Monday, March 31, 2008

State of the brain fitness software revolution

Brain fitness. Clearly a hot buzz phrase the past few years. What does it mean? What is happening? Where is it headed? Should I purchase some of the advertised software/technology to keep my mind fresh and protected from the influence of aging? Curious minds want to know...and Sharp Brains has provided the most comprehensive synthesis of the brain fitness software field to date.

As mentioned previously, Sharp Brains recently published "State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2008." Before proceeding I need to mention that, IMHO, the Sharp Brains organization is the leading critical voice in the field of brain fitness. I've often called them the Ralph Nader of brain fitness. Thus, I believe their first "state of the market" report should receive serious attention by anyone interested in this emerging field. It is my understanding that a similar hardware report is in development. I can't wait!

It is not possible to summarize the information packed 87-paged report in a blog post, so I'll only provide a few tidbits.

First, as stated at the Sharp Brain web page:
  • The report tracks developments at over 20 public and private companies offering tools to assess and train brain functions and provides important industry data, insights and analysis to help investors, executives, entrepreneurs, and policy makers navigate the opportunities and risks of this rapidly growing market. The report discusses the implications of cognitive science on healthy aging and a number of disorders such as attention deficits, dyslexia, stroke and traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, autism, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. The report also provides information and frameworks to help institutional buyers make informed purchase decisions about brain fitness programs.
A few (select) highlights:
  • Revenues for the US brain fitness software market was estimated to reach $225 million in revenues in 2007...reflecting a large increase from $100 million in 2005. Clearly the brain fitness movement has reached and passed the tipping point.
  • Considerable confusion exists in the market. Many products and claims proliferate, but, according to Sharp Brains, only five programs have demonstrated positive cognitive effects in tightly controlled research studies (e.g., studies that use randomized controlled trials). Readers are encouraged to visit the Sharp Brains web page and blog for objective evaluations of new and emerging brain fitness product claims.
  • The consumer brain fitness market showed significant gains from 2005 to 2007 (from a few million in 2005 to $80 million). Consumers should expect an increasing array of products directly targeted at the end-user consumer. Expect a number of new software and technology start up companies to join the bandwagon this year.
  • Nintendo's Brain Age and training games are credited as being one of the major forces in the increased interest in brain fitness.
  • There are four primary customer segments: consumers, healthcare & insurance providers, K12 school systems, and fortune 1000 companies, military,and sports teams.
  • Does any of this glitzy stuff work? It depends. As is the case with most cognitive or educational interventions, short-term (proximal) improvement (measured in weeks) is often demonstrated. However, the evidence for long-term (distal) improvement and maintenance is minimal to none, and consists largely of circumstantial evidence. Long-term improvement due to cognitive-based interventions has been one of the more elusive searches for the holy grail in the area of intelligence.
I could go on, and on, and on. If you are interested in capturing an accurate picture of the state of the brain software research and market there is only one option...purchase their report. The report is organized into seven chapters:
  • Why now? Market Overview
  • The Science of Brain Fitness: Neuroplasticity, Neurogenisis and the Cognitive Reserve
  • Consumers--Taking Charge of Their Brain Health
  • Healthcare and Insurance Providers--Focus on Preventive Health
  • K12 School Systems--Responding to Learning Disabilities in New Ways
  • Fortune 1000 Companies, Military and Sports Teams--Improving Productivity
  • Future Directions: Market trends 2007-20015.
Other brain-related blogs have commented on this report. For example, check out the Brain Injury News and Information Blog.

Finally, given that I'm an educational psychologist who has consulted on a research project (using randomized control and treatment groups) that demonstrated short-term (proximal) positive academic effects for the Interactive Metronome technology (click here for more information and here for conflict of interest disclosure), I was most interested in the conclusion that the K-12 educational market "remains largely untapped due to limited research linking cognitive training to academic performance." I hope this changes. I predict that there will be increased interest in the application of brain fitness software and hardware in the K-12 school-age market, most likely driven first by parents purchasing products in hopes of improving the educational performance of their children.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Brain Blog Carnival Encephalon #41

Thanks to Mind Hacks for the FYI re: the 41st edition of the brain blog carnival Encephalon.

More on speech and the IQ brain clock

Yet another research article [Peter & Stoel-Gammon (2008). Central timing deficits in subtypes of primary speech disorders. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, March 2008; 22(3): 171–198] indicating the importance of mental timing and speech (click here for prior related posts), in this case CAS (childhood apraxia of speech). According to the journal authors, this subtype of speech disorder is somewhat controversial in clinical practice. It is defined as "a motor speech disorder that specifically interferes with motor planning and/or programming, resulting in moderate to severe deficits in speech intelligibility."

The authors conclude that "this study is consistent with the presence of a central timing deficit in children with speechdisorders, expressed across modalities (oral, hand) and across types of timing measures (greater rhythmic structure, small-scale durational accuracy), affecting children with fewer
apraxic characteristics to a lesser extent."

Caveat....this is small sample size study (11 clinical subjects and 11 matched controls) that needs replication in additional samples.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Brain fitness is hot industry

Thanks to Sharp Brains (again) for pointing this blog to a Reuters news article on the continuated expansion/explosion of the brain fitness industry. According to Alvarado over at SB, this is one of the better news articles on the brain fitness industry.

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Brain Blogging # 29 brain carnival

The 29th edition of the Brain Blogging brain carnival is now up. Thanks GNIF.

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Out of Sync and Synchronized Brains

Interesting FYI post at the Eide Neurolearning Blog re: the "Out of Sync Brain." Readers of the IQ Brain Clock will notice a similarity to my hypotheses re: the importance of mental/interval timing in synchronizing various parts/networks of the brain for effective cognitive performance (check out my IQ Keynote address PPT show from this past year)

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Highlights of Sharp Brains brain fitness software report

More on the Sharp Brains first report on the status of the brain fitness software market...a list of highlights over at the Brain Injury News and Information Blog.

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Music helps with stroke recovery

Interesting post at the BPS Research Digest re: study suggesting that listening to music may help people recover better from strokes.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

State of the Brain Fitness Software Market - Sharp Brains 2008 report.

As I've mentioned previously, and also at IQ's Corner (click here), the Raph Nader of the emerging field of brain fitness software is Sharp Brains. I love their blog so much that I provide a feed of all their topic posts on the right-hand side of my IQ Brain Clock blog.

Sharp Brains just released their first "State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2008" report. I would love to read it, but @ $495 the price is too step for me.

Kudos to the folks at Sharp Brains.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time to think. When to think. Our 24 hour clock

[Double click on image to enlarge]

When do you think the best...and why? I started skimming the article below and quickly realized that it was more than I wanted to know about the circadian pacemaker. Maybe I was trying to read it at a time when my cognitive processes where not functioning at their optimal level (due to my circadian clock).

As noted in prior posts, research has suggested that human beings have multiple timing systems that are active over more than 10 orders of magnitude. At the top is the 24 hour circadian pacemaker/oscillator system, a level far removed from the focus of IQ's Brain Clock on interval and milisecond timing systems. However, the title of this article grabbed my attention...which quickly wanned....zzzzzzzzzzzzz....I need a nap (this is not a reflection on the scholarly merits of the article...just my capacity to sustain interest, arousal, motivation, etc. to read the digest it.)

However, I did find a very nice conceptual figure (and I love conceptual model figures) the authors used to organize their literature review re: cognitive functions impacted by our circadian rhythms. The figure is above (double click to enlarge).

I decided to make this article available to readers in hopes that someone may take the time to read it and summarize it in layman's terms. If anyone would like to make a guest post re: this article, let me know via the "comment" feature. Maybe my fellow blogger at "A blog around the clock" might eventually post something regarding this article (if he has not already).

  • Schmidt, C. & Collette, F. (2007). A time to think: Circadian rhythms in human cognition. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2007, 24(7),755–789 (click here)

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Brain fintess: Posit Science Brain Fitness Impact study video

I just ran across a video on You Tube reporting on the Posit Science Brain Fitness Impact study with adults 65+ years of age. Check it out. The brain fitness movement continues to accelerate.

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