Cognitive Heath News: January

Below you have a col­lec­tion of recent news and announcements:

1) Brain Fit­ness Com­ing to Senior Exer­cise Class­es (press release):

- “The Amer­i­can Senior Fit­ness Asso­ci­a­tion (SFA) has announced a new brain fit­ness train­ing pro­gram designed for exer­cise pro­fes­sion­als. Brain Fit­ness for Old­er Adults teach­es senior fit­ness instruc­tors and per­son­al train­ers how to incor­po­rate effec­tive cog­ni­tive fit­ness into phys­i­cal activ­i­ty pro­grams, offer­ing seniors the oppor­tu­ni­ty to boost both phys­i­cal and men­tal fit­ness simultaneously.”

Com­ment: a very time­ly ini­tia­tive, giv­en the inter­est we see in brain fit­ness edu­ca­tion and ini­tia­tives, and the ben­e­fits of both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise on brain health. It makes a lot of sense to enhance pub­lic aware­ness through train-the-train­er ini­tia­tives. What remains unclear in this SFA pro­gram is what is the direct evi­dence for some­thing that is billed as a “brain fit­ness train­ing pro­gram” and seems to advo­cate one par­tic­u­lar set of exer­cis­es and move­ments for their train­ers and train­ers’ clients. It is one thing to claim a prod­uct pro­vides good infor­ma­tion & is edu­ca­tion­al (like a book, or this blog, or class­es on the brain & brain health) and anoth­er one to claim that it is a “brain fit­ness train­ing pro­gram”, for which we should ask the same ques­tions we ask of any oth­er inter­ven­tion to enhance cog­ni­tive func­tions, tech­nol­o­gy-based or not, fol­low­ing our 10-Ques­tion Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion Check­list. What is the direct evi­dence that seniors trained by “senior fit­ness instruc­tors and per­son­al train­ers” using the method­ol­o­gy that the SFA advo­cates will “boost both phys­i­cal and men­tal fit­ness simultaneously”?

Update: the SFA pre­pared answers to our 10- Ques­tions, which you can access Here. They do seem to make sense in the abstract, but we still don’t which sci­en­tists, if any, reviewed and endorsed their pro­gram for accu­ra­cy and results, and it is unclear whether they present their activ­i­ties as pure­ly edu­ca­tion­al or as a proven intervention.

2) The MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute has pub­lished a new report: titled Dis­cov­er­ing What Mat­ters: Bal­anc­ing Mon­ey, Med­i­cine and Meaning.

Descrip­tion: “The adage that mon­ey can’t buy hap­pi­ness is sup­port­ed ana­lyt­i­cal­ly by new research demon­strat­ing the impor­tance of hav­ing pur­pose in one’s life and that the most con­tent peo­ple focus on the non-finan­cial essen­tials in their lives, even dur­ing dif­fi­cult eco­nom­ic times. Liv­ing the good life for mid­dle-aged and old­er Amer­i­cans is equat­ed with spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends, a pre­vi­ous­ly unquan­ti­fied find­ing, accord­ing to the MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute’s lat­est study, Dis­cov­er­ing What Mat­ters: Bal­anc­ing Mon­ey, Med­i­cine and Mean­ing, pro­duced in con­junc­tion with lead­ing author, life coach, and exec­u­tive edu­ca­tor, Richard Lei­der.  They describe the good life in terms of hav­ing health, a finan­cial safe­ty net and the time to do what is impor­tant to them.”

Report is avail­able Here (PDF, 69 kb).

3) Good arti­cle in the New York Times:
An Epi­dem­ic of Crash­es Among the Aging? Unlike­ly, Study Says

- “The (Insur­ance Insti­tute for High­way Dri­ving) insur­ance insti­tute is con­duct­ing fur­ther research to deter­mine why the risks appear to be going down for old­er dri­vers. It may be that today’s old­er dri­vers are sim­ply in bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal shape than their coun­ter­parts a decade ago, so they are not only less like­ly to make a dri­ving mis­take, but also less frail and bet­ter able to sur­vive injuries.”

Com­ment: There is no doubt that, as a group, old­er per­sons of any giv­en age are in bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal shape today than their coun­ter­parts years ago. For con­text, world­wide life expectan­cy has increased more than 20 years in less than 6o years — so you can imag­ine how a per­son in his or her ear­ly 70s today is in bet­ter shape than some­one in his or her mid-60s a few decades back.

Still, as the num­ber of peo­ple over the age of 60 starts to grow expo­nen­tial­ly giv­en the influx of baby boomers, soci­ety at large will prob­a­bly ben­e­fit from start­ing to think through 1) what are the types of pro­grams, whether intro­duced and man­aged by the AARP, DMV or car insur­ance com­pa­nies, that can help old­er adults dri­ve safe­ly for as long as they want and need, 2) what are the mech­a­nisms to pre­vent hav­ing dri­vers in our roads who don’t pos­sess the min­i­mum per­cep­tu­al and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties required to dri­ve “safe­ly” (and what “safe­ly” real­ly means).

And, yes, we should prob­a­bly have a sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion regard­ing teenage driving.
For relat­ed read­ing, you may enjoy these 2 articles:

- All­state: Can we improve Dri­ver Safe­ty using Posit Sci­ence InSight?

- Improv­ing Dri­ving Skills and Brain Func­tion­ing- Inter­view with ACTIVE’s Jer­ri Edwards

4) On the impor­tance of con­text for Cog­ni­tive and Emo­tion­al Health:
“For­tu­nate­ly, our field has moved beyond par­ti­san, and some­times polit­i­cal, pref­er­ence and now asks, What treat­ment is most effec­tive for which patients in what con­text?” — Ray­mon A. Levy and J. Stu­art Ablon, clin­i­cal direc­tor and direc­tor of the psy­chother­a­py research pro­gram in the depart­ment of psy­chi­a­try at Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hospital.

A few week’s ago, New York Times Book Review includ­ed some Let­ters to the Edi­tor that were even bet­ter that the orig­i­nal book review of Amer­i­can Ther­a­py.

Com­ment: We are see­ing a grow­ing num­ber of research-based tools and tech­niques (includ­ing cog­ni­tive ther­a­py, reviewed in the arti­cle) to mea­sure and help main­tain cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al health, both tech­nol­o­gy-based and tech­nol­o­gy-free. Now, none of them is a gen­er­al solu­tion (in the same way that no sin­gle drug is best for every­one and every­thing), so the ques­tion posed above could­n’t be more relevant.

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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