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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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