Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Growing ecosystem to help assess needs and navigate options

Psychologists and physicians

ajPsychologists and physicians will have to help patients navigate through the overwhelming range of available products and interpret the results of cognitive assessments. Indeed, according to Dr. Larry McCleary (whose interview you will find at the end of Chapter 2), health professionals should counsel their patients on tips for brain health in the same way they discuss cardiac risk factors and how to address them.

However, as Dr. Arthur Lavin points out, many professionals were educated in the days when scientists still believed that the brain was not much plastic and rather “un-trainable” (see Dr. Lavin’s interview at the end of Chapter 3). As a consequence, these professionals are quite skeptical regarding brain fitness and its potential benefits. Significant professional development efforts will be required.

Insurance companies

Insurance companies will introduce incentives for members to encourage healthy aging. Many insurance plans today include rewards for members who, for example, voluntarily take health-related questionnaires that enable them to identify steps to take to improve health. Increasingly, brain-related lifestyle factors will become part of these interventions.

Companies like Allstate have already taken proactive measures to reduce driving risks in older drivers by offering their Pennsylvania members aged 50-75 to participate in a training program involving the Insight software. If this initiative is successful Allstate plans to use the program nationwide and perhaps even offer discounts to policy-holders who commit to using the program.

U.S. military

As the military increasingly funds research to improve the diagnostic and treatment of problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, the resulting products will ultimately find commercial uses.

For instance, Dr. Arthur Kramer’s lab is involved in a five years study for the U.S. Navy to explore ways to capitalize on emerging research about brain plasticity to enhance training and performance. The MIT and Dr. Kramer’s lab will be looking for the best ways to increase the efficiency and efficacy of training of individual and team performance skills. They will focus on skills requiring high levels of flexibility. Dr. Kramer points out that the results from this study will be in the public domain, where they will contribute to the growth of the field of brain fitness in general (see Dr. Kramer’s interview in Chapter 2).

Corporate America

Brain fitness will be added to corporate wellness and leadership initiatives. Large employers with existing corporate wellness and leadership programs will introduce brain fitness specific programs aimed not only at improved health outcomes but also at increased productivity and cognitive performance in the workplace.

Dr. Daniel Gopher, whose interview is reported in Chapter 5, describes what process one would follow to develop applications for specific activities or professions: “First, one needs to analyze what cognitive skills are involved in playing at top level, and then develop a computer-based cognitive simulation that trains those skills. What most people do not realize is that top players are not born top players. We are not just talking about instincts. We are talking about skills that can be trained.”

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.