Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.