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Trust, but verify: How big data can augment brain health clinical research

LumosityBrainGames Can the secrets to human cog­ni­tion be found in Lumosity’s brain-train­ing games? (Wash­ing­ton Post):

Google was a pio­neer in the field of big data and sci­ence a few years ago when it began to pub­lish flu trends based on what peo­ple were search­ing for online. Some of its researchers are now work­ing on a way to pin­point adverse events with med­ica­tions based on search data…Much of the ini­tial work with Lumosity’s data aims to con­firm or debunk pop­u­lar­ly accept­ed ideas based on past stud­ies, such as how much sleep is need­ed for a brain to func­tion opti­mal­ly. But researchers hope that even­tu­al­ly they’ll be able to find pat­terns or cor­re­la­tions in the num­bers that could lead to new insights. For instance, sci­en­tists might be able to use the IP address­es on cus­tomers’ com­put­ers to cre­ate a map. When over­laid with infor­ma­tion from gov­ern­ment agen­cies or oth­er sources, they might be able to show whether cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods with tox­ic envi­ron­ments con­tribute to a high­er risk of, say, ear­ly Parkinson’s dis­ease or demen­tia, says Richard Ivry of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley…

Play­ers can select the brain attribute that they want to exer­cise, such as mem­o­ry, atten­tion, speed, flex­i­bil­i­ty or prob­lem solv­ing, or they can let the pro­gram choose for them… Each inter­ac­tion a user has with Lumos­i­ty — such as a response to an arith­metic ques­tion, for exam­ple, or a click that places choco­late in a customer’s order in the cof­fee cup game — is logged in the company’s data­base. Many of Lumosity’s users also fill out sur­vey infor­ma­tion about basic demo­graph­ics and lifestyle choic­es. All of that data, minus names and oth­er per­son­al­ly iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, is avail­able for researchers to query.”

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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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