The Brain Fitness/ Training Market: An Executive Summary

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.

Exec­u­tive Summary

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.

Mar­ket dynamics

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 Brain Training/ Brain Fitness Marketlook­ing 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.

Open ques­tions

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.

Report High­lights
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Com­pa­nies Included
End Notes

The com­pa­nies includ­ed in the report are:

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


You can click Here to learn more and acquire your copy.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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