Update: Innovation to Upgrade Brain Care

Here you have the July107px-gray1197thumbnail edition of our monthly eNewslet ter covering cognitive health and brain fitness topics. Please remem ber that you can subscribe to receive this free Brain Fitness eNewsletter by email, using the box in the right column.

Technology to upgrade brain care: In this extensive interview, Dr. John Docherty helps connect the dots on why new frameworks and tools are a must to put recent brain research to good use. A must read for all professionals in the field.

Research

Findings from NIH Expert Panel: The American Society on Aging asked Alvaro Fernandez to comment on the findings from a major cognitive health research review by the National Institutes of Health. Lifestyle still matters, and protective factors against cognitive decline are led by cognitive training, physical activity and cognitive engagement.

Scientific critique of BBC brain training experiment: Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski shares her concerns about the April 2010 BBC study, which included substantial and unexplained dropout rates, and questionable outcome measurement and interpretation.

The value of being bilingual and building a Cognitive Reserve to preserve learning and memory even in the face of brain damage are explored in recent studies.

San Francisco Bay Area study seeks participants: The Gazzaley Lab at UCSF is looking for participants aged 20-59 to explore the impact of distraction and multitasking on performance across the lifespan.


Innovation

What impressed Innovation Awards Judging Panel: Get some insight into what most impressed the Judging Panel about each Winner and Finalist of the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards.

New – SharpBrains’ 2010 Market Report: SharpBrains’ flagship, 207-page, third annual market report finds continued growth for digital technologies to assess, enhance and treat cognition.

To manage brain fitness through life, we need to put puzzle pieces together: innovative tools to help us better monitor our cognitive health and take informed action are badly needed….and already emerging.

The internet will fry your brain. Sure: In his latest book, Nicholas Carr does a great job highlighting the implications of lifelong neuro­plasticity, but picks the wrong enemy.

“Serious Games”: Can video games inspire people to perform acts of altruism? Kyle Smith reports.

Teasers

Yahoo Optical Illusions and teasers: Yahoo! has created an expanded section of illusions and teasers, and we were glad to contribute to it. Enjoy…and have a great summer!

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Brain Fitness Update: Man is a Tool-Making Animal

Here you have the February edition of our monthly eNewsletter covering cognitive health and brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, by visiting http://www.SharpBrains.com and subscribing there.

The recent SharpBrains Summit witnessed the convergence of Benjamin Franklin’s words (”Man is a Tool-Making Animal”)  with neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s  (”Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.”) The neuroplasticity revolution that may well transform education, training, healthcare, aging, is under way.

New Tools

Will the Apple iPad Be Good for your BrainProf. Luc Beaudoin lays out key criteria to assess Apple iPad’s potential value for our cognitive fitness, and judges the iPad against a comprehensive checklist.  His verdict? Thumbs-up.

Is Working Memory a better predictor of academic success than IQ?Dr. Tracy Alloway summarizes  a recent landmark study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, which  tracked children over a six-year period. Key finding: Working memory can be a more powerful predictor of academic success than IQ scores.

Old Tools

Building Fit Minds Under Stress: According to Science Daily’s take on a just published study, “a high-stress U.S. military group preparing for deployment to Iraq has demonstrated a positive link between mindfulness training, or MT, and improvements in mood and working memory”.

The Evolution of Empathy: Empathy is not a uniquely human trait, explains primatologist Frans de Waal in this Greater Good Magazine article. Apes and other animals feel it as well, suggesting that empathy is truly an essential part of who we are.

Reflections

Reflections on Creativity – Interview with Daniel Tammet:  Scott Barry Kaufman recently interviewed Daniel Tammet, known for vividly describing autistic savantism from the inside. Their in-depth conversation made Scott reflect that “Daniel Tammet’s feeling of a great loneliness and isolation growing up spoke to me, for sure. But I’m sure it also spoke to a great many people reading the interview.”

Summit Reactions

The SharpBrains Summit took place January 18-20th, helping engage over 250 participants in 15 countries. Here are a couple of reactions from participants:

5 Key Reflections on “Neurocentric Health”: Institute For The Future researcher Jake Dunagan summarizes his main take-aways, including this overall assessment – “Although the conference was virtual, aside from the rigors of travel and a basket of bagels on the hallway table, my level of intellectual stimulation (and fatigue) mirrored most of my face-to-face conference experiences. It was a technical success and the content was first-rate.” (Thanks, Jake!)

The Future of Cognitive Enhancement: Neuroethics researcher Peter Reinerponders,  “Will brain fitness software dominate the world of cognitive enhancement?”.  His take: “Prior to this conference I was quite skeptical, but the overall impression that I was left with was that brain fitness software may turn out to have some distinct advantages over pharmacological approaches.” Read his article to discover why.

Community

Network for Brain Fitness Innovation (private LinkedIn group):  Members are engaging in many good discussions, including most surprising things learned during the SharpBrains Summit, how to deal with conflicts of interest in industry and academia, resources and conferences relevant to education and children, and ways to elicit a wider interest in brain health.

Looking for Speakers: We are always looking for best practices and research-based innovation. If you are interested in speaking at future SharpBrains events (including Games for Health brain tracks), please Contact Us and tell us about 1) your innovation or research, 2) its measured and/ or potential impact, 3) recent coverage in general, trade, or scientific media, 4) the typical audience you talk to, and a couple of descriptions of recent talks, 5) what you propose talking about.

Offer

Brain Fitness Information Package for Libraries:  libraries of all kinds can now  order a copy of our main report, The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009, at 50% off price.  Using discount code sharplibrary leaves this premium report at $645 (offer valid until March 31st, 2010). Offer is  valid for individuals and organizations who commit to donating their copy to a library, in good shape, after consulting it.

Finally, a reminder that Brain Awareness Week (March 15-21, 2010) is approaching soon!

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Update: Expo Day at SharpBrains Summit, 15 Top Brain Fitness Articles of 2009

In this January issue of our eNewsletter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlightening demos that will take place on Wednesday, January 20th, as part of the SharpBrains Summit, and then present the 15 most stimulating SharpBrains articles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and discuss the latest programs and technologies for brain fitness, presented by Summit Sponsors, Wednesday January 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cogniciti will introduce the new Memory@Work workshop, designed to teach what memory is, how lifestyle factors such as distraction and stress can affect memory, and how to enhance memory performance at work with the use of enabling strategies.

10am. CogniFit will demo CogniFit Personal Coach and CogniFit Senior Driver, two online programs designed to assess and main cognitive functions for healthy living and safe driving, respectively.

11am. Posit Science will demo InSight, a software-based cognitive training package designed to sharpen brain’s visual system. This is the program being tested by Allstate for safer driving.

Noon. Happy Neuron will introduce HAPPYneuron PRO, a new platform for professionals for the effective delivery and management of cognitive remediation and rehabilitation programs in a patient centric manner.

1pm. SharpBrains will help navigate this growing field by discussing The State of the Brain Fitness Software 2009 report and The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness consumer guide, and summarizing key Summit take-aways.

Learn more and register HERE. Please remember that discount code sharp2010 gives you 15% off, and that registration closes on January 17th.

We want to thank our most recent sponsor, the Arrowsmith Program, a comprehensive suite of cognitive programs for students with learning disabilities available in public and private schools in Canada and the U.S. More information here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stimulating articles of 2009.

The Big Picture

100 is the new 65: Why do some people live, and well, to 100? Researchers are trying to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine.

Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin: Scott Barry Kaufman interviews “child prodigy” Joshua Waitzkin on The Art of Learning.

Debunking 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to prevent memory problems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 common myths.

Why is working memory relevant to reading and mathematics: A recent large UK study identified 1 in 10 students as having working memory difficulties. Dr. Tracy Alloway elaborates why this matters.

Change Your Environment, Change Yourself: Dr. Brett Steenbarger explains why new environments  force us to exit our routines and actively master unfamiliar challenges.”

Tools

Retooling Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fernandez discusses why routine, doing things inside our comfort zones, is the most common enemy of the novelty, variety and challenge our brains need.

Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pascale Michelon, dissects a couple of recent press releases and the underlying studies to clarifying what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Supports Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports the promising findings from the first well-designed controlled trial on the effect of neurofeedback treatment for ADHD.

Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers suggest so; others are not convinced. Karin Evans offers a  thoughtful review of the evidence and asks, “Now, is this the right question?”

Does coffee boost cognitive functions over time? Dr. Pascale Michelon reports good news (long-term effects seem more positive than negative, so coffee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear beneficial effects on general brain functions).

Industry

Brain fitness heads towards its tipping point: How do you know when something is moving towards a Gladwellian tipping point? When insurance companies and policy makers pay attention, Dr. Gerard Finnemore reports.

Visual Representation of the State of the Market 2009: Paul Van Slembrouck beautifully presents the main findings of our 150-page market report, The State of the Brain Fitness Market 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fitness: neuroscientist Michael Merzenich discusses neuroplasticity, technology, safe driving, mental health, and the need for standards, automated assessments and “personal brain trainers”.

Brain Teaser

Stimulate your Concentration Skills: when one really wants to memorize a fact, it is crucial to pay attention. Dr. Pascale Michelon challenges you to count a few simple letters.

Resolution

Finally, an article that may inspire some New Year Resolutions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpower, Daniel Goleman discusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 connections to other brain cells. Implication? Meditate, mindfully, and build positive habits.

Wishing you a Happy and Productive 2010, and looking forward to meeting many of you (200 so far) at the inaugural SharpBrains Summit!

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Retooling Use It or Lose It at New York Public Library

Here you have the September edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health Brain Fitnessand brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

In the current edition of The Journal on Active Aging, I discuss why we need to Retool “Use it or lose it”, and why routine, doing things inside our comfort zones, is the most common enemy of the novelty, variety and challenge our brains need. You can read the full article for free Here.

Book Tour

We are glad to report that The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness continues to obtain excellent endorsements:

“This is the only book that I know of that seamlessly integrates latest information about cognitive health across the lifespan. Very useful to anyone interested in brain care.”

–Arthur Kramer, Ph. D., Professor of Psychology at University of Illinois

“…we now have a rock solid primer on brain health that we can recommend with confidence…I found it particularly effective to start the book with a list of ten brain myths that need debunking.”
–Michael C. Patterson, former Manager NRTA/ Staying Sharp at AARP

The official book tour starts this week, and includes New York Public Library!
09/08: Club One Fitness Center, Petaluma, CA
09/09: San Francisco State University OLLI
09/11: ASA Brain Health Day, Oakland, CA
09/23: New York Public Library, Bronx Library Center
09/25: New York Public Library, Stephen Schwarzman Building
10/06, SmartSilvers MIT Northern California, Palo Alto, CA
10/14: UC-Berkeley OLLI, CA

You can find all the details here. If you haven’t read the book yet, you can order it via Amazon Here (print book) or Here (Kindle edition). Or ask your local bookstore or library.

Brain Reserve

Education AND Lifelong Cognitive Activities Delay Memory Loss: Dr. Pascale Michelon reports how a recent follow-up to the Bronx Aging Study, where 488 initially healthy adults have been tracked over 20 years, shows that every additional cognitive “activity day” (participating in one activity for one day a week) helps delay for about two months the onset of rapid memory loss as we grow older.
Need ideas for extra activities?

Changing our Minds…by Reading Fiction: What about getting a novel in your hands (or writing one)? By imagining many possible worlds, argues psychologist Keith Oatley, fiction gives us the surprise which can help expand our understanding of ourselves and the social world.

SharpBrains Fan Page in Facebook: What about participating in our new Fan Page at Facebook? You can not only receive latest updates but comment on your favorite articles and teasers, and discuss your own ideas and resources.

Medication and Training

Cognitive Enhancement via Pharmacology AND Neuropsychology: our co-founder Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg integrates three apparently separate worlds -cognitive enhancement via drugs, brain fitness training software, computerized neurocognitive assessments-, in a much updated new edition of his book The Executive Brain.

Comparing Cognitive Training & Medication Treatment for ADHD: a recent study shows that working memory training improves working memory more than stimulant medication treatment-and benefits persist longer. Does this matter?, Does this mean training is better than medication for kids with attention deficits?  Dr. David Rabiner dissects the study searching for answers.

Innovation

AAA to deploy DriveSharp: Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation, explains why the current system of driver licensing is inadequate and inconsistent, why AAA is recommending older drivers use a new cognitive training program, and why he believes insurance companies will soon start to offer brain training to their members.

SharpBrains Network for Brain Fitness Innovation: in order to help leaders of the brain fitness and cognitive health community learn, connect and collaborate, SharpBrains has created a virtual LinkedIn network for clients. The network will be formally launched with a webinar on September 29th that will discuss The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market in 2009. For organizations that want to order the report, attend the webinar, and join the network, more information is available Here.

Brain Teaser

Brain Quiz: Do You Have a Brain?: Dr. Pascale Michelon dares you to answer these 10 questions correctly to prove that you have a brain.

Enjoy!

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Update: Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age, and Industry Webinar

Here you have the August edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Scientific publication Frontiers in Neuroscience recently published a special issue on Augmenting Cognition, and invited me to contribute with an article titled Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age. Groundbreaking brain research has occurred over the last 20 years. The opportunity to improve brain health and performance is immense, but we need to ensure the marketplace matures in a rational and sustainable manner, both through healthcare and non-healthcare channels. Click Here to read my article.

Announcements

In May 2009 SharpBrains published The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009, the main industry report for leading organizations preparing their members, their clients, and their patients for the cognitive age. 150-pages long, the report includes a market survey with 2,000+ respondents, detailed analysis of 20+ vendors, research briefs written by 12 leading scientists and data and trends for 4 major customer segments.webinar

Below we share the full Executive Summary of the report and announce an exclusive webinar on September 29th to discuss the State of the Market in more depth with buyers of the report.

To order the report and access both the report and the webinar, you can click Here. (Only $975 -a 25% discount- using Discount Code Frontiers2009 before September 28th).

State of the Market

The brain fitness field holds exciting promise for the future while presenting clear opportunities and challenges today. The good news is that there are more tools available than ever before to assess and train a variety of cognitive skills. The bad news is that there are no magic pills and that consumers, while satisfied overall, seem confused by competing claims on how to reduce one’s “brain age.” We do see signs that this early-stage market can mature in a more rational, structured manner; but there is much work to be done. We estimate that the size of the U.S. brain fitness software (i.e., applications designed to assess or enhance cognitive abilities) market in 2008 was $265M – growing 18% from $225M in 2007, and representing an annualized growth rate of 38% since 2005. Growth came in roughly equal Read the rest of this entry »

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Update: Public Libraries as Health Clubs for the Brain

Here you have the July edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Public libraries have long offered the public more than books. And now, recent demographic and scientific trends are converging to fundamentally transform the role of libraries in our culture. You may enjoy reading this recent article I wrote for the May-June 2009 Issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly publication of the American Society on Aging: Public Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.

The Big Picture

Can You Outsmart Your Genes? An Interview with Author Richard Nisbett: David DiSalvo interviews Richard Nisbett, the author of Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, who has emerged as a persuasive voice marshalling evidence to disprove the heredity-is-destiny argument.

Yes, You Can Build Willpower: Daniel Goleman discusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 connections to other brain cells. Implication? Meditate, mindfully, and build positive habits.

Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation: Alvaro Fernandez opened the Cognitive Health Track during the Games for Health Conference (June 11-12th, Boston) with an overview of the serious games, software and online applications that can help assess and train cognitive abilities. The presentation is available Here.

Brain Tests and Myths

The Best Memory Tests, from the Alzheimer’s Action Plan: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy discusses the Pros and Cons of the most common assessments to identify cognitive problems, including what the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) does and doesn´t, and innovative computerized neuropsychological tests.

Debunking 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to prevent memory problems right around the corner? Does “aging” equal “decline”? Check out the facts to debunk 10 common myths on brain health.

Resources

Free Webinar: On July 21st, 10am Pacific Time/ 1pm Eastern Time, Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez, co-authors of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, will cover the main highlights from this new book and address the questions submitted by readers. You can learn more and register HERE.

Research References: This is a partial list of the scientific studies reviewed during the research phase of SharpBrains´s new book, organized by relevant chapter, for those of you who like to explore topics in depth by reading original research (perhaps PubMed should promote itself as a never ending source of mental stimulation?).

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers on Brain Fitness: Are you ready to test your knowledge of several key brain fitness metrics? For example: How many soldiers in the US Army have gone through computerized cognitive testing before being deployed, and why?
Finally, a request: if you have already read The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, and could write a brief customer review at Amazon.com, we would surely appreciate! The Amazon.com book page is Here.

Best regards, and enjoy the month

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Debunking 10 Brain Training/ Cognitive Health Myths

Think about this: How can anyone take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which seem to contradict each other?

Do supplements improve memory? Do you need both physical and mental exercise –or is one of them enough? Which brain training approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

We tried to address these questions, and many others, in our recent book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain FitnessSharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book (182 pages, $24.95), that we presented at Games for Health Conference last week. The book is the result of over two years of extensive research including more than a hundred interviews with scientists, professionals and consumers, and a deep review of the scientific literature, led by neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg and myself with the help of cognitive scientist Pascale Michelon. As we wrote in the Introduction, what we wanted to do first of all was to debunks these 10 myths on brain health and brain training:

Myth 1. Genes determine the fate of our brains.
Facts: Lifelong neuroplasticity allows our lifestyles and actions to play a meaningful role in how our brains physically evolve, especially given longer life expectancy.

Myth 2. Aging means automatic decline.
Facts: There is nothing inherently fixed in the precise trajectory of how brain functions evolve as we age.

Myth 3. Medication is the main hope for cognitive enhancement.
Facts: Non-invasive interventions can have comparable and more durable effects, side effect-free.

Myth 4. We will soon have a Magic Pill or General Solution to solve all our cognitive challenges.
Facts: A multi-pronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.

Myth 5. There is only one “it” in “Use It or Lose it”.
Facts: The brain is composed of a number of specialized units. Our life and productivity depend on a variety of brain functions, not just one.

Myth 6. All brain activities or exercises are equal.
Facts: Varied and targeted exercises are the necessary ingredients in brain training so that a wide range of brain functions can be stimulated.

Myth 7. There is only one way to train your brain.
Facts: Brain functions can be impacted in a number of ways: through meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training.

Myth 8. We all have something called “Brain Age”.
Facts: Brain age is a fiction. No two individuals have the same brain or expression of brain functions.

Myth 9. That “brain age” can be reversed by 10, 20, 30 years.
Facts: Brain training can improve specific brain functions, but, with research available today, cannot be said to roll back one’s “brain age” by a number of years.

Myth 10. All human brains need the same brain training.
Facts: As in physical fitness, users must ask themselves: What functions do I need to improve on? In what timeframe? What is my budget?

Do you have other myths in mind you would like  us to address?

We have started to receive great feedback from the healthcare community, such as this email from a neurosurgeon in Texas:

“I really like the book, it is comprehensive without being too technical. I have recommended it to several patients. There are some other books that I expected would be greeted with enthusiasm, but were too complex for most of my patients. I think this book is right in the sweet spot”.

And this great book review by an Internist Physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, titled Is Your Brain A Couch Potato?:

“…a short, sweet, entertaining read of a complex topic, with timely (written in 1/09) reviews of 21 top technology products, as well as informed and expert predictions of where this burgeoning brain-fitness field is headed. More importantly, after you read it, you’ll have a good, detailed sense of where you, personally, can act to improve your own couch-potato brain – and how to keep it fit and flexible your whole life. The SharpBrains Guide To Brain Fitness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a topic) can be well worth your time and money. Two Stethoscopes Up – check it out. life.”

—Doc Gurley, book review for SFGate.com (06/08/09)

The bookThe SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (available via Amazon.com Here, review copies available upon request).

Description: While most of us have heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” very few understand what “it” means, or how to properly “use it” in order to maintain brain function and fitness. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is an invaluable guide that helps readers navigate growing brain research and identify the lifestyle factors and products that contribute to brain health and fitness. By gathering insights from eighteen of the world’s top scientists and offering tools and detailed descriptions of over twenty products, this book is an essential guide to the field of brain fitness, neuroplasticity and cognitive health. An accessible and thought-provoking read, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness educates lifelong learners and professionals in healthcare, education, business, etc., on emerging trends and forecasts of what the future will hold.

Products Reviewed (we reviewed scientific studies published before January 2009, when the manuscript text was closed):

- Overall brain maintenance: Brain Age series (Nintendo), BrainWare Safari (Learning Enhancement Corporation), FitBrains.com (Vivity Labs), Happy-Neuron.com (Scientific Brain Training), Lumosity.com (Lumos Labs), MindFit (CogniFit), (m)Power (Dakim)

– Targeted brain workout: Classic and InSight (Posit Science), Working Memory Training JM and RM (Cogmed), DriveFit (CogniFit), Earobics (Houghton Mifflin), Fast ForWord (Scientific Learning), IntelliGym (Applied Cognitive Engineering), Vision Restpration Therapy (NovaVision)

– Emotional self-regulation: emWave PC and Personal Stress Reliever (HeartMath), Journey to the Wild Divine (Wild Divine), RESPeRATE (InterCure), StressEraser (Helicor)

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