Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mind Games @ Venture Capital Journal

The August issue of Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Jour­nal brings a very good piece on the emerg­ing brain fit­ness soft­ware  (also called “neu­rosoft­ware”) cat­e­go­ry:

Mind Games (sub­scrip­tion required)

– Dakim, Lumos Labs, Posit Sci­ence and oth­er brain fit­ness star­tups are start­ing to gain mind share and cap­i­tal from ven­ture firms.

The reporter and I spoke as Lumos Labs received its $3m round, and we dis­cussed oth­er fund­able start-ups, fea­tur­ing Cog­niFit. Which, as men­tioned over the week­end, just raised $5m.

If case you are a new Sharp­Brains read­er, per­haps vis­it­ing us after read­ing this VCJ arti­cle, let me pro­vide a quick overview of the cat­e­go­ry and our Mar­ket Report (which is annu­al, not quar­ter­ly as the arti­cle states):

A) Report High­lights

We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $225M in 2007, up from $100m in 2005 (50% CAGR), ana­lyz­ing the size and brain fitness/ training markettrends of four cus­tomer seg­ments: con­sumers, health­care & insur­ance providers, K12 school sys­tems, and for­tune 1000 com­pa­nies, mil­i­tary, and sports teams. Two seg­ments fueled the mar­ket growth from 2005 to 2007: con­sumers (grew from $5m to $80m, 300% CAGR) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $36m to $65m, 35% CAGR).

Ten Spe­cif­ic High­lights from The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 report include:

1) 2007 was a sem­i­nal year for the US Brain Fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket, which reached $225 mil­lion in rev­enues up from an esti­mat­ed $100 mil­lion in 2005.

2) Over 20 com­pa­nies are offer­ing tools to assess and train cog­ni­tive skills to four cus­tomer seg­ments: con­sumers; health­care and insur­ance providers; K12 school sys­tems; and For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies, the mil­i­tary, and sports teams.

3) The Nin­ten­do Brain Age phe­nom­e­non has dri­ven much of the growth. The con­sumer seg­ment grew from a few mil­lion in 2005 to an esti­mat­ed $80 mil­lion in 2007.

4) There is major con­fu­sion in the mar­ket, so edu­ca­tion will be key. Users and buy­ers need help to nav­i­gate the maze of prod­ucts and claims.

5) Over 400 res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties for old­er adults have launched com­put­er­ized brain fit­ness cen­ters. Sales to the health­care and insur­ance provider seg­ment grew from $35 mil­lion in 2005 to an esti­mat­ed $65 mil­lion in 2007.

6) More than five pro­grams have shown results in ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als. Cog­ni­tive func­tions that can be trained include: visu­al and audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing, work­ing mem­o­ry, atten­tion, and deci­sion-mak­ing.

7) A prod­uct has obtained 510(k) FDA clear­ance for reha­bil­i­ta­tion of stroke and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury patients. Anoth­er prod­uct is being used by a grow­ing net­work of ADHD spe­cial­ists.

8) Large-scale, ful­ly-auto­mat­ed cog­ni­tive assess­ments are being used in a grow­ing num­ber of clin­i­cal tri­als. This opens the way for the devel­op­ment of inex­pen­sive con­sumer-fac­ing, base­line cog­ni­tive assess­ments.

9) The poten­tial for K12 Edu­ca­tion remains large­ly untapped due to lim­it­ed research link­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing to aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance.

10) Com­pa­nies, sports teams and the mil­i­tary are find­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The aging work­force will make this a must.

B) Table of Con­tents


Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry

Chap­ter 1: Why now? Mar­ket Overview

  • Brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket: the focus of this report
  • Four cus­tomer seg­ments of the brain fit­ness indus­try
  • Part of the larg­er neu­rotech­nol­o­gy mar­ket
  • Brain fit­ness became a media dar­ling in 2007
  • Con­flu­ence of mar­ket forces dri­ves growth
  • Demand: range of con­sumers and insti­tu­tion­al buy­ers of brain fit­ness prod­ucts
  • Sci­ence: new find­ings spark focus on brain fit­ness mar­ket
  • Sup­ply: sep­a­rat­ing hype from real­i­ty in the claims of brain fit­ness soft­ware prod­ucts
  • Pol­i­cy: brain fit­ness start­ing to shape pub­lic pol­i­cy agen­da
  • Nav­i­gat­ing the brain fit­ness soft­ware pro­gram land­scape
  • Inter­view with Dr. Yaakov Stern — The con­nec­tion between build­ing a cog­ni­tive reserve and delay­ing alzheimer’s symp­toms

Chap­ter 2: The Sci­ence of Brain Fit­ness

  • New brain par­a­digm: life­long capac­i­ty to change and cre­ate new neu­rons
  • Neu­roimag­ing: enabling sci­en­tif­ic explo­ration of the brain
  • Cog­ni­tion: core brain func­tion
  • Some cog­ni­tive func­tions improve as we age oth­ers typ­i­cal­ly decline
  • The four pil­lars of brain health
  • Soft­ware-based brain fit­ness pro­grams: effec­tive to train spe­cif­ic skills
  • Cog­ni­tive assess­ments: crit­i­cal to iden­ti­fy bot­tle­necks and mea­sure progress
  • Cross-train­ing the brain builds up the cog­ni­tive reserve
  • An emerg­ing field: much more research needs to be done
  • Inter­view with Dr. Jer­ri Edwards — Improv­ing Brain Func­tion­ing for bet­ter Dri­ving and Aging

Chap­ter 3: Con­sumers Tak­ing Charge of Their Brain Health

  • Nin­ten­do cre­ates glob­al aware­ness for brain train­ing
  • Grow­ing appetite for casu­al games among play­ers over forty
  • Baby boomers move the mar­ket by sheer size
  • Con­sumer inter­est in health and well­ness
  • Grow­ing con­cerns about herbal sup­ple­ments
  • Com­mer­cial soft­ware prod­ucts flood mar­ket with incon­sis­tent claims
  • A num­ber of crit­i­cal ques­tions remain unan­swered
  • Com­pa­ny pro­files: select con­sumer brain fit­ness prod­ucts

Chap­ter 4: Health­care and Insur­ance Providers  Focus on Pre­ven­tive Health & Clin­i­cal Con­di­tions

  • Brain fit­ness cen­ters becom­ing main­stream in res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties
  • A major incen­tive for insur­ers: delay­ing the onset of Alzheimers symp­toms
  • Emerg­ing clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions
  • Stroke/ Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury Reha­bil­i­ta­tion
  • Atten­tion Deficit Dis­or­ders
  • Poten­tial future clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions
  • Use of com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments in large-scale clin­i­cal tri­als
  • Open ques­tions
  • Com­pa­ny pro­files: select brain fit­ness prod­ucts sold through health­care or insur­ance providers
  • Inter­view with Torkel Kling­berg  Expand­ing Work­ing Mem­o­ry for kids with ADD/ ADHD
  • Inter­view with Eliz­a­beth Zelinksi Healthy Aging Enhanced with Com­put­er-based Pro­grams

Chap­ter 5: K12 School Sys­tems Respond­ing to Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties in New Ways

  • Ear­ly K12 brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions
  • Mis­match between aca­d­e­m­ic needs and the claims of exist­ing offer­ings
  • A great resource: the US Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tions What Works Clear­ing­house
  • Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ings his­to­ry and plans
  • What Works Clear­ing­hous­es take on Fast For­word
  • Houghton Mif­flins Earo­bics
  • Oth­er pro­gram devel­op­ers
  • Open ques­tions
  • Inter­view with Dr. Bradley Gib­son Link­ing Com­put­er-based Cog­ni­tive Train­ing to Aca­d­e­m­ic Per­for­mance

Chap­ter 6: For­tune 1000 Com­pa­nies, Mil­i­tary & Sports Teams Improv­ing Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty

  • For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies increase health & well­ness bud­gets
  • In light of the aging work­force, a focus on brain fit­ness is a log­i­cal exten­sion
  • In com­pa­nies start­ing to embrace seri­ous games, brain fit­ness may be a new appli­ca­tion
  • Mil­i­tary and sports teams lever­age new brain fit­ness tech­nolo­gies
  • Pro­grams to improve dri­ving skills pro­lif­er­ate
  • Few pure-breed play­ers, but some mar­ket lead­ers are start­ing to take notice
  • Inter­view with Dr. Daniel Gopher Appli­ca­tions for Com­put­er-based Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions

Chap­ter 7: Future direc­tions: mar­ket trends 2007–2015

End Notes

C) Com­pa­nies Includ­ed in the report:

Advanced Brain Tech­nolo­gies

Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing

Brain Resource Com­pa­ny


CNS Vital Signs



Cog­ni­tive Drug Research




Houghton Mif­flin

Lex­ia Learn­ing

Lumos Labs




Posit Sci­ence

Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing

Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing


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2 Responses

  1. Cindy King says:

    Wow, this was a real­ly inter­est­ing post. When I see kids play­ing those games I think that they are almost the oppo­site, brain dead­en­ing. See­ing that a FDA clear­ance for reha­bil­i­ta­tion of stroke was giv­en makes me won­der if ear­ly onset Alzheimer patients shouldn’t be try­ing these. I have heard won­der­ful things about puz­zles so why not with soft­ware?

    I stum­bled the post and includ­ed a link to it in my week­ly Inter­na­tion­al Mar­keter Review Blog Car­ni­val.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Hel­lo Cindy, well, it depends on what “play­ing those games” means…not all are designed the same, or have the same lev­el of evi­dence behind.

    In terms of Alzheimer’s, that is indeed an area with much promise for the field, giv­en that cog­ni­tive train­ing (as well as phys­i­cal exer­cise) could help slow down cog­ni­tive decline linked to Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s (not pre­vent these dis­eases, but slow down the typ­i­cal tra­jec­to­ry of cogn­tive decline).

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