New Brain Fitness Programs, Explained

“When we learn, we create physical changes inside our heads. By practicing a skill, we repeatedly stimulate the same area of the brain, which strengthens existing neural connections and creates new ones. Over time, we can become more cognitively efficient, using fewer neurons to do the same job. And the more often we fire up certain mental circuits, the easier it is to get them going again.”- as read in the Washington Post earlier this year.

We will be reading more and more articles like that-which is good news for a nascent field. If you are considering such a program, please always ask the questions:

1) What does the specific program look like: how many hours a week, how many weeks, and to accomplish what outcomes? some programs we have seen leave it so open that it is unclear for us how users are supposed to get what benefits. When we go to the gym, and we tell the coach what our objectives are, we typically get a good structure and program to follow

2) What research has been published, or has been submitted to publication, that supports that if a person follows that precise program he or she will likely obtain those promised benefit?

3) How do any benefits transfer to real life and to our cognitive abilities/ skills? for sure, simply by prcticing something we get better at it. Which is great in itself, because we learn something new, and it builds self-confidence. Now, how do I know that transfers into an expanded “mental muscle” or cognitive ability, that will also help me in domains outside the game itself?

In the 90s, eating well and exercising were shown to be crucial to our well-being and healthy aging. We join physical fitness gyms to work out our bodies, expand cardiovascular capacity and develop good muscles. Trainers teach us that novelty and variety are important and that having some structure helps us achieve our physical fitness goals. Now, the need to keep exercising our brains is starting to become understood, and Brain Fitness, or Mind Fitness, will grow to one day become as widespread as physical fitness, for kids, adults, and seniors. “Brain gyms” will complement today’s gyms.

Posit Science has a great program focused on training auditory processing. Let me now announce some Brain Fitness Programs that the media will, I believe, start talking about over the next months. Brain Fitness is a broad category, relevant to all of us.

ACE4sports has developed IntelliGym, a software based product to train the “game-intelligence” skills of professional and amateur basketball players. More and more top teams, such as NCAA tournament winner Memphis, have been using the program given its results on individual and team performance.

Cogmed offers a software-based working memory training product, RoboMemo. The Swedish researchers behind Cogmed, led by Karolinska Institute’s Torkel Klingberg, MD, PhD, have shown that any person can improve his or her working memory by correctly designed and intense training. For people with serious attention deficits, improved working memory translates to tangible and measurable improvements in daily life.

A Vigorous Mind represents the product MindFit developed by CogniFit, using the latest scientific research to develop easy to use software that enhances human cognitive performance and health in a variety of applications, from improving driving skills and abilities to preventing cognitive decline.

The Institute of HeartMath (IHM) has been doing clinical studies and basic research on stress management and the physiology of learning and performance. As a result of such research, IHM offers technology offerings for stress management such as emWave Stress Relief (previously called Freeze-Framer).

And there are more. We will keep you informed. And we will help you identify what tool may be best for you.

Copyright (c) 2007 SharpBrains