Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The Brain Fitness/ Training Market: An Executive Summary

Over the next weeks we are going to be shar­ing the Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry of our mar­ket report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 with mem­bers and clients of sev­er­al part­ner orga­ni­za­tions (the British Colum­bia Seniors Liv­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, where I will be speak­ing this Thurs­day, Neu­rotech Reports, where I will speak on Octo­ber 24th, and the Health 2.0 con­fer­ence, where we are spon­sor­ing a pan­el on gam­ing for health), so it is only fair that we first share it with our own read­ers.

Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry

A spate of recent glob­al 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 an aging pop­u­la­tion, increas­ing preva­lence of Alzheimer’s rates, and soar­ing health care costs in the US that place more empha­sis than ever on pre­ven­tion and lifestyle changes.

US brain fit­ness mar­ket: sig­nif­i­cant and grow­ing

We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness mar­ket was $225m in 2007 – more than dou­ble what it was in 2005. Where­as K12 school sys­tems were the largest buy­ers in 2005, con­sumers were respon­si­ble for most of the growth from 2005 to 2007. We esti­mate that the con­sumer seg­ment grew from a few mil­lion in 2005 to $80m in 2007, and fore­see sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket growth dri­ven not only by con­sumers but also by health­care and insur­ance providers.

Mar­ket dynam­ics

As we speak to diverse audi­ences about this emerg­ing field around the coun­try we are fre­quent­ly asked the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

- Why are we talk­ing about the brain fit­ness field at all?

Over the past decade, teams backed by neu­ro­sci­en­tists around the world Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: December Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesI hope you are hav­ing a joy­ful hol­i­day sea­son, and wish you a Hap­py and Pros­per­ous 2008. The Brain Fit­ness field has made a great deal of progress in 2007, and we are look­ing for­ward the New Year.

Here you are have the Month­ly Digest of our Most Pop­u­lar Blog Posts. You can con­sid­er it your month­ly Brain Fitness/ Exer­cise Newslet­ter.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our blog RSS feed, or to our month­ly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this month­ly Digest by email).

Let me first of all intro­duce you to our new “Author Speaks Series”, where we will give lead­ing sci­en­tists and experts a forum to present their new brain-relat­ed books. We are hon­ored to kick­start the series with Lar­ry McCleary, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal. You can read Here his arti­cle on how to keep a brain-friend­ly lifestyle. This series will com­ple­ment our ongo­ing Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series.

Brain Fit­ness in the News

Brain Fit­ness @ PBS: PBS fea­tured a fan­tas­tic spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and brain fit­ness dur­ing the month of Decem­ber. Before you ask: as of today, the DVD of the pro­gram is still not avail­able in PBS online shop. We expect to see it there in 2–3 weeks. We will keep you informed.

The Huff­in­g­ton Post start­ed fea­tur­ing a col­umn writ­ten by me: you may enjoy tak­ing a look at Alvaro Fer­nan­dez — Liv­ing on The Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Jog­ging our Brains for Brain Vital­i­ty, Healthy Aging-and Intel­li­gence!: a roundup of sev­er­al great recent arti­cles on mem­o­ry, aging, IQ and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as self-con­trol.

Health & Well­ness

Brain Train­ing: No Mag­ic Bul­let, Yet Use­ful Tool. Inter­view with Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki: Dr. Zelin­s­ki, lead­ing researcher of the IMPACT study, shares fas­ci­nat­ing insights. For exam­ple: “…cog­ni­tive enhance­ment requires the engage­ment in a vari­ety of activ­i­ties, those activ­i­ties must be nov­el, adap­tive and chal­leng­ing-which is why com­put­er-based pro­grams can be help­ful. But even at a more basic lev­el, what mat­ters is being engaged with life, con­tin­u­al­ly exposed to stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, always try­ing to get out of our com­fort zones, doing our best at what­ev­er we are doing. A major typ­i­cal mis­con­cep­tion is that there is only one gen­er­al intel­li­gence to care about. In real­i­ty, we have many dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, such as atten­tion, mem­o­ry, lan­guage, rea­son­ing, and more, so it makes sense to have dif­fer­ent pro­grams designed to train and improve each of them.”

How to Eval­u­ate and Choose a Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram: To help you nav­i­gate the grow­ing num­ber of com­put­er-based pro­grams and games, we pub­lished this 10-Ques­tion Check­list, based on dozens of inter­views with sci­en­tists, experts and con­sumers.

Trav­el and Engage­ment as Good Brain Exer­cise: As we’ve seen, nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge are the key guide­lines for “brain exer­cise” that help build new neur­al con­nec­tions, force one to be mind­ful and pay atten­tion, improve abil­i­ties such as pat­tern-recog­ni­tion, and gen­er­al­ly con­tribute to life­long brain health. In this post we fea­ture the brain build­ing / mind expand­ing expe­ri­ence of a Sharp­Brains friend work­ing in Namib­ia.

Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion and Diag­nos­tic Tests: analy­sis of sev­er­al recent arti­cles on emerg­ing research behind Alzheimer’s diag­nos­tic and pre­ven­tion.

Cor­po­rate Well­ness and Train­ing

Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Intel­lec­tu­al­ly Demand­ing Jobs: a recent study shows how “Intel­lec­tu­al­ly demand­ing work was asso­ci­at­ed with greater ben­e­fit to cog­ni­tive per­for­mance in lat­er life inde­pen­dent of relat­ed fac­tors like edu­ca­tion and intel­li­gence.”

Cog­ni­tive Health and Baby Boomers- 6 Points to Keep in Mind: based upon an excel­lent McK­in­sey report titled Serv­ing Aging Baby Boomers, we dis­cuss a vari­ety a news arti­cles, includ­ing inter­est­ing num­bers, some bad news, and some good news.

Life­long Learn­ing Is Chang­ing My Brain: Andreas, the neu­ro­science PhD stu­dent who spent last sum­mer work­ing with Sharp­Brains, writes some reflec­tions on his expe­ri­ence and on how sci­en­tists and busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als can learn from each oth­er.

Brain Teasers

Trav­el­er IQ Game: Check out this stim­u­lat­ing online game…

Events

Learn­ing & The Brain Con­fer­ence, Feb­ru­ary 5–7 2008, San Fran­cis­co: Sign up now for this great con­fer­ence for edu­ca­tors who want to learn about the lat­est brain research find­ings and impli­ca­tions. I will be speak­ing at the con­fer­ence giv­ing an overview of inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams. The orga­niz­ers are offer­ing a Spe­cial Dis­count for Sharp­Brains read­ers until Jan­u­ary 25th 2008, so click here if inter­est­ed.

If we don’t talk beforehand…Happy New Year!

———————

You can also enjoy our pre­vi­ous edi­tions of our Brain Fit­ness Newslet­ter:

- Novem­ber Edi­tion

- Octo­ber Edi­tion

- Sep­tem­ber Edi­tion

- August Edi­tion

- July Edi­tion

Cognitive Fitness and Brain Improvement: 10 Debunked Myths

Over the last year we have inter­viewed a num­ber of lead­ing brain health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and prac­ti­tion­ers world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have news to report.

What can we say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­a­go Ramon ySantiago Ramon y Cajal Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tu­ry, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­i­ty in the XXI. And influ­ence Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process.

We have only scratched the sur­face of what sci­ence-based struc­tured cog­ni­tive (i.e., men­tal) exer­cise can do for brain health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. We are now wit­ness­ing the birth of a new indus­try that cross­es tra­di­tion­al sec­tor bound­aries and that may help us under­stand, assess and train our brains, har­ness­ing the grow­ing research about neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons), neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence), cog­ni­tive train­ing and emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion.

Let’s now debunk 10 myths, still too preva­lent, that may pre­vent us from see­ing the full poten­tial of this emerg­ing field:

Myth 1: It’s all in our genes.

Real­i­ty: A big com­po­nent of our life­long brain health and devel­op­ment depends on what we do with our brains. Our own actions, not only our genes, influ­ence our lives to a large extent. Genes pre­dis­pose us, not deter­mine our fates.

Indi­vid­u­als who lead men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s. Stud­ies sug­gest that they have 35–40% less risk of man­i­fest­ing the dis­ease” — Dr. Yaakov Stern, Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty.

Myth 2: The field of Cognitive/ Brain Fit­ness is too new to be cred­i­ble.

Real­i­ty: The field rests on sol­id foun­da­tions dat­ing back more decades — what is new is the num­ber and range of tools that are now start­ing to be avail­able for healthy indi­vid­u­als.

Rig­or­ous and tar­get­ed cog­ni­tive train­ing has been used in clin­i­cal prac­tice for many years. Exer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies.” — Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, Frontal Lobes fMRIclin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of Alexan­der Luria.

Today, thanks to fMRI and oth­er neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, we are start­ing to under­stand the impact our actions can have on spe­cif­ic parts of the brain.” — Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research.

Myth 3: Med­ica­tion is and will remain the only evi­dence-based inter­ven­tion for a num­ber of brain-relat­ed prob­lems.

Real­i­ty: Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams are start­ing to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers and Games for the Brain: Test your Brain

Frontal LobesIt is always good to stim­u­late our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work. Here you have a selec­tion of the 50 Brain Teasers that peo­ple have enjoyed the most in our blog and speak­ing engage­ments.

Fun exper­i­ments on how our brains work

1. Do you think you know the col­ors?: try the Stroop Test.

2. Can you count?: Bas­ket­ball atten­tion exper­i­ment (Inter­ac­tive).

3. Who is this?: A very impor­tant lit­tle guy (Inter­ac­tive).

4. How is this pos­si­ble?.

5. Take the Sens­es Chal­lenge (Inter­ac­tive).

6. Are there more brain con­nec­tions or leaves in the Ama­zon?.

Atten­tionTwo In One Task

7. How are your divid­ed atten­tion skills? check out “Inside and Out­side” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit).

8. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? try “Two in One” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit)

9. Count the Fs in this sen­tence.

10. What do you see? can you alter­nate between 2 views?.

Mem­o­ryPicasso Task

11. Easy one…draw the face of a pen­ny, please. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Software and Training Games

Unless you have been liv­ing in a cave, you have read by now mul­ti­ple arti­cles about the brain train­ing and brain exer­cise craze: sudoku, Nin­ten­do BrainAge, mul­ti­ple online games, soft­ware like Mind­Fit and Posit Sci­ence…

If you are look­ing for some fun men­tal stim­u­la­tion now, here you have our selec­tion of Brain Teasers.

Now, how do you know which of the new pro­grams can help you more, or whether you need any of them? which ones are sim­ply enter­tain­ing Games vs. which ones look like “Games” but are real­ly Train­ing, improv­ing, spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al skills? Well, that’s why we are pub­lish­ing the Sharp­Brains Check­list below, to help you nav­i­gate through the over­whelm­ing and con­flict­ing media reports and com­pa­ny announce­ments.

We have spent over 18 months inter­view­ing sci­en­tists and review­ing avail­able Brain Fit­ness and Exer­cise Pro­grams world­wide, and want to share with you, right now, the research-based cri­te­ria we use to eval­u­ate them.

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (and a brief expla­na­tion of why each ques­tion is impor­tant)

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­al­ly neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board behind the pro­gram?

(Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists spe­cial­ize in mea­sur­ing and under­stand­ing human cog­ni­tion and brain struc­ture and func­tion.)

* 2. Are there pub­lished, peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers in PubMed writ­ten by those sci­en­tists? How many?

(Pubmed is a ser­vice of the U.S. Nation­al Library of Med­i­cine that includes mil­lions of cita­tions sci­ence jour­nals. If a sci­en­tist has not pub­lished a paper that appears in that data­base, he or she can­not make sci­en­tif­ic claims.)

* 3. What are the spe­cif­ic ben­e­fits claimed for using this pro­gram? Read the rest of this entry »

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