Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

How to mea­sure and improve brain-based out­comes that mat­ter in health care

Pio­neers advanc­ing health research, pre­ven­tion and treat­ment helped us under­stand emerg­ing best prac­tices where Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Reflections on Cognitive Health and Assessments

Let me sum­ma­rize ten high­lights and reflec­tions from stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sions on cog­ni­tive health and assess­ments I have had this month so far.

Jan­u­ary 8–9th: Sym­po­sium on Co-Adap­tive Learn­ing: Adap­tive Tech­nol­o­gy for the Aging (details Here), orga­nized by the Ari­zona State University’s Cen­ter for Adap­tive Neur­al Sys­tems:

1. Cog­ni­tive health is a crit­i­cal fac­tor in over­all health­care, but is often approached in a frag­ment­ed, non-sys­tem­at­ic way. Most speak­ers in the sym­po­sium did men­tion how cog­ni­tive health issues inter­act with their spe­cif­ic areas of focus (aging, Parkinson’s Dis­ease, trau­mat­ic brain injury, Alzheimer’s…) but there was a lack of a com­mon frame­work and tax­on­o­my to define the prob­lem and iden­ti­fy solu­tions and inter­ven­tions to mea­sure and help main­tain cog­ni­tive health across the lifes­pan.

2. For exam­ple, Parkinson’s Dis­ease. Did you know (I didn’t) that a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of Parkinson’s patients have well-iden­ti­fied cog­ni­tive impair­ments, most­ly in their exec­u­tive func­tions but also per­cep­tu­al prob­lems?

3. We tru­ly need a Cul­ture of Cog­ni­tive Health, as Ran­dal Koene point­ed out.

4. May online cog­ni­tive games serve as ongo­ing, real-time assess­ment of cog­ni­tive func­tion? Misha Pavel thought so. He also added we may well see “cog­ni­tive exer­cise coach­es” some­time in the hori­zon.

5. Skip Riz­zo pre­sent­ed how vir­tu­al real­i­ty can help address Post Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD) and even to admin­is­ter inno­v­a­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments.

6. My pre­sen­ta­tion, titled The Emerg­ing Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness Mar­ket: Sta­tus, Trends and Chal­lenges, is avail­able Here

7. Jan­u­ary 22nd: Con­sumer Reports orga­nized a health sum­mit titled Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: No Magic Bullet, Yet Useful Tool. Interview with Elizabeth Zelinski

Sharon Beg­ley, Newsweek’s sci­ence reporter, recent­ly wrote that

- “With the nation’s 78 mil­lion baby boomers approach­ing the age of those dread­ed ‘“where did I leave my keys?” moments, it’s no won­der the mar­ket for com­put­er-based brain train­ing has shot up from essen­tial­ly zero in 2005 to $80 mil­lion this year, accord­ing to the con­sult­ing firm Sharp­Brains.

- “Now comes the largest and most rig­or­ous study of a com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able train­ing pro­gram, and it shows that there is hope for aging brains. This morn­ing, at the meet­ing of the Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, sci­en­tists are pre­sent­ing data show­ing that after eight weeks of dai­ly one-hour ses­sions with Brain Fit­ness 2.0 from Posit Sci­ence, elder­ly vol­un­teers got mea­sur­ably bet­ter in their brain’s speed and accu­ra­cy of processElizabeth Zelinski IMPACTing.

We recent­ly had the chance to inter­view Dr. Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Andrus Geron­tol­ogy Cen­ter, who led the IMPACT (Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing) Study Sharon Beg­ley refers to in the quote above.

First, some con­text on this study, which is by far the largest high-qual­i­ty study of its kind. The study was prospec­tive, ran­dom­ized, con­trolled, and used a dou­ble blind tri­al. 524 healthy adults 65-year-old and over were divid­ed into two groups. One received an hour a day of train­ing for eight to ten weeks, and the oth­er spent the same amount of time watch­ing edu­ca­tion­al DVDs. The IMPACT study, fund­ed by Posit Sci­ence cor­po­ra­tion, was per­formed in mul­ti­ple loca­tions, includ­ing the Mayo Clin­ic, USCF, and San Fran­cis­co Vet­er­an Affairs Med­ical Cen­ter.

The dis­cus­sion cen­ters at his point on the ini­tial results that were pre­sent­ed Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca (the study hasn’t been pub­lished yet).

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Dr. Zelin­s­ki. Thank you for being with us. Could you start by set­ting the con­text and pro­vid­ing an overview of how human cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties typ­i­cal­ly evolve as we age based on insights from your Long Beach Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study?

Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki: Of course. The first con­cept to under­stand is that dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive skills evolve over the lifes­pan in dif­fer­ent ways. Some that rely on expe­ri­ence, such as vocab­u­lary, actu­al­ly improve as we age. Some tend to decline grad­u­al­ly, start­ing in our late 20s. This hap­pens, for exam­ple, with pro­cess­ing speed (how long it takes us to process and respond to infor­ma­tion), mem­o­ry, and rea­son­ing. We could sum­ma­rize this phe­nom­e­non by say­ing that as we age we get bet­ter at deal­ing with the famil­iar, but worse at deal­ing with the new. We can always learn, but at a slow­er pace.

Are there any spe­cif­ic tip­ping or inflec­tion points in this trend, any age when the rate of decline is more pro­nounced?

We don’t have a clear answer to that. It depends a lot on the indi­vid­ual. In gen­er­al it is a grad­ual, cumu­la­tive process, so that by age 70 we sta­tis­ti­cal­ly see clear age declines. Which, for exam­ple, is a strong fac­tor deter­min­ing why old­er adults strug­gle to adapt to new tech­nolo­gies, but why try­ing to learn them pro­vides need­ed men­tal stim­u­la­tion. Now we know that genes only account for a por­tion of this decline. Much of it depends on our envi­ron­ment, lifestyle and actions.

Can you sum­ma­rize what a healthy indi­vid­ual can do to slow down this process of decline, and help stay healthy and pro­duc­tive as long as pos­si­ble?

One gen­er­al rec­om­men­da­tion is to do every­thing we can to pre­vent or delay dis­ease process­es, such as dia­betes or high-blood pres­sure, that have a neg­a­tive effect on our brains. For exam­ple, it is a tragedy in our soci­ety that we usu­al­ly reduce our lev­els of phys­i­cal exer­cise dras­ti­cal­ly after we leave school.

Let me then ask: what are the rel­a­tive virtues of phys­i­cal vs. men­tal exer­cise?

Great ques­tion! That in fact leads into my sec­ond rec­om­men­da­tion. Aer­o­bic exer­cise has been shown to Read the rest of this entry »

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.