Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

AARP’s Best Books Series: Brain Fitness

We are pleased to report that the AARP’s Best Books Series: Brain Fit­ness List (link opens PDF doc­u­ment you can view, down­load and print at AARP web­site) is final­ly offi­cial­ly avail­able, described as “a list­ing for pub­lic libraries of well-pre­pared books on main­tain­ing a sharp and fit mind through­out the aging process.” Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers

Dr. Michael Merzenich Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, is a lead­ing pio­neer in brain plas­tic­i­ty research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invent­ed the cochlear implant. In 1996, he was the found­ing CEO of Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (Nas­daq: SCIL), and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer of Posit Sci­ence. He was elect­ed to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences in 1999 and to the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine this year. He retired as Fran­cis A. Sooy Pro­fes­sor and Co-Direc­tor of the Keck Cen­ter for Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cis­co in 2007. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV spe­cials, mul­ti­ple media appear­ances, or neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-relat­ed books.

(Alvaro Fer­nan­dez) Dear Michael, thank you very much for agree­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gur­al Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit in Jan­u­ary, and for your time today. In order to con­tex­tu­al­ize the Summit’s main themes, I would like to focus this inter­view on the like­ly big-pic­ture impli­ca­tions dur­ing the next 5 years of your work and that of oth­er neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty research and indus­try pio­neers.

Thank you for invit­ing me. I believe the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will be very use­ful and stim­u­lat­ing, you are gath­er­ing an impres­sive group togeth­er. I am look­ing for­ward to Jan­u­ary.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based Tools: The New Health & Well­ness Fron­tier

There are many dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy-free approach­es to harnessing/ enabling/ dri­ving neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. What is the val­ue that tech­nol­o­gy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

It’s all about effi­cien­cy, scal­a­bil­i­ty, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­o­gy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-opti­mal­ly-effi­cient brain-train­ing strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­o­gy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each person’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tive­ly addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cial­ly impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­o­gy is the scal­a­bil­i­ty that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Inter­net!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intu­itive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-pro­cess­ing if all one cares about is mem­o­ry? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to real­ly change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age old­er per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equal­ly effort­ful busi­ness!

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teens and Adults

Safe dri­ving seems to be one area where the ben­e­fits are more intu­itive, which may explain the sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion.

Yes, we see great poten­tial and inter­est among insur­ers for improv­ing dri­ving safe­ty, both for seniors and teens. Appro­pri­ate cog­ni­tive train­ing can low­er at-fault acci­dent rates. You can mea­sure clear ben­e­fits in rel­a­tive­ly short time frames, so it won’t take long for insur­ers to see an eco­nom­ic ratio­nale to not only offer pro­grams at low cost or for free but to incen­tivize dri­vers to com­plete them. All­state, AAA, State Farm and oth­er insur­ers are begin­ning to real­ize this poten­tial. It is impor­tant to note that typ­i­cal acci­dents among teens and seniors are dif­fer­ent, so that train­ing method­olo­gies will need to be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent high-risk pop­u­la­tions.

Yet, most dri­ving safe­ty ini­tia­tives today still focus on edu­cat­ing dri­vers, rather that train­ing them neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly. We mea­sure vision, for exam­ple, but com­plete­ly ignore atten­tion­al con­trol abil­i­ties, or a driver’s use­ful field of view. I expect this to change sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insur­ance com­pa­nies will ulti­mate­ly see sim­i­lar ben­e­fits, and we believe that they will fol­low a sim­i­lar course of action to reduce gen­er­al med­ical and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease- (Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment and Alzheimer’s- and Parkin­sons-) relat­ed costs. In fact, many senior liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties are among the pio­neers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vital­i­ty

Main­stream media is cov­er­ing this emerg­ing cat­e­go­ry with thou­sands of sto­ries. But most cov­er­age seems still focused on does it work? more than “how do we define It”, what does work mean? or work for whom, and for what? Can you sum­ma­rize what recent research sug­gests?

We have seen clear pat­terns in the appli­ca­tion of our train­ing pro­grams, some pub­lished (like IMPACT), some unpub­lished, some with healthy adults, and some with peo­ple with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment or ear­ly Alzheimers Dis­ease (AD). What we see in every case: Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Public Libraries as Health Clubs for the Brain

Here you have the July edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain 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.

Resources

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

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

Brain Fitness Survey: We Need More Brain Awareness Weeks!

If you sub­scribe to our month­ly newslet­ter, you may remem­ber we ran a sur­vey in Jan­u­ary. Well, the response rate and the qual­i­ty of the respons­es were noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar, in many dimen­sions. The respons­es from over 2,000 par­tic­i­pants (out of 21,000 sub­scribers) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate prod­uct claims.

I have been pre­sent­ing the results from one of the ques­tions (see below), yes­ter­day at the ASA/ NCOA (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging) event, today at IHRSA (Inter­na­tion­al Health, Rac­quet and Sports­club Asso­ci­a­tion), as part of more com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tions of what is going on in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health field.

An obvi­ous impli­ca­tion for the sur­vey result rein­forces the need for brain-relat­ed pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns such as the ongo­ing Brain Aware­ness Week. Every year, land­mark research find­ings open new oppor­tu­ni­ties to help main­tain life­long cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness. The oppor­tu­ni­ty is immense — but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, help­ing con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als sep­a­rate hope from hype and make informed deci­sions.

Robin Klaus, Chair­man of Club One Fit­ness Cen­ters (the com­pa­ny is a client, he is an advi­sor), just gave us a nice quote say­ing that “as our pop­u­la­tion ages the fields of phys­i­cal fit­ness and brain fit­ness will nat­u­ral­ly merge and, as this hap­pens, a whole new field of val­ued added ser­vices will emerge for our mem­bers. High qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion­al resources such as Sharp­Brains’ are cru­cial to the suc­cess of this merg­er.”

The Sur­vey: Results to Key Ques­tion

Asked, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?” respon­dents iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing six prob­lems in rank order:

#1: Pub­lic Aware­ness (39%)
— “Get­ting peo­ple to under­stand that hered­i­ty alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing.”
— “An expec­tant pub­lic will first want to believe that a “mir­a­cle” drug is to be soon avail­able (to pre­vent Alzheimer’s Dis­ease).”

#2: Nav­i­gat­ing Claims (21%)
- “How to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing hype from stuff that real­ly works?”
— “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and makes a lot of peo­ple scep­ti­cal.”

#3: Research (15%)
— “Deter­min­ing what activ­i­ties are most ben­e­fi­cial to Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive News November-December 2008

Here you have sev­er­al recent arti­cles and devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion:Brain Health News

1) Boom times for brain train­ing games (CNN)
2) Nav­i­gat­ing the brain fit­ness land­scape: do’s and don’ts (McKnight’s Long Term Care News)
3) USA Hock­ey and Intel­li­gym (press release)
4) Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library (NYPL blog)
5) McDon­nell Foun­da­tion grant har­ness­es cog­ni­tive sci­ence to improve stu­dent learn­ing (press release)
6) Health insur­ance firms offer­ing online cog­ni­tive ther­a­py for insom­nia (Los Ange­les Times)
7) Head­Min­der Cog­ni­tive Sta­bil­i­ty Index: Com­put­er­ized Neu­rocog­ni­tive … (Press release)
8) THE AGE OF MASS INTELLIGENCE (Intel­li­gent Life)
9) Work­ing Lat­er in Life May Facil­i­tate Neur­al Health (Cere­brum)
10) The Cool Fac­tor: Nev­er Let Them See You Sweat (New York Times)

Links, select­ed quotes and com­men­tary: Read the rest of this entry »

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.