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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive Tests Help Determine who can Drive Safely after a Stroke

The same way a brain fit­ness soft­ware pro­gram can help increase dri­ving safe­ty for old­er adults, sim­ple cog­ni­tive tests may help deter­mine whether a per­son can dri­ve safe­ly after a stroke.

A recent study ana­lyzed 30 pre­vi­ous stud­ies in which the par­tic­i­pants’ dri­ving skills after a stroke were test­ed in an on-road eval­u­a­tion. 1,728 indi­vid­u­als with an aver­age age of 61 were involved. On aver­age, 9 months had passed between the stroke and the dri­ving eval­u­a­tion. Note that 54 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants passed the on-road eval­u­a­tion.

The authors of the analy­sis looked for tests scores that could pre­dict the actu­al dri­ving eval­u­a­tion out­come. They iden­ti­fied 3 sim­ple cog­ni­tive tests that did quite well: Read the rest of this entry »

Why Brain Training Helps Older Drivers

A study just pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atric Soci­ety has been much pub­li­cized recent­ly (see for instance, this L.A. Times arti­cle). The study showed that a com­put­er-based brain train­ing pro­gram suc­ceed­ed in reduc­ing at-fault car crash­es for old­er dri­vers. The effects of the train­ing last­ed over 6 years.

This result made the news as one of the rare trans­fers of brain train­ing ben­e­fits to every­day life.  Why was this train­ing suc­cess­ful and not oth­ers? Prob­a­bly because brain train­ing needs to be spe­cif­ic and not gen­er­al. If you prac­tice play­ing base­ball you do not expect to get bet­ter at play­ing bas­ket­ball, right? The same is true of brain func­tions: If you train your lan­guage skills, do not expect to get bet­ter at mem­o­riz­ing num­bers. Read the rest of this entry »

Research on Older Driver’s Safety

Good arti­cle in the New York Times today:
An Epi­dem­ic of Crash­es Among the Aging? Unlike­ly, Study Says

- “The (Insur­ance Insti­tute for High­way Dri­ving) insur­ance insti­tute is con­duct­ing fur­ther research to deter­mine why the risks appear to be going down for old­er dri­vers. It may be that today’s old­er dri­vers are sim­ply in bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal shape than their coun­ter­parts a decade ago, so they are not only less like­ly to make a dri­ving mis­take, but also less frail and bet­ter able to sur­vive injuries.”

There is no doubt that, as a group, old­er per­sons of any giv­en age are in bet­ter phys­i­cal and men­tal shape today than their coun­ter­parts years ago. For con­text, world­wide life expectan­cy has increased more than 20 years in less than 6o years — so you can imag­ine how a per­son in his or her ear­ly 70s today is in bet­ter shape than some­one in his or her mid-60s a few decades back.

Still, as the num­ber of peo­ple over the age of 60 starts to grow expo­nen­tial­ly giv­en the influx of baby boomers, soci­ety at large will prob­a­bly ben­e­fit from start­ing to think through 1) what are the types of pro­grams, whether intro­duced and man­aged by the AARP, DMV or car insur­ance com­pa­nies, that can help old­er adults dri­ve safe­ly for as long as they want and need, 2) what are the mech­a­nisms to pre­vent hav­ing dri­vers in our roads who don’t pos­sess the min­i­mum per­cep­tu­al and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties required to dri­ve “safe­ly” (and what “safe­ly” real­ly means).

And, yes, we should prob­a­bly have a sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion regard­ing teenage dri­ving.
For relat­ed read­ing, you may enjoy these 2 arti­cles:

- All­state: Can we improve Dri­ver Safe­ty using Posit Sci­ence InSight?

- Improv­ing Dri­ving Skills and Brain Func­tion­ing- Inter­view with ACTIVE’s Jer­ri Edwards

DriveFit (CogniFit); Brain Fitness Program for Driving

Dri­ving as Next Brain Fit­ness Application? 

Last month, at the MIT/ Smart­Sil­vers event where we pre­sent­ed our Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket Report, we dis­cussed what spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tions, beyond the cur­rent empha­sis on healthy Two In One Taskaging, might take com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing to a new level.  

Assess­ing and improv­ing dri­ving skills would be a top can­di­date, giv­en both the well-defined nature of the need and the appear­ance of pro­grams with grow­ing evi­dence (both sci­en­tif­ic and real-world) behind.

The New York Times Asks… 

Along these lines, the New York Times just published this arti­cle: Are You a Good Dri­ver? Here’s How to Find Out. A few quotes:

- “COULD a video game make you a bet­ter dri­ver? More impor­tant, could com­put­er soft­ware pre­vent teenagers from mak­ing fatal mis­takes or even weed out old­er dri­vers whose debil­i­ties make them crash-prone?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Improving Driving Skills and Brain Functioning- Interview with ACTIVE’s Jerri Edwards

Jerri Edwards- Active trialToday we are for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Jer­ri Edwards, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da’s School of Aging Stud­ies and Co-Inves­ti­ga­tor of the influ­en­cial ACTIVE study. Dr. Edwards was trained by Dr. Kar­lene K. Ball, and her research is aimed toward dis­cov­er­ing how cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties can be main­tained and even enhanced with advanc­ing age.

Main focus of research

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Please explain to our read­ers your main research areas

Jer­ri Edwards: I am par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in how cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions may help old­er adults to avoid or at least delay func­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ties and there­by main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer. Much of my work has focused on the func­tion­al abil­i­ty of dri­ving includ­ing assess­ing dri­ving fit­ness among old­er adults and reme­di­a­tion of cog­ni­tive decline that results in dri­ving dif­fi­cul­ties.

Some research ques­tions that inter­est me include, how can we main­tain health­i­er lives longer? How can train­ing improve cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, both to improve those abil­i­ties and also to slow-down, or delay, cog­ni­tive decline? The spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty that I have stud­ied the most is pro­cess­ing speed, which is one of the cog­ni­tive skills that decline ear­ly on as we age.

ACTIVE results

Can you explain what cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing speed is, and why it is rel­e­vant to our dai­ly lives?

Pro­cess­ing speed is men­tal quick­ness. Just like a com­put­er with a 486 proces­sor can do a lot of the same things as a com­put­er with a Pen­tium 4 proces­sor, but it takes much longer, our minds tend to slow down with age as com­pared to when we were younger. We can do the same tasks, but it takes more time. Quick speed of pro­cess­ing is impor­tant for 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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