In the past two days, The New York Times has published twoÃ‚Â excellent articles onÃ‚Â brain and cognitive fitness. Despite appearing in separate sections (technology and editorial),Ã‚Â the twoÃ‚Â have more in common thanÃ‚Â immediately meets the eye. BothÃ‚Â raiseÃ‚Â keyÃ‚Â questions thatÃ‚Â politicians, health policy makers, business leaders,Ã‚Â educatorsÃ‚Â and consumersÃ‚Â shouldÃ‚Â pay attention to.
1) First, Exercise Your Brain, or Else YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll … Uh …, by Katie Hafner (5/3/08). Some quotes:
- “At the same time, boomers are seizing on a mounting body of evidence that suggests that brains contain more plasticity than previously thought, and many people are taking matters into their own hands, doing brain fitness exercises with the same intensity with which they attack a treadmill.”
- “Alvaro Fernandez, whose brain fitness and consulting company, SharpBrains, has a Web site focused on brain fitness research. He estimates that in 2007 the market in the United States for so-called neurosoftware was $225 million.”
- “Mr. Fernandez pointed out that compared with, say, the physical fitness industry, which brings in $16 billion a year in health club memberships alone, the brain fitness software industry is still in its infancy. Yet it is growing at a 50 percent annual rate, he said, and he expects it to reach $2 billion by 2015.”
- “Boomers believe they have ample reason to worry. There is no definitive laboratory test to detect AlzheimerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disease”.Ã‚Â
- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Smart people find new ways to exercise their brains that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t involve buying software or taking expensive workshops,” he (Note: magazine publisher David Bunnell) said.
Comments:Ã‚Â I enjoyed the conversations I had with the NYT reporter, Katie Hafner. The main 3 points I wanted to convey were, and are:
a)Ã‚Â The brain fitness software programs mentioned in the article (and others)Ã‚Â are no more than “tools“Ã‚Â to exercise certain brain functions.Ã‚Â None of the productsÃ‚Â on the market today offer an overall brain healthÃ‚Â solution. Some programs are helpful at training specific cognitive skills that tend to decline with age, othersÃ‚Â improve attention or decision making skills, and still othersÃ‚Â help assess cognitive functions. If health,Ã‚Â education and corporate executivesÃ‚Â as well as consumersÃ‚Â become more familiar with the progressÃ‚Â that cognitive science has made over the last 10–20 years, they will be able toÃ‚Â make informed decisions about which, if any, tools, may help. This is what “smart people” do: adapt to new environments and use new tools appropriately ‑Ã‚Â without falling prey either to manufacturers’ inflated/ confusing claims, or negating the value of those tools as a general principle.
-“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the skills revolution. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information.”
-“the most important part of informationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s journey is the last few inches Ã¢â‚¬â€ the space between a personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information? Does he or she have the training to exploit it?”
-“But the cognitive age paradigm emphasizes psychology, culture and pedagogy Ã¢â‚¬â€ the specific processes that foster learning.”
Article: DavidÃ‚Â Brooks:Ã‚Â The Cognitive Age