Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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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