Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.

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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.