As a kid I enjoyed making New Year’s resolutions, even though there was never any intent to carry them out. Rather, they simply provided the same sense of satisfaction as cleaning out my loose leaf binder for school; I knew everything would get messy again but it was nice to have a fresh start! I’m not making any resolutions, or suggesting you should, about brain fitness programs, but mentioning them at the start of a new year tickles that same sense of satisfaction.
Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this post, I checked Neurons Firing to see what I wrote around this time last year. Turns out on January 20th I posted about Michael Merzenich. Big deal, you may say. Well, among other occupations, Merzenich has a company called PositScience that focuses on brain fitness. Hmm, January and brain fitness – there’s that tickle again!
There have been a number of prominent neuroscientists who have talked about the benefits of keeping one’s brain fit by using a combination of physical exercise, and stimulating, novel mental challenges. The latter comes under the arch of brain fitness, which has emerged as a market onto itself, complete with digital programs designed to challenge the brain, one level at a time.
SharpBrains, where I guest blog, specializes in assessing the brain fitness market, and makes its research available via several formats. In March 2008 they published The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market, a summary of which can be accessed here. SharpBrains also has a useful post containing a 10 item checklist to help select brain fitness programs.
Also in 2008, Dan Rather filed a report called Mind Science. The report is broken up into six parts, all of which are available on YouTube. Below is part three, which focuses on brain fitness, in particular PositScience. Approximately 8 minutes into the video, Rather and Eric Kandel provide a fascinating look into memory.
I have no experience with any of the brain fitness programs, so cannot speak to their effectiveness or ease of use. However, I have written extensively about the benefits of providing novel challenges to the brain as a way of strengthening memory and creativity. I am convinced there are benefits for older folks in getting baseline cognitive testing, particularly if there are concerns about memory, general functioning or if there is a history of age-related cognitive decline in the family.
Below are links to brain fitness programs and related articles. If you have experience in this field, please feel free to turn this post into a conversation!
This first set of links comes either from searches I did or readers of Neurons Firing.
- Eaton Brain Improvement
- Senior Journal – Brain Fitness Program Clinical Trial Attracts 500 Senior Citizens
- New Brain Fitness Program In High Demand – Erickson Knows Fitness Isn’t Just About The Body
- Allstate Launches Brain Fitness Program to Improve Older Driver Safety
- Mind Sparke – Brain Fitness Pro
- Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity at PBS
This set of links are to programs mentioned in the earlier referenced SharpBrains report.
- Advanced Brain Technologies
- Applied Cognitive Engineering’s Basketball IntelliGym (brain training for basketball players!)
- The Brain Resource Company
- BrainTrain – designed to help folks with ADD/ADHD and related brain issues
- CNS Vital Signs – “measure, monitor and manage” neurocognitive function
- Cogmed – designed to improve memory, focus and concentration
- CogniFit – “enhance cognitive abilities thus improving the quality of life”
- Cognitive Drug Research – cognitive testing
- CogState – cognitive testing for clinical trials
- Dakim Brain Fitness – “The fight against dementia starts here” – A wonderfully organized and implemented site, complete with video of the founder explaining the site in an easy to understand, welcoming manner
- Lexia Learning – specializes in reading from pre-K through adults
- MyBrainTrainer – “virtual mental gymnasium”
- Nintendo Brain Age
- Scientific Brain Training
- Scientific Learning – for ESL and Special Ed
- Teach Town – “for children with autism spectrum disorders”