Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Posit Science: Brain Training Product Review Survey

As part of our ongo­ing mar­ket research we’d like to ask past and cur­rent users of Posit Sci­ence prod­ucts to share their expe­ri­ence with us via this 3‑question anony­mous sur­vey.  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 »

News on physical, cognitive and emotional fitness

Brain Health NewsNice week­end read­ing mate­r­i­al — recent news reiforc­ing emerg­ing trends on phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al fit­ness, but with new twists.

Fit teens could be smarter teens

Researchers from Swe­den and USC exam­ined data on 1.2 mil­lion Swedish men born between 1950 and 1976 who also enlist­ed for the coun­try’s manda­to­ry mil­i­tary ser­vice. They looked at the par­tic­i­pants’ glob­al intel­li­gence scores as well as log­i­cal, visu­ospa­tial, ver­bal and tech­ni­cal scores. The greater the car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness, the high­er the cog­ni­tive scores at age 18. The asso­ci­a­tion between mus­cle strength and glob­al intel­li­gence, in con­trast, was weak.”

UPMC Health Plan Offers Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware to Improve Health

UPMC Health Plan announced today that it has signed an agree­ment to offer award-win­ning brain fit­ness soft­ware from Posit Sci­ence®, at no cost, to all UPMC for Life Medicare Advan­tage mem­bers. This brain train­ing pro­gram is a new part of the UPMC Health Plan well­ness ser­vices, which focus on both mind and body fit­ness.

The brain fit­ness soft­ware, known as the Insight™ Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, is a suite of five game-like com­put­er exer­cis­es that make brain train­ing chal­leng­ing and effec­tive. The pro­gram engages the brain’s nat­ur­al plas­tic­i­ty (the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself) to improve basic brain func­tion.”

Brain-fit­ness indus­try grows as baby-boomers work to stay sharp.

When we’re younger we’re learn­ing quite inten­sive­ly,” she said. “By mid­dle age, we’re not learn­ing inten­sive­ly any­more and just using skills we’ve already mas­tered. That’s why it’s impor­tant to stretch your brain.”

Brain fit­ness games also have the poten­tial to improve one’s emo­tion­al health, said Mark Bald­win, a psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at McGill Uni­ver­si­ty in Mon­tre­al.

Bald­win has devel­oped a num­ber of com­put­er games based on keep­ing a brain active phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly, to improve it psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly.

It’s about prac­tis­ing or using games to train ben­e­fi­cial habits of thought, ” he said.

Brain Games and Training for Baby Boomers: News Round-Up

Round-up of recent news with a vari­ety of angles, from the effects of Brain Health Newsgam­ing to cog­ni­tive train­ing for dri­ving skills and brain fit­ness class­es.

Seniors use brain train­ing soft­ware to sharp­en their minds (Dal­las Morn­ing News)

- “All­state Insur­ance has invit­ed some pol­i­cy­hold­ers and oth­er old­er dri­vers to try InSight so researchers can eval­u­ate whether the soft­ware reduces acci­dents.”

- “Depend­ing on the results, the auto insur­er says it may expand the pilot project and offer pre­mi­um dis­counts to dri­vers who take the brain train­ing.”

- “Today, only one in sev­en licensed dri­vers is 65 or old­er. But by 2030, when the last of the boomers turn 65, the pro­por­tion will be one in four. ”

Brain games (Palo Alto Week­ly)

- “There is research that jus­ti­fies the belief that games can aid the brain’s health, accord­ing to Dr. Wal­ter Bortz II, a Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and expert on longevi­ty and robust aging. Stud­ies show that stim­u­lat­ing the brain by learn­ing new tasks increas­es blood fac­tors in the brain that act like steroids, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the brain to grow even in old age

- “Called “brain plas­tic­i­ty,” such growth is the foun­da­tion of brain-fit­ness soft­ware research.”

Brain Fit­ness Class­es Keep Seniors Men­tal­ly And Social­ly Active (Wash­ing­ton Post)

- “More options for exer­cis­ing the brain are on the way. Last year, the Ontario gov­ern­ment pledged about $8 mil­lion to devel­op a brain fit­ness cen­ter in Toron­to. In San Fran­cis­co, Jan Zivic, a for­mer exec­u­tive search con­sul­tant, opened a cen­ter, vibrant­Brains, that offers mem­o­ry improve­ment class­es and work­shops. Zivic was inspired by help she got from brain fit­ness games she played after being injured in an auto­mo­bile acci­dent.”

The 15 Clear­est Ben­e­fits of Gam­ing (Edge Mag­a­zine)

-“But Fer­nan­dez warns that the gamer gen­er­a­tion isn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly guar­an­teed to have bet­ter cog­ni­tive health than their grand­par­ents. Cog­ni­tive fit­ness (hav­ing the men­tal abil­i­ties required to thrive in cog­ni­tive­ly more com­plex envi­ron­ments) seems to depend on four major pil­lars: nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment and men­tal exer­cise. All these fac­tors have phys­i­cal effects on our brains (for exam­ple, phys­i­cal exer­cise con­tributes to the cre­ation of new neu­rons, while stress and anx­i­ety pre­vents and/or reduces the cre­ation of new neu­rons). The bad news is that we have grow­ing obe­si­ty rates and anx­i­ety among young peo­ple. So, games are great for men­tal exer­cise, but we should­n’t for­get the oth­er ingre­di­ents for cog­ni­tive fit­ness.

- “Fer­nan­dez mus­es, Indeed fun can be seen as a goal in itself . The prob­lem is that we con­fuse gam­ing as a vehi­cle with gam­ing as con­tent. Gam­ing as vehi­cle is arguably great it allows for inter­ac­tiv­i­ty, engage­ment. Gam­ing as con­tent, well, it depends. It is not the same to play a bloody shoot­er game as it is to Tetris or Rise of Nations, so the field should do a bet­ter job at explain­ing to main­stream soci­ety the diver­si­ty of games and dis­pel some myths.

More Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health News

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

Insur­ance com­pa­ny All­state and brain fit­ness soft­ware devel­op­er Posit Sci­ence just announced (see press release Pro­tect­ing Penn­syl­va­nia Dri­vers, One Brain at a Time) a very intel­li­gent ini­tia­tive:

Video exer­cis­es aid dri­ving skills (Chica­go Tri­bune)

-“All­state, which called the Posit pro­gram “poten­tial­ly the next big break­through in auto­mo­bile safe­ty,” said it expects its soft­ware exer­cis­es to reduce risky dri­ving maneu­vers by up to 40 per­cent and improve stop­ping dis­tance by an aver­age of 22 feet when trav­el­ing at 55 miles per hour.”

-“We’ll look to see whether over the next six to nine months there will be a reduc­tion in” the num­ber of acci­dents between the group par­tic­i­pat­ing in the video exer­cis­es and those sit­ting out, said Tom War­den, assis­tant vice pres­i­dent of All­state’s research and plan­ning cen­ter.

Tom Warden Allstate

I am for­tu­nate to inter­view Tom War­den, Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent and Leader of Allstate’s Research and Plan­ning Cen­ter, based in Men­lo Park, Cal­i­for­nia.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Tom, thank you for your time. Can you please explain the con­text behind this new ini­tia­tive that you just announced?

Tom War­den: Our research cen­ter is con­stant­ly look­ing for new ideas to improve the dri­ving behav­ior of dri­vers of all ages. Recent­ly we have paid extra empha­sis on ways to improve the safe­ty of old­er dri­vers.

Let me pro­vide some back­ground here. All­state, as a com­pa­ny, has always been one of the pio­neers in help­ing to intro­duce new safe­ty mea­sures. For exam­ple, we were among the pio­neers in the 60s to advo­cate for manda­to­ry use of seat­ing belts, giv­en research stud­ies on the ben­e­fits for dri­vers and pas­sen­gers alike. More recent­ly, we helped lob­by for wider adop­tion of airbags, an effec­tive but expen­sive way of pro­tec­tion that only became main­stream when man­u­fac­tur­ers were required to include them.

Let’s talk now about your agree­ment with Posit Sci­ence. What will hap­pen over the next months?

The first thing we are doing is to con­duct a research study to ana­lyze the real-life impact of Posit Sci­ence InSight, a com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram, on acci­dent rates. We know that as dri­vers get old­er 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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