Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Cognitive Health Track at Games for Health Conference: Full Schedule Announced!

Games for Health and SharpBrains have partnered to bring you the first Cognitive Games for Health Conference - Cognitive Health TrackHealth Track in a Games for Health Conference, June 11-12th in Boston. If you are interested, in attending the conference, you can learn more and register Here.

To get a 15% off registration fees ($379), you can use discount code: sharp09, when you register Here.

Cognitive Health Track, Powered by SharpBrains

Thursday, June 11th

10.20 (50m) Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation
Speaker(s): Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

Scientific, technological and demographic trends have converged to create a new $265m market in the US alone: serious games, software and online applications that can help people of all ages assess and train cognitive abilities. Alvaro Fernandez will provide a Bird’s Eye View of the science, market segments and trends, competitive landscape, and main challenges ahead, based on The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009 report released in May, which included Research Executive Briefs prepared by 12 leading scientists and a survey of 2,000+ decision-makers and early adopters.

61% of respondents to the survey Strongly Agreed with the statement “Addressing cognitive and brain health should be a healthcare priority.” But, 65% Agreed/Strongly Agreed with “I don’t really know what to expect from products making brain claims.” In this session, Alvaro will publicly unveil the new book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, To Keep Your Brain Sharp, co-authored by neuropsychologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and himself, aimed at helping consumers and professionals understand and navigate this growing field.

11.20 (30m) The Allstate-Posit Science Partnership: Cognitive Training for Safer Driving
Speaker(s): Tom Warden, Allstate; Henry Mahncke, Posit Science

Evidence-based cognitive training programs have been available in retirement communities for several years. Now, they are reaching a younger population including Boomers through innovative partnerships, like insurers.

In October 2008 auto insurance company Allstate and brain fitness software developer Posit Science announced a research collaboration that could lead to “potentially the next big breakthrough in automobile safety”. The purpose of this session is to review novel ways of getting the science of cognitive training into the real world where it can help people. Representatives from Allstate and Posit Science will discuss why these partnerships work for insurers, developers, and end users. They will also provide a thorough review of the evaluation process a major partner goes through when selecting a cognitive training company.

12.00 (30m) What Consumers Buy and Why
Speaker(s): Lindsay Gaskins, Marbles: The Brain Store

Launched in October 2008, Marbles: The Brain Store is a retail store that focuses on products designed to stimulate and strengthen the brain. Marbles currently has one store located in downtown Chicago, and is planning to open two more stores in Chicago during the summer. The Marbles collection of over 250 products includes software, games, books, and puzzles that fall into the five categories of critical thinking, memory, word skills, visual perception and coordination. Every day, the Marbles team is learning first-hand what customers are looking for and identifying the best assortment of products to meet their needs.

Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store, will share some of the consumer insights her team has identified while serving nearly 10,000 customers as well as tips on effective strategies for developers of software products and videogames to connect with customers.

2pm (70m) The Road Ahead: 5 Challenges And Potential Solutions for the Game-Based Cognitive Health field
Speaker(s): Tom Warden, Allstate; Henry Mahncke, Posit Science; Peter Christianson, Young Drivers of Canada; Evian Gordon, Brain Resource; Theresa Cerulli, Cerulli & Associates

In a recent SharpBrains survey, decision-makers and early adopters were asked, “What is the most important problem you see in the brain fitness field and how do you think it can be solved?” Respondents identified the following priorities in rank order: Public awareness of the importance of maintaining cognitive health (39%), Navigating Claims to separate reality from hope from hype (21%), Research to understand what works for whom, and how different interventions may complement each other (15%), Healthcare Culture needs to better integrate cognitive health issues (14%), Need for Objective Assessments (6%), other (5%).

In this session, five leading decision-makers and innovators with backgrounds in research, clinical practice, insurance, driving schools, cognitive training and assessments, will identify the main challenges as they see them and will propose specific solutions to help build a sustainable field that can significantly contribute to the cognitive health of people across the lifespan.

3.20 (50m) Emerging Research and Interventions for Attention Deficits and Schizophrenia
Speaker(s): Theresa Cerulli, Cerulli & Associates; Ann Maloney, University of Vermont

Growing research emphasizes the role that cognitive deficits play in a variety of clinical conditions and suggests ways how to ameliorate those deficits. This opens the door to the use of evidence-based nonpharmacologic strategies to improve neurocognition by clinical care providers, as seen through the lenses of attention deficits and schizophrenia.

Dr. Theresa Cerulli, Harvard-trained psychiatrist, has been offering Cogmed working memory training in her practice in Andover, MA, for two years now. She is a nationally recognized expert on ADHD and a frequent speaker on the topic of attention deficits and co-existing behavioral health conditions. Her vision is in combining traditional medicine with healthy living to promote cognitive and emotional well being.

Dr. Ann Maloney will discuss an ongoing pilot study funded by NIH to examine whether an intensive computerized intervention provided by Posit Science and targeted on improving central auditory and visual processing and executive functioning can be implemented in youth with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Neurocognition (primary outcome measure), global functioning, psychiatric symptoms and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) will be assessed prior to beginning the interventions, at completion of the intervention (20 weeks) and 8 and 12 months following baseline.

4.30 (30m) Cognitive Rehab Means Getting Health Professionals to Get Gamey
Speaker(s): Laura Fay, Happy Neuron

While cognitive remediation and rehabilitation therapies, in the form of interactive online games, are being used to treat conditions such as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Stroke, Depression and Schizophrenia there are many issues involved with what’s needed to get practitioners to integrate them into their practice. This sessions covers lessons learned about the necessary characteristics these games and programs must have to be effective and to win over practitioners to use them as an integral part of their treatment practice. We’ll discuss issues of data confidentiality, distance therapy approaches, learning adaptations, and more.

5.20 (30m) An Innovative Partnership to Help Patients with Multiple Sclerosis with a Side Scrolling Videogame
Speaker(s): Robert Hone, Red Hill Studios

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable neurological disease that affects an estimated 400,000 people in the United States, with a new case diagnosed each hour. Recent studies have pointed out that in addition to physical impairments, the disease can also produce significant cognitive challenges. Creative Director Robert Hone of Red Hill Studios will report on their development of cognitive therapy game specifically designed to address crucial cognitive functions relevant to MS patients such as processing speed, working memory, attention, and executive function.The game will feature a common consumer game genre – the side scroller – to present a challenging and engaging game experience. The project is sponsored by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals on behalf of the MS Technology Collaborative, a joint effort between Bayer, Microsoft, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Friday, June 12th

10.20 (40m) Neuroplasticity-based Implications, Opportunities, and Challenges, to Improve Cognitive Health across the Lifespan
Speaker(s): Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester; Joshua Steinerman, Einstein-Montefiore, Murali Doraiswamy, Duke University

Interactive media in the form of software and videogames can be seen as a vehicle to harness neuroplasticity and benefit cognitive health across the lifespan. This field is still in its infancy, but emerging evidence suggests that specific populations may benefit from specific interventions.

Three leading researchers, from Duke University, University of Rochester, and Albert Einstein-Montefiore, will discuss the opportunities and challenges they see to benefit younger and older minds in both healthy and clinical environments.

11.10 (30m) A Venture Capitalist’s View of the Healthy Games Opportunity
Speaker(s): Tim Chang, Norwest Venture Partners

The Healthy Games opportunity, as a product, destination, network and community, is growing. This opens the door to professional venture investors to partner with entrepreneurs to explore business models that can ensure the sustainability and long-term impact of healthy game developers.

Venture firms Norwest Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital invested $3m in Lumos Labs in June 2008, making it their first investment in the healthy games category. Tim will outline their business rationale and evaluation process, addressing why Norwest decided to play in the space, why they selected Lumos Labs, and the opportunities and challenges to build a sustainable healthy games company.

11.50 (40) Reaching Users with a Multi-Platform Strategy
Speaker(s): Vinay Gidwaney, MIT Media Lab & Energy Inside; Kunal Sarkar, Lumos Labs

Keeping a healthy game user engaged through various channels (destination web site, mobile, widgets and social media) can drive new customer acquisition, deeper engagement and a sustained relationship with the user. The key to establishing a successful multi-channel strategy lies in customizing the experience for each channel, while retaining a cohesive user experience across these channels. Two pioneers in cognitive and emotional health will share challenges and lessons learned in launching multi-channel content strategies.

In the last 24 months, Lumos Labs has launched a destination website ( in several languages, created custom applications for social media networks (such as Facebook, Yahoo Apps, iGoogle), and released several applications on multiple mobile platforms (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.). Along the way, they have made mistakes and learned from them. Kunal will share lessons learned around technology implementation and discuss some of the unique product opportunities offered by each channel. He will also discuss potential pitfalls and some of the challenges that they faced.

Energy Inside is in the early stages of inventing a novel mental health delivery system to help people cope more effectively, be more resilient and achieve greater emotional well-being. Through interactive social media, commonsense reasoning psychology and a learning recommendation engine, Energy Inside will deliver micro-interventions (pep) that are intended to shift mindset when a person needs it most. The goal is to leverage existing networks to spread, living where people experience their connected life as opposed to being a destination web property. Energy Inside uses a social interaction model to interface with the user and operates within multiple communication mediums (web and mobile, SMS, email, instant messaging).

1.30 (30) An Analysis of Game Design Issues in Brain Games
Speaker(s): Brian Winn, Michigan State University

Games to exercise the brain have emerged as a specialized serious games market segment, in the form of individual games and companies specializing a coordinated suite of good-for-you cognitive workouts. Neuroscience research addresses the question of whether playing games can improve cognitive functioning. Michigan State University’s brain game design research looks at whether today’s brain games are good games. MSU faculty and students have analyzed a random sample of individual and brain fitness company brain games. The research characterizing brain game design along the lines of graphics and sound, premise, rules, conflict, challenge, character, feedback, navigation, and story as well as which forms of fun and specific cognitive functions are targeted.

2.10 (30) Innovative Approaches to Scientific Validation
Speaker(s): Michael Scanlon, Lumos Labs

Validation is a critical component of bringing a cognitive training product to market. However, it can also be a challenge to execute given the complexities of running clinical trials. Lumos Labs developed its online cognitive training application,, to be a research-friendly platform for scientific exploration. The goal was to facilitate collaborative work by academic and medical researchers, and enable rapid innovation of cognitive training tools by making testing and scientific investigation more efficient. Third-party research is inherently more convincing than internally conducted studies because it removes any perceived conflict of interest. It is also impractical to conduct a large number of studies with limited financial and human resources. In less than two years from the commercial launch of Lumosity, more than 10 academic researchers are now conducting experiments to evaluate outcomes of training with the online program. What aspects of the platform make it appealing to researchers? How can one position a healthy game product to be utilized by independent investigators? How can this platform be leveraged for your own research? This session will discuss both the commercial and research perspectives with lessons learned in the implementation of the Lumosity platform for research. Challenges and limitations of this approach will also be discussed.

2.50 (30) Wrapping Up: What We Have Learned, What is Next
Speaker(s): Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

As evidenced during the whole track, there is already a very active cognitive health videogames industry and field of research. Games for Health and SharpBrains partnered to create a 2-day conversation with researchers, thought-leaders and industry pioneers and help ensure the sustainability of using “serious games” to measure and improve cognitive health.

What have we learned during this 2-day conversation? What are some of the priorities and challenges for the next 12 months for the field at large, and for everyone involved? How can we have a better track next year? What can we do to stay in touch and collaborate? This interactive session will help us summarize the key highlights from the whole track, identify emerging assumptions, themes, and priorities, and discuss collaborative next steps.

To get a 15% off registration fees ($379), you can use discount code: sharp09, when you register Here

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