A couple weeks ago I attended the Entertainment Software and Cognitive Neurotherapeutics Conference, ESCoNS, at the University of California San Francisco. The speakers’ talks were insightful, surprising, and inspiring in many regards. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together great minds in a variety of fields from neuroscience to game design and to come up with some ideas how to make game based cognitive training a reality as an effective therapy for many of today’s most challenging disorders and deficits. Many of the scientists also thought that game based therapies for cognitive deficits could be used as enhancement tools for healthy individuals as well. [Read more…] about Gaming and Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges
Update: Live Well to 100 by Using Your Brain
Here you have the November 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.
Living Well to 100
100 is the new 65: Why do some people live, and well, to 100? Researchers are trying to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine. They are discovering that genetic factors may account for only 20 to 30 percent of a person’s lifespan, while environmental and behavioral factors can dictate the other 70 to 80 percent.
Does coffee boost cognitive functions over time? Dr. Pascale Michelon weighs the evidence and reports good and bad news. The good news: long-term effects seem more positive than negative, so coffee leads to no clear harm. The bad news: there are no clear beneficial effects on general brain functions (implication for proponents of “smart pills”: don’t use coffee as the analogy).
10 Innovations for the Aging Society: In the Thanksgiving’s spirit, we want to thank 10 pioneers for emerging innovations that may help millions of people alive today to keep our brains in top shape perhaps till we are 100 or more. Many of those pioneers will participate in the inaugural SharpBrains Summit.
Train your autopilot.…and how to turn it off: Madeleine Van Hecke, Ph.D shares an excerpt from The Brain Advantage, in which she encourages maintaining mental “autopilot” when it’s working well, yet shifting to more conscious deliberations when needed.
Scientia Pro Publica: A good way to turn off autopilot is to enjoy some great science and nature blogging, courtesy of Scientia Pro Publica blog carnival. Additionally, you can enjoy reading some of the best neuroscience, psychology and medical blogging at the first ever combined Grand Rounds/ Encephalon edition.
Games for Health
Games for Health Research: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced more than $1.85 million in grants for research teams to study how digital games can improve players health. One of the grantees is UCSF’s Adam Gazzaley (who will be speaking at the SharpBrains Summit) to develop a driving game for cognitive fitness among younger and older adults.
Smart industry-research collaboration: Lumos Labs and researchers Susanne Jaeggi and Martin Buschkuehl announce a collaboration to make the original Dual N‑Back working memory training program available online and use it for ongoing research.
Marian C. Diamond to open SharpBrains Summit: Kicking off our January 2010 SharpBrains Summit is Marian C. Diamond, one of the pioneers of neuroplasticity research since the 1960s. She will introduce us to the human brain, its anatomy and function, and implications of neuroplasticity for brain health and performance at any age.
The SharpBrains Guide’s reviews and interviews: a collection of links to interviews and reviews of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness.
Network for Brain Fitness Innovation (members-only): Discussion on the future of computerized cognitive behavioral therapy; United BioSource acquires Cognitive Drug Research; innovative partnership between Navigenics and Posit Science; new research on brain impact of Tetris; how a drop in visual skills may precede Alzheimer’s Disease; excellent report by the National Academies for the US Army available for free now.
Who will you believe, me or your own eyes? discover the 3 Winners of the 2009 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest. Neuroscientists Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik, who help organize the contest, will give a fun demo on Magic and the Brain at SharpBrains Summit, to discuss the limits of human perception and cognition.
Enjoy the final month of 2009!
Invitation to SharpBrains Summit — Technology for Cognitive Health and Performance
We are excited to invite you to the first virtual, global SharpBrains Summit (January 18–20th, 2010). The SharpBrains Summit will feature a dream team of over 25 speakers who are leaders in industry and research from 7 countries, to discuss emerging research, tools and best practices for cognitive health and performance. This inaugural event will expose health and insurance providers, developers, innovators at Fortune 500 companies, investors and researchers, to the opportunities, partnerships, trends, and standards of the rapidly evolving cognitive fitness field.
Learn more and register Here today, at discounted early-bird rates, to receive these benefits:
- Learn: Full access to all Conference live sessions, and Downloadable Recordings and Handouts
- See: latest technologies and products during Expo Day
- Connect and Discuss: become a member of the SharpBrains Network for Brain Fitness Innovation (members-only LinkedIn Group) through the end of 2010, access online chats during the summit, meet other registrants in your city
- Understand the Big Picture: access 10 Research Executive Briefs prepared by leading scientists
On top of those early-bird discounts, we offer an additional 15% discount for SharpBrains readers who want Regular Admission. Discount code: sharp2010. You can register Here.
Monday, January 18th, 2010:
(Preliminary schedule, US Pacific Time)
8–9.15am. Cognition & Neuroplasticity: The New Healthcare Frontier
- Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains
- David Whitehouse, OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions
- William Reichman, Baycrest
- P Murali Doraiswamy, Duke University
9.30–11am. Tools for Safer Driving: The Opportunity with Teenagers and Adults
- Steven Aldrich, Posit Science
- Shlomo Breznitz, CogniFit
- Jerri Edwards, University of South Florida
- Peter Christianson, Young Drivers of Canada
Noon‑1.30pm. Baby Boomers and Beyond: Maintaining Cognitive Vitality
- Kunal Sarkar, Lumos Labs
- Elizabeth Zelinski, USC Davis School of Gerontology [Read more…] about Invitation to SharpBrains Summit — Technology for Cognitive Health and Performance
Update: Public Libraries as Health Clubs for the Brain
Here you have the July 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.
Public libraries have long offered the public more than books. And now, recent demographic and scientific trends are converging to fundamentally transform the role of libraries in our culture. You may enjoy reading this recent article I wrote for the May-June 2009 Issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly publication of the American Society on Aging: Public Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.
The Big Picture
Can You Outsmart Your Genes? An Interview with Author Richard Nisbett: David DiSalvo interviews Richard Nisbett, the author of Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, who has emerged as a persuasive voice marshalling evidence to disprove the heredity-is-destiny argument.
Yes, You Can Build Willpower: Daniel Goleman discusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 connections to other brain cells. Implication? Meditate, mindfully, and build positive habits.
Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation: Alvaro Fernandez opened the Cognitive Health Track during the Games for Health Conference (June 11–12th, Boston) with an overview of the serious games, software and online applications that can help assess and train cognitive abilities. The presentation is available Here.
Brain Tests and Myths
The Best Memory Tests, from the Alzheimer’s Action Plan: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy discusses the Pros and Cons of the most common assessments to identify cognitive problems, including what the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) does and doesn´t, and innovative computerized neuropsychological tests.
Debunking 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to “prevent memory problems” right around the corner? Does “aging” equal “decline”? Check out the facts to debunk 10 common myths on brain health.
Free Webinar: On July 21st, 10am Pacific Time/ 1pm Eastern Time, Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez, co-authors of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, will cover the main highlights from this new book and address the questions submitted by readers. You can learn more and register HERE.
Research References: This is a partial list of the scientific studies reviewed during the research phase of SharpBrains’s new book, organized by relevant chapter, for those of you who like to explore topics in depth by reading original research (perhaps PubMed should promote itself as a never ending source of mental stimulation?).
Brain Teasers on Brain Fitness: Are you ready to test your knowledge of several key brain fitness metrics? For example: How many soldiers in the US Army have gone through computerized cognitive testing before being deployed, and why?
Finally, a request: if you have already read The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, and could write a brief customer review at Amazon.com, we would surely appreciate! The Amazon.com book page is Here.
Best regards, and enjoy the month
Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation
My presentation to open our Games for Health Conference track is now available via SlideShare:
See Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation
Description: Scientific, technological and demographic trends have converged to create a new $265m market in the US alone: serious games, software and online applications that can help people of all ages assess and train cognitive abilities. Alvaro Fernandez will provide a Bird’s Eye View of the science, market segments and trends, competitive landscape, and main challenges ahead, based on The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009 report released in May, which included Research Executive Briefs prepared by 12 leading scientists and a survey of 2,000+ decision-makers and early adopters.
61% of respondents to the survey Strongly Agreed with the statement “Addressing cognitive and brain health should be a healthcare priority.” But, 65% Agreed/Strongly Agreed with “I don’t really know what to expect from products making brain claims.” In this session, Alvaro will publicly unveil the new book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, To Keep Your Brain Sharp, co-authored by neuropsychologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and himself, aimed at helping consumers and professionals understand and navigate this growing field.
To see slides, check out Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation
Enjoy the 4th of July!
Debunking 10 Brain Training/ Cognitive Health Myths
Think about this: How can anyone take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which seem to contradict each other?
Do supplements improve memory? Do you need both physical and mental exercise or is one of them enough? Which brain training approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?
We tried to address these questions, and many others, in our recent book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (182 pages, $24.95), that we presented at Games for Health Conference last week. The book is the result of over two years of extensive research including more than a hundred interviews with scientists, professionals and consumers, and a deep review of the scientific literature, led by neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg and myself with the help of cognitive scientist Pascale Michelon. As we wrote in the Introduction, what we wanted to do first of all was to debunks these 10 myths on brain health and brain training:
Myth 1. Genes determine the fate of our brains.
Facts: Lifelong neuroplasticity allows our lifestyles and actions to play a meaningful role in how our brains physically evolve, especially given longer life expectancy.
Myth 2. Aging means automatic decline.
Facts: There is nothing inherently fixed in the precise trajectory of how brain functions evolve as we age.
Myth 3. Medication is the main hope for cognitive enhancement.
Facts: Non-invasive interventions can have comparable and more durable effects, side effect-free.
Myth 4. We will soon have a Magic Pill or General Solution to solve all our cognitive challenges.
Facts: A multi-pronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.
Myth 5. There is only one “Use It or Lose it”.
Facts: The brain is composed of a number of specialized units. Our life and productivity depend on a variety of brain functions, not just one.
Myth 6. All brain activities or exercises are equal.
Facts: Varied and targeted exercises are the necessary ingredients in brain training so that a wide range of brain functions can be stimulated.
Myth 7. There is only one way to train your brain.
Facts: Brain functions can be impacted in a number of ways: through meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training.
Myth 8. We all have something called “Brain Age”.
Facts: Brain age is a fiction. No two individuals have the same brain or expression of brain functions.
Myth 9. That “brain age”‚ can be reversed by 10, 20, 30 years.
Facts: Brain training can improve specific brain functions, but, with research available today, cannot be said to roll back one “brain age”‚ by a number of years.
Myth 10. All human brains need the same brain training.
Facts: As in physical fitness, users must ask themselves: What functions do I need to improve on? In what timeframe? What is my budget?
Do you have other myths in mind you would like us to address?
We have started to receive great feedback from the healthcare community, such as this email from a neurosurgeon in Texas:
“I really like the book, it is comprehensive without being too technical. I have recommended it to several patients. There are some other books that I expected would be greeted with enthusiasm, but were too complex for most of my patients. I think this book is right in the sweet spot”.
A short, sweet, entertaining read of a complex topic, with timely (written in 1/09) reviews of 21 top technology products, as well as informed and expert predictions of where this burgeoning brain-fitness field is headed. More importantly, after you read it, you’ll have a good, detailed sense of where you, personally, can act to improve your own couch-potato brain — and how to keep it fit and flexible your whole life. The SharpBrains Guide To Brain Fitness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a topic) can be well worth your time and money. Two Stethoscopes Up — check it out. life.”
And this great book review by an Internist Physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, titled Is Your Brain A Couch Potato?:
Doc Gurley, book review for SFGate.com (06/08/09)
The book: The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (available via Amazon.com Here, review copies available upon request).
Description: While most of us have heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” very few understand what it means, or how to properly ‚“use it”‚¬ in order to maintain brain function and fitness. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is an invaluable guide that helps readers navigate growing brain research and identify the lifestyle factors and products that contribute to brain health and fitness. By gathering insights from eighteen of the world’s top scientists and offering tools and detailed descriptions of over twenty products, this book is an essential guide to the field of brain fitness, neuroplasticity and cognitive health. An accessible and thought-provoking read, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness educates lifelong learners and professionals in healthcare, education, business, etc., on emerging trends and forecasts of what the future will hold.
Products Reviewed (we reviewed scientific studies published before January 2009, when the manuscript text was closed):
- Overall brain maintenance: Brain Age series (Nintendo), BrainWare Safari (Learning Enhancement Corporation), FitBrains.com (Vivity Labs), Happy-Neuron.com (Scientific Brain Training), Lumosity.com (Lumos Labs), MindFit (CogniFit), (m)Power (Dakim)
- Targeted brain workout: Classic and InSight (Posit Science), Working Memory Training JM and RM (Cogmed), DriveFit (CogniFit), Earobics (Houghton Mifflin), Fast ForWord (Scientific Learning), IntelliGym (Applied Cognitive Engineering), Vision Restpration Therapy (NovaVision)
- Emotional self-regulation: emWave PC and Personal Stress Reliever (HeartMath), Journey to the Wild Divine (Wild Divine), RESPeRATE (InterCure), StressEraser (Helicor)