Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Cognitive Health Track (G4H 09)

SharpBrains and Games for Health have partnered to bring you the first Cognitive Health Track in a Games for Health Conference, June 11-12th in Boston. If you are interested, in attending the conference, you can learn more and register Here

To get a 15% off registration fees ($379), you can use discount code: sharp09, when you register Here

Cognitive Health Track, Powered by SharpBrains

Thursday, June 11th

10.20 (50m) Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation
Speaker(s): Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

Scientific, technological and demographic trends have converged to create a new $265m market in the US alone: serious games, software and online applications that can help people of all ages assess and train cognitive abilities. Alvaro Fernandez will provide a Bird’s Eye View of the science, market segments and trends, competitive landscape, and main challenges ahead, based on The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009 report released in May, which included Research Executive Briefs prepared by 12 leading scientists and a survey of 2,000+ decision-makers and early adopters.

61% of respondents to the survey Strongly Agreed with the statement “Addressing cognitive and brain health should be a healthcare priority.” But, 65% Agreed/Strongly Agreed with “I don’t really know what to expect from products making brain claims.” In this session, Alvaro will publicly unveil the new book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, To Keep Your Brain Sharp, co-authored by neuropsychologist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and himself, aimed at helping consumers and professionals understand and navigate this growing field.

11.20 (30m) The Allstate-Posit Science Partnership: Cognitive Training for Safer Driving
Speaker(s): Tom Warden, Allstate; Henry Mahncke, Posit Science

Evidence-based cognitive training programs have been available in retirement communities for several years. Now, they are reaching a younger population including Boomers through innovative partnerships, like insurers.

In October 2008 auto insurance company Allstate and brain fitness software developer Posit Science announced a research collaboration that could lead to “potentially the next big breakthrough in automobile safety”. The purpose of this session is to review novel ways of getting the science of cognitive training into the real world where it can help people. Representatives from Allstate and Posit Science will discuss why these partnerships work for insurers, developers, and end users. They will also provide a thorough review of the evaluation process a major partner goes through when selecting a cognitive training company.

12.00 (30m) What Consumers Buy and Why
Speaker(s): Lindsay Gaskins, Marbles: The Brain Store

Launched in October 2008, Marbles: The Brain Store is a retail store that focuses on products designed to stimulate and strengthen the brain. Marbles currently has one store located in downtown Chicago, and is planning to open two more stores in Chicago during the summer. The Marbles collection of over 250 products includes software, games, books, and puzzles that fall into the five categories of critical thinking, memory, word skills, visual perception and coordination. Every day, the Marbles team is learning first-hand what customers are looking for and identifying the best assortment of products to meet their needs.

Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store, will share some of the consumer insights her team has identified while serving nearly 10,000 customers as well as tips on effective strategies for developers of software products and videogames to connect with customers.

2pm (70m) The Road Ahead: 5 Challenges And Potential Solutions for the Game-Based Cognitive Health field
Speaker(s): Tom Warden, Allstate; Henry Mahncke, Posit Science; Peter Christianson, Young Drivers of Canada; Evian Gordon, Brain Resource; Michael Scanlon, Lumos Labs

In a recent SharpBrains survey, decision-makers and early adopters were 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 priorities in rank order: Public awareness of the importance of maintaining cognitive health (39%), Navigating Claims to separate reality from hope from hype (21%), Research to understand what works for whom, and how different interventions may complement each other (15%), Healthcare Culture needs to better integrate cognitive health issues (14%), Need for Objective Assessments (6%), other (5%).

In this session, five leading decision-makers and innovators with backgrounds in research, clinical practice, insurance, driving schools, cognitive training and assessments, will  address those five problems and also identify additional challenges as they see them, proposing specific solutions to help build a sustainable field that can significantly contribute to the cognitive health of people across the lifespan.

3.20 (50m) Emerging Research and Interventions for Attention Deficits and Schizophrenia
Speaker(s): Theresa Cerulli, Harvard Medical School; Ann Maloney, Maine Medical Research Institute

Growing research emphasizes the role that cognitive deficits play in a variety of clinical conditions and suggests ways how to ameliorate those deficits. This opens the door to the use of evidence-based nonpharmacologic strategies to improve neurocognition by clinical care providers, as seen through the lenses of attention deficits and schizophrenia.

Dr. Theresa Cerulli, Harvard-trained psychiatrist, has been offering Cogmed working memory training in her practice in Andover, MA, for two years now. She is a nationally recognized expert on ADHD and a frequent speaker on the topic of attention deficits and co-existing behavioral health conditions. Her vision is in combining traditional medicine with healthy living to promote cognitive and emotional well being.

Dr. Ann Maloney will discuss an ongoing pilot study funded by NIH to examine whether an intensive computerized intervention provided by posit Science and targeted on improving central auditory and visual processing and executive functioning can be implemented in youth with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Neurocognition (primary outcome measure), global functioning, psychiatric symptoms and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) will be assessed prior to beginning the interventions, at completion of the intervention (20 weeks) and 8 and 12 months following baseline.

4.30 (30m) Cognitive Rehab Means Getting Health Professionals to Get Gamey
Speaker(s): Laura Fay, Happy Neuron

While cognitive remediation and rehabilitation therapies, in the form of interactive online games, are being used to treat conditions such as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Stroke, Depression and Schizophrenia there are many issues involved with what’s needed to get practitioners to integrate them into their practice. This sessions covers lessons learned about the necessary characteristics these games and programs must have to be effective and to win over practitioners to use them as an integral part of their treatment practice. We’ll discuss issues of data confidentiality, distance therapy approaches, learning adaptations, and more.

5.20 (30m) An Innovative Partnership to Help Patients with Multiple Sclerosis with a Side Scrolling Videogame
Speaker(s): Robert Hone, Red Hill Studios

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable neurological disease that affects an estimated 400,000 people in the United States, with a new case diagnosed each hour. Recent studies have pointed out that in addition to physical impairments, the disease can also produce significant cognitive challenges. Creative Director Robert Hone of Red Hill Studios will report on their development of cognitive therapy game specifically designed to address crucial cognitive functions relevant to MS patients such as processing speed, working memory, attention, and executive function.The game will feature a common consumer game genre – the side scroller – to present a challenging and engaging game experience. The project is sponsored by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals on behalf of the MS Technology Collaborative, a joint effort between Bayer, Microsoft, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Friday, June 12th

10.20 (40m) Neuroplasticity-based Implications, Opportunities, and Challenges, to Improve Cognitive Health across the Lifespan
Speaker(s): Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester; Joshua Steinerman, Einstein-Montefiore, Murali Doraiswamy, Duke University

Interactive media in the form of software and videogames can be seen as a vehicle to harness neuroplasticity and benefit cognitive health across the lifespan. This field is still in its infancy, but emerging evidence suggests that specific populations may benefit from specific interventions.

Three leading researchers, from Duke University, University of Rochester, and Albert Einstein-Montefiore, will discuss the opportunities and challenges they see to benefit younger and older minds in both healthy and clinical environments. Dr. D. Bavelier will review what is meant by neuroplasticity, how it is assessed, and what it implies for cognitive health. She will review the opportunities offered by using games as a medium to foster neuro-plasticity as well as the main challenges in developing games that fosters neuroplasticity. Dr. Joshua Steinerman will discuss practical and methodological issues in conducting technology trials in cognitive aging and related neuropsychiatric disorders.   Examples from ongoing intervention studies will be presented. Dr. Doraiswamy will discuss the opportunities and obstacles for emerging technologies to be adopted by the healthcare community in the next few years.

11.10 (30m) A Venture Capitalist’s View of the Healthy Games Opportunity
Speaker(s): Tim Chang, Norwest Venture Partners

The Healthy Games opportunity, as a product, destination, network and community, is growing. This opens the door to professional venture investors to partner with entrepreneurs to explore business models that can ensure the sustainability and long-term impact of healthy game developers.

Venture firms Norwest Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital invested $3m in Lumos Labs in June 2008, making it their first investment in the healthy games category. Tim will outline their business rationale and evaluation process, addressing why Norwest decided to play in the space, why they selected Lumos Labs, and the opportunities and challenges to build a sustainable healthy games company.

11.50 (40) Reaching Users with a Multi-Platform Strategy
Speaker(s): Vinay Gidwaney, MIT Media Lab & Energy Inside; Kunal Sarkar, Lumos Labs

Keeping a healthy game user engaged through various channels (destination web site, mobile, widgets and social media) can drive new customer acquisition, deeper engagement and a sustained relationship with the user. The key to establishing a successful multi-channel strategy lies in customizing the experience for each channel, while retaining a cohesive user experience across these channels. Two pioneers in cognitive and emotional health will share challenges and lessons learned in launching multi-channel content strategies.

In the last 24 months, Lumos Labs has launched a destination website ( in several languages, created custom applications for social media networks (such as Facebook, Yahoo Apps, iGoogle), and released several applications on multiple mobile platforms (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.). Along the way, they have made mistakes and learned from them. Kunal will share lessons learned around technology implementation and discuss some of the unique product opportunities offered by each channel. He will also discuss potential pitfalls and some of the challenges that they faced.

Energy Inside is in the early stages of inventing a novel mental health delivery system to help people cope more effectively, be more resilient and achieve greater emotional well-being. Through interactive social media, commonsense reasoning psychology and a learning recommendation engine, Energy Inside will deliver micro-interventions (pep) that are intended to shift mindset when a person needs it most. The goal is to leverage existing networks to spread, living where people experience their connected life as opposed to being a destination web property. Energy Inside uses a social interaction model to interface with the user and operates within multiple communication mediums (web and mobile, SMS, email, instant messaging).

1.30 (30) An Analysis of Game Design Issues in Brain Games
Speaker(s): Brian Winn, Michigan State University

Games to exercise the brain have emerged as a specialized serious games market segment, in the form of individual games and companies specializing a coordinated suite of good-for-you cognitive workouts. Neuroscience research addresses the question of whether playing games can improve cognitive functioning. Michigan State University’s brain game design research looks at whether today’s brain games are good games. MSU faculty and students have analyzed a random sample of individual and brain fitness company brain games. The research characterizing brain game design along the lines of graphics and sound, premise, rules, conflict, challenge, character, feedback, navigation, and story as well as which forms of fun and specific cognitive functions are targeted.

2.10 (30) Innovative Approaches to Scientific Validation
Speaker(s): Michael Scanlon, Lumos Labs

Validation is a critical component of bringing a cognitive training product to market. However, it can also be a challenge to execute given the complexities of running clinical trials. Lumos Labs developed its online cognitive training application,, to be a research-friendly platform for scientific exploration. The goal was to facilitate collaborative work by academic and medical researchers, and enable rapid innovation of cognitive training tools by making testing and scientific investigation more efficient. Third-party research is inherently more convincing than internally conducted studies because it removes any perceived conflict of interest. It is also impractical to conduct a large number of studies with limited financial and human resources. In less than two years from the commercial launch of Lumosity, more than 10 academic researchers are now conducting experiments to evaluate outcomes of training with the online program. What aspects of the platform make it appealing to researchers? How can one position a healthy game product to be utilized by independent investigators? How can this platform be leveraged for your own research? This session will discuss both the commercial and research perspectives with lessons learned in the implementation of the Lumosity platform for research. Challenges and limitations of this approach will also be discussed.

2.50 (30) Wrapping Up: What We Have Learned, What is Next
Speaker(s): Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

As evidenced during the whole track, there is already a very active cognitive health videogames industry and field of research. Games for Health and SharpBrains partnered to create a 2-day conversation with researchers, thought-leaders and industry pioneers and help ensure the sustainability of using “serious games” to measure and improve cognitive health.

What have we learned during this 2-day conversation? What are some of the priorities and challenges for the next 12 months for the field at large, and for everyone involved? How can we have a better track next year? What can we do to stay in touch and collaborate? This interactive session will help us summarize the key highlights from the whole track, identify emerging assumptions, themes, and priorities, and discuss collaborative next steps.

To get a 15% off registration fees ($379), you can use discount code: sharp09, when you register Here

About Games For Health

Games for Health, the leading professional community in the field of health games, unites the best minds in health care and game development to advance game technologies that improve people’s health and the delivery of health care. Through their national and regional events, as well as extensive online resources, Games for Health brings together researchers, medical professionals and game developers to share best practices and forge new, game-based solutions to pressing health and health care challenges. Games for Health is funded primarily by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, which supports innovative ideas that may lead to significant breakthroughs in the future of health and health care. It was founded in 2004 by the Serious Games Initiative, a project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars dedicated to applying innovative games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership and management issues. For more information, visit

About SharpBrains

SharpBrains is a market research & advisory firm devoted to helping companies, health providers, investors, policy makers and individuals navigate the brain fitness and cognitive health field. The company was co-founded by executive Alvaro Fernandez, member of the Global Agenda Councils initiative run by the World Economic Forum, and neuroscientist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, internationally renowned for his clinical work, research, and writing. SharpBrains recently released the report The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009, and will publicly unveil the consumer guide The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness during the conference. For more information, visit

About Games for Health Conference Sponsors

The Games for Health Conference is held in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, which has served as the leading sponsor of the Games for Health Project since 2004. The Pioneer Portfolio supports innovative ideas that may lead to significant breakthroughs in the future of health and health care; having recognized the transformative potential of games, its support has helped Games for Health to become the leading professional community in the growing health games arena.

Humana Inc., one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies, will also return as a premiere health care sponsor this year, providing support for several conference activities. Humana will present new initiatives from the Humana Games for Health (HG4H) program, which officially launched at the Games for Health conference in 2008.

Additional Sponsors include: International Game Developers Association, Virtual Heroes, Mass Technology Leadership Council, Muzzy Lane, H.I.L. Forum, Business Resource Team, Entertainment Consumers Association, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Mary-Margaret Network, Breakaway Ltd and MODSIM World Conference & Expo.

Reminder: To get a 15% off registration fees, you can use discount code: sharp09, when you register Here