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.

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