful guide to the brain training revolution. Promises to stimulate a much needed conversation that will nudge society to build a new brain fitness culture on solid, research-based, foundations.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

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22 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Hello, I want to buy the DVD of the actual Brain Fitness Program that aired, NOT a DVD of exercises. Is that DVD the show itself or just exercises?

  2. Alvaro says:

    Hello Mary, yes, that’s what we are talking about. You can buy the PBS program that aired: Simply click on the DVD image above and you will be sent to the PBS online store page where you can buy it. Enjoy!

  3. Beky Townsend says:

    I am interested in buying a DVD of exercises. Where can I get that?

  4. Alvaro says:

    Hello Beky,

    There are 2 different things: a) a DVD that contains the TV program that aired in PBS, b) CD-Roms that contain the exercises mentioned in that TV program, or other ones. To our knowledge, there is no science-based “DVD of exercises”.

    Are you looking for computer-based exercises for use in your PC?

  5. Beatrice says:

    Is the Brain Fitness HOme Primer going to be available to the general public as well, without having to make a donation to a PBS station? I don’t mind making a donation, but I’m already a member, and have limited funds. $55 for a 20 page booklet (how big?? 4×6? 8×10?) sounds like a lot. For now I can’t afford the $365 either.

  6. Alvaro says:

    Hello Beatrice,

    If what you want is information, let me suggest you subscribe to our monthly newsletter and you will get 2 complimentary digital documents with over 80 pages of great content…

  7. michael says:

    really keen to find out ways to improve my brain fitness, i am looking for small things i can do during the day while walking to classes or playing golf?
    thanks the website is really good

  8. Beatrice says:

    Alvaro, from what I can tell, the Home Primer allows you to do a test on yourself to get some sort of a rating. I’m looking more for the test than information (although I want that, too!)I am a subscriber to the newsletter already, and have had a lot of fun with the brain teasers.

  9. Jon says:

    never trust a company that sells products to give you a good test…more likely than not, you will end up needing the product they want to sell you! better ask your doctor, what test he recommends.

    actually, sharpbrains should offer a test, i love the site.

  10. Brian Rose says:

    Why should we pay $25 for a repeat of a PBS program. That seems like a very large amount of money for a simple copy. How about $10? The program will probably be aired again in the near future because it was so popular.

  11. Alvaro says:

    Michael: great question. While playing golf, probably the best is to practice stress management techniques, breathing and visualizations, so that you don’t only exercise your brain but also perhaps improve your game! Try out the tecnique quoted in the second article here (once you have a little practice, you can do it with eyes open)

    While classing to classes, you can do the same to ensure a great start of the day, or try some mental games like these

    Beatrice, thanks for the clarification. Great to hear you are enjoying our newsletter and teasers! I have to agree with Jon: you will be better off trusting the test put forward by an independent source, not someone who wants to sell a product. Your doctor/ health provider can probably point you to some good resources. We will write a post nest week about several ratings available for free online, so stay tuned.

    Jon, thank you for your support!

    Brian: we certainly don’t control PBS pricing decisions… we hope you enjoy watching it.

  12. Arlene says:

    I want to get computer-based exercises for a brain fitness program. What is your professional opinion about the Brain Fitness Gym?
    And what about Mindfit – which is considerably less expensive.(I notice some of their demo exercises are in your Brain Teasers section.) Are there other options that are computer based you recommend? Thanks!

  13. Alvaro says:

    Hello Arlene, the Posit Science program is very narrow: it is design to train auditory processing. If you need that, it’s the best.

    MindFit may be a better starter point for wider training. Other options include and, both online, and more inexpensive.

    They are all different tools: it depends on what you want. For guidance, you can check our 10-Question Evaluation Checklist

    and you can check this article in the Wall Street Journal

  14. Eric says:

    Hi Arlene,
    I am Vice President of Marketing for for Posit Science. A couple of points about our exercises:
    1. Our first product focuses on the auditory systems of the brain because so much of what we need to remember and process in life is auditory. Our auditory product improves speed of processing and accuracy of the auditory system. Tens of thousands of people have used this product and report remembering better, finding words more easily, following conversation more quickly and other benefits.
    2. Newsweeks Sharon Begley does a great job describing why the focus on auditory memory is so important in the article below. As you’ll read, our Brain Fitness Program is the only program on the market that improves your memory – not just the trained tasks. The the improvements “generalize” to broad measures of cognition.
    3. The Posit Science program is the only one to have been shown effective in published, peer-reviewed studies. This is the scientific “gold standard” and the only way you can be certain a product actually works to improve cognitive function. No other product has undergone this rigorous clinical scrutiny, including others referenced above.

    Best Regards,
    Eric Mann

  15. Alvaro says:

    Hello Eric, thanks for stopping by. We recommend users check our 10-Question Evaluation Checklist, because there is no research enough today to “prescribe” any specific intervention for everyone. Each user must decide what may be the best tool for him or her.

    There are many important cognitive skills to take care of, so a very narrow intervention is not necessarily what every single person would benefit from, justifying time commitment and expense.

    Let me ask you

    1- how you you know what benefits Arlene has in mind? if she is looking to reduce likelihood of potentially developing Alzheimer’s symptoms, for example, physical exercise or a variety of socially and mentally stimulating activities have more research support than any specific computer-based program

    2- how many studies have been published as of today in peer-reviewed journals supporting the validity of your program

    3- what is the median age for people in published studies? what may be relevant for people in their 70s may not be the top priority for people in their 40s or 50

    4- What is the use protocol in published studies? hours of training per week?

    5- Does published research show far transfer into non-trained domains such as visual memory and executive functions?

    6- can you provide an overview of all major cognitive skills and where auditory processing fits in

    7- Have you seen the published research backing other programs such as Cogmed, SpaceFortress, cognitive therapy, biofeedback? I find it surprising that (despite the apparent great quality of the IMPACT study, not published yet), you can make claims like the ones you make in your comment.

    Looking forward your response.

  16. Laura Fay says:

    Hello Arlene,
    I am Chief Operating Officer with Happy Neuron, a provider of various Brain Fitness programs (mentioned above)

    Alvaro makes a good point about choosing the program that is right for YOU. Sharpbrains 10-Question Evaluation Checklist is a great way to evaluate the most suitable brain fitness program. To assist with that evaluation, Happy Neuron has outlined how our program stacks up against the checklist. You can read it here.

    Good luck with your research.


  17. Talya says:

    Is there any way to find a transcript of the Brain Fitness Program DVD that aired on PBS?

  18. Alvaro says:

    Hello Talya: I don’t know; you better contact PBS directly.

    Please let us know what you find out.

  19. Roy Israely says:

    Hello Arlene,
    I’m a psychologist at CogniFit, a leader in developing brain fitness software.
    I have to agree with Alvaro’s answer: When trying to find a cognitive training program, the most important thing is to make sure it fits YOU. Since most computerized training programs last for several months, it’s important that you will choose the program that will keep your motivation high, as well as will improve your cognition. Although different programs offer different things to the users, if a wide cognitive training is what you are looking for, MindFit could be the solution for you, since it trains 14 major cognitive abilities that are crucial for a day to day functioning. In addition, it is worth mentioning that MindFit offers an assessment phase before the beginning of the actual training, which makes it possible to create a self- suited training program that matches the specific cognitive needs for each user. You can find some more information on our website: .
    Keep in mind that mental training is not enough. In order to maintain a healthy brain you’ll also need to engage in physical activity, proper nutrition and stress management. You can find a good summary in the following link:

  20. Thomas (Doubting) says:

    “The Posit Science program is the only one to have been shown effective in published, peer-reviewed studies. This is the scientific “gold standard” and the only way you can be certain a product actually works to improve cognitive function. No other product has undergone this rigorous clinical scrutiny, including others referenced above.”

    >>This is far from the truth. Being published in a peer-reviewed journal does not equal being “effective.”

    No single study could legitimize the claim for being “effective.”

    List the references for the studies and let us review the empirical evidence for ourselves. Please include the double-blind attention control randomized study with 6 month follow up. Thanks.

  21. Mike Logan says:

    While I can appreciate the need for research, and use it as a guide, I like to try out tools like this to see what happens. Then look to the research to see if there is any intuitive “aha!” My experience will guide me as much as the research. I read somewhere once that statistics are tools used to try and make sense of incomplete data. Or course, I am not marketing to the universe here. Mike Logan

  22. Alvaro says:

    Mike, beautiful point.

    Scientific studies are very valuable to see what works, what may work, and what does NOT work…. thereby informing public policy, consumers and professionals.

    Now, lab results needs not replace the judgement of healthy individuals making their own decisions with their own money.

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