Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Lessons from the SharpBrains Summit: Status Quo Not an Option

The 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit gath­ered  more than 260 research and indus­try lead­ers in 16 coun­tries for 3 days to dis­cuss the chang­ing land­scape. Held online, par­tic­i­pants from all over the globe  attend­ed to hear more than 40 thought lead­ers, sci­en­tists, entre­pre­neurs and pol­i­cy mak­ers out­line the evolv­ing mar­ket­place. Dis­cus­sion moved from cog­ni­tive fit­ness to neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, across reg­u­la­to­ry and pol­i­cy trends, and new prod­uct launch­es by new and estab­lished play­ers  What did we take home from the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit? Was it nov­el con­sumer insights aris­ing from a new retail land­scape? What of pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives from inno­va­tion clus­ters around the globe? Do you see a future pop­u­lat­ed by neu­ro­science toolk­its, dri­ven by the inex­orable demo­graph­ic changes set to occur in the com­ing decades? Or was it a look “under the hood” of tech­nol­o­gy plat­forms devel­oped by cat­e­go­ry lead­ers that sharp­ened our insight? Here are 10 emerg­ing themes:

1. The Need for Stan­dard­iza­tion of method­olo­gies

A pro­fu­sion of cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al health tests, bat­ter­ies and new tech­nolo­gies are crowd­ing the research envi­ron­ment. The NIH tool­box for the assess­ment of a broad range of cog­ni­tive domains and their asso­ci­at­ed deficits, to be released in Sep­tem­ber 2012, can con­tribute to the stan­dard­iza­tion of assess­ment tools, pro­vid­ing guid­ance to the research and clin­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties. At the same time, the range of prod­ucts in the wider mar­ket­place demands a neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty clear­ing house that pro­vides trans­par­ent infor­ma­tion to con­sumers, orga­ni­za­tions, clin­i­cians and edu­ca­tion­al pro­fes­sion­als regard­ing sci­en­tif­ic valid­i­ty and oth­er com­po­nents of val­ue.

2. Men­tal Cap­i­tal requires a life­long holis­tic approach

What­ev­er the nomen­cla­ture, brain health starts at birth and encoun­ters an array of chal­lenges over the life­time as out­lined in Cary Coop­er’s dis­cus­sion of the UK gov­ern­men­t’s Men­tal Cap­i­tal and Well­be­ing report. As humans age, an evolv­ing approach that blends indi­vid­ual needs, envi­ron­men­tal inte­gra­tion and appro­pri­ate life-cycle inter­ven­tions will be required with tai­lored pro­grams of assess­ment, exer­cise and social­iza­tion to improve brain health. Eth­i­cal quan­daries around data col­lec­tion and ear­ly diag­no­sis of mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment will require fur­ther debate and pol­i­cy devel­op­ments.

3. The inevitable con­ver­gence with emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and pro­vi­sion of cross plat­form solu­tions

Increas­ing­ly, smart devices and envi­ron­ments will allow seam­less data cap­ture  of cog­ni­tive vari­ables, per­mit­ting lon­gi­tu­di­nal, in vivo assess­ment of cog­ni­tive func­tion. Cog­ni­tive screen­ing will be con­duct­ed through smart phones and oth­er nov­el embed­ded tech­nolo­gies in the home and ambi­ent set­tings. Inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of appli­ca­tions with Elec­tron­ic Med­ical Records (EMRs) will be the next step in build­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty in health­care set­tings.

4. The era of “big data” will shape new appli­ca­tions and research fields

New plat­forms that lever­age large data sets are gain­ing trac­tion and pulling in ear­ly adopters from the research com­mu­ni­ty. BRAIN­net deep data­base of brain, cog­ni­tive, genom­ic and clin­i­cal data and’ s vast data­base of con­sumer inter­ac­tions har­vest­ed via its web plat­form  are allow­ing researchers to pose new and mean­ing­ful ques­tions from robust and flex­i­ble data assets. Val­i­dat­ed tools that reduce research dupli­ca­tion and val­i­date emerg­ing research ques­tions are set to enhance infor­ma­tion yield and reduce research costs.

5. Con­sumer needs and wants are not what they seem

Stay­ing sharp and short term mem­o­ry are com­mon­ly cit­ed needs, but what of oth­er areas such as man­ag­ing stress, improv­ing men­tal arith­metic and con­cen­tra­tion skills?  Enjoy­able, inter­ac­tive prod­ucts can act as the sug­ar coat­ing for the under­ly­ing sci­ence, pro­vid­ing moti­va­tion­al impe­tus for engage­ment with cog­ni­tive enhance­ment. Edu­ca­tion­al cus­tomer ser­vice, low­er price points and tri­al­a­bil­i­ty are appeal­ing for new con­sumers look­ing to take their first steps in this new mar­ket.

6. The lead­ing plat­forms are adap­tive and pro­voke per­for­mance chal­lenge

Flex­i­ble plat­forms that learn from phys­i­cal gym envi­ron­ments will adapt to end users base­lines and ramp up cog­ni­tive per­for­mance accord­ing to indi­vid­ual capac­i­ty. This tai­lor­ing pro­vides both a cus­tomized focus and a key moti­va­tion­al ingre­di­ent that will allow con­sumers to set their own tar­gets.

7. Spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions for defined pop­u­la­tions will dri­ve com­mer­cial suc­cess

The sto­ries of cast­ing the net too wide are many. Focus­ing on spe­cif­ic prob­lems in  well defined set­tings and tar­get pop­u­la­tions will enable solu­tions that address the spec­trum of deficits. Strate­gies based on cap­tur­ing large sec­tions of the “boomer” gen­er­a­tion are redun­dant as they fail to address the diverse needs both with­in indi­vid­ual mar­ket seg­ments and across the life-cycle. Cus­tomized, niche appli­ca­tions  will per­mit  mar­ket­place evo­lu­tion in a grad­u­at­ed fash­ion, with cus­tomers build­ing on their basic under­stand­ing and tak­ing steps to mix and match pro­grams which address their unique pro­files.

8. Trans­fer effects and dura­bil­i­ty of effects are here to stay

Grow­ing research demon­strates that struc­tured men­tal exer­cise effects can gen­er­al­ize to adja­cent cog­ni­tive domains and improve real-world func­tion­ing when appro­pri­ate­ly direct­ed. This flies in the face of last year’s Nature/BBC brain train­ing exper­i­ment that lead­ing neu­ro­sci­en­tists and  psy­chi­a­trists  crit­i­cized as hav­ing method­olog­i­cal weak­ness­es in mul­ti­ple areas such as dosage effects and infer­ring over­gen­er­al­ized con­clu­sions that under­mined core prin­ci­ples of the sci­en­tif­ic process. How­ev­er, mov­ing from the lab to in vivo set­tings will be chal­leng­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in old­er adults where med­ical co-mor­bid­i­ty can impair cog­ni­tive func­tion inde­pen­dent­ly of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive process­es, rais­ing ques­tions about inter­ven­ing by web based tech­nolo­gies alone.

9. Scal­ing up has diverse options at hand

Inno­v­a­tive pro­grams, prod­ucts and ser­vices abound with var­ied approach­es across sec­tors and geog­ra­phy, whether through dig­i­tal plat­forms, replic­a­ble teams of pro­fes­sion­als, or retail for­mu­las that focus on fun prod­ucts and edu­ca­tion­al cus­tomer ser­vice. Who will train the train­ers to ensure stan­dard­iza­tion of effects across dif­fer­ent sites and pop­u­la­tions? Social­iza­tion a key part of the notion of brain fit­ness and needs to be inte­grat­ed into scal­able pro­grams, prod­uct and ser­vice offer­ings. Com­mu­ni­ty screen­ing of “at risk” pop­u­la­tions can be inex­pen­sive with new web plat­forms; repeat­ed intra-indi­vid­ual cog­ni­tive test­ing can reveal indi­vid­ual changes in cog­ni­tive decline rather than tra­di­tion­al com­par­isons with pop­u­la­tion norms.

10. Men­tal health and med­ical con­di­tions are the next big hur­dle

A sig­nif­i­cant pipeline of research in dis­abling med­ical con­di­tions rang­ing from schiz­o­phre­nia and brain injury is on track to emerge in the com­ing years. Ear­ly results are promis­ing, sug­gest­ing these inter­ven­tions could super­sede phar­ma­co­log­i­cal agents of choice and reme­di­ate spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive deficits that define these con­di­tions. Per­suad­ing the wider health­care com­mu­ni­ty and embed­ding these appli­ca­tions in stan­dard clin­i­cal set­tings will  require part­ner­ships, exten­sive clin­i­cian edu­ca­tion and val­i­da­tion from pol­i­cy-mak­ers and clin­i­cal effec­tive­ness bod­ies.

But to con­clude, Col­lab­o­ra­tion is King

But which insight will add most to a rich, enabling ecosys­tem that cre­ates long term val­ue for soci­ety? Col­lab­o­ra­tion is emerg­ing in ways that were unthink­able only a few years ago. Researchers are open­ing up their data and method­olo­gies to gain insights from one anoth­er. Com­mer­cial orga­ni­za­tions are part­ner­ing via dig­i­tal chan­nels, con­tent syn­di­ca­tion and oth­er areas of best prac­tice. Social entre­pre­neurs and local prac­ti­tion­ers are shar­ing   moti­va­tion­al tips and edu­ca­tion­al resources in their efforts to build pro­grams from the bot­tom up.  Open inno­va­tion is dri­ving a bet­ter mar­ket­place for con­sumers. All these col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts are the seeds of suc­cess­ful inno­va­tion, and despite still being in the foothills, it would seem bet­ter to go hand in hand, than tak­ing a lone­ly road.

To Learn More about the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, you can vis­it:

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  1. David says:

    Ai, dis­cov­ered this sum­mit too late, it sounds like it was amaz­ing though!

    Any pos­si­bil­i­ties to find parts or recaps of the sum­mit online?

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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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