Over the next weeks we are going to be sharing the Executive Summary of our market report The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2008 with members and clients of several partner organizations (the British Columbia Seniors Living Association, where I will be speaking this Thursday, Neurotech Reports, where I will speak on October 24th, and the Health 2.0 conference, where we are sponsoring a panel on gaming for health), so it is only fair that we first share it with our own readers.
A spate of recent global news coverage on brain fitness and brain training reflects a growing interest in natural, non drug-based interventions to keep our brains sharp as we age. This interest is very timely, given an aging population, increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s rates, and soaring health care costs in the US that place more emphasis than ever on prevention and lifestyle changes.
US brain fitness market: significant and growing
We estimate the size of the US brain fitness market was $225m in 2007 – more than double what it was in 2005. Whereas K12 school systems were the largest buyers in 2005, consumers were responsible for most of the growth from 2005 to 2007. We estimate that the consumer segment grew from a few million in 2005 to $80m in 2007, and foresee significant market growth driven not only by consumers but also by healthcare and insurance providers.
As we speak to diverse audiences about this emerging field around the country we are frequently asked the following questions:
- Why are we talking about the brain fitness field at all?
Over the past decade, teams backed by neuroscientists around the world from the U.S. to Japan, Israel, and Sweden have been developing brain fitness software products with commercial applications. Since 2005, the market for brain fitness software products has grown significantly. One of the companies that has perhaps done the most to spark the commercial adoption of brain fitness products is Nintendo with its Brain Age and Brain Training games. Nintendo has shipped millions of copies globally since its launch in 2005. Less visible is the growing number of developers that are bringing to market brain fitness products with more solid clinical validation.
- Who is buying these brain fitness software products?
We see four key customer segments purchasing commercialized brain fitness software products in the US: consumers (mostly adults over 50 looking for ways to protect their memory and prevent or delay dementia, as well as some younger adults); healthcare and insurance providers (ranging from hospitals to nursing homes and retirement communities seeking the latest treatments for their patients and members); K12 administrators (interested in applications that can help students with dyslexia and related learning difficulties); and Fortune 1000 companies, the military and sports teams (looking for advancements in productivity).
- Is there science behind the claims made by brain fitness software products? Do these products work?
It depends how “working” is defined. If “working” is defined as quantifiable short-term improvements after a number of weeks of systematic brain training to improve specific cognitive skills, then yes, a number of the brain fitness software programs do seem to work. If, on the other hand, “working” means measurable long-term benefits, such as better overall brain health as we age, or lower incidence of Alzheimer’s symptoms, then the answer is that circumstantial evidence suggests they may work. But, it is still too early to tell.
- What are the public policy implications?
Given the enormous benefits of widespread initiatives to help delay the onset of dementia in the aging US population, both in terms of quality of life for citizens and healthcare cost savings, the US government and healthcare community are watching these trends carefully. For example, the Center for Disease Control recently partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to develop a comprehensive Cognitive Health roadmap to better guide research efforts and improve public education on the lifestyle habits that every proud owner of a brain could benefit from following.
Since this is a new, rapidly growing field, we have many open questions about the industry, which will only be clarified with time:
- Will consumer behavior change to adopt preventive brain exercises that take more time and effort than swallowing a pill? If so, what is the profile of consumers who are most likely to change their lifestyle? Even if brain fitness has no side effects, will users show the commitment required to see results?
- How can consumers and executives assess which cognitive priorities require most attention and track progress due to brain training? Where can they turn for quality information and education to navigate through the emerging research and the overwhelming number of new programs – to separate the hype from the reality? In the absence of clear biomarkers, will cognitive assessments become commonplace as objective baselines?
- What business model and offering will succeed? Software product sales? Online subscriptions? Fun games with unproven brain benefits? Programs that improve the mental skills involved in specific activities, such as driving? Applications that help slow down the progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to full-blown Alzheimer’s symptoms? Is this content-driven “edutainment”?
- Will therapeutic applications be regulated by the FDA?
- Will large-scale peer-reviewed research support a wider set of consumer applications?
Top three trends to watch: 2007–2015
What are some of the trends that anyone trying to understand this growing market should follow?
Here are some of our predictions that are expanded in Chapter 7:
- Brain fitness goes mainstream. An increased emphasis on brain fitness and maintenance will spread to retirement communities, gyms and health clubs. Will health clubs one day offer brain fitness programs, and perhaps “brain coaches” alongside rowing machines and step-masters? We think so.
- Leveraging better tools. Better and more widely available assessments of cognitive function will enable all of us to establish an objective baseline of how our minds are evolving, identify priorities for “workouts” and lifestyle interventions, and help us measure progress. Just as we find a variety of machines in health clubs today, in the future we can expect different programs tailored to train specific cognitive skills. New and improved computer-based brain fitness tools will come to market, and low tech options will also provide great value. There is more and more research on how meditation and cognitive therapy, to mention two examples, can be effective in literally rewiring parts of the brain.
- A growing ecosystem around those tools, including widespread incentives to use brain fitness products. For example, insurance companies will introduce incentives for members who want to follow brain fitness programs and companies will offer brain fitness training programs to attract and retain mature workers who want access to the best and the latest innovations to keep their minds sharp.
The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2008
– Published March 11th, 2008 (click Here to learn more and acquire your copy)
This 87-page report is the first to define the brain fitness software market, summarize the science behind brain plasticity and cognitive training, and analyze the size and trends of its four customer segments: consumers, healthcare & insurance providers, K12 school systems, and fortune 1000 companies, military, and sports teams.
The report tracks developments at over 20 public and private companies offering tools to assess and train brain functions and provides important industry data, insights and analysis to help investors, executives, entrepreneurs, and policy makers navigate the opportunities and risks of this rapidly growing market. The report discusses the implications of cognitive science on healthy aging and a number of disorders such as attention deficits, dyslexia, stroke and traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, autism, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. The report also provides information and frameworks to help institutional buyers make informed purchase decisions about brain fitness programs.
The companies included in the report are:
Advanced Brain Technologies
Applied Cognitive Engineering
Brain Resource Company
CNS Vital Signs
Cognitive Drug Research
Scientific Brain Training
You can click Here to learn more and acquire your copy.