Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Neurotechnology Trends, and the Neurosoftware Market

The Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Indus­try Orga­ni­za­tion (NIO) just announced the top ten emerg­ing areas of neu­ro­science that will “impact the future of treat­ments for brain and ner­vous sys­tem”: Top 10 Neu­ro­science Trends in 2007.

It pro­vides superb food for thought. And some of them will sound famil­iar to read­ers of this blog:

* 6. Nor­mal brain aging gets more atten­tion: More research and devel­op­ment is being focused on think­ing impair­ments that only par­tial­ly lim­it inde­pen­dence and qual­i­ty of life for senior cit­i­zens, adults and school aged chil­dren. Neu­rosoft­ware will pen­e­trate nurs­ing homes and schools, as brain fit­ness soft­ware becomes new first-line treat­ment strat­e­gy.
* 8. Pre­ven­tion evi­dence grows: You are what you eat; smok­ing is as bad as we thought; and new stud­ies reveal the effects of envi­ron­men­tal sub­stances on Alzheimer’s dis­ease, Parkinson’s dis­ease and oth­ers.
* 9. Emo­tion­al dis­or­ders research advances:  New research con­tin­ues to link neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis to treat­ment of depres­sion.  A bet­ter under­stand­ing of PTSD should lead to new treat­ment regimes.

Want to read prob­a­bly the best overview of the neurosoftware/ brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket? Check this arti­cle, fresh from the oven: Thank Boomers for Buff­ing Up Brain Mar­ket.

To clar­i­fy the num­bers men­tioned: we project $225m in the US alone (grow­ing from $70m in 2003), bro­ken-down as fol­lows: $80m for the Con­sumer seg­ment, $60m in K12 Edu­ca­tion, $50m in Clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions, and $35m in the Cor­po­rate seg­ment. The Con­sumer seg­ment, with a healthy aging val­ue propo­si­tion, is the most recent one but the most rapid­ly grow­ing.

Cognitive Fitness as a New Frontier of Fitness

emWave for Stress ManagementVery good arti­cle in the LA Times today. Like a Stair­Mas­ter for the brain: Can men­tal work­outs improve the mind’s agili­ty? Baby boomer con­cerns stim­u­late an indus­try expan­sion.

The reporter, Melis­sa Healy, reviews the healthy aging seg­ment in the Brain Fit­ness field. A few select­ed quotes:

- “There is plau­si­bil­i­ty, both bio­log­i­cal and behav­ioral, to the claim that these may work,” says Mol­ly Wag­ster, chief of the Nation­al Insti­tute on Aging’s neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy branch. “But it is still a sit­u­a­tion of ‘buy­er beware.’ ”

- “I see this as a new fron­tier of fit­ness over­all,” says Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, founder and chief exec­u­tive of the web­site Sharp­Brains .com, which tracks the busi­ness and sci­ence of brain-train­ing. Amer­i­cans already under­stand the val­ue of phys­i­cal fit­ness as a means of pre­serv­ing the body’s prop­er func­tion and pre­vent­ing age-relat­ed dis­eases, says Fer­nan­dez. He pre­dicts that cog­ni­tive fit­ness will become a goal to which Amer­i­cans equal­ly aspire as we learn more about aging and the brain.
— (Dr. Elkhonon) Gold­berg, who pro­vides sci­en­tif­ic advice on the web­site http://www.sharpbrains.com/, says that as neu­ro­sci­en­tists use imag­ing tech­nolo­gies to “see” the cel­lu­lar changes that come with learn­ing, he grows more con­fi­dent that well-designed train­ing pro­grams can have dis­cernible every­day effects in pre­serv­ing or repair­ing the intel­lec­tu­al func­tion of old­er adults. “This is shared hard­ware” that’s being changed in the brain, “and to the extent you some­how enhance it, that will have wide-rang­ing effects,” Gold­berg says. “It pro­vides a much more com­pelling raison­tre for this whole busi­ness.”

The arti­cle adds that “Amer­i­cans this year are expect­ed to invest $225 mil­lion in these pro­grams — up from just $70 mil­lion in 2003 — in an effort to tune up the brain, strength­en the mem­o­ry and fore­stall or reverse the cog­ni­tive slip­page that often comes with age, psy­chi­atric dis­ease, stroke or med­ical treat­ments.”

Our break­down for those 2007 US pre­dic­tions are as fol­lows: $80m for the Con­sumer seg­ment, $60m in K12 Edu­ca­tion, $50m in Clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions, and $35m in the Cor­po­rate seg­ment. The Con­sumer seg­ment, with a healthy aging val­ue propo­si­tion, is the most recent one but the most rapid­ly grow­ing.

Read the full arti­cle: Like a Stair­Mas­ter for the brain.

PS: the arti­cle also says “In the last three years, these brain­pow­er-boost­ing pro­grams have pro­lif­er­at­ed, with names like Mind­Fit, Hap­py Neu­ron, Brain Fit­ness and Lumos­i­ty.”.. if there are reporters read­ing this, please avoid future con­fu­sion by nam­ing Posit Science’s pro­gram “Posit Sci­ence Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram 2.0”. Brain Fit­ness refers to the full cat­e­go­ry.

Build Your Cognitive Reserve: An Interview with Dr. Yaakov Stern

Yaakov SternDr. Yaakov Stern is the Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter, and Pro­fes­sor of Clin­i­cal Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy, at the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, New York. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez inter­views him here as part of our research for The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness book.

Dr. Stern is one of the lead­ing pro­po­nents of the Cog­ni­tive reserve the­o­ry, which aims to explain why some indi­vid­u­als with full Alzheimer’s pathol­o­gy (accu­mu­la­tion of plaques and tan­gles in their brains) can keep nor­mal lives until they die, while oth­ers -with the same amount of plaques and tan­gles- dis­play the severe symp­toms we asso­ciate with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. He has pub­lished dozens of peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers on the sub­ject.

The con­cept of a Cog­ni­tive Reserve has been around since 1989, when a post mortem analy­sis of 137 peo­ple with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease showed that some patients exhib­it­ed few­er clin­i­cal symp­toms than their actu­al pathol­o­gy sug­gest­ed. These patients also showed high­er brain weights and greater num­ber of neu­rons when com­pared to age-matched con­trols. The inves­ti­ga­tors hypoth­e­sized that the patients had a larg­er “reserve” of neu­rons and abil­i­ties that enable them to off­set the loss­es caused by Alzheimer’s. Since then, the con­cept of Cog­ni­tive Reserve has been defined as the abil­i­ty of an indi­vid­ual to tol­er­ate pro­gres­sive brain pathol­o­gy with­out demon­strat­ing clin­i­cal cog­ni­tive symp­toms. (You can check at the end of this inter­view a great clip on this).

———————————

Key take-aways

- Life­time expe­ri­ences, like edu­ca­tion, engag­ing occu­pa­tion, and leisure activ­i­ties, have been shown to have a major influ­ence on how we age, specif­i­cal­ly on whether we will devel­op Alzheimer’s symp­toms or not.

- This is so because stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, ide­al­ly com­bin­ing phys­i­cal exer­cise, learn­ing and social inter­ac­tion, help us build a Cog­ni­tive Reserve to pro­tect us.

- The ear­li­er we start build­ing our Reserve, the bet­ter; but it is nev­er too late to start. And, the more activ­i­ties, the bet­ter: the effect is cumu­la­tive.

———————————

The Cog­ni­tive Reserve

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Dear Dr. Stern, it is a plea­sure to have you here. Let me first ask you this: the impli­ca­tions of your research are pret­ty broad, pre­sent­ing major impli­ca­tions across sec­tors and age groups. What has been the most unex­pect­ed reac­tion so far?

YS: well…I was pret­ty sur­prised when Read the rest of this entry »

Alzheimer’s Disease: too serious to play with headlines

Featured Website, Scientific American Mind, June/July 2007

We just came across an arti­cle titled Best Com­put­er Brain Games for Senior Cit­i­zens to Delay Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. The head­line makes lit­tle sci­en­tif­ic sense-and we observe this con­fu­sion often. The arti­cle men­tions a few pro­grams we have dis­cussed often in this blog, such as Posit Sci­ence and Mind­Fit, and oth­ers we haven’t because we haven’t found any pub­lished sci­ence behind, such as Dakim and MyBrain­Train­er. And there are more pro­grams: what about Hap­py Neu­ron, Lumos­i­ty, Spry Learn­ing and Captain’s Log. Not to talk about Nin­ten­do Brain Age, of course.

Some of those pro­grams have real sci­ence that, at best, shows how some spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills (like mem­o­ry, or atten­tion, or pro­cess­ing) can be trained and improved-no mat­ter the age. This is a very impor­tant mes­sage that hasn’t yet per­co­lat­ed through many brains out there: we know today that com­put­er-based soft­ware pro­grams can be very use­ful to train some cog­ni­tive skills, bet­ter than alter­na­tive meth­ods (paper and pen­cil, class­room-based, just “dai­ly liv­ing”).

Now, no sin­gle pro­gram can make ANY claim that it specif­i­cal­ly delays/ pre­vents Alzheimer’s Dis­ease beyond gen­er­al state­ments such as that Learn­ing Slows Phys­i­cal Pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (hence the imper­a­tive for life­long learn­ing) and that men­tal stim­u­la­tion-togeth­er with oth­er lifestyle fac­tors such as nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and stress man­age­ment, as out­lined in these Steps to Improve Your Brain Health- may con­tribute to build a Cog­ni­tive Reserve that may reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of prob­lems. Pro­grams may be able to Read the rest of this entry »

MindFit, Posit Science, Happy Neuron

The Seat­tle Times has a good brief arti­cle today on Posit Sci­ence, Hap­py Neu­ron Games and us (they men­tion Mind­Fit Brain Work­out to “work on short-term mem­o­ry, nam­ing, divid­ed atten­tion, plan­ning, hand-eye coor­di­na­tion and oth­er cog­ni­tive mea­sures.”).

Check Is your brain ready for the chal­lenge?

———

For the record (giv­en a reader’s com­ment below I changed the word “focus” with “men­tion”), we think Posit Sci­ence offers a great and inten­sive pro­gram most­ly focused on audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing, that Hap­pyNeu­ron offers a wider vari­ety of games online so it is a less struc­tured “pro­gram”, and Mind­Fit is a com­bi­na­tion of both approach­es (struc­tured pro­gram, wide vari­ety). Each of them are use­ful tools-it depends on what you may want to accom­plish. Sharp­Brains does not pro­duce any of them.

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

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 and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

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