Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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2010 Winners Podium

Please join us in con­grat­u­lat­ing the Win­ners of the 2010 Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion Awards.

Grand Prize Win­ner

USA HockeyUSA Hock­ey, Inc., is the Nation­al Gov­ern­ing Body of the sport of ice hock­ey in the Unit­ed States. With a mem­ber­ship of near­ly 600,000 play­ers, coach­es, offi­cials and vol­un­teers that span all 50 states, USA Hock­ey seeks to pro­mote the growth of hock­ey and pro­vide the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence for all par­tic­i­pants by encour­ag­ing, devel­op­ing, advanc­ing and admin­is­ter­ing the sport.

Project Scope: The Nation­al Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram (NTDP), a USA Hock­ey body, is a full-time devel­op­ment pro­gram aimed at prepar­ing under-18 stu­dent-ath­letes for par­tic­i­pa­tion on US Nation­al Teams. Its efforts focus both on high-cal­iber par­tic­i­pa­tion on the ice and indi­vid­ual skill devel­op­ment. The pro­gram is com­posed of two squads: the US Nation­al Under-18 and Under-17 Teams.

Dur­ing the past hock­ey sea­son, the NTDP imple­ment­ed a cog­ni­tive train­ing sys­tem designed to help hock­ey play­ers devel­op per­cep­tion and deci­sion-mak­ing skills called The Hock­ey Intel­li­Gym. Designed to enhance ‘Hock­ey Sense’—or the way play­ers gath­er infor­ma­tion from their sur­round­ings, make and exe­cute decisions—The Hock­ey Intel­li­Gym train­ing sys­tem uti­lizes a soft­ware-based train­ing envi­ron­ment with cus­tomized algo­rithms that adjust train­ing pro­grams to indi­vid­ual play­ers accord­ing to abil­i­ty and progress. Play­ers engaged in a twice-a-week cog­ni­tive train­ing reg­i­men that became an inte­gral part of their over­all train­ing pro­gram dur­ing which time cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists mon­i­tored play­ers’ per­for­mance and pro­vid­ed coach­ing staff with analy­ses and progress reports. Among sta­tis­ti­cal fig­ures mea­sured, the most notable was the win ratio of teams involved, as Intel­li­Gym trained team won more games.

The Intel­li­Gym pro­gram took more than two years and $2 mil­lion to put togeth­er with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing (ACE) and was enabled by a grant from the BIRD Foun­da­tion who sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly reviewed the plan and finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed it.

Project Leader: Scott Mon­aghan, Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, USA Hock­ey Nation­al Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram

Select­ed com­ments by Judg­ing Pan­el: Excel­lent team approach between spe­cial­ist, coach and play­er. Great con­cept and need, and  insights/model could apply very broad­ly to skill devel­op­ment. The adap­ta­tion of cog­ni­tive train­ing to this par­tic­u­lar sports domain is clever and can be gen­er­al­ized to a wide range of oth­er activ­i­ties. I was impressed with the USA Hock­ey Nation­al Team Devel­op­ment Pro­gram and their Hock­ey Intel­li­gym. To develop/adapt such a pro­gram and clear­ly demon­strate it’s impact on real-life per­for­mance, is fan­tas­tic. There is also a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand this to even more ath­letes and sports and to every­day life.

Sil­ver Prize Win­ners

AllstateAll­state (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest pub­licly held per­son­al lines insur­er. All­state is rein­vent­ing pro­tec­tion and retire­ment to help indi­vid­u­als in approx­i­mate­ly 17 mil­lion house­holds pro­tect what they have today and bet­ter pre­pare for tomor­row.

Project Scope: All­state embarked on a jour­ney with Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion to eval­u­ate the inter­est in and effec­tive­ness of Posit Science’s software—leveraging tech­nol­o­gy shown in Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health fund­ed stud­ies to improve visu­al pro­cess­ing skills impor­tant for safe driving—to test a soft­ware pro­gram (Insight) in Penn­syl­va­nia. Select­ed dri­vers, 50 years and old­er, were invit­ed to help val­i­date the impact cog­ni­tive train­ing has on dri­ving safe­ty.

The project was a “proof of con­cept” for what may turn out to be a sig­nif­i­cant effort by All­state to pre­vent injuries and save lives, enable old­er peo­ple to main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer and pro­vide peace of mind to adult chil­dren faced with dif­fi­cult deci­sions as par­ents age. The most impor­tant reduc­tion was in insured loss­es and result­ing injuries, trau­ma and dis­rup­tion to the lives of those involved in auto col­li­sions. After observ­ing the acci­dent behav­ior of those who com­plet­ed the Posit pro­gram, rel­a­tive to a well select­ed con­trol group, All­state saw a mea­sur­able decline that was sta­tis­ti­cal­ly valid.

Project Leader: Tom War­den, Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent, All­state Research and Plan­ning Cen­ter

Select­ed com­ments by Judg­ing Pan­el: The poten­tial impact of this pro­gram is sec­ond to none. I was impressed with Allstate’s project and their results that showed that the Posit Sci­ence soft­ware pos­i­tive­ly impact­ed the acci­dent records of those com­plet­ing the pro­gram. All­state should be com­mend­ed for try­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent and for cre­at­ing such an ini­tia­tive. Pret­ty soon I can imag­ine brain fit­ness dis­counts along­side safe dri­ver and oth­er dis­counts.

images (1)Nation­wide, based in Colum­bus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diver­si­fied insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. and is rat­ed A+ by A.M. Best. The com­pa­ny pro­vides a full range of per­son­al­ized insur­ance and finan­cial ser­vices, includ­ing includ­ing auto and life insur­ance, pen­sions, health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty ser­vices, and more.

Project Scope: Nation­wide Mutu­al Insur­ance worked with ben­e­fits provider OptumHealth and their part­ner Brain Resource to add a Web based brain train­ing tool (MyBrain­So­lu­tions) to help employ­ees enhance pos­i­tiv­i­ty, emo­tion­al resilience and deal with oth­ers more effec­tive­ly — all key ele­ments to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. More than 500 employ­ees enrolled in the company’s ‘Healthy Hol­i­day Chal­lenge’ dur­ing the first week. The results of the new resource led to more pos­i­tive behav­ior changes and greater pro­duc­tiv­i­ty among the work­force.

As part of the MyBrain­So­lu­tions launch, asso­ciates were asked to reg­is­ter, take a base­line brain assess­ment, accu­mu­late a tar­get num­ber of points dur­ing a 30-day peri­od and then take a sec­ond brain assess­ment. The com­pa­ny found that aspects of pos­i­tiv­i­ty, emo­tion­al resilience and social skills improved in the short 6-week ini­tia­tive and saw small changes in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty were notice­able as well. 87% of those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram indi­cat­ed they were plan­ning to take addi­tion­al steps to improve health after par­tic­i­pat­ing while 33.5% wouldn’t have accessed oth­er resources to address health and well­be­ing if it weren’t for the ini­tia­tive.

Project Leader: Kath­leen Herath, AVP Health & Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty

Select­ed com­ments by Judg­ing Pan­el: Har­vard Busi­ness Review esti­mat­ed a cou­ple years ago that $150B is lost annu­al­ly as a result of lost employ­ee pro­duc­ti­ity. Giv­en all of the life events and tran­si­tions that indi­vid­u­als expe­ri­ence each year that can dis­tract, this pro­vides a fea­si­ble and attrac­tive lever for employ­ees to take advan­tage of. Employ­ers of the future that can imple­ment inno­v­a­tive mod­els such as these to adapt to the chang­ing needs of employ­ees, enhance employ­ee pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and help to rede­fine what work means by infus­ing the pro­fes­sion­al with the per­son­al will win, and have as a reward loy­al employ­ees, a hap­py cul­ture, and an over­all high­er per­form­ing work­force. The pos­i­tive self-report mea­sures were impres­sive as well as the improve­ments in such a short peri­od of time. Seems to have poten­tial for replic­a­bil­i­ty with scal­able, low-cost pro­grams. In prin­ci­ple this approach could have large soci­etal ben­e­fits. Imple­ment­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing in a work place is nov­el and taps into the desire to opti­mize pro­fes­sion­al func­tion­ing as well as stave off decline.  The emo­tion­al and self-reg­u­la­tion train­ing is extreme­ly impor­tant in the work­place set­ting.