Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Music as Therapy: Music, Movement, Cognition!

The Sound of Music
Whether you real­ize it or not, you already know a lot when it comes to music. Accord­ing to Daniel Lev­itin, for­mer record pro­duc­er, cur­rent neu­ro­sci­en­tist, psy­chol­o­gist and author of This Is Your Brain On Music, you know: Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Define Brain Fitness and Physical Fitness

Bev­er­ly San­born, Vice Pres­i­dent of Pro­gram Devel­op­ment at Bel­mont Senior Liv­ing and sched­uled 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit Speak­er, could not final­ly speak at the Sum­mit (she was very well replaced by col­league Jeff DeBevec), but for­tu­nate­ly we can share her thought­ful answers to the fol­low­ing four crit­i­cal ques­tions.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

Brain fit­ness and phys­i­cal fit­ness are inter­linked. Each enhances the oth­er and both are essen­tial com­po­nents of suc­cess­ful aging. As we age, the abil­i­ty to cope with inex­orable chal­lenge to social-emo­tion­al-eco­nom­ic well-being is root­ed in hav­ing a high lev­el of men­tal alert­ness and a phys­i­cal body that func­tions effi­cient­ly. But fit­ness is not just a hap­py con­se­quence of a hardy gene pool. Fit­ness for both brain and brawn requires a com­mit­ted effort, a lot of stretch and sweat, and the con­stant push to reach beyond the com­fort zone. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness/ Training Report Finds Market Growth, Potential, and Confusion

After many many months of men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and the cer­tain need for stress man­age­ment… we have just announced the release of the The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 report, our sec­ond annu­al com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket analy­sis of the US mar­ket for com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools. In this report we esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $265M in 2008, up from $225M in 2007 (18% annu­al growth), and from $100m in 2005. Two seg­ments fuelled the mar­ket growth from 2007 to 2008: con­sumers (grew from $80m to $95m) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $65m to $80m).

The 150-page report finds promis­ing research and ini­tia­tives to dri­ve sig­nif­i­cant growth, com­bined with increased con­sumer con­fu­sion giv­en aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims and lack of edu­ca­tion and stan­dards. The report includes:
— The com­plete results of an exclu­sive Jan­u­ary 2009 Sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents
— A pro­pri­etary Mar­ket & Research Momen­tum Matrix to cat­e­go­rize 21 key ven­dors into four cat­e­gories
— 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs writ­ten by lead­ing sci­en­tists at promi­nent research labs
— An analy­sis of the lev­el of clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion per prod­uct and cog­ni­tive domain

Top 10 High­lights from the report:

1) Con­sumers, seniors, com­mu­ni­ties and insur­ance providers drove year on year sus­tained growth, from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008. Rev­enues may reach between $1 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion by 2015, depend­ing on how impor­tant prob­lems (Pub­lic Aware­ness, Nav­i­gat­ing Claims, Research, Health Cul­ture, Lack of Assess­ment) are addressed.

2) Increased inter­est and con­fu­sion: 61% of respon­dents Strong­ly Agree with the state­ment Address­ing cog­ni­tive and brain health should be a health­care pri­or­i­ty. But, 65% Agree/Strongly Agree. I don’t real­ly know what to expect from prod­ucts mak­ing brain claims.

3) Invest­ment in R&D seeds future growth: Land­mark invest­ments by insur­ance providers and gov­ern­ment-fund­ed research insti­tutes test­ing new brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions plant­ed new seeds for future growth.

4) Becom­ing stan­dard in res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties: Over 700 res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties most­ly Inde­pen­dent and Assist­ed Liv­ing facil­i­ties and CCRCs have installed com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams.

5) Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion: Con­sumers seem more sat­is­fied with com­put­er-based prod­ucts than paper-based options. But, sat­is­fac­tion dif­fers by prod­uct. When asked I got real val­ue for my mon­ey, results were as fol­lows: Lumosity.com (65% Agree), Puz­zle Books (60%), Posit Sci­ence (52%), Nin­ten­do (51%) agreed. Posit Sci­ence (53% Agree) and Lumosity.com (51%) do bet­ter than Puz­zle Books (39%) and Nin­ten­do (38%) at I have seen the results I want­ed.

6) Assess­ments: Increas­ing adop­tion of com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments to base­line and track cog­ni­tive func­tions over time in mil­i­tary, sports, and clin­i­cal con­texts. The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­i­ca now advo­cates for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after 65–75.

7) Spe­cif­ic com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing and videogames have been shown to improve brain func­tions, but the key ques­tions are, Which ones, and Who needs what when?

8) Aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims are cre­at­ing con­fu­sion and skep­ti­cism, result­ing in a dis­tract­ing con­tro­ver­sy between two mis­lead­ing extremes: (a) buy­ing prod­uct XYZ can reju­ve­nate your brain Y years or (b) those prod­ucts don’t work; just do one more cross­word puz­zle. The upcom­ing book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness aims to help con­sumers nav­i­gate these claims.

9) Devel­op­ers can be clas­si­fied into four groups, based on a pro­pri­etary Mar­ket and Research Momen­tum Matrix: Sharp­Brains finds 4 Lead­ers, 8 High Poten­tials, 3 Cross­words 2.0, and 6 Wait & See com­pa­nies.

10) Increased dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion: Lead­ing com­pa­nies are bet­ter defin­ing their val­ue propo­si­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels to reach spe­cif­ic seg­ments such as retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties, schools, or health­care providers.

Lead­ing researchers pre­pared 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs:
- Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man (Ein­stein-Mon­te­o­re): Neu­ro­pro­tec­tion via cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties
— Dr. Jer­ri Edwards (South Flori­da): Assess­ments of dri­ving fit­ness
— Dr. Susanne Jaeg­gi and Dr. Mar­tin Buschkuehl (Bern, Michi­gan): Work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing and  intel­li­gence
— Dr. Torkel Kling­berg (Karolin­s­ka): Work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, dopamine, and math
— Dr. Liz Zelin­s­ki (UC Davis): Audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing train­ing
— Dr. David Vance (UAB): Speed-of-pro­cess­ing train­ing
— Dr. Jer­ri Edwards (South Flori­da): Cog­ni­tive train­ing for healthy aging
— Dr. Daphne Bave­li­er & Dr. Shawn Green (Rochester): Action videogames and atten­tion­al skills
— Dr. Arthur Kramer (Illi­nois): Strat­e­gy videogames and exec­u­tive func­tions
— Dr. Yaakov Stern (Colum­bia): The cog­ni­tive reserve and neu­roimag­ing
— Dr. David Rabin­er (Duke): Objec­tive assess­ments for ADHD

Table of Con­tents

Edi­to­r­i­al
Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry
Chap­ter 1. Bird-Eye View of the Grow­ing Field
Chap­ter 2. Mar­ket Sur­vey on Beliefs, Atti­tudes, Pur­chase Habits
Chap­ter 3. The Emerg­ing Com­pet­i­tive Land­scape
Chap­ter 4. The Sci­ence for Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 5. Con­sumers  Adopt­ing Cross­words 2.0?
Chap­ter 6: Health­care and Insur­ance Providers — A Cul­ture of Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 7: K12 School Sys­tems- Ready for Change?
Chap­ter 8: Mil­i­tary, Sports Teams, Com­pa­nies,  Brain-Per­for­mance Link
Chap­ter 9: Future Direc­tions‚ Pro­jec­tions and Bot­tle­necks

Com­pa­nies pro­filed include: Advanced Brain Tech­nolo­gies, Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing, Brain Cen­ter Amer­i­ca, Brain Resource, CNS Vital Signs, Cogmed, Cogstate, Cog­niFit, Cog­ni­tive Drug Research, Dakim, Houghton Mif­flin, Learn­ing Enhance­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, Learn­ingRx, Lumos Labs, Mar­bles: The Brain Store, Nin­ten­do, NovaV­i­sion, Posit Sci­ence, Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing, Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing, Trans­An­a­lyt­ics, vibrant­Brains, Vig­or­ous Mind, Viv­i­ty Labs.

More on the report by click­ing on The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009.

Brain Health News: Top Articles and Resources in March

There’s such a flood of very sig­nif­i­cant research stud­ies, edu­ca­tion­al resources and arti­cles relat­ed to brain health, it’s hard to keep track — even for us!

Let me intro­duce and quote some of the top Brain Health Stud­ies, Arti­cles and Resources pub­lished in March:

1) Cog­ni­tive Decline Begins In Late 20s, Study Sug­gests (Sci­ence Dai­ly)

- “These pat­terns sug­gest that some types of men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty decrease rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly in adult­hood, but that how much knowl­edge one has, and the effec­tive­ness of inte­grat­ing it with one’s abil­i­ties, may increase through­out all of adult­hood if there are no patho­log­i­cal dis­eases,” Salt­house said.

- How­ev­er, Salt­house points out that there is a great deal of vari­ance from per­son to per­son

2) Cere­brum 2009: Emerg­ing Ideas in Brain Sci­ence — new book by the Dana Foun­da­tion that “explores the cut­ting edge of brain research and its impli­ca­tions in our every­day lives, in lan­guage under­stand­able to the gen­er­al read­er.”

A cou­ple of excel­lent chap­ters of direct rel­e­vance to every­one’s brain health are:
— Chap­ter 4: A Road Paved by Rea­son, by Eliz­a­beth Nor­ton Lasley

- Chap­ter 10: Neur­al Health: Is It Facil­i­tat­ed by Work Force Par­tic­i­pa­tion?, by Denise Park, Ph.D

3) Stay­ing Sharp DVD Pro­gram: “Dr. Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Sec­tion at the Nation­al Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke out­side of Wash­ing­ton, DC, and a mem­ber of the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives, is your guide as we cov­er what to expect from the aging brain and what we can do to ‘stay sharp.’

For a free DVD of this pro­gram you can con­tact stayingsharp@dana.org. (they say free in their web­site, I don’t know if that includes ship­ping & han­dling)

4) Dri­vers to be test­ed on cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty start­ing at age 75 (Japan Times)

The out­line of a cog­ni­tive test that dri­vers aged 75 or over will be required to take from June when renew­ing their licens­es was released Thursday…The test is intend­ed to reduce the num­ber of traf­fic acci­dents involv­ing elder­ly dri­vers by mea­sur­ing their cog­ni­tive lev­el.

5) Phys­i­cal Fit­ness Improves Spa­tial Mem­o­ry, Increas­es Size Of Brain Struc­ture (Sci­ence Dai­ly)

- “Now researchers have found that elder­ly adults who are more phys­i­cal­ly fit tend to have big­ger hip­pocampi and bet­ter spa­tial mem­o­ry than those who are less fit.”

6) Brain Train­ers: A Work­out for the Mind (Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can Mind)

I recent­ly tried out eight of the lat­est brain fit­ness pro­grams, train­ing with each for a week. The pro­grams ranged wide­ly in focus, qual­i­ty and how fun they were to use. “Like phys­i­cal exer­cise equip­ment, a brain exer­cise pro­gram does­n’t do you any good if you don’t use it, says Andrew J. Car­le, direc­tor of the Pro­gram in Assist­ed Living/Senior Hous­ing Admin­is­tra­tion at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty. And peo­ple tend not to use bor­ing equip­ment. “I remem­ber when Nor­dic­Track was the biggest thing out there. Every­one ran out and bought one, and 90 per­cent of them end­ed up as a clothes rack in the back of your bed­room.

The reporter used: Posit Sci­ence’s Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram Clas­sic, Hap­pyNeu­ron, Nin­ten­do BrainAge, Cog­niFit’s MindFit/ Cog­niFit Per­son­al Coach, Lumos­i­ty, MyBrain­Train­er, Brain­Twister, Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing.

7) The Lat­est in Men­tal Health: Work­ing Out at the ‘Brain Gym’ (Wall Street Jour­nal)

- “Mar­shall Kahn, an 82-year-old fam­i­ly doc­tor in Fuller­ton, Calif., says he got such a boost from brain exer­cis­es he start­ed doing at a “Nifty after Fifty” club that he decid­ed to start see­ing patients again part-time. “Doing all the men­tal exer­cise,” he says, “I real­ized I’ve still got it.”

8) Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites (Wash­ing­ton Post)

- “New data from a large fed­er­al study have reignit­ed a debate over the effec­tive­ness of long-term drug treat­ment of chil­dren with hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty or atten­tion-deficit dis­or­der, and have drawn accu­sa­tions that some mem­bers of the research team have sought to play down evi­dence that med­ica­tions do lit­tle good beyond 24 months.”

- “The study also indi­cat­ed that long-term use of the drugs can stunt chil­dren’s growth.”

8) Adap­tive train­ing leads to sus­tained enhance­ment of poor work­ing mem­o­ry in chil­dren (Devel­op­men­tal Sci­ence)

Abstract: Work­ing mem­o­ry plays a cru­cial role in sup­port­ing learn­ing, with poor progress in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics char­ac­ter­iz­ing chil­dren with low mem­o­ry skills. This study inves­ti­gat­ed whether these prob­lems can be over­come by a train­ing pro­gram designed to boost work­ing mem­o­ry. Chil­dren with low work­ing mem­o­ry skills were assessed on mea­sures of work­ing mem­o­ry, IQ and aca­d­e­m­ic attain­ment before and after train­ing on either adap­tive or non-adap­tive ver­sions of the pro­gram. Adap­tive train­ing that taxed work­ing mem­o­ry to its lim­its was asso­ci­at­ed with sub­stan­tial and sus­tained gains in work­ing mem­o­ry, with age-appro­pri­ate lev­els achieved by the major­i­ty of chil­dren. Math­e­mat­i­cal abil­i­ty also improved sig­nif­i­cant­ly 6 months fol­low­ing adap­tive train­ing. These find­ings indi­cate that com­mon impair­ments in work­ing mem­o­ry and asso­ci­at­ed learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties may be over­come with this behav­ioral treat­ment.

9) Brain cor­tex thin­ning linked to inher­it­ed depres­sion (Los Ange­les Times)

- “On aver­age, peo­ple with a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of depres­sion appear to have brains that are 28% thin­ner in the right cor­tex — the out­er­most lay­er of the brain — than those with no known fam­i­ly his­to­ry of the dis­ease. That cor­ti­cal thin­ning, said the researchers, is on a scale sim­i­lar to that seen in patients with Alzheimer’s dis­ease or schiz­o­phre­nia.”

Montessori classroom for Alzheimer’s disease patients

A beau­ti­ful ini­tia­tive, fea­tured in the New York Times today:
Com­ing Full Cir­cle:

- “In a typ­i­cal Montes­sori class­room, teach­ers use cat­e­go­ry-sort­ing exer­cis­es to help young stu­dents see pat­terns and con­nec­tions. But the par­tic­i­pants in this group were most­ly in their 80s and on the oth­er side of the cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment curve. They are res­i­dents at an assist­ed-liv­ing facil­i­ty for peo­ple with demen­tia called Hearth­stone at the Esplanade, which has six oth­er homes in New York State and Mass­a­chu­setts. Since July the res­i­dents have par­tic­i­pat­ed in a full-time pro­gram of Montes­sori-based activ­i­ties designed for peo­ple with mem­o­ry defi­cien­cies.”

- “A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion about peo­ple with demen­tia, Dr. Camp said, is that they no longer learn. But they do: res­i­dents learn to find their din­ing room table, for exam­ple, well after the onset of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. And because they no longer have the high­er brain func­tion they had as adults, he rea­soned, they are well suit­ed to Montes­sori.”

Full arti­cle: Com­ing Full Cir­cle.

Relat­ed posts:

- Alzheimer’s Risk and Pre­ven­tion: the Cog­ni­tive Reserve

- Your com­ments on cog­ni­tive train­ing, Posit Sci­ence, Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia, geron­tol­ogy, games

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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