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
The main value of the independent NIH panel mentioned in the previous article comes from the recommendations it makes for research, industry and government to fill the gaps in the scientific evidence in years to come.
In fact, having access to objective, automated assessments to help consumers better monitor their cognitive health and take proactive, informed action is the one part of the brain fitness puzzle that is badly needed.
It is estimated that 60% of people with Alzheimer’s Disease go undiagnosed. Most patients today get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s too late and based on tools which are not sensitive enough to pick up on subtle problems in thinking and memory needed to make accurate diagnosis and distinguish among different memory disorders. This often results in having many individuals with high education and intellect appear ‘normal’ when in fact they have an Alzheimer’s‑induced memory and cognitive slowdown.
Note: You can keep reading the article To Manage Brain Fitness Through Life, We Need to Put Puzzle Pieces Together in the website of the American Society of Aging (article link opens PDF). ASA recently asked me to write a couple of articles on latest brain fitness and cognitive health trends for their MindAlert initiative, and this is the second of the two.
Press release: “Leader in cognition measurement integrates into UBC to maximize measurement precision of pivotal endpoints and ensure data integrity. United BioSource Corporation (UBC) today announced the acquisition of CDR”
Press release (09/10/09): Here
Analysis for members of SharpBrains Network for Brain Fitness Innovation: Here
For context, see our previous article titled Computerized Cognitive Assessments: opportunities and concerns, focused on the OptumHealth — BrainResource partnership and innovative work by the US Army.
(Editor’s note: this article belongs to the excellent May 2009 special issue on Augmenting Cognition at scientific journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. The article, an industry overview, is reproduced here with authorization by the Frontiers Research Foundation)
Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age
By Alvaro Fernandez
Groundbreaking cognitive neuroscience research has occurred over the last 20 years — without parallel growth of consumer awareness and appropriate professional dissemination. “Cognition” remains an elusive concept with unclear implications outside the research community.
Earlier this year, I presented a talk to health care professionals at the New York Academy of Medicine, titled “Brain Fitness Software: Helping Consumers Separate Hope from Hype”. I explained what computerized cognitive assessment and training tools can do (assess/enhance specific cognitive functions), what they cannot do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the current uncertainties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symptoms). At the same symposium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center, provided guidance on why and how to screen for executive function deficits in the context of dementia.
I could perceive two emerging trends at the event: 1) “Augmenting Cognition” research is most commonly framed as a healthcare, often pharmacological topic, with the traditional cognitive bias in medicine of focusing on detection and treatment of disease, 2) In addition, there is a growing interest in non-invasive enhancement options and overall lifestyle issues. Research findings in Augmenting Cognition are only just beginning to reach the mainstream marketplace, mostly through healthcare channels. The opportunity is immense, but we will need to ensure the marketplace matures in a rational and sustainable manner, both through healthcare and non-healthcare channels.
In January 2009, we polled the 21,000 subscribers of SharpBrains’ market research eNewsletter to identify attitudes and behaviors towards the “brain fitness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a number of consumer surveys and focus groups to connect with a wider audience). Over 2,000 decision-makers and early adopters responded to the survey.
One of the key questions we asked was, “What is the most important problem you see in the brain fitness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some examples of the survey free text answers are quoted here, together with my suggestions.
Most important problems in the brain fitness field
Public awareness (39%): “To get people to understand that heredity alone does not decide brain functioning”. We need to ramp up efforts to build public awareness and enthusiasm about brain research, including establishing clear links to daily living. We can collaborate with initiatives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week and use the recent “Neuroscience Core Concepts” materials developed by the Society for Neuroscience to give talks at schools, libraries and workplaces.
Claims (21%): “The lack of standards and clear definitions is very confusing, and [Read more…] about Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article)
Good article today in the NYT on “chemo brain” — some typical short-term and long-term cognitive consequences of chemotherapy.
The Fog That Follows Chemotherapy (New York Times)
This quote is critical — for chemo brain and also for a variety of clinical conditions that present associated cognitive impairments: “Controlling for brain function before cancer treatment begins can help determine cause and effect. In one study, cancer patients took a battery of neuropsychological tests before starting chemotherapy, three weeks after completing treatment, and again one year later. Although a third of the patients had signs of cognitive impairment before therapy began, the number jumped to 61 percent after treatment, and half remained impaired a year later.”
As we have discussed before, we believe that inexpensive computerized cognitive assessments will start to become widely available in only a few years, to help set up individualized cognitive baselines and inform clinical diagnoses and treatments. For more, you can read Computerized Cognitive Assessments: opportunities and concerns
Here you have the June edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health and brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.
The full schedule of the SharpBrains’ powered Cognitive Health Track at the Games for Health Conference, June 11–12th in Boston, is now available online. 13 sessions will feature 18 innovators and thought-leaders representing developers, universities, clinicians, consumers, insurance companies, and more. You can learn more and register.
Ever heard of the Longevity Dividend? Perhaps Grey is the New Gold: The Kronos Longevity Research Institute has released a new report summarizing the state of aging research that includes an excellent introduction into the Longevity Dividend, a “theory that says we hope to intervene scientifically to slow the aging process, which will also delay the onset of age-related diseases. Delaying aging just seven years would slash rates of conditions like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease in half.” With that context in mind, is the National Institute on Aging getting its fair budget share?
Visual Representation of the State of the Market 2009: Paul Van Slembrouck summarizes and beautifully presents the main findings of our 150-page market report, The State of the Brain Fitness Market 2009. Enjoy this excellent graphic.
Book Club Discussion Guide: The goal of our just published book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, is to inform you, but also to open a much needed debate to contribute to our collective brain fitness. We encourage book clubs to read and discuss the book, and suggest 10 questions to kickstart the conversation. Please do send us your answers and impressions!
Education & Learning
10% Students may have working memory problems: Why does this matter?: A recent study screened over 3,000 school-aged students in schools in the UK and found that 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. Working memory is our ability to store and manipulate information for a brief time, and difficulties in this brain function may lead into difficulties in reading and mathematics. Dr. Tracy Alloway reviews the study and elaborates.
Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts & Learning: Nicky Pentilla comments on a recent report sponsored by the Dana Foundation and a related Learning, Arts, and the Brain Summit. “Arts education influences learning and other areas of cognition and may deserve a more prominent place in schools.” Of particular note is the finding that showed significant brain plasticity as a result of instrumental music instruction are repeated practice.
8 Tips To Remember What You Read: Despite television, cell phones, and twitter, traditional reading is still an important skill. Dr. Bill Klemm offers some tips to read with good speed and comprehension: Read with a purpose, Skim first, Get the reading mechanics right, Be judicious in highlighting and note taking, Think in pictures, Rehearse as you go along, Stay within your attention span and work to increase your attention span, Practice.
Corporate Wellness, Cognitive Assessments and Memory Fitness Programs: a great MarketWatch article provides an overview of how major insurers and large employers are starting to add brain health to their corporate wellness activities. The Stanford Longevity Center released a statement urging consumers who buy a range of memory products to make informed decisions (we released the book above precisely with that goal in mind).
Have a stimulating month of June!