Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

The Business and Ethics of the Brain Fitness Boom — Part 4: The Future

Build­ing Blocks for a Bet­ter Future

The best alter­na­tive for tomor­row should be bet­ter than the best alter­na­tive avail­able today. How do we get there, when “cog­ni­tion” and “brain fit­ness” remain elu­sive con­cepts in pop­u­lar cul­ture? I believe that the lack of pub­lic edu­ca­tion is the major obsta­cle that lim­its the brain fit­ness field’s poten­tial to deliv­er real-world ben­e­fits, since only informed demand will ensure the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of ratio­nal, struc­tured “rules of the road.” What could be done to address this and oth­er par­tic­u­lar obsta­cles?

Edu­cate the pub­lic
Ramp up efforts to build pub­lic aware­ness around a cul­ture of brain fit­ness and men­tal cap­i­tal across the lifes­pan, includ­ing estab­lish­ing clear links to dai­ly life and work and the role of cog­ni­tive, emo­tion­al, and self-reg­u­la­tion fac­tors. Too many peo­ple still view men­tal capac­i­ty as a kind of uni­fied trait (such as IQ) that is deter­mined by our genes and can only decline with age.

Make it eas­i­er to nav­i­gate claims
Easy-to-under­stand and research-based tax­onomies could help con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als eval­u­ate prod­uct claims. Per­haps a label­ing sys­tem, sim­i­lar to the Good House­keep­ing Seal of Approval, will emerge at the ini­tia­tive of a reg­u­la­tor or of the indus­try.

Offer objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ment tools
It has been said that “you can’t man­age what you can’t mea­sure.” Reli­able, objec­tive assess­ment tools are crit­i­cal. Ide­al­ly, assess­ments would be adapt­ed to the par­tic­u­lar cog­ni­tive demands of dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties and set­tings such as work­place per­for­mance, func­tion­al aging, dri­ving, work­ing as a pilot, or clin­i­cal con­di­tions. Per­haps the sin­gle most effec­tive way to bring cog­ni­tive research into the main­stream con­ver­sa­tion would be if peo­ple took an “annu­al brain check-up” (ASA-MetLife Foun­da­tion, 2006) to under­stand their own oppor­tu­ni­ties for improve­ment and progress, and to sup­port clin­i­cal deci­sion mak­ing.

Empha­size brain fit­ness at the pro­fes­sion­al lev­el
Pro­fes­sion­al asso­ci­a­tions could beef up their efforts to add a brain fit­ness lens to their exist­ing offer­ings; this could help incor­po­rate an empha­sis on cog­ni­tion, neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, and men­tal well­ness into main­stream activ­i­ties.

Advo­cate for more and bet­ter research
There are two main pri­or­i­ties for research: to devel­op wide­ly accept­ed out­come stan­dards, includ­ing an estab­lished set of “func­tion­al mark­ers” at dif­fer­ent lev­els (such as brain-based, cog­ni­tive, and behav­ioral-func­tion­al) for dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions; and to fund tri­als that test mul­ti­modal inter­ven­tions. Iden­ti­fy­ing the respec­tive and com­ple­men­tary ben­e­fits of dif­fer­ent types of inter­ven­tions can result in bet­ter inte­grat­ed and per­son­al­ized prod­ucts and pro­grams.

Nav­i­gat­ing the Cog­ni­tive Prod­uct Maze: Ten Things to Con­sid­er

  1. Tar­get Users. What cohort of the pop­u­la­tion you serve is ready and will­ing to use these pro­grams? What cri­te­ria are most impor­tant to that group?
  2. Tar­get­ed Ben­e­fits. What are the spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive, emo­tion­al, or self-reg­u­la­tion skills that the pro­gram aims to enhance or retrain? What is the fre­quen­cy of use (how many hours per week or num­ber of weeks)?
  3. Appro­pri­ate Lev­el of Chal­lenge. Do the exer­cis­es adjust to the individual’s skill lev­el and con­tin­u­al­ly vary and chal­lenge users at an appro­pri­ate pace?
  4. Sci­en­tif­ic Cre­den­tials. Are there sci­en­tists (ide­al­ly, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists) behind the pro­gram? Is there a clear­ly defined and cred­i­ble sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board? Are there pub­lished, peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers on the program’s effi­ca­cy?
  5. Return on Invest­ment. What are your organization’s key busi­ness objec­tives, and can you inde­pen­dent­ly mea­sure pro­gram results to eval­u­ate whether or not the pro­gram will meet those objec­tives?
  6. Total Cost of Own­er­ship. What will the total cost of own­er­ship be over the next three to five years includ­ing up-front fees, ongo­ing fees, hard­ware, soft­ware, train­ing and sup­port fees, cost of addi­tion­al mod­ules, and staff time? How many users will like­ly end up using the prod­uct or sys­tem, and what would be the cost of own­er­ship per user?
  7. Tech­ni­cal Require­ments. What are the tech­ni­cal require­ments need­ed to suc­cess­ful­ly deploy and main­tain the pro­gram? Does it require Inter­net access? Are peo­ple expect­ed to install their own CD-ROMs? Who will help solve poten­tial tech­ni­cal main­te­nance glitch­es?
  8. Staff Train­ing. What type of train­ing is required to run the pro­gram and who will pro­vide it?
  9. Prod­uct Roadmap. What is the vendor’s prod­uct roadmap? What is the ven­dor devel­op­ing and plan­ning to offer over the next one to three years?
  10. Ref­er­ences. What sim­i­lar providers have used this spe­cif­ic pro­gram? What ben­e­fits have they mea­sured direct­ly? Is the use of the pro­gram grow­ing, or is it flat or declin­ing?

Sum­ma­ry: Work Toward Accord

The grow­ing inter­est in the sci­ence, prac­tice, and busi­ness of brain fit­ness presents a sig­nif­i­cant oppor­tu­ni­ty to build men­tal cap­i­tal, enhance men­tal well­ness, and delay symp­toms of brain-based decline and dis­ease. To best cap­i­tal­ize on this oppor­tu­ni­ty, stake­hold­ers must agree on a mean­ing­ful and appro­pri­ate capac­i­ty-based framework—one that sup­ports both con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als in mak­ing informed deci­sions, and that allows for per­son-cen­tered and cross sec­tor inno­va­tion. Such accord can mean that in five to ten years, we may find our­selves in a much bet­ter place. Where to start? By devel­op­ing a cul­ture of brain fit­ness and men­tal cap­i­tal that spans from cra­dle to grave: I pro­pose that this is the real business—and guid­ing ethic—of the brain fit­ness field.

.….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….…

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, M.B.A., M.A., is CEO of SharpBrains.com.

Copy­right © 2011 Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging; all rights reserved. This arti­cle may not be dupli­cat­ed, reprint­ed or dis­trib­uted in any form with­out writ­ten per­mis­sion from the pub­lish­er: Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging, 71 Steven­son St., Suite 1450, San Francisco,CA 94105–2938; e-mail: info@asaging.org.

Cred­it for pic: Big­Stock­Pho­to.

Read pre­vi­ous arti­cles here:

Ref­er­ences

Agency for Health­care Research and Qual­i­ty (AHRQ). 2010. Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Cog­ni­tive Decline, Struc­tured Abstract.April 2010. Agency for Health­care Research and Qual­i­ty, Rockville, Md. www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/alzcogtp.htm. Retrieved April 11,2010.

ASA-MetLife Foun­da­tion. 2006.Attitudes and Aware­ness of Brain Health Poll. San Fran­cis­co, Calif.: Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging.

Bar­ret, L. 2008. Healthy@Home Sur­vey (research com­mis­sioned and fund­ed by Blue Shield of Cal­i­for­nia Foun­da­tion to AARP Foun­da­tion). Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: AARP Foun­da­tion.

Dinger, E. 2010. Lis­ten­ing to the Mem­ber: The 2010 AARP Mem­ber Opin­ion Sur­vey. AARP Research & Strate­gic Analy­sis. Washington,D.C.: AARP.

Fer­nan­dez, A. 2010. Trans­form­ing Brain Health with Dig­i­tal Tools to Assess, Enhance and Repair Cog­ni­tion Across the Lifes­pan. 2010 “State-of-the-mar­ket” Report. San Fran­cis­co, Calif.: Sharp­Brains.

Fer­nan­dez, A., and Gold­berg, E. 2009. The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews to Keep Your Brain Sharp. San Fran­cis­co, Calif.: Sharp­Brains.

Olshan­sky, J., et al. 2011. “The Glob­al Agen­da Coun­cil on the Age­ing Soci­ety: Pol­i­cy Prin­ci­ples.” Glob­al Pol­i­cy 2: 97–105.

Sharp­Brains. 2011. “2011 Sharp-Brains Sum­mit: Retool­ing Brain Health for the 21st Cen­tu­ry.” www.sharpbrains.com/summit/agenda/. Retrieved April 21, 2011.

The Gov­ern­ment Office for Sci­ence. 2008. Fore­sight Men­tal Cap­i­tal and Well­be­ing Project: Final Project Report (Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry). Lon­don, U.K.: The Gov­ern­ment Office for Sci­ence.

Valen­zuela, M., and Sachdev, P. 2009. “Can Cog­ni­tive Exer­cise Pre­vent the Onset of Demen­tia? A Sys­tem­at­ic Review of Clin­i­cal Tri­als with Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Fol­low Up.” Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try 17: 179?87.

Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Categories: Author Speaks Series, Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness, Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives