Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain fitness & training heads towards its tipping point

How do you know when some­thing is fast mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When health insur­ance com­pa­nies and pub­lic pol­i­cy mak­ers launch sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives.

For exam­ple, the gov­ern­ment of Ontario recent­ly announced a $10 mil­lion invest­ment with Bay­crest Research Cen­tre who will part­ner with MaRS Ven­ture Group to devel­op and com­mer­cialise brain fit­ness tech­nolo­gies. The invest­ment was matched by an addi­tion­al $10 mil­lion from pri­vate sources.

Anoth­er impor­tant devel­op­ment was the $18 mil­lion agree­ment between the Aus­tralian-based Brain Resource Com­pa­ny (ASX:BRC) and OptumHealth in the US. This will allow for the pro­vi­sion of web-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments as part of a clin­i­cian’s deci­sion sup­port sys­tems.

These are some ini­tia­tives cov­ered in a webi­nar Top Ten Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness Events of 2008 pre­sent­ed in Decem­ber for Sharp­Brains’ clients. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez described the state of play and main dri­vers behind the growth of the bur­geon­ing brain fit­ness mar­ket — which I will try and sum­ma­rize here.

The key dri­vers seem to be Read the rest of this entry »

Physical and mental exercise to prevent cognitive decline

We offered some Brain Fit­ness Pre­dic­tions in our Mar­ket Report , includ­ing…

7. Doc­tors and phar­ma­cists will help patients nav­i­gate through the over­whelm­ing range of avail­able prod­ucts and inter­pret the results of cog­ni­tive assess­ments. This will require sig­nif­i­cant pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment efforts, giv­en that most doc­tors today were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.”

The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a week­ly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle along those lines:

Steps to a nim­ble mind: Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise help keep the brain fit
— Neu­ro­science is uncov­er­ing tech­niques to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline.

A few quotes:

- It’s an exam­ple that high­lights a wave of new think­ing about the impor­tance of brain fit­ness.

- Until recent­ly, con­ven­tion­al wis­dom held that our brains were intractable, hard-wired com­put­ers. What we were born with was all we got. Age wore down mem­o­ry and the abil­i­ty to under­stand, and few inter­ven­tions could reverse this process. But increas­ing­ly, evi­dence sug­gests that phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise can alter spe­cif­ic brain regions, mak­ing rad­i­cal improve­ments in cog­ni­tive func­tion.

- With near­ly 72 mil­lion Amer­i­cans turn­ing 65 over the next two decades, physi­cians need the tools to han­dle grow­ing patient con­cerns about how to best main­tain brain health. Armed with this new brand of sci­ence, front­line physi­cians will be bet­ter equipped to address the needs of aging baby boomers, already in the throes of the brain fit­ness rev­o­lu­tion.

- “Encour­age them to exer­cise the brain in nov­el and com­plex ways,” he says.

Full arti­cle: here

One of the physi­cians quot­ed in the arti­cle is Gary J. Kennedy, MD, Direc­tor of the Divi­sion of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try at Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter in NYC and a pro­fes­sor in the Dept. of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences at Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine.

To put the AMA arti­cle in bet­ter per­spec­tive for Sharp­Brains read­ers, we asked Dr. Kennedy a few fol­low-up ques­tions. Below you have his ques­tions.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Can you sum­ma­rize how cog­ni­tive func­tions tend to evolve as we age?

Gary Kennedy (GK): As we age cog­ni­tive func­tions that rely on Read the rest of this entry »

The Cognitive Health and Fitness Market On The Move

As you have prob­a­bly seen, the Cog­ni­tive Health and Brain Fit­ness field is rapid­ly evolv­ing, so let me high­light some of the main recent devel­op­ments affect­ing the field:

1) Pub­lic pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives:
— The Gov­ern­ment of Ontario, Cana­da, announced a $10m invest­ment in Bay­crest Research Cen­ter to help devel­op and com­mer­cial­ize brain fit­ness tech­nolo­gies. This $10m invest­ment was matched with an addi­tion­al $10m by local investors.
— In the US, The Paul Well­stone and Pete Domeni­ci Men­tal Health Par­i­ty and Addic­tion Equi­ty Act of 2008 was signed into law, includ­ed in the recent­ly-approved eco­nom­ic bailout bill. The pas­sage of this law has sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tions for health­care providers and tech­nol­o­gy ven­dors alike.

2) Com­put­er­ized Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments Used by the US Mil­i­tary:
The US Army launched a new pol­i­cy requir­ing cog­ni­tive screen­ings of all sol­diers before deploy­ment (in order to bet­ter diag­nose poten­tial prob­lems such as PTSD and TBI upon return). ANAM was the select­ed com­put­er­ized bat­tery of tests.

3) Ven­ture & Angel Fundrais­ing for Cog­ni­tive Train­ing com­pa­nies:
A num­ber of devel­op­ers have raised mon­ey. Cog­niFit received $5m (from Milk Cap­i­tal), Lumos Labs $3m (First­Mark Cap­i­tal ‑pre­vi­ous­ly called Pequot Ventures‑, Nor­west Ven­ture Part­ners), Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing $1.5m (issued shares), Viv­i­ty Labs $1m (undis­closed angel investors), This is, of course, on top of the Feb­ru­ary $10.6 invest­ment in Dakim (Galen Part­ners) that we already includ­ed in our mar­ket report.

4) Major Ini­tia­tives by Insur­ance Com­pa­nies:
— All­state launched a large-scale research project to mea­sure impact of Posit Sci­ence InSight (visu­al pro­cess­ing train­ing) on dri­ver safe­ty for adults over 50.
— OptumHealth announced a 3‑year, $18m agree­ment with Brain Resource to offer web-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments as part of clin­i­cians’ deci­sion sup­port sys­tems.
— Humana decid­ed not to renew its agree­ment with Posit Sci­ence to offer Posit’s audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing train­ing pro­gram to Medicare mem­bers.

5) New Research:
— In a sig­nif­i­cant new study, a team from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan pub­lished a high-qual­i­ty paper in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences show­ing how com­put­er­ized work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing can gen­er­al­ize and improve flu­id intel­li­gence (one of the domains that tends to decline with age).
— Learn­ing and Teach­ing Scot­land released an inter­nal study show­ing how Nin­ten­do Brain Train­ing can help children’s math and con­cen­tra­tion skills. The study gained sig­nif­i­cant media atten­tion, despite the fact it hasn’t been pub­lished in a respect­ed jour­nal.

Note: This is an excerpt from the 6‑Month Mar­ket Update we will  release lat­er this month, cov­er­ing the many impor­tant devel­op­ments that have occurred since we launched the inau­gur­al Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket Report in March this year. This spe­cial report will be avail­able exclu­sive­ly for our Pre­mi­um Research Spon­sors.

Lumos Labs (Lumosity) Brain Training Games

Press release: Here

– “Lumos Labs, devel­op­er of Lumosity.com, the lead­ing web-based provider of sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-test­ed brain train­ing games, today announced that it has raised $3 mil­lion of equi­ty financ­ing from Pequot Ven­tures, Nor­west Ven­ture Part­ners (NVP), and exist­ing investors includ­ing Michael Dear­ing. The investor group brings exper­tise that will cat­alyze the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of Lumosity.com and sup­port Lumos Labs mis­sion to improve lives by enhanc­ing brain fit­ness.

– “Lumos Labs is at the cen­ter of a boom­ing inter­est in cog­ni­tive exer­cise and the emerg­ing sci­ence about the remark­able plas­tic­i­ty of the brain, said Amish Jani of Pequot Ven­tures. Lumosity.com has seen tremen­dous demand from users and part­ners alike by lever­ag­ing the pow­er of the web to deliv­er a unique plat­form for brain fit­ness.

Great news for the sec­tor. The more tools avail­able for lead­ing men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing lives, the bet­ter we will all be.Rubik's Cube brain exercise

Lumosity.com (click Here to get a sense of their games) pro­vides a great user expe­ri­ence at a rea­son­able cost. From an investor’s per­spec­tive, we believe Lumos Labs is a very seri­ous con­tender in the brain fit­ness space, and it has indeed been exe­cut­ing a very smart online strat­e­gy.

Now, I am not sure what “sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-test­ed brain train­ing games” real­ly means. While prepar­ing our Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket Report we reviewed all pub­lished research on the effi­ca­cy behind dif­fer­ent pro­grams, and did­n’t find any for Lumos­i­ty (which has some very inter­est­ing inter­nal, but not pub­lished, data).

We gave Lumos­i­ty a score of 2 ouf of 10 in Clin­i­cal Val­i­da­tion (with Nin­ten­do Brain Age get­ting a score of 1, and NovaV­i­sion, cleared by the FDA for use with stroke/ TBI patients, get­ting a 5).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains

Brain5Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can all fol­low to main­tain, and improve, our vibrant brains.

  • 1. Learn more about the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beau­ty as a liv­ing and con­stant­ly-devel­op­ing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synaps­es.
  • 2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but con­sumesgood brain food over 20% of the oxy­gen and nutri­ents we intake? As a gen­er­al rule, you don’t need expen­sive ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed nutri­tion­al sup­ple­ments, just make sure you don’t stuff your­self with the “bad stuff”.
  • 3. Remem­ber that the brain is part of the body. Things that exer­cise your body can also help sharp­en your brain: phys­i­cal exer­cise enhances neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, at any age!
  • 4. Prac­tice pos­i­tive, action-ori­ent­ed thoughts until they become your default mind­set and you look for­ward to cre­at­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful every new day. Too much stress and anxiety–either induced by exter­nal events or by your own thoughts–actually kills neu­rons and pre­vent the cre­ation of new ones. physical exercise for brain health
  • 5. Thrive on Learn­ing and Men­tal Chal­lenges. The point of hav­ing a brain is pre­cise­ly to learn and to adapt to chal­leng­ing new envi­ron­ments. Once new neu­rons appear in your brain, where they migrate and how long they sur­vive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do cross­word puz­zle num­ber 1,234,567”. It means, “chal­lenge your brain, and often, with nov­el activ­i­ties”.
  • 6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-direct­ed organ­isms in this plan­et. Aim high. Once you grad­u­ate from col­lege, keep learn­ing. Once you become too com­fort­able in one job, find a new one. The brain keeps devel­op­ing ALWAYS, reflect­ing what you do with it.
  • 7. Explore, trav­el. Adapt­ing to new loca­tions forces you to pay more atten­tion to your envi­ron­ment. Make new deci­sions, use your brain.
  • 8. Don’t Out­source Your Brain. Not to media per­son­al­i­ties, not to politi­cians, not to your smart neigh­bour… Make your own deci­sions, and mis­takes. That way, you are train­ing your brain, not your neigh­bour’s.
  • 9. Devel­op and main­tain stim­u­lat­ing friend­ships. We are social ani­mals, and need social inter­ac­tion. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Ein­stein’ or all those edu­ca­tion­al apps have been shown not to be the panacea for chil­dren devel­op­ment.
  • 10. Laugh. Often. Espe­cial­ly to cog­ni­tive­ly com­plex humor, full of twists and sur­pris­es. Bet­ter, try to become the next Jon Stew­art

Now, remem­ber that what counts is not read­ing this article–or any oth­er– but prac­tic­ing a bit every day until small steps snow­ball into unstop­pable, inter­nal­ized habits…“cells that fire togeth­er wire together”…so, start improv­ing one of these 10 habits today. Revis­it the habit above that real­ly grabbed your atten­tion, and make a deci­sion to try some­thing dif­fer­ent today and tomor­row.

SharpBrainsGuide_3D–> To learn more about what you can do, check out The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

About SharpBrains

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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