Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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

Edi­to­r­i­al

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

Brain­Train

CNS Vital Signs

Cogmed

Cog­niFit

Cog­ni­tive Drug Research

Cogstate

Dakim

Gem­stone

Houghton Mif­flin

Lex­ia Learn­ing

Lumos Labs

MyBrain­Train­er

Nin­ten­do

NovaV­i­sion

Posit Sci­ence

Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing

Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing

Teach­Town

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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.