Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Peter Kissinger on Brain Retraining for U.S. Drivers

The Pres­i­dent of the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safe­ty will pro­vide an update on Brain Retrain­ing for U.S. Dri­vers, at the upcom­ing 2012 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit (June 7–14th, 2012), dis­cussing the progress of this  ini­tia­tive since 2009.

J. Peter Kissinger is the Pres­i­dent and Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer of the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safe­ty, a posi­tion he assumed in May of 2002. The Foun­da­tion is a pub­licly sup­ported, char­i­ta­ble research and edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion Read the rest of this entry »

36-Hour Offer: Integrative Neuroscience, Personalized Medicine and the 2011 SharpBrains Summit

An impres­sive recent ref­er­ence book on the future of brain care is Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science and Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine, edit­ed by Evian Gor­don and Stephen H. Koslow (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press; $89.95).

Book descrip­tion: This book takes an in depth and hard look at the cur­rent sta­tus and future direc­tion of treat­ment pre­dic­tive mark­ers in Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine for the brain from the per­spec­tives of the researchers on the cut­ting edge and those involved in health­care imple­men­ta­tion. The con­tents pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive text suit­able as both a pithy intro­duc­tion to and a clear sum­ma­ry of the “sci­ence to solu­tions” con­tin­u­um in this devel­op­ing field of Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine and Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science. The sci­ence includes both mea­sures of genes using whole genome approach­es and SNIPS as well as BRAIN­mark­ers of direct brain func­tion such as brain imag­ing, bio­phys­i­cal changes and objec­tive cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral mea­sure­ments. More infor­ma­tion below.

36-Hour Offer

Dr. Evian Gor­don will speak at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit: Retool­ing Brain Health for the 21st Cen­tu­ry (March 30th — April 1st) and his firm, Brain Resource, is among Sum­mit Spon­sors. Thanks to his sup­port, we are pleased to announce the fol­low­ing offer: TEN pro­fes­sion­als who reg­is­ter to attend the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit over the next 36 hours, from now until Fri­day March 4th, 7pm US Pacif­ic Time, will each receive a com­pli­men­ta­ry hard­copy of the book Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science and Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine. If more than ten peo­ple reg­is­ter by then, we will select ten names at ran­dom.

We are also pleased to announce the addi­tion of 12 new Speak­ers and Mod­er­a­tors to the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit — the result­ing agen­da is turn­ing out to be noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar (in our, yes, a bit biased judg­ment):

  • Alexan­dra More­house, CMO, AAA North Cal­i­for­nia
  • Dr. Evian Gor­don, CEO, Brain Resource
  • Kath­leen Herath, Asst Vice Pres­i­dent, Nation­wide Insur­ance
  • Dr. David Tal, Direc­tor, A.G.E. Mat­ters Clin­ic
  • Paula Psyl­lakis, Senior Pol­icy Advi­sor, Ontario Min­istry of Research and Inno­va­tion
  • Veroni­ka Litin­ski, Advi­sor, MaRS Life Sci­ences and Health Care
  • Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man, Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor, Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine
  • Dr. Jef­frey Kaye, Direc­tor, NIA — ORCATECH
  • Dr. John Rep­pas, Pol­icy Direc­tor, Neu­rotech­nol­ogy Indus­try Orga­ni­za­tion
  • Dr. Justin Mar­ley, Chair Men­tal Health Infor­mat­ics Group, UK Roy­al Col­lege of Psy­chi­a­trists
  • Dr. David Dar­by, Chief Med­ical Offi­cer, Cogstate
  • Dr. John Hart, Med­ical Sci­ence Direc­tor, Cen­ter for Brain Health at UT-Dal­las

-> Learn More and Reg­is­ter to Par­tic­i­pate in the Sum­mit Here, and get a chance at get­ting a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of the book Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science and Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine!

Read the rest of this entry »

Four New Speakers Confirmed — 2011 SharpBrains Summit

We are hon­ored to announce four new con­firmed Sharp­Brains Sum­mit Speak­ers: Nigel Smith at AARP, Peter Kissinger at the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safe­ty, Kei­th Wesnes at Unit­ed BioSource, and Ken Kosik at UCSB Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute.

Nigel Smith, AARP Strat­e­gy and Inno­va­tion Direc­tor, is respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing decen­tral­ized inno­va­tion mod­els for AARP and for con­sult­ing with busi­ness units in the exe­cu­tion of inno­va­tion process­es. Pri­or to AARP, Nigel was the Direc­tor or Prod­uct Inno­va­tion for Visa USA. Oth­er pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences have been with McK­in­sey & Com­pa­ny, Gold­man Sachs Group, and KPMG. Nigel holds a Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion degree from Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty and a Bach­e­lors in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion degree from Howard Uni­ver­si­ty. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers

Dr. Michael Merzenich Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, is a lead­ing pio­neer in brain plas­tic­i­ty research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invent­ed the cochlear implant. In 1996, he was the found­ing CEO of Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (Nas­daq: SCIL), and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer of Posit Sci­ence. He was elect­ed to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in 1999 and to the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine this year. He retired as Fran­cis A. Sooy Pro­fes­sor and Co-Direc­tor of the Keck Cen­ter for Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cis­co in 2007. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV spe­cials, mul­ti­ple media appear­ances, or neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-relat­ed books.

(Alvaro Fer­nan­dez) Dear Michael, thank you very much for agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gur­al Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit in Jan­u­ary, and for your time today. In order to con­tex­tu­al­ize the Summit’s main themes, I would like to focus this inter­view on the like­ly big-pic­ture impli­ca­tions dur­ing the next 5 years of your work and that of oth­er neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty research and indus­try pio­neers.

Thank you for invit­ing me. I believe the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will be very use­ful and stim­u­lat­ing, you are gath­er­ing an impres­sive group togeth­er. I am look­ing for­ward to Jan­u­ary.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based Tools: The New Health & Well­ness Fron­tier

There are many dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy-free approach­es to harnessing/ enabling/ dri­ving neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. What is the val­ue that tech­nol­o­gy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

It’s all about effi­cien­cy, scal­a­bil­i­ty, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­o­gy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-opti­mal­ly-effi­cient brain-train­ing strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­o­gy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each person’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tive­ly addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cial­ly impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­o­gy is the scal­a­bil­i­ty that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Inter­net!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intu­itive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-pro­cess­ing if all one cares about is mem­o­ry? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to real­ly change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age old­er per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equal­ly effort­ful busi­ness!

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teens and Adults

Safe dri­ving seems to be one area where the ben­e­fits are more intu­itive, which may explain the sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion.

Yes, we see great poten­tial and inter­est among insur­ers for improv­ing dri­ving safe­ty, both for seniors and teens. Appro­pri­ate cog­ni­tive train­ing can low­er at-fault acci­dent rates. You can mea­sure clear ben­e­fits in rel­a­tive­ly short time frames, so it won’t take long for insur­ers to see an eco­nom­ic ratio­nale to not only offer pro­grams at low cost or for free but to incen­tivize dri­vers to com­plete them. All­state, AAA, State Farm and oth­er insur­ers are begin­ning to real­ize this poten­tial. It is impor­tant to note that typ­i­cal acci­dents among teens and seniors are dif­fer­ent, so that train­ing method­olo­gies will need to be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent high-risk pop­u­la­tions.

Yet, most dri­ving safe­ty ini­tia­tives today still focus on edu­cat­ing dri­vers, rather that train­ing them neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly. We mea­sure vision, for exam­ple, but com­plete­ly ignore atten­tion­al con­trol abil­i­ties, or a driver’s use­ful field of view. I expect this to change sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insur­ance com­pa­nies will ulti­mate­ly see sim­i­lar ben­e­fits, and we believe that they will fol­low a sim­i­lar course of action to reduce gen­er­al med­ical and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease- (Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s- and Parkin­sons-) relat­ed costs. In fact, many senior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties are among the pio­neers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vital­i­ty

Main­stream media is cov­er­ing this emerg­ing cat­e­go­ry with thou­sands of sto­ries. But most cov­er­age seems still focused on does it work? more than “how do we define It”, what does work mean? or work for whom, and for what? Can you sum­ma­rize what recent research sug­gests?

We have seen clear pat­terns in the appli­ca­tion of our train­ing pro­grams, some pub­lished (like IMPACT), some unpub­lished, some with healthy adults, and some with peo­ple with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment or ear­ly Alzheimers Dis­ease (AD). What we see in every case: Read the rest of this entry »

AAA to deploy Brain Fitness Software DriveSharp to Assess and Train Older Driver’s Brains

The AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safe­ty just start­ed to rec­om­mend a new dri­ver safe­ty pro­gram called Dri­ve­Sharp (see AAA and Posit Release Pro­gram to Improve Dri­vers’ Minds), devel­oped by Posit Sci­ence. Dri­ve­Sharp is a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tool based on Kar­lene Ball’s research on old­er adults’ cog­ni­tive fit­ness and dri­ving.

In the press release for the agree­ment, Peter Kissinger, dri­ver safe­ty research and pol­i­cy vet­er­an and CEO of the AAA Foun­da­tion, says thatPeter Kissinger AAA Foundation “Part of mak­ing our nation’s roads safer is help­ing mature dri­vers who wish to stay active — a quick­ly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion — main­tain or improve their dri­ving safe­ty.”

We have Peter Kissinger with us to dis­cuss the con­text for this inno­v­a­tive ini­tia­tive.

Peter, I appre­ci­ate your time. In order to set the con­text, would you intro­duce the role and pri­or­i­ties of the AAA Foun­da­tion?

Sure. All your read­ers will know that AAA is the main dri­ver asso­ci­a­tion in North Amer­i­ca, with over 50 mil­lion mem­bers. The AAA Foun­da­tion is focused on the research and pol­i­cy required to improve dri­ver safe­ty and has 4 strate­gic pri­or­i­ties:
— Intro­duce a cul­ture of traf­fic safe­ty. It is an out­rage that there is a dri­ving-relat­ed death every 13 min­utes in the US, and yet, we seem to accept this as sta­tus quo
— Improve road safe­ty, espe­cial­ly on rur­al roads, where almost 60% of the deaths occur,
— Improve safe­ty among teens, one of the high­est risk groups
— Improve safe­ty among seniors, anoth­er high-risk group.

In terms of dri­ver-cen­tered inter­ven­tions, are your pri­or­i­ties are teenage and old­er dri­vers?

driver fatality rateYes. You have prob­a­bly seen the U-shaped risk curve (Edi­tor note: see fig­ure at left) that shows how acci­dent risks are very high among teenagers, then decrease and remain sta­ble until our 60s, and then increase again.

We have pro­mot­ed ini­tia­tives such as Dri­verZED (see www.driverzed.org) to help teenagers bet­ter iden­ti­fy and man­age the typ­i­cal sources of risk, so they advance faster through the learn­ing curve. For old­er dri­vers we focus on how to bal­ance the priv­i­lege of dri­ving with the right of mobil­i­ty — we know that los­ing dri­ving inde­pen­dence can bring a vari­ety of neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the indi­vid­ual.

Giv­en aging pop­u­la­tion trends, it is clear we need to intro­duce bet­ter sys­tems to bal­ance those two goals you just out­lined -safe­ty and mobil­i­ty. Do you think as a soci­ety we are pre­pared?

I don’t think we are, and I am pes­simistic that we will be in the short term. This is a very impor­tant prob­lem: offi­cial esti­mates say that the pro­por­tion of all dri­vers who are over 65 years of age will grow from 15% today to 25% in 2025.

Let me give you some back­ground: two years ago we put togeth­er a work­shop to iden­ti­fy the state of the research and the state of the prac­tice of dri­ver safe­ty among Read the rest of this entry »

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