Yesterday I had the chance to chat with Yaakov Stern, leading Cognitive Reserve researcher at Columbia University, and then with a group of 25 lifelong learners in Arizona who attended a brain fitness class (hello, Robert and friends!) based on our consumer guide The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. On reflection, I found both conversations to be very stimulating for the same reason: they were forward-looking, focused not so much on status quo but on how emerging research, technology and trends may impact our society and lives in years to come. Let’s continue the conversation. Let me share the 10 main trends that we analyzed/ forecasted in our book, and then ask you, sharp readers, to add your own 2 cents to the discussion. [Read more…] about Top 10 Brain Training Trends — Putting our Cognitive Reserve to Work
In an emerging, dynamic, high growth market, like brain training, it is difficult to make precise projections. But, we can observe a number of trends that executives, consumers, public policy makers, and the media should watch closely in the coming years, as brain fitness and training becomes mainstream, new tools appear, and an ecosystem grows around it.
1. We predict an increased emphasis on brain maintenance in locations ranging from retirement communities to gyms. As a computer-savvy baby boomer population looks for ways to stay mentally fit, brain fitness, or brain training, is becoming part of their vocabulary and concern.
2. Physical and mental exercise will be better integrated. Physical exercise has been shown to increase the rate of neurogenesis, whereas mental exercise helps ensure the survival of any newly created neurons. Today both activities usually take place in very different settings: the former, in health clubs, the later, in universities. 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.
3. Watch for a [Read more…] about Brain Training Top 10 Future Trends
One of the best articles so far on the growing brain fitness market, by the Associated Press.
Click Here to check out story:
“This is not just a Nintendo-fueled fad,” he says. “The brain fitness market passed a tipping point in 2007 thanks to the convergence of a very proactive boomer generation hitting their 60s.”
Article: Here. Highly recommended.
Now, as you read it, please remember the theme of our most recent newsletter: Emerging Tools, Not Magic Pills.
And, for all new readers who are joining us given the extra coverage (CNN, CBS, CHicago Tribune, dozens of other papers and websites), let me reprint now an article I wrote here in February:
A spate of recent news coverage on brain fitness and “brain training” reflects a growing interest in natural, non-drug-based interventions to keep our brains sharp as we age. This interest is very timely, given the aging population, increasing Alzheimer’s rates, and soaring health care costs that place more emphasis than ever on prevention and changing lifestyle.
Given the growing number of articles in the popular press mentioning words such as “neuroplasticity”, “fMRI” and “cognitive reserve”, let’s review some key findings, concepts and terms.
First, a prescient quote by Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852–1934): “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor his own brain”.
Thanks to new neuroimaging techniques, regarded “as important for neuroscience as telescopes were for astronomy, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists have been finding that the brain has a number of “core capacities” and “mental muscles” that can be exercised through novelty, variety and practice, and that exercising our brain can influence the generation of new neurons and their connections. Brain exercise is being recognized, therefore, as a critical pillar of brain health, together with nutrition, physical exercise and stress management.
Previous beliefs about our brain and how it works have been proven false. Some beliefs that have been debunked include claims that adult brains can not create new neurons (shown to be false by Berkeley scientists Marian Diamond and Mark Rosenzweig, and Salk Institute’s Fred Gage), notions that working memory has a maximum limit of 6 or 7 items (debunked by Karolinska Institute Torkel Klingberg), and assumptions that the brain’s basic processes can not be reorganized by repeated practice (UCSF’s Drs. Paula Tallal and Michael Merzenich). The “mental muscles” we can train include attention, stress and emotional management, memory, visual/ spatial, auditory processes and language, motor coordination and executive functions like planning and problem-solving.
Mental stimulation is important if done in the right supportive and engaging environment. Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky has proven that chronic stress and cortical inhibition, which may be aggravated due to imposed mental stimulation, may prove counterproductive. Having the right motivation is essential.
A surprising and promising area of scientific inquiry is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). An increasing number of neuroscientists (such as University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Richard Davidson) are investigating the ability of trained meditators to develop and sustain attention and visualizations and to work positively with powerful emotional states and stress through the directed mental processes of meditation practices.
And now, some keywords:
Brain Fitness Program: structured set of brain exercises, usually computer-based, designed to train specific brain areas and processes in targeted ways.
Chronic Stress: ongoing, long-term stress, which blocks the formation of new neurons and [Read more…] about Neuroplasticity 101 and Brain Health Glossary