Brain fitness goes mainstream: integration of physical and mental exercise, government initiatives

Increased empha­sis on brain maintenance

ahThe empha­sis on brain main­te­nance will increase in loca­tions rang­ing from retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties to gyms. As a com­put­er-savvy adults pop­u­la­tion looks for ways to stay men­tal­ly fit, brain fit­ness, or brain train­ing, is becom­ing part of their vocab­u­lary and concern.

How­ev­er, for this to hap­pen, high­er qual­i­ty research will need to back up spe­cif­ic interventions.  The need for inde­pen­dent stud­ies is strong. Indeed, pub­lished research of cog­ni­tive train­ing inter­ven­tions has so far been spon­sored and/or con­duct­ed by the com­pa­nies them­selves. As Dr Arthur Kramer says: “We need … a kind of inde­pen­dent “seal of approval” based on inde­pen­dent clin­i­cal trials”

Inte­gra­tion of phys­i­cal and men­tal exercise

Today phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise usu­al­ly take place in very dif­fer­ent set­tings: the for­mer, in health clubs, the lat­er, in uni­ver­si­ties or at home. We pre­dict that the bor­ders between them will become more diffuse.

Expect new pro­grams such as brain fit­ness pod­casts that allow us to train work­ing mem­o­ry as we jog or exer­cise bikes with built-in brain games.

Broad gov­ern­ment initiatives

Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives to increase pub­lic aware­ness of the need for brain fit­ness will be launched. It is becom­ing more wide­ly under­stood by the med­ical and pub­lic pol­i­cy com­mu­ni­ties that a com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cal exer­cise, nutri­tion, men­tal exer­cise and stress man­age­ment can help us main­tain our brain health as we age. As politi­cians and pol­i­cy mak­ers look for ways to delay the onset of Alzheimer-relat­ed symp­toms and oth­er demen­tias in our aging pop­u­la­tion, new ini­tia­tives may be launched.

Ini­tia­tives are under­way. Dr. Daniel Gopher explains that he is involved in a new research project labeled “Skills-multimodal inter­faces for the cap­tur­ing and trans­fer of skill­s” (see Dr. Gopher’s inter­view at the end of Chap­ter 5 in the book). This project aims at facil­i­tat­ing and improv­ing the acqui­si­tion and trans­fer of skills using vir­tu­al-real­i­ty mul­ti­modal inter­faces. It is sup­port­ed by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion: 15 indus­try and uni­ver­si­ty research part­ners, from nine coun­tries, are involved.

The gov­ern­ment of Ontario, Cana­da, has invest­ed $10 m to cre­ate a Brain Fit­ness Cen­tre at Bay­crest Research Insti­tute to devel­op brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions that can be dis­trib­uted through their health­care channels.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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