Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Growing demand for products to enhance cognition and memory

cognition_man

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Mar­ket­ing Cog­ni­tion Prod­ucts (Nat­ur­al Prod­ucts Insid­er):

Cog­ni­tion and brain health is a hot top­ic, espe­cial­ly in light of the aging population…As there is cur­rent­ly no cure for demen­tia, con­sumers have a strong inter­est in both per­for­mance and pre­ven­tive cog­ni­tion prod­ucts that include an array of options from Read the rest of this entry »

Can Brain Fitness Innovation Enhance Cognitive Rehab and Driving Safety?

Today we share must-read insights from  Kather­ine Sul­li­van, Direc­tor of the Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter at Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter, and Peter Kissinger, Pres­i­dent of the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safe­ty. Both of them will dis­cuss their ongo­ing work and lessons learned at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011). The inter­views below were con­duct­ed via email.

Kather­ine Sul­li­van is the Direc­tor of the Brain Fit­ness Cen­ter at Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter.

1. Kather­ine, how would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

In our con­text (help­ing active duty ser­vice mem­bers and vet­er­ans recov­er from cog­ni­tive dys­func­tion most asso­ci­at­ed with trau­mat­ic brain injury), I’d say brain fit­ness is the out­come we work towards: the cog­ni­tive resources required to return to duty or rein­te­grate into dai­ly and pro­fes­sion­al lives as much as pos­si­ble. In this sense, Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Apple Tablet Support or Hinder Users Cognitive Fitness?

Rumor has it that Apple is going to announce a tablet com­put­er, which may well become a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new way for users to read and expe­ri­ence all kinds of edu­ca­tion­al con­tent.

Will it sup­port or hin­der our Cog­ni­tive  Fit­ness?

In this arti­cle, I describe the cri­te­riachecklist that a tablet com­put­er and its tech­no­log­i­cal ecosys­tem must meet in order for the solu­tion to make users more knowl­edge­able and smarter. To achieve these lofty goals, the tablet must be much more than an read­er. The offer­ing must be an inte­grat­ed learn­ing envi­ron­ment with which users trans­form the infor­ma­tion that they read, hear and view on the tablet into their own knowl­edge.

The key con­sid­er­a­tion in design­ing such a sys­tem is that pro­duc­tive read­ing is active read­ing. In oth­er words, learn­ing involves a lot of think­ing, writ­ing, draw­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Learn­ing involves antic­i­pat­ing what the author will say, set­ting learn­ing objec­tives, detect­ing knowl­edge gaps, writ­ing com­ments on the doc­u­ment, draw­ing dia­grams.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, today’s com­put­ers do not make this an easy task. Most browsers, for exam­ple, do not inher­ent­ly allow you to anno­tate text (e.g., to make a note of what is impor­tant or you don’t under­stand). Anno­tat­ing requires an add-on, and the anno­ta­tions are usu­al­ly just text or high­lights that are trapped in soft­ware; they can­not be linked to oth­er doc­u­ments, email or dia­grams.

In order to be a suc­cess­ful learn­ing envi­ron­ment, the Apple tablet must match the incum­bent (paper) and also address the cri­te­ria list­ed below.

Beat The Incum­bent Com­peti­tor — Paper

First, Apple must take into account the major strengths of a tablet’s main com­peti­tor: paper. Despite its many draw­backs com­pared to com­put­ers, paper cur­rent­ly has many advan­tages. Spencer (2006), for exam­ple, has found that her dis­tance edu­ca­tion stu­dents find paper to be more depend­able, flex­i­ble, and ergonom­ic. Spencer’s stu­dents pre­ferred to print com­plex arti­cles than to read them online.

Paper has a pre­dictable struc­ture and lay­out. It is easy to use and it has a def­i­nite start and end point. Most read­ers can very rapid­ly access any page of a book, use the table of con­tents, index to quick­ly nav­i­gate. Read­ers don’t have to wait for a page to load, they can turn it. Also, paper is less busy and less dis­tract­ing: it does not beep while you are con­cen­trat­ing.

More­over, users can write on their own paper to their heart’s con­tent.

These fea­tures present chal­lenges to read­ing and learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

Check­list for a Tablet Com­put­er to Make us Smarter

In this sec­tion I focus on some of the fea­tures that can make a tablet a use­ful learn­ing envi­ron­ment. This goes beyond hard­ware, and deals with cog­ni­tive soft­ware and ser­vices. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Software Trends

Some very inter­est­ing brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket news:

1) Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing To Buy Out Solil­o­quy

- “Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Corp. has announced that it will acquire Solil­o­quy Learn­ing from JTT Hold­ings. Both Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing and Solil­o­quy pro­vide tech­nol­o­gy solu­tions for edu­ca­tion. The acqui­si­tion will cost SLC about $11 mil­lion and is expect­ed to be com­plet­ed this month.”

- “Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing is the devel­op­er of Fast For­Word, a fam­i­ly of read­ing inter­ven­tion tools tar­get­ed toward stu­dents who are char­ac­ter­ized as strug­gling learn­ers and designed to devel­op the required “neu­rocog­ni­tive skills” for read­ing and learn­ing in gen­er­al. Solil­o­quy is also a read­ing inter­ven­tion devel­op­er.”

Com­ment: this acqui­si­tion con­sol­i­dates Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing (NSDQ: SCIL) as the lead­ing com­pa­ny in the edu­ca­tion seg­ment of the brain fit­ness mar­ket. It will be inter­est­ing to track what research gets done on the neur­al and cog­ni­tive effects of Solil­o­quy, since Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing’s Fast For­word is backed by exten­sive lit­er­a­ture.

2) Tech­no­me­dia Part­ners With SBT to Accel­er­ate Its Inter­na­tion­al Expan­sion

- “Tech­no­me­dia, a Cana­di­an provider of tal­ent man­age­ment and human cap­i­tal devel­op­ment solu­tions, announced its part­ner­ship with the SBT (Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing) group, a Euro­pean provider of train­ing and eval­u­a­tion of cog­ni­tive func­tions.” Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness and SharpBrains.com in the Press

Fitness TrainerGrow­ing media atten­tion on the brain fit­ness field. At least on the “Healthy Aging” seg­ment (I pre­dict the media with catch up soon with devel­op­ments in oth­er areas, from cog­ni­tive train­ing for kids and adults with ADD/ ADHD to stroke and TBI reha­bil­i­ta­tion, to peak per­for­mance for cor­po­rate train­ing).

First, a superb arti­cle by Leslie Walk­er at the Wash­ing­ton Post: Cross-Train­ing Your Brain to Main­tain Its Strength

Quotes:  “A grow­ing body of research sug­gests that men­tal activ­i­ty in mid­dle age and ear­li­er can help lat­er in life. As a result, Web sites such as HappyNeuron.com are spring­ing up to offer online games to peo­ple of all ages, while blogs like SharpBrains.com pro­vide com­men­tary on the fledg­ling indus­try.” (Note: we can also pro­vide com­men­tary on the com­men­tary!)

Peo­ple who engage in very chal­leng­ing tasks — not just in work but dur­ing leisure activ­i­ties such as read­ing, cross­word puz­zles, bridge, chess and trav­el — tend to slow down their men­tal aging process very sig­nif­i­cant­ly,” says Breznitz, who is also a mem­ber of Israel’s leg­is­la­ture and has devel­oped a brain-train­ing pro­gram called Mind­Fit.”

Also con­tribut­ing to the brain work­out boom are state-of-the-art imag­ing tech­niques that have allowed sci­en­tists to val­i­date a the­o­ry devel­oped decades ago. By tak­ing detailed pic­tures of brain neu­rons, sci­en­tists watch parts of the brain that had seemed dor­mant light up and assume new respon­si­bil­i­ties in response to stim­uli. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, this means brain decay can be halt­ed or even reversed.”

The brain is con­stant­ly rewiring and recal­i­brat­ing itself in response to what you do,” says Hen­ry Mah­ncke, whComputer Classroomo holds a PhD in neu­ro­science and is vice pres­i­dent of Posit Sci­ence, the San Fran­cis­co devel­op­er of the Brain Fit­ness soft­ware. “It remakes itself into a more effi­cient oper­a­tion to do the things you ask it to do.”

Com­ments: the arti­cle touch­es many key points. I espe­cial­ly enjoy the quote “To be effec­tive, sci­en­tists say men­tal activ­i­ty must become pro­gres­sive­ly more chal­leng­ing. Oth­er­wise, the brain adjusts and learns to per­form repet­i­tive tasks with less effort”, a key mes­sage I make often in my lec­tures to explain why well-designed pro­grams can be more effec­tive than doing cross­word puz­zle num­ber 512,789. The arti­cle also relates how many retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties and senior cen­ters and indi­vid­u­als are try­ing out the new brain fit­ness pro­grams com­ing to mar­ket, and shows some healthy skep­ti­cism on the state of the research. Now, this is an invi­ta­tion to the reporter to inter­view neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg to get the full pic­ture of the sci­ence behind the field, since these pro­grams haven’t appeared in a vac­u­um. Our 10-Ques­tion Eval­u­a­tion Check­list can pro­vide use­ful guid­ance to any­one con­sid­er­ing a pro­gram.

Boomers use online brain games to stave off demen­tia (Account­ing­Web)

Quotes: “The Inter­net offers a pletho­ra of brain games for those who don’t sub­scribe to a dai­ly news­pa­per or don’t want to pur­chase games. AARP, for exam­ple, offers plen­ty of free games on its site. More games appear at SharpBrains.com, includ­ing a page that con­tains the Top Ten Neu­ro­science Brain­teasers, and you can sign up to have the Col­lege Board e‑mail you the SAT ques­tion of the day.”

The gen­er­a­tion that refus­es to age is not going to sit back and wait for Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and oth­er signs of demen­tia to take hold. Instead, savvy Baby Boomers are expand­ing their minds (no, not the way they did in the 60s) with the aid of the com­put­er, puz­zles, and games. A brain health move­ment is sweep­ing Read the rest of this entry »

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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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