Monday, August 31, 2009

Reading the bumps on your head--blast from the past

Thanks to MIND HACKS to link to historical information on phrenology

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

iAbstract: Executive function disorder subtypes?

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Encephalon 74 brain blog carnival

Find it via link at SHARP BRAINS

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Neuropsychology - Volume 23, Issue 5

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A new issue is available for the following APA journal:


Volume 23, Issue 5

The prevalence of cortical gray matter atrophy may be overestimated in the healthy aging brain.
Pages 541-550
Burgmans, Saartje; van Boxtel, Martin P. J.; Vuurman, Eric F. P. M.; Smeets, Floortje; Gronenschild, Ed H. B. M.; Uylings, Harry B. M.; Jolles, Jelle
Impairment of probabilistic reward-based learning in schizophrenia.
Pages 571-580
Weiler, Julia A.; Bellebaum, Christian; Brüne, Martin; Juckel, Georg; Daum, Irene
Selectivity of executive function deficits in mild cognitive impairment.
Pages 607-618
Brandt, Jason; Aretouli, Eleni; Neijstrom, Eleanor; Samek, Jaclyn; Manning, Kevin; Albert, Marilyn S.; Bandeen-Roche, Karen
Frontotemporal dementia selectively impairs transitive reasoning about familiar spatial environments.
Pages 619-626
Vartanian, Oshin; Goel, Vinod; Tierney, Michael; Huey, Edward D.; Grafman, Jordan
Delaying interference enhances memory consolidation in amnesic patients.
Pages 627-634
Dewar, Michaela; Garcia, Yuriem Fernandez; Cowan, Nelson; Sala, Sergio Della
Angry faces are special too: Evidence from the visual scanpath.
Pages 658-667
Bate, Sarah; Haslam, Catherine; Hodgson, Timothy L.
ERPs in anterior and posterior regions associated with duration and size discriminations.
Pages 668-678
Gontier, Emilie; Paul, Isabelle; Le Dantec, Christophe; Pouthas, Viviane; Jean-Marie, Grouin; Bernard, Christian; Lalonde, Robert; Rebaï, Mohamed

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Time blindness

Thanks to ENL blog for this post

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

SHARP BRAINS brain fitness roundup

AlvaroF: News: DriveSharp, Cognitive Health, Posit Science and
CogniFit: Round-up of recent news on cognitive health and ..

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New brain fitness game research

PsychNews: Brain-Training Games Get Mixed Scores

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vibrating chair for Parkinson's: Possible rhythm effect?

Interesting post at Mind Hacks regarding historical treatment for Parkinson's disease via a "vibratory chair." Links to a current paper that discusses the old treatment is available, with some contemporary research cited re: the modest benefits of vibration therapy with PD. Is it possible that there could be an underlying "rhythmic" treatment effect--an effect similar to that we discussed in our recent brain rhythm paper? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Curious minds want to know.

Thanks Mind Hacks for interesting post.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Brain wrinkles protect against brain injury

This story is all over the brain blogosphere

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Brain rhythm treatment efficacy: Can we fine-tune our brain clocks?

Brain rhythm. Got it? Need it? Is it important? Can you modify your brain rhythm to improve cognitive or motor performance?

I'm pleased to announce the availability of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics Research Report No. 9: The efficacy of rhythm-based (mental timing) treatments with subjects with a variety of clinical disorders: A brief review of theoretical, diagnostic, and treatment research (McGrew & Vega, 2009).

As faithful readers of the IQ Brain Clock blog know, I started this mental-timing niche blog after serving as a consultant on a neurotechnology intervention treatment program that produced positive academic outcomes in elementary school-age children (Taub, McGrew & Keith, 2007). Since that time I've systematically tracked research related to the concept of human temporal processing and mental timing--which I often refer to as the "IQ Brain Clock." Whenever I've found a research report of interest I've tried to share it via a short blog post. As these studies accumulated, it became clear there was a huge empirical and theoretical literature base, across a very diverse array of disciplines (e.g., neurorehabilitation, biology, neurobiology, neurochemistry, music perception, psychology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation sciences, etc.) that supported the importance of mental time-keeping in understanding an array of human behaviors. As a scientist this has had me intellectually curious for a number of years.

Yet...the applied hat I also wear constantly gnawed at me regarding the potential applied relevance. Even though there was clear evidence for some kind of neural-based brain timing, were there any practical implications? More specifically, could this research lead to improved diagnoses/classification of clinical disorders (and/or atypical development) in a number of human behavior domains and, furthermore, did it have potential treatment implications. I had seen the potential treatment implications in the Taub et al. study, but that was only one study.

Over the past week I, together with Amy Vega (Clinical Education Director at Interactive Metronome; IM), finally gathered together all the research citations I had been accumulating (over the past 3-4 years) and decided to investigate whether mental timing (temporal processing) research had potential diagnostic implications. More importantly, we wanted to see if mental timing-based treatments (specifically brain rhythm perception and production) had positive implications for education and rehabilitation.

Our "first cut" of this effort is the above IAP Research Report. Below are a few quotes from the report:
does sufficient evidence exist to support the temporal processing (mental timekeeping) theory-diagnosis/classification-treatment three-legged stool? With a few caveats, we believe that collectively the preponderance of positive outcomes (across the 23 listed studies) indicates that rhythm-based mental-timing treatments have merit for clinical use and warrant increased clinical use and research attention
positive treatment outcomes were reported for all four forms of rhythm-based treatment. Positive outcomes were also observed for normal subjects and, more importantly, across a variety of clinical disorders (e.g., aphasia, apraxia, coordination/movement disorders, TBI, CP, Parkinson’s disease,
stroke/CVA, Down’s syndrome, ADHD)
One notable observation of interest is that 15 of the 23 studies (the RAS, AOS-RRT and SMT treatment studies) all employed some form of auditory-based metronome to pace or cue the subjects targeted rhtymic behavior.
We conclude that the use of external metronome-based rhythm tools (tapping to a beat, metronome-based rhythmic pacing, rhythmic-cuing via timed pulses/beats) is a central tool to improving temporal processing and mental-timing.

Our concluding statement was:
given the converging research that points toward a possible neurologically-based domain-general internal mental-timing mechanism (i.e., a potentially modifiable internal brain clock), it is possible that the efficacy of all four classes of rhythm-based treatments are operating (in their own way) on “fine tuning the temporal resolution of the human brain clock.” Our temporal resolution fine-tuning hypothesis is consistent with the temporal resolution power (TRP) hypothesis (Rammsayer & Brandler, 2002, 2007) that indicates that oscillatory brain process are responsible for the efficiency and speed of neural-based information processing. We hypothesize, via the temporal resolution fine-tuning hypothesis, that the positive outcomes for rhythm perception and production based treatments may be due to these treatments increasing the efficiency and speed of information processing in brain-based neural networks responsible for the planning, execution and synchronization of complex human behaviors.

We urge both academic and applied researchers to embrace the temporal processing (mental timing) theory--diagnostic/classification--treatment literature reviewed in this report and increase efforts to understand the links between the three legs of the mental timing stool. The positive effects of current “brain rhythm” treatment programs for many types of disorders, across a variety of human performance domains, is encouraging, particularly when placed in the context of the emerging science and theory of the human brain clock.
We consider this report as a first step--providing the foundation for future expanded manuscripts and potential research. The PDF text of the report can be downloaded or viewed by clicking here. The report also includes three appendices. Appendix A (click here), B (click here), and C (click here). Please note that Appendix A and B are large (approx 11 and 9 MB each) and you might want to download then when hooked directly to the internet (not via wifi).

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not report our potential conflicts of interest. These are noted on the cover page of the report. Amy Vega is Clinical Education Director for Interactive Metronome (IM), one of the four major brain rhythm interventions covered in this brief research report. Myself, I'm not employed by IM, but I do serve on the IM Scientific Advisory board.

Enjoy the report. Tune up your brain...get it in rhythm with this emerging field of brain-based science and applied technology.

PS - Appendix B includes "foundational" basic or theoretical mental timing research reports. Unfortunately, our PDF software technology did not allow for the integration of all the PDF files in this appendix. If you want the read the additional six manuscripts, they can be found under the Key Research Articles section of this blog---they are designated with an asterisk (*)

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Brain Fitness Update: Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age

SHARP BRAINS brain fitness update summary. 

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych. 

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Brain Fitness Update: Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age

August 2009

Book CoverScientific publication Frontiers in Neuroscience recently published a special issue on Augmenting Cognition, and invited Alvaro Fernandez 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 Alvaro's article.
In This Issue
State of the Market
Market Survey
Competitive Landscape
The Science
Customer Segments
Future Directions
The Webinar
2009 Report CoverIn 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.

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 parts from two segments: consumers (grew from $80M to $95M) and healthcare and insurance providers (grew from $65 to $80). K12 school systems remained mostly flat. The military, sports and corporate segment continued to expand but from a lower base.

Advances in neuroscience and the interest of baby boomers in the concept and implications of neuroplasticity are driving popular interest and effort into retaining mental sharpness. This in turn has fueled the interest of healthcare and insurance providers to test and introduce brain fitness products. A variety of developments in 2008 underline the sector's annual growth and plants seeds for significant future breakthroughs:

Innovation by pioneering institutions:
We estimate that around 300 residential communities added computerized cognitive training programs in 2008, making for an estimated accumulated total of over 700. Insurance providers Allstate and OptumHealth launched major initiatives, while the USA Hockey League announced an upcoming hockey-specific brain fitness software package.

Research themes got reinforced:
1) Lifestyle, led by aerobic exercise, can improve cognition and reduce dementia risk,
2) Building the cognitive reserve through leading mentally stimulating lives provides neuroprotection to help stay sharper longer,
3) Specific cognitive abilities can be assessed and enhanced through the use of appropriate tools.
Funding events and acquisitions: A number of developers raised money during the year: Dakim ($10.6m), CogniFit ($5m), Lumos Labs ($3m), Scientific Brain Training ($1.5m), Vivity Labs ($1m). Scientific Learning bought Soliloquy and Posit Science bought Visual Awareness.

Public policy & public sector initiatives:
1) a new US Army policy required computerized cognitive screenings of all soldiers before deployment,
2) the Government of Ontario invested $10m in Baycrest to develop and commercialize brain fitness technologies.
3) The Mental Health Parity Act will take effect in January 2010,
4) a growing emphasis by Medicare to reduce hospital readmissions (which can be predicted by patient's functional status, including cognitive functioning).
Market Survey
In January 2009 we conducted an online survey to understand emerging beliefs, attitudes and habits among decision-makers and early adopters. Highlights of the 2,000+ responses were:

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

The top three out of ten predictions ("Over the next 5 to 7 years we will see...") with the highest percentage of respondents who Strongly Agree are: 1) "...a wide selection of computer-based programs, for different uses" (33%), 2) "...more locations and tools integrating physical and mental exercise" (27%), and 3) "...brain fitness becoming a mainstream topic, for most if not all ages" (27%).

Customer satisfaction among buyers (both of electronic products and puzzle books) was good overall but could be better. To the statement, "I got real value for my money," the results were: 18% Strongly Agree, 35% Agree, 33% Neutral, 11% Disagree, 3% Strongly Disagree.

Top four products among buyers: 1) Posit Science, 2) Puzzle Books, 3) Nintendo Brain Age, 4) They seem to attract different demographic groups, and present different levels of customer satisfaction: Posit Science (53% Agree) and (51%) do better than Puzzle Books (39%) and Nintendo (38%) at "I have seen the results I wanted." Given very different price points, the rank changes with "I got real value for my money": Lumosity (65% Agree), Puzzle Books (60%), Posit Science (52%), Nintendo (51%).
Competitive Landscape

In 2008 the competitive landscape started to become more clearly defined, with a number of players taking the lead in specific niches both on the assessment and training sides of the market.

Our Market and Research Momentum analysis resulted in the categorization of twenty-one companies into four groups to better predict long-term sustainability of company and approach.

- Leaders: Brain Resource, Cognitive Drug Research, Lumos Labs, Posit Science
- High Potentials: Applied Cognitive Engineering, Cogmed, CogniFit, Houghton Mifflin, NovaVision, Scientific Brain Training, Scientific Learning, TransAnalytics
- Crosswords 2.0: Dakim, Nintendo, Vivity Labs
- Wait & See: Advanced Brain Technologies, Brain Center America, CNS Vital Signs, CogState, Learning Enhancement Corporation, Vigorous Mind

Our product analysis shows that the products with higher levels of clinical validation are also the ones focused on more specific cognitive needs. It is important to evaluate the clinical validation per cognitive skill(s) targeted, together with other product attributes, to find a potential product to match specific needs. Not even the training products with relative higher levels of clinical validation, by Cogmed and NovaVision, should be seen as the best intervention for every single individual and purpose.
The Science

There is growing evidence that cognition is more malleable that once thought, and that lifestyle, non-invasive interventions, and invasive interventions all play a role in augmenting or maintaining cognitive abilities. With that context, technology-based assessments and training tools may be an important part of the overall mix.

Computerized programs have been found to be an efficient and scalable way to assess and train a range of specific cognitive skills. However, they have not been found to be "general solutions" that can address all cognitive priorities for everyone. Consumers and professionals need to make informed decisions about which, if any, tools may be worth trying without falling prey to manufacturers' inflated claims or negating the value of those tools as a general principle.
We asked thirteen leading scientists to examine the state of the research, and emerging implications, in five areas:

The neuroprotective value of cognitive activity in general: this is well established through a variety of long-term epidemiological studies.

The importance of using cognitive assessments as predictors of driving safety: driving may well become one of the major areas where cognitive assessments and training can play a significant role in the next few years. Update: in July 2009, AAA announced a new initiative to deploy Posit Science's DriveSharp to Assess and Train Older Driver's Brains

The value of computerized cognitive training targeting working memory, auditory processing, visual processing: a growing amount of published evidence shows the clear benefits, and the limitations, from different training approaches.

The cognitive effects of action and strategy videogames: it is impossible to answer the question "are videogames good or bad" without clarifying a) which videogames, b) good or bad for what? Specific games are showing the kind of benefits that justify educational and health uses.

The need for objective markers: innovative approaches are trying to solve this major bottleneck.
Customer Segments

The demand for brain fitness software presents different dynamics in each of the four main customer segments:

Consumers: "Brain fitness" is quickly becoming a mainstream cultural phenomenon - with all of the opportunities and challenges that this development represents. On the one hand, it was time for adults of all ages to start paying more attention to the impact of lifestyle options on cognitive health, including the potential usefulness of new tools beyond crossword puzzles and Sudoku, driven by recent scientific findings such as adult neuroplasticity and the cognitive reserve. On the other hand, the overwhelming amount of superficial media coverage and aggressive claims is creating significant confusion among consumers, and skepticism among researchers and healthcare professionals.

Healthcare and Insurance Providers: A good number of innovators are actively testing and incorporating a variety of brain fitness tools, which over time should help better integrate cognitive health issues into mainstream healthcare. Seniors housing operators have quickly been adding cognitive training to their range of health and wellness activities. Insurance companies are running major initiatives aimed at driver safety and improving the accuracy of diagnostics. Drug companies are adding cognitive testing to their trials. Growing evidence is supporting the use of specific cognitive interventions in clinical conditions such as attention deficits and stroke/traumatic brain injury, among others.

K12 School Systems: Despite growing potential, there were few meaningful market developments in this segment in 2008. Revenues and the competitive landscape were basically stagnant. It is in the applied research area where we are starting to see seeds of potential future growth, given emerging evidence that cognitive training does not only contribute to cognitive development but, when directed appropriately, can also impact academic performance in subjects like math and reading.

Military, Sports Teams, Corporate:
Three of the trends we identified last year, including baseline assessments, training to improve performance, and applications for the aging population, continued and grew significantly in 2008. First, the US Army introduced a new policy requiring mandatory computer-based cognitive baselines for soldiers before deployment, in order to better identify the extent of potential brain damage such as Traumatic Brain Injury. Second, the USA Hockey League partnered to develop a new cognitive simulation training to improve the performance of hockey players. Third, the Conference Board and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives launched a booklet and website to raise awareness about cognitive fitness issues among large corporations.
Future Directions

Innovative partnerships will be required to transform the growing amount of mainstream interest and research findings into a rational, interdisciplinary, and sustainable approach to brain/ neurocognitive fitness. There are no "magic pills" or "general solutions" but there are useful tools when used appropriately. Better information, assessments, taxonomies and integrated research efforts are required for the field to mature. The priorities are not the same for all individuals, or for all objectives (such as safer driving, preventing Alzheimer's symptoms, improving memory). The field holds much promise, but the picture is complex.

We continue to predict that between now and 2015 brain fitness will become a mainstream concept, consumers and professionals will be able to leverage better tools, and that a growing ecosystem will enable this opportunity.

The key question, of course, is how much value will computerized cognitive assessment and training tools deliver in the real world? The US brain fitness software market may grow to be between $1 billion to $5 billion by 2015. Whether the market reaches the high end of that range or stays closer to the lower end depends on how the whole field addresses the most important problems.

When asked "What is most important problem in the field?" respondents to our survey prioritized Public Awareness (39%), Navigating claims (21%), Research (15%), Healthcare Culture (14%), Lack of Assessment (6%), and Other (5%). We believe that in years to come we will see progress in all those areas, and a deeper understanding of "Who needs what when?", the most important unanswered question so far.
The Webinar

Webinar IconOn Tuesday September 29th, we will host a 90-minute webinar to review the findings of the report in more depth (60-minutes) and discuss our clients' perspectives and questions (30-minutes).

Time: Tuesday September 29th, 9am Pacific Time/ noon Eastern Time.

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

To preview several pages of the report, click Here. To view an infographic, click Here.

If you are an existing client, we will contact you directly with Registration details.
Have a stimulating rest of the summer,
-The SharpBrains Team

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brain facts

Brain facts primer from Society of Neuroscience

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Time perception linked to anger

Interesting time-affect link research reported at BPS blog.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Preparing for the new cognitive age

Thanks to SHARP BRAINS foe this Fyi.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jnl Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Free Access!


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Baseline neuropsych testing for war vets


Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Talking to ladies may impair mens cognitive performance

Here's an interesting study for discussion at your next party or
meeting at work.

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Back "on the grid"

I've returned from two weeks in Brazil. I'm exhausted but hope to
resume regular blog posts early next week. I read some good journal
articles on the many flights so I do have material to post. I just
need to transition from the "off the grid" to being "back on the grid"

Kevin McGrew PhD
Educational/School Psych.

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