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

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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.