Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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News: ASA Brain Health Day, powered by SharpBrains

I  am very excit­ed to pre-announce a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging (ASA) to co-pro­duce a Brain Health event, themed “New Tools, New Part­ner­ships”, to take place in Oak­land, CA, on Sep­tem­ber 11th. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness/ Training Report Finds Market Growth, Potential, and Confusion

After many many months of men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and the cer­tain need for stress man­age­ment… we have just announced the release of the The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 report, our sec­ond annu­al com­pre­hen­sive mar­ket analy­sis of the US mar­ket for com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools. In this report we esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $265M in 2008, up from $225M in 2007 (18% annu­al growth), and from $100m in 2005. Two seg­ments fuelled the mar­ket growth from 2007 to 2008: con­sumers (grew from $80m to $95m) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $65m to $80m).

The 150-page report finds promis­ing research and ini­tia­tives to dri­ve sig­nif­i­cant growth, com­bined with increased con­sumer con­fu­sion giv­en aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims and lack of edu­ca­tion and stan­dards. The report includes:
— The com­plete results of an exclu­sive Jan­u­ary 2009 Sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents
— A pro­pri­etary Mar­ket & Research Momen­tum Matrix to cat­e­go­rize 21 key ven­dors into four cat­e­gories
— 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs writ­ten by lead­ing sci­en­tists at promi­nent research labs
— An analy­sis of the lev­el of clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion per prod­uct and cog­ni­tive domain

Top 10 High­lights from the report:

1) Con­sumers, seniors, com­mu­ni­ties and insur­ance providers drove year on year sus­tained growth, from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008. Rev­enues may reach between $1 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion by 2015, depend­ing on how impor­tant prob­lems (Pub­lic Aware­ness, Nav­i­gat­ing Claims, Research, Health Cul­ture, Lack of Assess­ment) are addressed.

2) Increased inter­est and con­fu­sion: 61% of respon­dents Strong­ly Agree with the state­ment Address­ing cog­ni­tive and brain health should be a health­care pri­or­i­ty. But, 65% Agree/Strongly Agree. I don’t real­ly know what to expect from prod­ucts mak­ing brain claims.

3) Invest­ment in R&D seeds future growth: Land­mark invest­ments by insur­ance providers and gov­ern­ment-fund­ed research insti­tutes test­ing new brain fit­ness appli­ca­tions plant­ed new seeds for future growth.

4) Becom­ing stan­dard in res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties: Over 700 res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties most­ly Inde­pen­dent and Assist­ed Liv­ing facil­i­ties and CCRCs have installed com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams.

5) Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion: Con­sumers seem more sat­is­fied with com­put­er-based prod­ucts than paper-based options. But, sat­is­fac­tion dif­fers by prod­uct. When asked I got real val­ue for my mon­ey, results were as fol­lows: Lumosity.com (65% Agree), Puz­zle Books (60%), Posit Sci­ence (52%), Nin­ten­do (51%) agreed. Posit Sci­ence (53% Agree) and Lumosity.com (51%) do bet­ter than Puz­zle Books (39%) and Nin­ten­do (38%) at I have seen the results I want­ed.

6) Assess­ments: Increas­ing adop­tion of com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments to base­line and track cog­ni­tive func­tions over time in mil­i­tary, sports, and clin­i­cal con­texts. The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­i­ca now advo­cates for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after 65–75.

7) Spe­cif­ic com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing and videogames have been shown to improve brain func­tions, but the key ques­tions are, Which ones, and Who needs what when?

8) Aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims are cre­at­ing con­fu­sion and skep­ti­cism, result­ing in a dis­tract­ing con­tro­ver­sy between two mis­lead­ing extremes: (a) buy­ing prod­uct XYZ can reju­ve­nate your brain Y years or (b) those prod­ucts don’t work; just do one more cross­word puz­zle. The upcom­ing book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness aims to help con­sumers nav­i­gate these claims.

9) Devel­op­ers can be clas­si­fied into four groups, based on a pro­pri­etary Mar­ket and Research Momen­tum Matrix: Sharp­Brains finds 4 Lead­ers, 8 High Poten­tials, 3 Cross­words 2.0, and 6 Wait & See com­pa­nies.

10) Increased dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion: Lead­ing com­pa­nies are bet­ter defin­ing their val­ue propo­si­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels to reach spe­cif­ic seg­ments such as retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties, schools, or health­care providers.

Lead­ing researchers pre­pared 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs:
- Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man (Ein­stein-Mon­te­o­re): Neu­ro­pro­tec­tion via cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties
— Dr. Jer­ri Edwards (South Flori­da): Assess­ments of dri­ving fit­ness
— Dr. Susanne Jaeg­gi and Dr. Mar­tin Buschkuehl (Bern, Michi­gan): Work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing and  intel­li­gence
— Dr. Torkel Kling­berg (Karolin­s­ka): Work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, dopamine, and math
— Dr. Liz Zelin­s­ki (UC Davis): Audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing train­ing
— Dr. David Vance (UAB): Speed-of-pro­cess­ing train­ing
— Dr. Jer­ri Edwards (South Flori­da): Cog­ni­tive train­ing for healthy aging
— Dr. Daphne Bave­li­er & Dr. Shawn Green (Rochester): Action videogames and atten­tion­al skills
— Dr. Arthur Kramer (Illi­nois): Strat­e­gy videogames and exec­u­tive func­tions
— Dr. Yaakov Stern (Colum­bia): The cog­ni­tive reserve and neu­roimag­ing
— Dr. David Rabin­er (Duke): Objec­tive assess­ments for ADHD

Table of Con­tents

Edi­to­r­i­al
Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry
Chap­ter 1. Bird-Eye View of the Grow­ing Field
Chap­ter 2. Mar­ket Sur­vey on Beliefs, Atti­tudes, Pur­chase Habits
Chap­ter 3. The Emerg­ing Com­pet­i­tive Land­scape
Chap­ter 4. The Sci­ence for Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 5. Con­sumers  Adopt­ing Cross­words 2.0?
Chap­ter 6: Health­care and Insur­ance Providers — A Cul­ture of Cog­ni­tive Health
Chap­ter 7: K12 School Sys­tems- Ready for Change?
Chap­ter 8: Mil­i­tary, Sports Teams, Com­pa­nies,  Brain-Per­for­mance Link
Chap­ter 9: Future Direc­tions‚ Pro­jec­tions and Bot­tle­necks

Com­pa­nies pro­filed include: Advanced Brain Tech­nolo­gies, Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing, Brain Cen­ter Amer­i­ca, Brain Resource, CNS Vital Signs, Cogmed, Cogstate, Cog­niFit, Cog­ni­tive Drug Research, Dakim, Houghton Mif­flin, Learn­ing Enhance­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, Learn­ingRx, Lumos Labs, Mar­bles: The Brain Store, Nin­ten­do, NovaV­i­sion, Posit Sci­ence, Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing, Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing, Trans­An­a­lyt­ics, vibrant­Brains, Vig­or­ous Mind, Viv­i­ty Labs.

More on the report by click­ing on The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009.

Brain Games and Training for Baby Boomers: News Round-Up

Round-up of recent news with a vari­ety of angles, from the effects of Brain Health Newsgam­ing to cog­ni­tive train­ing for dri­ving skills and brain fit­ness class­es.

Seniors use brain train­ing soft­ware to sharp­en their minds (Dal­las Morn­ing News)

- “All­state Insur­ance has invit­ed some pol­i­cy­hold­ers and oth­er old­er dri­vers to try InSight so researchers can eval­u­ate whether the soft­ware reduces acci­dents.”

- “Depend­ing on the results, the auto insur­er says it may expand the pilot project and offer pre­mi­um dis­counts to dri­vers who take the brain train­ing.”

- “Today, only one in sev­en licensed dri­vers is 65 or old­er. But by 2030, when the last of the boomers turn 65, the pro­por­tion will be one in four. ”

Brain games (Palo Alto Week­ly)

- “There is research that jus­ti­fies the belief that games can aid the brain’s health, accord­ing to Dr. Wal­ter Bortz II, a Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and expert on longevi­ty and robust aging. Stud­ies show that stim­u­lat­ing the brain by learn­ing new tasks increas­es blood fac­tors in the brain that act like steroids, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the brain to grow even in old age

- “Called “brain plas­tic­i­ty,” such growth is the foun­da­tion of brain-fit­ness soft­ware research.”

Brain Fit­ness Class­es Keep Seniors Men­tal­ly And Social­ly Active (Wash­ing­ton Post)

- “More options for exer­cis­ing the brain are on the way. Last year, the Ontario gov­ern­ment pledged about $8 mil­lion to devel­op a brain fit­ness cen­ter in Toron­to. In San Fran­cis­co, Jan Zivic, a for­mer exec­u­tive search con­sul­tant, opened a cen­ter, vibrant­Brains, that offers mem­o­ry improve­ment class­es and work­shops. Zivic was inspired by help she got from brain fit­ness games she played after being injured in an auto­mo­bile acci­dent.”

The 15 Clear­est Ben­e­fits of Gam­ing (Edge Mag­a­zine)

-“But Fer­nan­dez warns that the gamer gen­er­a­tion isn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly guar­an­teed to have bet­ter cog­ni­tive health than their grand­par­ents. Cog­ni­tive fit­ness (hav­ing the men­tal abil­i­ties required to thrive in cog­ni­tive­ly more com­plex envi­ron­ments) seems to depend on four major pil­lars: nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment and men­tal exer­cise. All these fac­tors have phys­i­cal effects on our brains (for exam­ple, phys­i­cal exer­cise con­tributes to the cre­ation of new neu­rons, while stress and anx­i­ety pre­vents and/or reduces the cre­ation of new neu­rons). The bad news is that we have grow­ing obe­si­ty rates and anx­i­ety among young peo­ple. So, games are great for men­tal exer­cise, but we shouldn’t for­get the oth­er ingre­di­ents for cog­ni­tive fit­ness.

- “Fer­nan­dez mus­es, Indeed fun can be seen as a goal in itself . The prob­lem is that we con­fuse gam­ing as a vehi­cle with gam­ing as con­tent. Gam­ing as vehi­cle is arguably great it allows for inter­ac­tiv­i­ty, engage­ment. Gam­ing as con­tent, well, it depends. It is not the same to play a bloody shoot­er game as it is to Tetris or Rise of Nations, so the field should do a bet­ter job at explain­ing to main­stream soci­ety the diver­si­ty of games and dis­pel some myths.

More Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Health News

Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons

Robert Emmons Thanks(Dear read­er: Here you have a lit­tle gift to con­tin­ue the Thanks­giv­ing spir­it. Enjoy the inter­view, and thank you for vis­it­ing our site.)

Prof. Robert Emmons stud­ies grat­i­tude for a liv­ing as Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at UC Davis and is Edi­tor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy. He has just pub­lished Thanks: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pi­er, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary book that pro­vides a research-based syn­the­sis of the top­ic as well as prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Wel­come. Prof. Emmons, could you please pro­vide us an overview of the Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy field so we under­stand the con­text for your research?

Robert Emmons: Sure. Mar­tin Selig­man and col­leagues launched what was called “pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy in the late 90s as an anti­dote to the tra­di­tion­al near­ly exclu­sive empha­sis of “neg­a­tive psy­chol­o­gy” focused on fix­ing prob­lems like trau­ma, addic­tion, and stress. We want to bal­ance our focus and be able to help every­one, includ­ing high-func­tion­ing indi­vid­u­als. A num­ber of researchers were inves­ti­gat­ing the field since the late 80s, but Selig­man pro­vid­ed a new umbrel­la, a new cat­e­go­ry, with cred­i­bil­i­ty, orga­nized net­works and fund­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the whole field.

And where does your own research fit into this over­all pic­ture?

I have been research­ing grat­i­tude for almost 10 years. Grat­i­tude is a pos­i­tive emo­tion that has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the realm of human­ists and philoso­phers, and only recent­ly the sub­ject of a more sci­en­tif­ic approach. We study grat­i­tude not as a mere­ly aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­pline, but as a prac­ti­cal frame­work to bet­ter func­tion­ing in life by tak­ing con­trol of hap­pi­ness lev­els and prac­tic­ing the skill of emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion.

What are the 3 key mes­sages that you would like read­ers to take away from your book?

First, the prac­tice of grat­i­tude can increase hap­pi­ness lev­els by around 25%. Sec­ond, this is not hard to achieve — a few hours writ­ing a grat­i­tude jour­nal over 3 weeks can cre­ate an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cul­ti­vat­ing grat­i­tude brings oth­er health effects, such as longer and bet­ter qual­i­ty sleep time.

What are some ways to prac­tice grat­i­tude, and what ben­e­fits could we expect? Please refer to your 2003 paper in the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­i­ty and Social Psy­chol­o­gy, where I found fas­ci­nat­ing quotes such as that “The abil­i­ty to notice, appre­ci­ate, and sav­ior the ele­ments of one life has been viewed as a cru­cial ele­ment of well-being.

The most com­mon method we use in our research is to ask peo­ple to keep a “Grat­i­tude Jour­nal”  where you write some­thing you feel grate­ful for. Doing so 4 times a week, for as lit­tle as 3 weeks, is often enough to cre­ate a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in one lev­el of hap­pi­ness. Anoth­er exer­cise is to write a “Grat­i­tude Let­ter” to a per­son who has exert­ed a pos­i­tive influ­ence on one’s life but whom we have not prop­er­ly thanked in the past, and then to meet that per­son and read the let­ter to them face to face.

The ben­e­fits seem to be very sim­i­lar using both meth­ods in terms of enhanced hap­pi­ness, health and well­be­ing. Most of the out­comes are self-report­ed, but there is an increas­ing empha­sis on mea­sur­ing objec­tive data such as cor­ti­sol and stress lev­els, heart rate vari­abil­i­ty, and even brain acti­va­tion pat­terns. The work of Richard David­son is exem­plary in that respect, show­ing how mind­ful­ness prac­tice can rewire some acti­va­tion pat­terns in Read the rest of this entry »

The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains

Brain5Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can all fol­low to main­tain, and improve, our vibrant brains.

  • 1. Learn more about the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beau­ty as a liv­ing and con­stant­ly-devel­op­ing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synaps­es.
  • 2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but con­sumesgood brain food over 20% of the oxy­gen and nutri­ents we intake? As a gen­er­al rule, you don’t need expen­sive ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed nutri­tion­al sup­ple­ments, just make sure you don’t stuff your­self with the “bad stuff”.
  • 3. Remem­ber that the brain is part of the body. Things that exer­cise your body can also help sharp­en your brain: phys­i­cal exer­cise enhances neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, at any age!
  • 4. Prac­tice pos­i­tive, action-ori­ent­ed thoughts until they become your default mind­set and you look for­ward to cre­at­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful every new day. Too much stress and anxiety–either induced by exter­nal events or by your own thoughts–actually kills neu­rons and pre­vent the cre­ation of new ones. physical exercise for brain health
  • 5. Thrive on Learn­ing and Men­tal Chal­lenges. The point of hav­ing a brain is pre­cise­ly to learn and to adapt to chal­leng­ing new envi­ron­ments. Once new neu­rons appear in your brain, where they migrate and how long they sur­vive depends on how you use them. “Use It or Lose It” does not mean “do cross­word puz­zle num­ber 1,234,567”. It means, “chal­lenge your brain, and often, with nov­el activ­i­ties”.
  • 6. We are (as far as we know) the only self-direct­ed organ­isms in this plan­et. Aim high. Once you grad­u­ate from col­lege, keep learn­ing. Once you become too com­fort­able in one job, find a new one. The brain keeps devel­op­ing ALWAYS, reflect­ing what you do with it.
  • 7. Explore, trav­el. Adapt­ing to new loca­tions forces you to pay more atten­tion to your envi­ron­ment. Make new deci­sions, use your brain.
  • 8. Don’t Out­source Your Brain. Not to media per­son­al­i­ties, not to politi­cians, not to your smart neigh­bour… Make your own deci­sions, and mis­takes. That way, you are train­ing your brain, not your neighbour’s.
  • 9. Devel­op and main­tain stim­u­lat­ing friend­ships. We are social ani­mals, and need social inter­ac­tion. Which, by the way, is why ‘Baby Ein­stein’ or all those edu­ca­tion­al apps have been shown not to be the panacea for chil­dren devel­op­ment.
  • 10. Laugh. Often. Espe­cial­ly to cog­ni­tive­ly com­plex humor, full of twists and sur­pris­es. Bet­ter, try to become the next Jon Stew­art

Now, remem­ber that what counts is not read­ing this article–or any oth­er– but prac­tic­ing a bit every day until small steps snow­ball into unstop­pable, inter­nal­ized habits…“cells that fire togeth­er wire together”…so, start improv­ing one of these 10 habits today. Revis­it the habit above that real­ly grabbed your atten­tion, and make a deci­sion to try some­thing dif­fer­ent today and tomor­row.

SharpBrainsGuide_3D–> To learn more about what you can do, check out The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

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