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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


DriveFit (CogniFit); Brain Fitness Program for Driving

Dri­ving as Next Brain Fit­ness Application? 

Last month, at the MIT/ Smart­Sil­vers event where we pre­sent­ed our Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket Report, we dis­cussed what spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions, beyond the cur­rent empha­sis on healthy Two In One Taskaging, might take com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing to a new level.  

Assess­ing and improv­ing dri­ving skills would be a top can­di­date, giv­en both the well-defined nature of the need and the appear­ance of pro­grams with grow­ing evi­dence (both sci­en­tif­ic and real-world) behind.

The New York Times Asks… 

Along these lines, the New York Times just published this arti­cle: Are You a Good Dri­ver? Here’s How to Find Out. A few quotes:

- “COULD a video game make you a bet­ter dri­ver? More impor­tant, could com­put­er soft­ware pre­vent teenagers from mak­ing fatal mis­takes or even weed out old­er dri­vers whose debil­i­ties make them crash-prone?”

- “There are already pro­grams like AAA’s Road­wise Review (about $15), which is intend­ed to help old­er peo­ple eval­u­ate their dri­ving.”

- “There are oth­er pro­grams that will test men­tal agili­ty and then use sub­se­quent com­put­er train­ing ses­sions to improve a driver’s skills. One such pro­gram is an online appli­ca­tion called Dri­ve­Fit ($89), which was devel­oped by Cog­niFit, an Israeli com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in cog­ni­tive train­ing soft­ware. Dri­ve­Fit uses visu­al and mem­o­ry tests to mea­sure 12 dri­ving-relat­ed cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties.”

What are we talk­ing about 

You may be won­der­ing, “What do these train­ing ses­sions look like?”. Well, if you have a few min­utes to spare, why don’t you try these exer­cis­es that come from Mind­Fit (sim­i­lar premise to Dri­ve­Fit, devel­oped by Cog­niFit too).

 Inside and Outside Task

The “Inside and Out­side” task was designed to train divid­ed atten­tion skills. Divid­ed atten­tion is the abil­i­ty to pay atten­tion to more than one thing at a time.



Two In One Task

The “Two in One” task was designed to train one’s abil­i­ty to per­form two tasks simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.



Anoth­er ques­tion we often get when talk­ing with insur­ance com­pa­nies, “So, can we really train dri­vers to act smarter behind the wheel”? Well, it depends of what “smarter” means (we are not aware of brain train­ing pro­grams to make dri­vers avoid alco­hol, or sleep-induc­ing medica­ments, before dri­ving), but there is grow­ing evi­dence that spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills that are impor­tant for dri­ving can, indeed, be trained, result­ing in bet­ter dri­ving out­comes.

Researchers weigh in 

A key research ref­er­ence: the pub­lished stud­ies by Dr. Kar­lene Ball and Dr. Jer­ri Edwards. We had the for­tune to inter­view Dr. Edwards recent­ly, and this is what she had to say when I asked her to explain the results of their 2003 Human Fac­tors paper (Roenker, D., Cis­sell, G., Ball, K., Wadley, V., & Edwards, J. (2003). Speed of pro­cess­ing and dri­ving sim­u­la­tor train­ing result in improved dri­ving per­for­mance. Human Fac­tors, 45: 218–233):

Our goal was to train what is called the “use­ful field of view.” The use­ful field of view is a mea­sure of pro­cess­ing speed and visu­al atten­tion that is crit­i­cal for dri­ving per­for­mance, and one of the areas that declines with age. It has pre­vi­ous­ly been shown that this skill can be improved with train­ing, so we want­ed to see what effect it would have on the dri­ving per­for­mance of old­er adults, and whether the train­ing would be more or less effec­tive than a tra­di­tion­al dri­ving sim­u­la­tion course.

For the study, we divid­ed forty-eight adults over fifty-five years old into two inter­ven­tion groups of twen­ty-four peo­ple each. Each group received twen­ty hours of train­ing. One group was exposed to a tra­di­tion­al dri­ving sim­u­la­tor, where they learned spe­cif­ic dri­ving behav­iours. The oth­er one went through the cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram.

Both groups’ dri­ving per­for­mance improved right after their respec­tive pro­grams, but most ben­e­fits of the dri­ving sim­u­la­tor dis­ap­peared by month eigh­teen.

The speed-of-pro­cess­ing inter­ven­tion helped par­tic­i­pants not only improve “use­ful field of view,” the skill that was direct­ly trained, but it also trans­ferred into real-life dri­ving, and the results were sus­tained after 18 months. And, by the way, the eval­u­a­tion was as real as one can imag­ine: a 14-mile open road eval­u­a­tion.

Faster speed-of-pro­cess­ing seemed to enable adults to react bet­ter to unex­pect­ed events that require a fast response and to reduce by 40% the num­ber of dan­ger­ous manoeu­vres on real roads (defined as those that required the train­ing instruc­tor to inter­vene dur­ing the eval­u­a­tion).”

You can read the whole inter­view by click­ing on Improv­ing Dri­ving Skills and Brain Func­tion­ing- Inter­view with ACTIVE’s Jer­ri Edwards.

Note: the pro­gram used in that study, called Visu­al Aware­ness, was recent­ly acquired by Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion.

In sum­ma­ry

In short, more like­ly than not, I’d reply YES to the ques­tion used to open the New York Times arti­cle. A well-designed video game CAN make one a bet­ter dri­ver.

Of course, this is an emerg­ing field, and much more research needs to be done before appli­ca­tions become main­stream, but the field cer­tain­ly deserves more atten­tion, research dol­lars, and engage­ment by insur­ance com­pa­nies to design and con­duct real-world tri­als.

All­state: what about spend­ing just a frac­tion of your scary ad cam­paign ad cam­paign bud­get in explor­ing addi­tion­al poten­tial solu­tions?

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About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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