Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Thank you, Sponsors @ 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit, for helping shape Brain Health & Enhancement in the Digital Age!

Thank you very much, great Sum­mit Spon­sors, for sup­port­ing the 2017 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit tak­ing place next week (Dec. 5–7th) and gath­er­ing 50+ Speak­ers and 200+ par­tic­i­pants work­ing on ways to enhance brain health and per­for­mance in the dig­i­tal age!

Gold Sponsors

AARP is a non­prof­it, non­par­ti­san, social wel­fare orga­ni­za­tion with a mem­ber­ship of near­ly 38 mil­lion that helps peo­ple turn their goals and dreams into real pos­si­bil­i­ties, strength­ens com­mu­ni­ties and fights for the issues that mat­ter most to fam­i­lies. Its Glob­al Coun­cil on Brain Health (GCBH), found­ed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Age UK, is an inde­pen­dent col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­at­ed to pro­vide trust­ed infor­ma­tion on how to main­tain and improve brain health.brain

VieLight has a mis­sion to engi­neer and com­mer­cial­ize non-inva­sive devices based on pho­to­bio­mod­u­la­tion that are safe and effec­tive, easy to use and afford­able – all to tru­ly help improve one’s qual­i­ty of life. It focus­es on devel­op­ing new-gen­er­a­tion home-use brain stim­u­la­tion devices that are enjoy­ing a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion to be help­ful for men­tal acu­ity in var­i­ous pre­sen­ta­tions. Its prod­ucts are used by both prac­ti­tion­ers and con­sumers all over the world.

Silver Sponsors

arpf

The Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion(ARPF) has a mis­sion to empow­er peo­ple to build healthy brains and reduce the inci­dence of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease by con­duct­ing clin­i­cal research and pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion­al and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment out­reach. For 20 years, the ARPF has been on the lead­ing edge by research­ing, advo­cat­ing, and edu­cat­ing for an inte­gra­tive approach to pre­vent­ing mem­o­ry loss and Alzheimer’s.

Arrowsmith Program

The Arrow­smith Pro­gram, avail­able in 80+ schools in the US, Cana­da, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, is a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties to train key brain func­tions involved in learn­ing.

Ban­ner Health, based in Phoenix, Ari­zona, is one of the largest non­prof­it health sys­tems in the USA, employ­ing more than 50,000 staff mem­bers in 29 hos­pi­tals and oth­er set­tings rang­ing from home care and long-term care, to lab­o­ra­to­ries and reha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices.

EMOTIV is a bioin­for­mat­ics com­pa­ny advanc­ing under­stand­ing of the human brain using elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) with a mis­sion to empow­er indi­vid­u­als and accel­er­ate brain research glob­al­ly.

Lumosity

Lumos­i­ty was found­ed to help peo­ple keep their brains chal­lenged thanks to a sim­ple online tool allow­ing any­one to train core cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. From neu­ro­science to visu­al art, they com­bine diverse dis­ci­plines to cre­ate engag­ing brain train­ing pro­grams and, through the Human Cog­ni­tion Project, they col­lab­o­rate with over 100 lead­ing researchers, clin­i­cians and teach­ers from insti­tu­tions around the world.

Mind­Maze has devel­oped a break­through plat­form to build intu­itive human machine inter­faces com­bin­ing vir­tu­al real­i­ty (VR), com­put­er graph­ics, brain imag­ing & neu­ro­science, enabling excit­ing new appli­ca­tions in gam­ing, brain machine con­trol, and health­care.

Dur­ing Expo Day–Thursday, Decem­ber 7th–selected Sum­mit Spon­sors and Part­ners will show­case their most promis­ing brain health & enhance­ment ini­tia­tives and solu­tions. All times below reflect US Pacif­ic Time.

8.30–9am. Adam Gaz­za­ley, UCSF Pro­fes­sor of Neu­rol­o­gy, will present Neu­roscape.

9–9.30am. Dr. Wal­ter Green­leaf, Med­ical VR/ AR Expert at Stan­ford Vir­tu­al Human Inter­ac­tion Lab, will pro­vide an overview of health appli­ca­tions of vir­tu­al & aug­ment­ed real­i­ty (VR/AR).

9.30–10am. Dr. Lew Lim, Founder & CEO of Vielight, will dis­cuss pho­to­bio­mod­u­la­tion as a new way to enhance brain func­tion.

10.30–11am. Dr. Bob Schafer, Direc­tor of Research at Lumos Labs, will present their expand­ing vision for brain train­ing, includ­ing mind­ful­ness.

11am-Noon. Lunch break

Noon-12.30pm. Dr. Chris Walling, Chair­man of the Edu­ca­tion­al Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee at
The Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), will present the new Brain Longevi­ty Ther­a­py Train­ing.

12.30–1pm. Dr. Leanne Young, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Brain Per­for­mance Insti­tute at UT-Dal­las Cen­ter for Brain­Health will present the new 62,000-square-foot Brain Per­for­mance Insti­tute.

1–1.30pm. Deb­bie Gilmore, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of The Arrow­smith Pro­gram, will present plans to bet­ter equip 100+ schools help­ing stu­dents with spe­cial needs.

1.30–2pm. Dr. Ran­dal Koene, Lead Sci­en­tist at Ker­nel, will dis­cuss future direc­tions of neu­ro­engin­ner­ing and human com­put­er inter­faces.

 

Look­ing for­ward to a great vir­tu­al sum­mit!

__________

Learn more & Reserve your Spot HERE

(10%-off pro­mo code for Sharp­Brains read­ers: sharp2017)

Q&A with Yaakov Stern on Brain Reserve, Exercise, Cognitive Training, Angry Birds, YMCA and more

I just had the chance to dis­cuss lat­est neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic research and think­ing with Dr. Yaakov Stern, one of the lead­ing sci­en­tists study­ing how to build a neu­ro­pro­tec­tive cog­ni­tive reserve across the lifes­pan. Dr. Stern leads the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion at the Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Sergievsky Cen­ter. What fol­lows is a Q&A ses­sion con­duct­ed via email over the last week.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: What do you make of the recent study “Asso­ci­a­tion of Life­time Cog­ni­tive Engage­ment and Low ?-Amy­loid Depo­si­tion”? 

Yaakov Stern: I find these results very intrigu­ing. The con­cept of cog­ni­tive reserve posits that Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers

Dr. Michael Merzenich Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, is a lead­ing pio­neer in brain plas­tic­i­ty research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invent­ed the cochlear implant. In 1996, he was the found­ing CEO of Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (Nas­daq: SCIL), and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer of Posit Sci­ence. He was elect­ed to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in 1999 and to the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine this year. He retired as Fran­cis A. Sooy Pro­fes­sor and Co-Direc­tor of the Keck Cen­ter for Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cis­co in 2007. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV spe­cials, mul­ti­ple media appear­ances, or neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-relat­ed books.

(Alvaro Fer­nan­dez) Dear Michael, thank you very much for agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gur­al Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit in Jan­u­ary, and for your time today. In order to con­tex­tu­al­ize the Summit’s main themes, I would like to focus this inter­view on the like­ly big-pic­ture impli­ca­tions dur­ing the next 5 years of your work and that of oth­er neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty research and indus­try pio­neers.

Thank you for invit­ing me. I believe the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will be very use­ful and stim­u­lat­ing, you are gath­er­ing an impres­sive group togeth­er. I am look­ing for­ward to Jan­u­ary.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based Tools: The New Health & Well­ness Fron­tier

There are many dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy-free approach­es to harnessing/ enabling/ dri­ving neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. What is the val­ue that tech­nol­o­gy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

It’s all about effi­cien­cy, scal­a­bil­i­ty, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­o­gy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-opti­mal­ly-effi­cient brain-train­ing strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­o­gy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each person’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tive­ly addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cial­ly impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­o­gy is the scal­a­bil­i­ty that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Inter­net!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intu­itive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-pro­cess­ing if all one cares about is mem­o­ry? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to real­ly change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age old­er per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equal­ly effort­ful busi­ness!

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teens and Adults

Safe dri­ving seems to be one area where the ben­e­fits are more intu­itive, which may explain the sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion.

Yes, we see great poten­tial and inter­est among insur­ers for improv­ing dri­ving safe­ty, both for seniors and teens. Appro­pri­ate cog­ni­tive train­ing can low­er at-fault acci­dent rates. You can mea­sure clear ben­e­fits in rel­a­tive­ly short time frames, so it won’t take long for insur­ers to see an eco­nom­ic ratio­nale to not only offer pro­grams at low cost or for free but to incen­tivize dri­vers to com­plete them. All­state, AAA, State Farm and oth­er insur­ers are begin­ning to real­ize this poten­tial. It is impor­tant to note that typ­i­cal acci­dents among teens and seniors are dif­fer­ent, so that train­ing method­olo­gies will need to be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent high-risk pop­u­la­tions.

Yet, most dri­ving safe­ty ini­tia­tives today still focus on edu­cat­ing dri­vers, rather that train­ing them neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly. We mea­sure vision, for exam­ple, but com­plete­ly ignore atten­tion­al con­trol abil­i­ties, or a driver’s use­ful field of view. I expect this to change sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insur­ance com­pa­nies will ulti­mate­ly see sim­i­lar ben­e­fits, and we believe that they will fol­low a sim­i­lar course of action to reduce gen­er­al med­ical and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease- (Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s- and Parkin­sons-) relat­ed costs. In fact, many senior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties are among the pio­neers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vital­i­ty

Main­stream media is cov­er­ing this emerg­ing cat­e­go­ry with thou­sands of sto­ries. But most cov­er­age seems still focused on does it work? more than “how do we define It”, what does work mean? or work for whom, and for what? Can you sum­ma­rize what recent research sug­gests?

We have seen clear pat­terns in the appli­ca­tion of our train­ing pro­grams, some pub­lished (like IMPACT), some unpub­lished, some with healthy adults, and some with peo­ple with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment or ear­ly Alzheimers Dis­ease (AD). What we see in every case: Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article)

Frontiers in Neuroscience Augmenting Cognition(Editor’s note: this arti­cle belongs to the excel­lent May 2009 spe­cial issue on Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion at sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal Fron­tiers in Neu­ro­science. The arti­cle, an indus­try overview, is repro­duced here with autho­riza­tion by the Fron­tiers Research Foun­da­tion)

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age

By Alvaro Fer­nan­dez

Ground­break­ing cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science research has occurred over the last 20 years — with­out par­al­lel growth of con­sumer aware­ness and appro­pri­ate pro­fes­sion­al dis­sem­i­na­tion. “Cog­ni­tion” remains an elu­sive con­cept with unclear impli­ca­tions out­side the research com­mu­ni­ty.

Ear­li­er this year, I pre­sent­ed a talk to health care pro­fes­sion­als at the New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine, titled “Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware: Help­ing Con­sumers Sep­a­rate Hope from Hype”. I explained what com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools can do (assess/enhance spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions), what they can­not do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the cur­rent uncer­tain­ties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms). At the same sym­po­sium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Direc­tor of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try at Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter, pro­vid­ed guid­ance on why and how to screen for exec­u­tive func­tion deficits in the con­text of demen­tia.

I could per­ceive two emerg­ing trends at the event: 1) “Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion” research is most com­mon­ly framed as a health­care, often phar­ma­co­log­i­cal top­ic, with the tra­di­tion­al cog­ni­tive bias in med­i­cine of focus­ing on detec­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, 2) In addi­tion, there is a grow­ing inter­est in non-inva­sive enhance­ment options and over­all lifestyle issues. Research find­ings in Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion are only just begin­ning to reach the main­stream mar­ket­place, most­ly through health­care chan­nels. The oppor­tu­ni­ty is immense, but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, both through health­care and non-health­care chan­nels.

In Jan­u­ary 2009, we polled the 21,000 sub­scribers of Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket research eNewslet­ter to iden­ti­fy atti­tudes and behav­iors towards the “brain fit­ness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a num­ber of con­sumer sur­veys and focus groups to con­nect with a wider audi­ence). Over 2,000 deci­sion-mak­ers and ear­ly adopters respond­ed to the sur­vey.

One of the key ques­tions we asked was, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some exam­ples of the sur­vey free text answers are quot­ed here, togeth­er with my sug­ges­tions.

Most impor­tant prob­lems in the brain fit­ness field

Pub­lic aware­ness (39%): “To get peo­ple to under­stand that hered­i­ty alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing”. We need to ramp up efforts to build pub­lic aware­ness and enthu­si­asm about brain research, includ­ing estab­lish­ing clear links to dai­ly liv­ing. We can col­lab­o­rate with ini­tia­tives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Aware­ness Week and use the recent “Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts” mate­ri­als devel­oped by the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science to give talks at schools, libraries and work­places.

Claims (21%): “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and Read the rest of this entry »

Can You Outsmart Your Genes? An Interview with Author Richard Nisbett

(Editor’s Note: inter­view­ing Richard Nis­bett, author of the excel­lent Intelligence and How to Get Itrecent book Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count, was in our To Do list. We then found that fel­low blog­ger David DiS­al­vo was faster than we were and did a great job, so here we bring you David’s inter­view and take.)

While the debate over intel­li­gence rages on many fronts, the bat­tle over the impor­tance of hered­i­ty rages loud­est. It’s easy to see why. If the camp that argues intel­li­gence is 75 to 85 per­cent genet­i­cal­ly deter­mined is cor­rect, then we’re faced with some tough ques­tions about the role of edu­ca­tion. If intel­li­gence is improved very lit­tle by schools, and if the IQ of the major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion will remain rel­a­tive­ly unchanged no mat­ter how well schools per­form, then should school reform real­ly be a pri­or­i­ty?

More to the point, if our genes large­ly deter­mine our IQ, which in turn under­lies our per­for­mance through­out our lives, then what is the role of school? For some in this debate the answer to that ques­tion is sim­ply, “to be the best you can be.” But that seems lit­tle com­fort for those who aspire to “be” more than what their IQ cat­e­go­ry pre­dicts they will.

Those on the oth­er side of this debate ques­tion whether hered­i­ty plays as big a role as the strong hered­i­tar­i­ans claim. And for the role it does play, they ques­tion whether hered­itabil­i­ty implies immutabil­i­ty. Hered­i­ty of height, for exam­ple, is about 90 per­cent, and yet aver­age height in sev­er­al pop­u­la­tions around the world has been steadi­ly increas­ing due to non-genet­ic influ­ences, like nutri­tion. If such a strong hered­i­tary trait can be rad­i­cal­ly altered by envi­ron­men­tal factors–and height is but one exam­ple of this–then why is intel­li­gence dif­fer­ent?

It is not, argues the camp that might best be described as intel­li­gence opti­mists. For them, the pes­simism that col­ors the strong hered­i­tar­i­an posi­tion isn’t only dis­cour­ag­ing, it’s dan­ger­ous. Too much is hang­ing in the bal­ance for pes­simism about the poten­tial of our chil­dren to pre­vail.

Richard NisbettRichard Nis­bett is a cham­pi­on of the intel­li­gence opti­mist camp, and with his lat­est book, Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count , he has emerged as the most per­sua­sive voice mar­shalling evi­dence to dis­prove the hered­i­ty-is-des­tiny argu­ment. Intel­lec­tu­al advance­ment, Nis­bett argues, is not the result of hard­wired genet­ic codes, but the province of con­trol­lable fac­tors like schools and social environments–and as such, improv­ing these fac­tors is cru­cial­ly impor­tant. Read the rest of this entry »

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