Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Technology as the missing link to enable a brain-based model of brain care: interview with Dr. John Docherty

Dr. John Docherty is an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College, Cornell University, Director of Post Graduate Education there, and Chief Medical Officer of Brain Resource. Trained as a clinical research fellow in neuropsychopharmacology at NIMH, he later returned as Chief of the Psychosocial Treatments Research Branch, responsible for all federally supported psychosocial treatment research in mental health nationwide. He oversaw the landmark National Collaborative Study of the Treatment of Depression and served as a member and Chairman for over 10 years on the NIMH and then NIDA Treatment Research IRGs. Dr. Docherty has wide experience in successfully implementing innovation in both clinical operations and managed health care. He founded Northeast Psychiatric Associates in 1985. As National Medical Director for National Medical Enterprises, he oversaw medical control and quality improvement in 74 hospitals in 34 states. He was the Executive Vice-President and Chief Medical Officer for Merit Behavioral Care, which then covered 30 million people. In 1998, he founded Comprehensive NeuroScience (CNS). Its Care Management Technologies are currently implemented in 17 state Medicaid plans. Dr Docherty has received numerous honors and awards and has authored over 100 scientific publications.

(Editor’s note: this interview with Dr. John Docherty was originally published in SharpBrains’ market report Transforming Brain Health with Digital Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cognition across the Lifespan, published in July 2010)

Alvaro Fernandez: Dr. Docherty, it is a pleasure to be with you today to discuss the main theme of SharpBrains’ 2010 market report – how the convergence of scientific findings and technology platforms and tools is reshaping how as a society and as individuals we will take care of cognition and mental wellness along the lifecourse, giving birth to the emerging digital brain health and fitness market. Can you first briefly discuss your career trajectory and your current role at Brain Resource?

Dr. John Docherty: Sure. The main theme of my work since the 1960s has remained the same, “How do we put knowledge into effective use to improve mental health?” Over the last century, medicine made tremendous progress in generating scientific and clinical knowledge. Basic research discovery science and clinical treatment development science have made great progress. Within Psychiatry there was standard setting advance in the 1960’s through the NIMH-VA cooperative studies to the methodology of assessing the efficacy of psychopharmacological drugs. This work established principles adopted for the study of medications in the other areas of medicine. The study of psychotherapy, however, lagged in development. In my role of Chief of the Psychosocial Treatments Branch of the NIMH , I helped contribute to the advance of that work by supporting the efforts of an extraordinary group of individuals led by Irene Waskow who carried out the TDCRP. This study established the methodologies that made possible the effective scientific study of the efficacy of psychotherapies. The evidence base and of such treatments as CBT, DBT, Motivational Enhancement Treatment and other evidence-based psychotherapies derives directly from this study and its seminal influence. This was a contribution to the science of Clinical Treatment Development research.

I would say that my major interest, however, has been in the next step, the science of knowledge transfer. There has been and remains a long and costly (in terms particularly of unnecessary suffering) lag between the development of new knowledge and its common and effective use in practice.

In order the help the field moved forward, I have worked for the last 20 years in the development and implementation of methods to effectively transfer knowledge into practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Games for Physical, Cognitive and Behavioral Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) just announced more than 200px-Dance_Dance_Revolution_Extreme_arcade_machine_left_side_stage$1.85 million in grants for research teams to study how digital games can improve players’ health behaviors and outcomes (both brain-based and behavioral).

The press release: Nine Leading Research Teams Selected to Study How Digital Games Improve Players’ Health

  • “Digital games are interactive and experiential, and so they can engage people in powerful ways to enhance learning and health behavior change, especially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strategies,” said (UC Santa Barbara’s Dr. Debra) Lieberman.
  • “The pace of growth and innovation in digital games is incredible, and we see tremendous potential to design them to help people stay healthy or manage chronic conditions like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. However, we need to know more about what works and what does not — and why,” said Paul Tarini, team director for RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio. “Health Games Research is a major investment to build a research base for this dynamic young field. Further, the insights and ideas that flow from this work will help us continue to expand our imagination of what is possible in this arena.”

All 9 studies sound interesting, 3 of them are closer to what we track:

  1. University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, CA) A Video Game to Enhance Cognitive Health in Older Adults. As people age, they lose some of their ability to sustain their attention and to focus their attention on their main task while ignoring distractions. This study aims to improve these and other related cognitive skills by using a driving game in which Read the rest of this entry »

Brain-Based Carnival of Education, 186th Edition

Welcome to the 186th edition of the Carnival of Education, the weekly virtual gathering of dozens of bloggers to discuss all things education.

Q: Why do you say this edition is “brain-based”?
A: Because the Q&A frame we are using is inspired by how Chris at Ouroboros recently hosted Encephalon Brain and Mind blog carnival. (Is classic Greek making a comeback?).

Q: As educators, what inspires us to do what we do?
A: Tracy suggests, “Hope for the future”.

Q: And what may happen in the future?
A: Eric proposes that the field can learn much about how athletes train their minds and bodies to maximize performance.

Q: What should not happen in the future?
A: Dave hopes we stop the Textbook Insanity, killing trees to create books not everyone uses.

Q: What comes first, subject or learner?
A: Bogusia has “switched sides”. She now centers her teaching around her students, to make sure they appreciate the beauty of the subject.

Q: How do you know if something is developmentally appropriate?
Read the rest of this entry »

Carnival of Education #159: Briefing the Next US President on 35 Issues

Dear Mr or Mrs Next US President,

Thank you for stopping during recess for a quick study sessiMeditation School Studentson. 35 educators have collaborated to present this Carnival of Education as a useful lesson plan for you and your education policy team on what our real concerns and suggestions are.

In case this is your first visit to our SharpBrains blog, let me first of all point out some useful resources to stay sane during the rest of the campaign: selected Brain Teasers, a list of 21 great Brain Books, over a dozen interviews with leading scientists on learning and brain-based topics, and more.

Without further ado, let’s proceed to the issues raised. We hope they provide, at the very least, good mental stimulation for you and your advisors.

Education as a System

Learning & The Brain Conference: discount for SharpBrains readers

San Francisco Golden Gate BridgeContext: Last February we had the chance to attend a great conference on how brain research is influencing education. Highly recommended. Caroline wrote our impressions, summarized as “It was a fascinating mix of neuroscientists and educators talking with and listening to each other. Some topics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought – insight on where science and education are headed and how they influence each other”. See some of our take-aways below.

Announcement: the 2008 edition of this conference, titled Using Brain Research to Enhance Learning, Attention & Memory For Educators, Parents and Clinicians, will take place in San Francisco, on February 7-9th, 2008. The organizers have kindly invited me to deliver a lecture on Interventions to Sharpen Minds, as part of the Brain Plasticity & Attention track. I will provide an overview of the science behind computer-based cognitive training interventions and discuss a number of research-based programs that are being used today. Let me know if you are planning to attend!

Registration fees: the general registration fees are $495 per person, if you register before January 25th, 2008.

Special Discount for SharpBrains readers: you can register for $450 before that date,  making sure to write
SharpBrains1 in the comments section of How did you hear about the conference? in this Registration Page.

To learn more about the conference: Read the rest of this entry »

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