- “Consumers and retirement homes have made brain-fitness games and exercises a commercial hit, but now some insurers and employers are incorporating them into wellness programs that promote health not just for the body but also for the mind.”
- “Improving brain health can result in less presenteeism, the tendency to be at work but be distracted and not able to focus,” he added. “If you look at disability costs, absenteeism and presenteeism account for most of the medical costs, and that’s a good reason for employers to be focused on brain health.” (according to Dr. Eugene Baker, vice president at OptumHealth’s Behavioral Solutions division)”
The article reviews innovative practices at OptumHealth, Nationwide Auto Insurance Company, Humana, Penn Treaty American Corp, Allstate, and the US Army. I am glad to see the media start to notice the importance of cognitive assessments and the growing activity by insurers. [Read more…] about Corporate Wellness Programs start to include Brain Health
Round-up of April articles and news on neuroscience, brain development and cognitive health:
For the first time, a new Cognitive Health track ‑Powered by SharpBrains- will cover eleven brain fitness and cognitive health topics during the 5th Annual Games for Health Conference. The current price is $379, with a 15% discount if you use code “sharp09” (without quotation) when you register Here. Details: June 11–12th at the Hyatt Harborside Hotel in Boston, MA.
- “Unlike the monolingual group, the bilingual group was able to successfully learn a new sound type and use it to predict where each character would pop up…The bilingual babies’ skill applies to more than just switching between languages. Mehler likened this apparently enhanced cognitive ability to a brain selecting “the right tool for the right operation”—also called executive function.”
- “In this basic process, the brain, ever flexible, nimbly switches from one learned response to another as situations change…Monolingual babies hone this ability later in their young lives, Mehler suggests.”
“Now, research is providing what could be crucial clues to explain how childhood poverty translates into dimmer chances of success: [Read more…] about Cognitive Health and Development: April Round-Up
Several recent articles and news:
Brain Gain: the underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs (The New Yorker)
- “Alex remains enthusiastic about Adderall, but he also has a slightly jaundiced critique of it. “It only works as a cognitive enhancer insofar as you are dedicated to accomplishing the task at hand,” he said. “The number of times I’ve taken Adderall late at night and decided that, rather than starting my paper, hey, I’ll organize my entire music library! I’ve seen people obsessively cleaning their rooms on it.” Alex thought that generally the drug helped him to bear down on his work, but it also tended to produce writing with a characteristic flaw. “Often, I’ve looked back at papers I’ve written on Adderall, and they’re verbose. They’re belaboring a point, trying to create this airtight argument, when if you just got to your point in a more direct manner it would be stronger. But with Adderall I’d produce two pages on something that could be said in a couple of sentences.” Nevertheless, his Adderall-assisted papers usually earned him at least a B. They got the job done. As Alex put it, “Productivity is a good thing.”
- “Who might use them? Students will be tempted, as might players of any game involving counting or remembering (chess, bridge, and even poker and blackjack). Certain professionals might desire a boost in attention or memory”
- “But these potentially powerful medicines should not be made available to everyone, for two reasons. The first is safety. The last several years have provided many examples of side effects, some life-threatening…The second reason is that we still know relatively little about learning and memory and how they are integrated to make judgments and decisions.”
Kellogg Settles with FTC over Health Claims on Cereal (Promo Magazine)
- “The FTC said that Kellogg promoted the cereal as “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%,” when in fact the study referred to in the ads showed different results.”
- “The study found that only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or more, the FTC said.”
Brain shock: The new Gulf War syndrome (New Scientist)
- “The US army also screens for symptoms of mTBI when soldiers return from a tour of duty, and again three months later. The army is also carrying out neurocognitive tests on recruits before they are sent into combat so that doctors can check for deterioration in later tests.”
- “When it comes to combat trauma, unpicking the physical from the psychological is bound to be highly complex. As Barth says, perhaps the greatest danger could be in trying to simplify the picture too much. “I recommend that we get comfortable with the complexity,” he says, “and treat it as a challenge.”
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America just released a thoughtful report advocating for widespread cognitive screenings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions).
According to the press release,
- “The report shatters unsubstantiated criticism and instead emphasizes the safety and cost-effectiveness of these tools and calls on Congress to develop a national dementia screening policy.”
- “Lifting the barriers to early detection is long overdue, Hall said. “Conversations about brain health are not taking place. We must educate and empower consumers to talk openly about memory concerns, particularly with primary care providers, so they get the attention and quality of life they deserve.
- “Demand for screenings is evidenced by the success of AFA’s recent sixth annual National Memory Screening Day held on November 18, during which an estimated 50,000 people were given free confidential memory screenings at nearly 2,200 community sites nationwide. During last year’s event, approximately 16 percent of individuals who had a face-to-face screening scored positive and were referred to their primary care providers for follow-up. An AFA survey of participants revealed that fewer than one in four with self-reported memory complaints had previously discussed them with their physicians despite recent visits.”
Excellent report available: here
Please note that the Alzheimer’s Association recently argued in the opposite direction (no screenings) — which probably triggered this response.
We see emerging trends that suggest the position in favor of cognitive assessments may in fact gather momentum over the next few years: widespread computerized cognitive screenings in the US Army, insurance companies like OptumHealth adding such tools to its clinical decision-making systems, polls such as the American Society of Aging’s a couple of years ago indicating a very strong demand for an “annual mental check-up”, the availability of useful assessment tools and research-based preventive advice.
The starting point is to understand what those assessments are NOT: they are not diagnostic tools. When used properly, they can be used as a baseline to track performance in a variety of cognitive domains over time, so that both the individual AND the physician are not blinded by a one-time assessment, comparing an individual with his or her peers (instead of his or her past performance) when serious symptoms have frequently already been going on for a while.
Our contributor Dr. Joshua Silverman, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, recently generated a nice debate on the topic by asking our readers their reaction to these 3 questions: [Read more…] about Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease
We have just announced an upcoming webinar to provide a market update: Top 10 Cognitive Fitness Events of 2008 — A Market Update.
When: Thursday December 11th, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm Pacific Time. The same webinar will be repeated on Thursday December 18th, from 9:00 to 10:00 pm Pacific Time.
The Top 10 Cognitive Fitness Events that will be discussed include:
1) February: Dakim secures a $10.6m investment from Galen Partners. Jack LaLanne becomes spokesperson.
2) April: The Government of Ontario, Canada, invests $10m in Baycrest to develop and commercialize cognitive fitness technologies.
3) April: University of Michigan researchers reveal in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences how computerized working memory training can generalize and improve fluid intelligence in healthy adults.
4) May: Humana unveils Games for Health initiatives, not renewing its agreement with Posit Science.
5) June: The US Army launches a new policy requiring cognitive screenings of all soldiers before deployment (in order to [Read more…] about Top 10 Cognitive Fitness Events of 2008 (Webinar)
As you have probably seen, the Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness field is rapidly evolving, so let me highlight some of the main recent developments affecting the field:
1) Public policy initiatives:
— The Government of Ontario, Canada, announced a $10m investment in Baycrest Research Center to help develop and commercialize brain fitness technologies. This $10m investment was matched with an additional $10m by local investors.
— In the US, The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was signed into law, included in the recently-approved economic bailout bill. The passage of this law has significant implications for healthcare providers and technology vendors alike.
2) Computerized Cognitive Assessments Used by the US Military:
The US Army launched a new policy requiring cognitive screenings of all soldiers before deployment (in order to better diagnose potential problems such as PTSD and TBI upon return). ANAM was the selected computerized battery of tests.
3) Venture & Angel Fundraising for Cognitive Training companies:
A number of developers have raised money. CogniFit received $5m (from Milk Capital), Lumos Labs $3m (FirstMark Capital ‑previously called Pequot Ventures‑, Norwest Venture Partners), Scientific Brain Training $1.5m (issued shares), Vivity Labs $1m (undisclosed angel investors), This is, of course, on top of the February $10.6 investment in Dakim (Galen Partners) that we already included in our market report.
4) Major Initiatives by Insurance Companies:
— Allstate launched a large-scale research project to measure impact of Posit Science InSight (visual processing training) on driver safety for adults over 50.
— OptumHealth announced a 3‑year, $18m agreement with Brain Resource to offer web-based cognitive assessments as part of clinicians’ decision support systems.
— Humana decided not to renew its agreement with Posit Science to offer PositÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s auditory processing training program to Medicare members.
5) New Research:
— In a significant new study, a team from the University of Michigan published a high-quality paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing how computerized working memory training can generalize and improve fluid intelligence (one of the domains that tends to decline with age).
— Learning and Teaching Scotland released an internal study showing how Nintendo Brain Training can help childrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s math and concentration skills. The study gained significant media attention, despite the fact it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been published in a respected journal.
Note: This is an excerpt from the 6‑Month Market Update we willÃ‚Â release later this month, covering the many important developments that have occurred since we launched the inaugural Brain Fitness Market Report in March this year. This special report will be available exclusively for our Premium Research Sponsors.