Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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New Interview Series (Part 1 of 10): Why Care About Brain Fitness Innovation?

Every Mon­day dur­ing the next 10 weeks we’ll dis­cuss here what lead­ing indus­try, sci­ence and pol­i­cy experts –all of whom will speak at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011)– have to say about emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to address, over the next 10 years, the grow­ing brain-relat­ed soci­etal demands.

With­out fur­ther ado, here you have what four Sum­mit Speak­ers say…

Alvaro Pas­cual-Leone is the Direc­tor of the Beren­son-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Inva­sive Brain Stim­u­la­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

Phys­i­cal fit­ness can refer to an over­all or gen­er­al state of health and well-being. How­ev­er, it is also often used more specif­i­cal­ly to refer to the abil­i­ty to per­form a giv­en activ­i­ty, occu­pa­tion, or sport.

Sim­i­lar­ly brain fit­ness might be used to refer to a gen­er­al state of healthy, opti­mized brain func­tion, or a more spe­cif­ic brain-based abil­i­ty to process cer­tain, spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion, enable cer­tain motor actions, or sup­port cer­tain cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Impor­tant­ly though, I would argue that phys­i­cal fit­ness REQUIRES brain fit­ness, while brain fit­ness ben­e­fits from, but does not require phys­i­cal fit­ness.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

A) Edu­ca­tion; B) Access to sup­port; C) Indi­vid­u­al­ly-tai­lored pro­grams that can be tru­ly deployed as ther­a­pies and can be appro­pri­ate­ly mon­i­tored in their effi­ca­cy.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

The estab­lish­ment of a reli­able screen­ing test to assess indi­vid­ual brain health that might be used to opti­mize inter­ven­tions and assess their effi­ca­cy.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

Con­duct­ing research, clin­i­cal pro­grams, devel­op­ing edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams. Our main web­site is: Beren­son-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Inva­sive Brain Stim­u­la­tion.

Brief bio: Dr. Pas­cual-Leone research­es the phys­i­ol­ogy of high­er cog­ni­tive func­tions and the study of brain plas­tic­ity in skill acqui­si­tion and recov­ery from injury. He is also the Pro­gram Direc­tor of the Har­vard-Thorndike Clin­i­cal Research Cen­ter of the Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter. Dr. Pas­cual-Leone obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Neu­ro­phys­i­ol­ogy from the Fac­ulty of Med­i­cine of Albert Lud­wigs Uni­ver­sity in Ger­many, and trained at the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota and the US Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health. He great­ly enjoys teach­ing and is the recip­i­ent of numer­ous awards.

Nathanael Eisen­berg is the CEO of Cog­niFit.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

To the extent that body fit­ness or phys­i­cal fit­ness can be main­tained or improved by phys­i­cal exer­cise of motor mus­cles, sim­i­lar­ly, the term brain fit­ness, as it is used today, mir­rors that cere­bral health (cog­ni­tive, emo­tion­al, bio­log­i­cal) might be main­tained or improved by exer­cise of dif­fer­ent kinds, both phys­i­cal AND cog­ni­tive.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

The aging pop­u­la­tion, men­tal health needs and chang­ing socio-eco­nom­ic real­i­ties will demand sig­nif­i­cant inno­va­tion and appli­ca­tions in the next decade to improve life­long qual­i­ty of life and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. It will be key to to make cog­ni­tive train­ing enjoy­able and fun while improv­ing con­sumers’ cog­ni­tive reserve in tar­get­ed ways.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

Chang­ing con­sumers’ habits towards brain health, to make them more proac­tive and per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

We have ini­tia­tives and busi­ness rela­tion­ships with a diverse group of part­ners rang­ing from direct to con­sumers offer­ing to health provider, physi­cians, men­tal health asso­ci­a­tion, dri­ving schools and insur­ance com­pa­nies. Peo­ple can learn more at: Cog­niFit. Also, SharpBrains.com just pub­lished a nice arti­cle on a recent study based on one of our prod­ucts to see whether Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Can Improve Phys­i­cal Fit­ness.

Brief bio: Mr. Eisen­berg start­ed his career in bank­ing at Schroders before work­ing as a finan­cial ana­lyst in the Trad­ing Room of the Union Ban­caire Privé. Mr. Eisen­berg then worked for the IT Con­sult­ing firm Cap Gem­ini, and was recruit­ed by Proc­ter and Gam­ble to man­age sev­eral mar­ket­ing and home care ini­tia­tives. After this, Mr. Eisen­berg co-found­ed ven­ture fund Milk Cap­i­tal, which became a major investor in Cog­niFit. Nathanael Eisen­berg is grad­u­ated from the HEC Lau­sanne with a Mas­ter of Man­age­ment and Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion.

Ken­neth Kosik is the Co-Direc­tor of UC San­ta Bar­bara Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute, and Founder of Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and Inno­v­a­tive Ther­a­pies (CFIT).

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

The brain is sim­ply an organ in the body with all the health require­ments of any oth­er organ. There­fore, I am trou­bled by the “ver­sus” in your ques­tion. Why set up an unnec­es­sary dual­ism? I can see the point of talk­ing about two his­tor­i­cal move­ments, but would rather dis­cuss how they com­ple­ment each oth­er.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

These pro­grams could reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Rig­or­ous stud­ies are need­ed to val­i­date this hypoth­e­sis.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

The chal­lenge is lay­ing the research ground­work that will put brain fit­ness on a firm sci­en­tif­ic basis.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

I’d sug­gest check­ing out my recent book The Alzheimer’s Solu­tion: How Today’s Care is Fail­ing Mil­lions and How We Can Do Bet­ter, and the web­site for CFIT.

Brief bio: Dr. Kosik received his M.D. degree from the Med­ical Col­lege of Penn­syl­va­nia, com­pleted a neu­rol­ogy res­i­dency from Tufts New Eng­land Med­ical Cen­ter, and held var­i­ous appoint­ments at the Har­vard Med­ical School. In the fall of 2004 he assumed the co-direc­tor­ship of the Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute and the Har­ri­man Chair at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San­ta Bar­bara. He has received mul­ti­ple awards, includ­ing a Whitak­er Health Sci­ences Award from Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, the Derek Den­ny-Brown Neu­ro­log­i­cal Schol­ar Award from the Amer­i­can Neu­ro­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, the Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion, and a NASA Group Achieve­ment Award.

Ken Gib­son is the Pres­i­dent of Learn­ingRx.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

If phys­i­cal fit­ness is the “abil­i­ty to func­tion effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly with­out injury, to enjoy leisure, to be healthy, to resist dis­ease, and to cope with emer­gency sit­u­a­tions” then brain fit­ness is the abil­i­ty to men­tal­ly func­tion effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly at work, play, or leisure, to be sharp, to resist men­tal dis­ease, and to cope with men­tal­ly demand­ing sit­u­a­tions. Com­po­nents of brain fit­ness include cog­ni­tive skills need­ed for fast, easy, and bet­ter learn­ing or work per­for­mance such as: atten­tion, work­ing and short term mem­o­ry, pro­cess­ing speed, log­ic and rea­son­ing, and audi­to­ry and visu­al pro­cess­ing. The rel­a­tive impor­tance of each of the com­po­nents varies for each task a per­son per­forms.

2. Where do you see a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty for brain fit­ness inno­va­tion to improve the lives of a large num­ber of peo­ple in the next decade?

Because brain fit­ness doesn’t require the space and equip­ment of phys­i­cal fit­ness it can become parts of many venues (insur­ance pro­grams, total fit­ness cen­ters – brain and phys­i­cal, school and job train­ing pro­grams, etc). We believe a major shift will be made in
cog­ni­tive rehab – from accom­mo­dat­ing cog­ni­tive weak­ness to train­ing skills.

3. What is one big chal­lenge in the way?

Where­as phys­i­cal fit­ness can result in seen phys­i­cal changes or func­tions (weight loss, larg­er mus­cles, run longer, more ener­gy, etc) brain fit­ness results in hard­er to define results – that con­nec­tion will have to be made con­vinc­ing­ly.

4. What are your main activ­i­ties in the field and where can peo­ple learn more?

We’re grow­ing a net­work of phys­i­cal loca­tions (cur­rent­ly there are 71 Learn­ingRx Brain Train­ing Cen­ters, most­ly help­ing kids with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties), expand­ing online activ­i­ties,  and look­ing for inde­pen­dent research val­i­da­tion of our most­ly inter­nal tri­als (we have over 15,000 stu­dent records with over 20 pre/post train­ing test results – WJ3 Cog & Ach – and over 100 Hx Dx data field – all avail­able to researchers). Our main web­site is: Learn­ingRx.

Brief bio: In 2002, Dr. Gib­son found­ed Learn­ingRx, a net­work of more than 60 cen­ters across the Unit­ed States and abroad offer­ing cog­ni­tive skills test­ing and train­ing. The com­pany has been named to Fran­chise Times “Fast 55” and Fran­chise Mar­ket­ing Magazine’s “Top 100 New Fran­chises,” as well as an hon­or­able men­tion on the Fran­chise 50 list put out by Fran­chise Busi­ness Review.

To Learn more and Reg­is­ter: click on 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit. Remem­ber that we offer friends of Sharp­Brains a 15% dis­count using dis­count code: sharp2011


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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.

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