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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.