Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Employee Assistance Programs enhance corporate wellness with brain training

Companies turn to brain games to tackle work stress (Fortune):

“As more and more jobs rely on knowledge work, creativity, and communication skills, it’s not enough to have workers sitting at their desks — they must also be mentally sharp, emotionally present, and free from distraction. The answer for some: brain training.

The fun, game atmosphere of My Brain Solutions helped Nationwide achieve another goal: making the employee assistance program Read the rest of this entry »

7 Key Lessons from the 2011 SharpBrains Summit: Retooling Brain Health for the 21st Century

SharpBrains served a highly thought-provoking and informative 2011 Virtual Summit on Retooling Brain Health for the 21st Century over 3 days, March 30th – April 1st. Here is a brief distillation of the large number (40+) of presentations.

1.The range and variety of presentations left no room for doubt that the digital brain health market is concerned with much more than improving cognitive performance and preventing/treating disease. There is a need for many tools in each of the following categories: Read the rest of this entry »

New Report Finds A Brain Health Revolution in the Making, Driven by Digital Technology and Neuroplasticity Research

2010MarketReportIn spite of the recent economic downturn, revenues for digital technologies to assess, enhance and treat cognition, or digital brain health and fitness tools, grew 35% in 2009. “The convergence of demographic and policy trends with cognitive neuroscience discoveries and technological innovation is giving birth to a nascent marketplace that can fundamentally transform what brain health is, how it is measured, and how it is done,” says Alvaro Fernandez, member of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Aging Society and Editor-in-Chief of the report. “This groundbreaking report can help pioneers shape the emerging toolkit to benefit an aging society that increasingly seeks new ways to enhance cognitive functionality and mental wellness across the lifespan.”

“As the brain is thrust into the center of the healthcare ecosystem, innovative cognitive health and brain fitness applications will play an increasingly important role in defining neurocentric health,” adds Jake Dunagan, Research Director at the Institute For The Future.

Report: Transforming Brain Health with Digital Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cognition across the Lifespan: The State of the Brain Fitness Market 2010.

A majority among the 1,900+ decision-makers and early-adopters surveyed said they trusted the effectiveness of non-invasive options above invasive options to enhance critical brain functionality. Professional and intellectual challenges were rated very effective by 61% of respondents, aerobic exercise and reading books by 42%, meditation by 38%, computerized brain training by 26%, taking prescription drugs by 13%, taking supplements by 12%, and self-medicating with drugs by 1%.

These are among the key findings of a 207-page market report released today by SharpBrains and prepared in collaboration with 24 leading scientists and 10 innovative organizations — the most comprehensive such research study done to analyze emerging research, technologies and marketplace.

“We must do for brain health in the 21st century what we largely accomplished in cardiovascular health in the past century. It’s time to take scientific insights out of the lab and to identify practical applications, making the maintenance of good brain fitness a public health priority,” indicates William Reichman, MD, President and CEO of Baycrest.

Other Report Highlights are: Read the rest of this entry »

What impressed the Judging Panel re. Innovation Awards Winners and Finalists

Let me now share what the Judging PanelAlvaroFer_finalfile_180310 and the SharpBrains team found most impressive from each Winner and Finalist of the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, accompanied by some additional information on each of these 10 noteworthy initiatives and case studies.

Grand Prize Winner

USA HockeyUSA Hockey, Inc., is the National Governing Body of the sport of ice hockey in the United States. With a membership of nearly 600,000 players, coaches, officials and volunteers that span all 50 states, USA Hockey seeks to promote the growth of hockey and provide the best possible experience for all participants by encouraging, developing, advancing and administering the sport.

Project Scope: The National Team Development Program (NTDP), a USA Hockey body, is a full-time development program aimed at preparing under-18 student-athletes for participation on US National Teams. Its efforts focus both on high-caliber participation on the ice and individual skill development. The program is composed of two squads: the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams.

During the past hockey season, the NTDP implemented a cognitive training system designed to help hockey players develop perception and decision-making skills called The Hockey IntelliGym. Designed to enhance ‘Hockey Sense’—or the way players gather information from their surroundings, make and execute decisions—The Hockey IntelliGym training system utilizes a software-based training environment with customized algorithms that adjust training programs to individual players according to ability and progress. Players engaged in a twice-a-week cognitive training regimen that became an integral part of their overall training program during which time cognitive scientists monitored players’ performance and provided coaching staff with analyses and progress reports. Among statistical figures measured, the most notable was the win ratio of teams involved, as IntelliGym trained team won more games.

The IntelliGym program took more than two years and $2 million to put together with the collaboration of Applied Cognitive Engineering (ACE) and was enabled by a grant from the BIRD Foundation who scientifically reviewed the plan and financially supported it.

Project Leader: Scott Monaghan, Director of Operations, USA Hockey National Team Development Program

Selected comments by Judging Panel: Excellent team approach between specialist, coach and player. Great concept and need, and insights/model could apply very broadly to skill development. The adaptation of cognitive training to this particular sports domain is clever and can be generalized to a wide range of other activities. I was impressed with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and their Hockey Intelligym. To develop/adapt such a program and clearly demonstrate it’s impact on real-life performance, is fantastic. There is also a great opportunity to expand this to even more athletes and sports and to everyday life.

Silver Prize Winners

AllstateAllstate (NYSE: ALL) is the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help individuals in approximately 17 million households protect what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow.

Project Scope: Allstate embarked on a journey with Posit Science Corporation to evaluate the interest in and effectiveness of Posit Science’s software—leveraging technology shown in National Institutes of Health funded studies to improve visual processing skills important for safe driving—to test a software program (Insight) in Pennsylvania. Selected drivers, 50 years and older, were invited to help validate the impact cognitive training has on driving safety.

The project was a “proof of concept” for what may turn out to be a significant effort by Allstate to prevent injuries and save lives, enable older people to maintain their independence longer and provide peace of mind to adult children faced with difficult decisions as parents age. The most important reduction was in insured losses and resulting injuries, trauma and disruption to the lives of those involved in auto collisions. After observing the accident behavior of those who completed the Posit program, relative to a well selected control group, Allstate saw a measurable decline that was statistically valid.

Project Leader: Tom Warden, Assistant Vice President, Allstate Research and Planning Center

Selected comments by Judging Panel: The potential impact of this program is second to none. I was impressed with Allstate’s project and their results that showed that the Posit Science software positively impacted the accident records of those completing the program. Allstate should be commended for trying something new and different and for creating such an initiative. Pretty soon I can imagine brain fitness discounts alongside safe driver and other discounts.

images (1)Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by A.M. Best. The company provides a full range of personalized insurance and financial services, including including auto and life insurance, pensions, health and productivity services, and more.

Project Scope: Nationwide Mutual Insurance worked with benefits provider OptumHealth and their partner Brain Resource to add a Web based brain training tool (MyBrainSolutions) to help employees enhance positivity, emotional resilience and deal with others more effectively — all key elements to productivity. More than 500 employees enrolled in the company’s ‘Healthy Holiday Challenge’ during the first week. The results of the new resource led to more positive behavior changes and greater productivity among the workforce.

As part of the MyBrainSolutions launch, associates were asked to register, take a baseline brain assessment, accumulate a target number of points during a 30-day period and then take a second brain assessment. The company found that aspects of positivity, emotional resilience and social skills improved in the short 6-week initiative and saw small changes in productivity were noticeable as well. 87% of those participating in the program indicated they were planning to take additional steps to improve health after participating while 33.5% wouldn’t have accessed other resources to address health and wellbeing if it weren’t for the initiative.

Project Leader: Kathleen Herath, AVP Health & Productivity

Selected comments by Judging Panel: Harvard Business Review estimated a couple years ago that $150B is lost annually as a result of lost employee productivity. Given all of the life events and transitions that individuals experience each year that can distract, this provides a feasible and attractive lever for employees to take advantage of. Employers of the future that can implement innovative models such as these to adapt to the changing needs of employees, enhance employee productivity, and help to redefine what work means by infusing the professional with the personal will win, and have as a reward loyal employees, a happy culture, and an overall higher performing workforce. The positive self-report measures were impressive as well as the improvements in such a short period of time. Seems to have potential for replicability with scalable, low-cost programs. In principle this approach could have large societal benefits. Implementing cognitive training in a work place is novel and taps into the desire to optimize professional functioning as well as stave off decline.  The emotional and self-regulation training is extremely important in the workplace setting.

Rest of Top 10 Finalists

(Note: out of the 40 organizations that submitted entries to the inaugural 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, 10 became Top 10 Finalists. Here we want to recognize the organizations which, while not winning the overall contest, did impress the judging panel with the quality of their ongoing initiatives. They are ordered by the approximate age of their end user population, from younger to older:

Most Innovative Special Ed School

Arrowsmith SchoolArrowsmith School offers a comprehensive suite of cognitive programs for students with learning disabilities, targeting 19 areas of the brain most commonly involved in learning. The Arrowsmith Program, which originated in Toronto, is now offered in schools in Canada and the US.

Project Scope: Help remediate Learning Disabilities by developing and implementing a proprietary suite of neuroplasticity-based exercises in 3 formats: computer-based, auditory, pen and paper.

  • Project Leader: Barbara Arrowsmith, Director
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel:  How easy would it be to say “they’s not smart enough” or “they’re making excuses”, instead of “they have a cognitive shortcoming that can be addressed.” The target audience of 5-10% of school children with learning disabilities can now have a fighting chance if models like these can be scaled through policy and/or replication. This gets my vote as the model creates almost immeasurable lifetime impact for those fortunate enough to be reap all the cognitive benefits of the program. Arrowsmith efforts since 1979 puts them in a class of their own as pioneers. Arrowsmith also has a process learning from and refining its initiatives. Program can be built further on very solid foundations.

Most Innovative Behavioral Health Provider

UBHCUniversity Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) was established in 1971 as a division of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and is one of the largest providers of behavioral healthcare services in the country.

Project Scope: Remediate cognitive impairments associated with severe mental illness by developing and implementing an innovative curriculum and proprietary manual for cognitive rehab support groups, combining best of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, cognitive training, and social skills training.

  • Project Leader: Steven M. Silverstein, Ph.D., Director, Division of Schizophrenia Research & Director of Research
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Noteworthy person-centered approach, focused on how to impact quality of life with self-empowerment tools and social support.

Most Innovative Foundation

aaaftslogoThe AAA Foundation for Traffic Safetyhas a mission to identify problems, foster research that seeks solutions, and disseminate information and educational materials that promote good safety practices.

Project Scope: Improve driving safety among older adults by  promoting and testing visual processing training program InSight by Posit Science.

  • Project Leader: Peter Kissinger, President and CEO
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Very high quality program Innovative. Eminently scalable. Benefits users, AAA, and community at large – very good synergy.This approach grounds cognitive training in an activity that for many is critical to independence. The tie to insurance will motivate the training which may increase road safety and have broader benefits for cognitive health.

Most Innovative Hospital

Saint Lukes Brain and Stroke Institute LogoSaint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Institute, part of Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas and Missouri, covers the entire spectrum of care including acute intervention, prevention of complications, secondary prevention and neurorehabilitation.

Project Scope: Help extend healthy independent living and address cognitive impairments by making accessible a Brain Fitness Center that combines education, assessments, lifestyle advice and targeted neurocognitive and mindfulness-based training.

  • Project Leader: John Corbaley, M.S., M.A., CCC/Sp., Director, Brain Fitness Center, Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Saint Luke’s program was impressive in a number of ways. I liked that they worked with multiple disciplines to create a holistic program focused on improved brain health through cognitive training, nutrition and exercise as well as other activities. It is no surprise that they have a wait list of users eager to join their program.

Most Innovative Adult Education

OUSD Logo Color JPEG
Oakland Unified School District has a mission to ensure that all students graduate as caring, competent, and critical thinkers, as well as fully-informed, engaged, and contributing citizens, prepared to succeed in college and career. Adult and Career Education services empower adults through through education and training.

Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living (for new pilot: improve academic success among at-risk students) by offering a Brain Fitness Class that combines curriculum, discussions and computerized cognitive training (by Posit Science, for older adults; by Lumos Labs, for new pilot with young adults).

  • Project Leader: Teri Barr, Brain Health Program Coordinator
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: Strong approach to overcome some of the age boundaries among targeted populations. What I love the most about this wonderful success story is how this program has been able to appeal to individuals across socio-economic, demographic, and educational backgrounds, and in the process deliver both real and perceived value. One way I think it has done this is through presenting a multi-faceted value proposition (i.e., build cognitive health + build community + have fun in the process) in a single setting. Lessons learned were also very well articulated, and the approach of combining high-tech with high-touch I thought was ingenious and realistic given the context.

Most Innovative Mental Health Association

1-12754The Mental Health Association of Rockland County, in New York State, is a non-profit organization with a mission to prevent mental illness and foster mental wellness through community outreach, direct service and advocacy for legislation and programs.

Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living by offering a cognitive health series of live events to engage the community with a stigma-free, proactive brain fitness message, supported by professional training, socialization platforms and cognitive training (by CogniFit).

  • Project Leader: Karen Oates, Director
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: So great to see a Mental Health Association promoting this important project and allying with so many groups and organizations, including CogniFit, in doing so. Great that they have been able to overcome the stigma so often associated with aging and mental fitness through the project. With the manual and pamphlet, there are excellent replication possibilities.

Most Innovative Health Plan

logoSCAN Health Plan has been focusing for more than 30 years on the unique needs of people with Medicare and is now the country’s fourth largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plan. The company currently has nearly 120,000 members in California and Arizona.

Project Scope: Extend healthy independent living by developing the concept of a “SCAN Van” to deliver health screenings & education combined with physical and cognitive exercise (Wii gaming; touch screen-based cognitive training by HappyNeuron) in places where seniors gather.

  • Project Leader: Lena Perelman, Director of Community Outreach
  • Selected Comments by Judging Panel: A clever plan for the delivery of cognitive exercises. SCAN’s is innovative not only because its mobile but because it presents a more holistic approach to brain health with its “multi-pronged” program.

Here you can learn more about the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards.

Announcement: USA Hockey takes gold at Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, Allstate & Nationwide Mutual Insurance runners-up

Please join us in congratulating USA Hockey, Allstate, and Nationwide, for reaching the podium of the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards, unveiled today.

imagesThe podium’s top position went to USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP), a full-time development program aimed at preparing student-athletes for participation on the US National Under-18 and Under-17 Teams, for its innovative cognitive training system designed with the help of Applied Cognitive Engineering (ACE) and the BIRD Foundation to help hockey players develop perception and decision-making skills. More than two years in the making and $2 million to produce, the Hockey IntelliGym offers players a video-game-like training environment to enhance ‘hockey-sense’-the information gathered from surroundings to make and execute playing decisions on-ice. According to statistics, IntelliGym training helped NTDP teams win more games than non-trained teams.

Judges selected the entry for its inspiring team approach-an intersection between specialist, coach and player. To adapt such a program and demonstrate its impact on real-life performance, they felt, opened new opportunities for extension to other sports and everyday life.

“We’re extremely honored that the Hockey IntelliGym is being recognized with this prestigious award,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “Together with ACE and the BIRD Foundation, we’re proud to have developed what is a truly innovative training product that helps enhance the decision-making skills of our athletes.”

allstate_protectionEntries from Allstate and Nationwide Mutual Insurance rounded out the competition’s other top-performers. Nationwide Mutual Insurance’s ‘Healthy Holiday Challenge’ offered a Web based tool-MyBrainSolutions-to help employees enhance positivity, emotional resilience and deal with others more effectively – all key elements to productivity. images (1)In Pennsylvania, Allstate invited selected drivers, 50 years and older, to help validate the impact targeted cognitive training such as Posit Science InSight can have on driving safety in an effort to prevent injuries, save lives, enable older people to maintain their independence longer and provide peace of mind to adult children faced with difficult decisions as parents age.

The remaining Top 10 Finalists included (in alphabetical order):

  • AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
  • Arrowsmith School
  • Mental Health Association of Rockland County
  • Oakland Unified School District
  • Saint Luke’s Brain and Stroke Institute
  • SCAN Health Plan
  • University Behavioral HealthCare

In its first year, the competition showed considerable promise with 40 entries from prestigious organizations and companies around the world. “We’re delighted to have so many entries which showcase that brain fitness is for everyone at any age,” said SharpBrains’ CEO and Co-Founder Alvaro Fernandez. “The brain fitness field is still in its infancy but given today’s longer life spans and the accompanying desire to make those years healthy and productive, we believe it’s important to recognize those organizations pioneering the way and adding to collective learning.”

-> To learn more about the Innovation Awards, click Here.
-> To download full Press Kit, click Here (includes logos, FAQ, initiative descriptions, PR contacts).

A full 200+ page market report detailing all ten finalist case studies in the context of overall research and market trends will be available next month.

Press contact:
Rebecca Brink
PR Rep – SharpBrains
rebecca at brinkconsulting dot biz

About SharpBrains and the Brain Fitness Innovation Awards

SharpBrains is an independent market research firm covering the emerging brain fitness and cognitive health market. Its flagship industry report The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market and consumer guide The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness help decision makers and consumers navigate the emerging brain fitness field based on evidence-based information and independent analysis. The organization also hosts the 3-day online global and virtual SharpBrains Summit, a first of its kind conference, engaging professionals across the globe on the state of cognitive fitness research, technology and market trends., the firm’s educational blog and website, is a member of the Scientific American Partner Network.

Designed AlvaroFer_finalfile_180310to foster innovation and best practice sharing, the Awards celebrate outstanding pioneers applying neuroplasticity-based research and tools in the ‘real world’. Put on by independent market research firm SharpBrains of San Francisco, the Awards recognize organizations devising and implementing results-oriented, scalable initiatives demonstrating commitment to the brain fitness of organization clients, members, patients, students or employees-and showcase innovative uses of non-invasive tools to improve cognitive and emotional functions.

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