Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Pumping up the Brain: Reflections on the SharpBrains Virtual Summit

On Jan­u­ary 18–20, 2010 Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and his team at Sharp­Brains put togeth­er a splen­did sharpbrains_summit_logoline-up of speak­ers on a wide range of top­ics relat­ed to emerg­ing brain fit­ness research, tech­nolo­gies, and mar­kets, and clin­i­cal cog­ni­tive and men­tal health issues. IFTF was proud to be a spon­sor of this event.

Although the con­fer­ence was vir­tu­al, aside from the rig­ors of trav­el and a bas­ket of bagels on the hall­way table, my lev­el of intel­lec­tu­al stim­u­la­tion (and fatigue) mir­rored most of my face-to-face con­fer­ence expe­ri­ences. It was a tech­ni­cal suc­cess and the con­tent was first-rate.

The con­fer­ence was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for us at IFTF to gath­er data and map the research land­scape in cog­ni­tive fit­ness, espe­cial­ly as it relates to our 2010 Health Hori­zons research project around “Neu­ro­cen­tric Health.”

I’d like to share a small sam­ple of the obser­va­tions, shifts, and points of inter­est we took from the con­fer­ence.

1. The fore­cast of Dr. Michael Merzenich, an expert in brain plas­tic­i­ty, that clin­i­cal prac­tice and treat­ment will move from drug/­surgery-based inter­ven­tions to non-inva­sive tech­niques, prac­tices, and pre­ven­ta­tive coach­ing is pro­found. This would change the tim­ing, lev­el, and qual­i­ty of treat­ment inter­ven­tions, and could be a sig­nif­i­cant cat­a­lyst to the (arguably) need­ed change in medical/clinical point of care and cul­ture that Dr. P Murali Doraiswamy of Duke Uni­ver­si­ty men­tioned as well. This shift would impact the insur­ance indus­try and risk pro­files, pay­ment mech­a­nisms, and, most impor­tant­ly, might be bet­ter for patients as well.

2. I am always wary of reduc­tion­ist mod­els and the ten­den­cy to focus our atten­tion on cer­tain organs or meth­ods at the expense of the whole sys­tem. This hes­i­ta­tion is espe­cial­ly impor­tant when the focus is on the brain. I was very hap­py to hear most of the pre­sen­ters and researchers talk­ing about the brain in terms of an ecology–as inte­grat­ed with­in a mind/body/environment relay sys­tem. I think this is a very pos­i­tive sign for the direc­tion of the field of brain fit­ness, and hope­ful­ly for the brain sci­ences at large.

3. It is clear there is major shift occur­ing in the allo­ca­tion of resources (finan­cial, intel­lec­tu­al, infra­struc­tur­al) into brain and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. The tsuna­mi of aging boomers will make this space even more appeal­ing to researchers and investors. The clear sign that cog­ni­tive fit­ness works best when start­ed ear­ly also points to not just boomers, but peo­ple of all ages, as a poten­tial mar­ket and bene­fac­tor of these tech­niques.

4. The under­stand­ing and mit­i­ga­tion of risk is being trans­formed. Hav­ing more com­plete and pow­er­ful assess­ments of our cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, and being able to track these over time in com­par­i­son to per­son­al past per­for­mance, as well as the larg­er pop­u­la­tion, will be a pow­er­ful tool for under­stand­ing and inter­ven­ing in cer­tain activ­i­ties (like dri­ving a car). The results Tom War­den shared on the reduc­tion of acci­dents from peo­ple who engaged in All­state’s cog­ni­tive improve­ment pro­gram was telling of the pos­i­tive impact that train­ing can have on our every­day lives.

5. The dynam­ics between sci­en­tif­ic researchers and mar­ket entre­pre­neurs will be inter­est­ing to watch. Clear­ly, the field of legit­i­mate researchers in cog­ni­tive fit­ness does not want to go the way of neu­triceu­ti­cals, in which the mar­ket was flood­ed with exag­ger­at­ed claims, shod­dy prod­ucts, and huck­sters of all kinds. The need for rig­or­ous test­ing, reg­u­la­tion and stan­dards is clear. How­ev­er, one must be care­ful not to squeeze out inno­va­tion by walling off the field only to those who meet cer­tain cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. The desire for legit­i­ma­cy might be used as a weapon of con­trol and choke off poten­tial part­ners and inno­va­tors who may be able to bring the ben­e­fits of cogn­ti­ive train­ing to large num­bers of peo­ple.

We will be work­ing and think­ing about these issues and more, and thank Alvaro and Sharp­Brains for cre­at­ing a very use­ful plat­form to share infor­ma­tion and engage in this impor­tant con­ver­sa­tion.

jakedJake Duna­gan is a Research Direc­tor at the Insti­tute For The Future. His research exam­ines the role of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies in trans­form­ing sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, cul­ture, and gov­er­nance, and he has been lead­ing explo­rations into new meth­ods for com­mu­ni­cat­ing fore­sight. Jake is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing his Ph.D. at the Manoa School of Futures Stud­ies on neu­ropol­i­tics, neu­ropow­er, and alter­na­tive futures for the extend­ed mind. You can vis­it his blog Here.

  • Link to Sharp­Brains Sum­mit: Here.

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness, Technology

Tags: , , , , ,

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)