March 13th, 2016
Brain Awareness Week | Last Minute Ideas for Brain-Boosting Activities

This week we celebrate Brain Awareness Week, an annual event sponsored by the Dana Foundation to raise awareness of what we know about and owe to that amazing organ, the brain. As a longstanding partner of BAW, we have seen interest in the role of the brain in everyday life grow tremendously over the past decade.  Whether driven by interest in boosting performance, staying sharp with age, or reducing risk for stroke, head injury or dementia, people of all ages and backgrounds seem more aware of the relationship of the brain to their overall well being, and more interested than ever in taking whatever steps they can to boost their brain fitness.

What is on your calendar to mark Brain Awareness Week this year? Perhaps you are holding a brain health fair, or have invited in a guest speaker to talk about the cutting edge research on cognitive science.

Or perhaps Brain Awareness Week was not on your mind this year. Never fear! There are many engaging, quick, creative ways you can easily fit in a bit of brain awareness for your clients – and yourself – this week to mark the day.

Here are 4 great last minute ideas to bring Brain Awareness Week to your community this week:

Brainy Board Game Hour: Board games offer several wonderful opportunities to engage our brains. Many popular board games such as Scrabble, chess, or Monopoly, offer us the chance to involve our minds, often in ways that we don’t get “challenged” day-to-day. In addition, many of the games that are played against the clock, such as Boggle, give us the chance to work out the very cognitive skills that are most likely to decline with age. Research shows that regular challenges to those skills – attention, processing speed, cognitive flexibility and memory among them – may help us maintain them more effectively. Finally board games are social by nature. Socializing is a powerful way to nurture our neurons as doing so challenging our thinking skills, encourages engagement across intellectual and physical activities, and offers us the chance to feel emotionally connected and supported.

Bring the brainpower home this week by hosting a Brainy Board Game Hour. Chances are you have many of these games available, or ask folks to bring their favorite ones to share. The only other things you’ll need are a room, some tables and chairs, some refreshments and to get the word out! Spread the brain awareness even further by planning a Brainy Board Game Hour for employees or your own family and friends.

TED Flash Think Evening: TED, founded in 1984, hosts events that offers a series of thought-provoking and entertaining presentations that each run about 10 minutes. The organization provides online recordings of these sessions, and now has playlists where they have gathered some of the more popular or provocative talks on a specific topic, making it easy for you to host an event where folks can view, learn from and talk about the topic together. There are currently 5 playlists available on the topic of the brain, including one on the complexity of memory and another that focuses on how the brain works.

Hold a TED “Flash Think” evening by inviting folks to join you in the library or another common area to view and discuss TED presentations from these various playlists (or a few other favorites if you have any). You will need a way to screen the presentations using an internet connection, and perhaps some refreshments (brain healthy, of course!). You can even use the screening as a kick-off to your own “Flash Think” event where members of the community prepare their own brief presentations to share.

Brainiac Walks. Aerobic activity is one of the best things we can do for our brains. Research shows that getting regular physical exercise promotes the brain’s physical integrity, boosts daily performance, and may lower dementia risk over our lifetimes.

Bring Brain Awareness Week to your community this week by offering several spontaneous Brainiac Walks. These walks can be as short as 15-minutes, and can happen at anytime during the day, such as right before breakfast, at the end of the workday, or after dinner. Offer a thinking challenge folks can do while walking together, such as a recall naming race (naming as many items in a category, such as animals, car brands, vegetables, body parts, etc. as the group can do together in 1 minute) or a group sing-a-long to some favorite tunes.

“I Thank My Brain For …” Wall. Here is a great last-minute activity taken from our TBH FAIR Toolkit that doesn’t even require you to add anything to the calendar. Nurture more appreciation for the amazing brain by asking folks to share the different ways they are personally grateful for all their own brains do for them. In a common area, such as the reception lounge or dining area foyer, set up a large banner of paper and have multiple colored pens available. Write “I Thank My Brain For …” in large letters across the middle of the banner (if you have someone with artistic flair available ask for their help). Then simply ask folks to take a pen and a minute to write their own “brain thanks” on the wall to share with others. You will end up with a colorful showcase banner you can leave up on display for all to see. Alternatively you can also have folks write their brain appreciation statements on different colored index cards and post them on a bulletin board.

Happy Brain Awareness Week to all!

February 1st, 2016
TBH Science Update | January 2016

Can Sex Make You Sharper? Recent Study Suggests It May Indeed Do So

What: The impact of normal sexual activity in older adults has received little attention in the literature. In a study released online in the January issue of Age and Aging researchers looked at the impact of sexual activity on cognition in a large sample of over 6,000 healthy older adults ages 50-89 taking part in the English Longitudinal Study on Aging. Analyses of performance on two cognitive measures found a significant association between sexual activity and improved performance on tests of recall and number sequencing in men, and on the recall task in women.

Why This Matters:  Maintaining normal sexual activity is a healthy part of normal aging, with potential cardiovascular as well as socio-emotional benefits. The impact of such activity deserves further study, particularly in the area of cognition, where it is little understood. This research, with its large sample size, opens the way for further study of the impact of sexual activity on cognitive function and healthy aging in later life.

The Takeaway: Sexual activity is beneficial to our well-being at every stage of adulthood, including older age. Professionals in the field can help dismiss taboos around such activity in older adults by speaking openly with clients about these benefits and normalizing continued sexual intimacy in later life.

 

New Recommendations on Depression: U.S. Task Force Calls for Routine Screening in all Adults

What: The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force released an updated recommendation regarding depression screening in the general adult population. Their findings, published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reflects the task force’s findings based on a review of recent data on screening and treatment effectiveness across the U.S. adult population. In addition, the task force specifically called for screening in older adults and pregnant and post-partum women.

Why This Matters: The recommendations of the governmental task force are based on an understanding of the risks and benefits to the population-at-large, as well as to specific at-risk groups. In general there must be compelling evidence behind such recommendations, which then often impact policy and reimbursement. The updated recommendation to include depression screening as part of routine assessments for older adults and pregnant and post-partum women underscores the increased risk and potential treatment benefits for depression in these groups.

The Takeaway: Clinicians and other professionals working with the general adult population should work to include depression screening as part of annual evaluations. In addition, those working specifically with the at-risk groups named should work to advocate that such screenings are included routinely as part of the individual’s care plan.

December 1st, 2015
November 2015 Science Update | Why Teens Should Mind Their Zzzz’s and New Data on Hormone Replacement Therapy

Let Sleeping Teens Lie: Study Shows Long-Lasting Impact of Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents

What: A recently released study found that teens subjected to sleep restriction over successive nights did worse on tests of attention, working memory and executive function when compared to control group participants. The study, published online this month in Sleep, looked at sleep deprivation in a group of 56 physically healthy male adolescent boarding school students. Participants were randomized to a Sleep Restriction group (7 nights of sleep restriction to 5 hours/night) or Control group (7 nights of sleep up to 9 hours/night), with 3 nights of “recovery” sleep following the experimental intervention. Interestingly the “sleep deprived” subjects showed continued effects on subjective sleepiness and sustained attention even after 2 nights of “recovery” sleep. The control group showed no evidence of change on the experimental measures during the study, including cognitive performance, perceived sleepiness or mood.

Why This Matters: While the impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance has been widely documented, this study shows the long-term effects of a prolonged period of sleep deprivation on performance even after a period of recovery rest. While the study sample size is relatively small, this well-designed research protocol gives us interesting insight to the potential cognitive impact of losing sleep over several days. This study also raises the question whether sleep can be “recovered,” which has been suggested in previous findings.

The Takeaway: Dear Kids: Exams are coming. Forget the all-nighters and try to get those Zzzz’s. Love, Total Brain Health.

 

Estrogen Redux: At-Risk Women on HRT Show Less Cognitive Decline

What: A recent trial of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) found that subjects maintained on HRT performed better on measures of cognitive performance. The study randomized a group of cognitively intact, women who had been maintained on HRT for one year to either continue or discontinue hormone supplementation. The subjects then underwent cognitive re-evaluation after two years. Further, the study showed that those women with a first-degree relative diagnosed with AD who continued HRT showed a decreased rate of decline in verbal memory when compared with that similar subjects in the discontinuation group.

Why This Matters: The use of HRT remains controversial, especially after a number of large studies showed estrogen supplementation may increase risk for breast cancer and even dementia. However, researchers in the area remain optimistic regarding the potential protective benefits of HRT for cognition. This study appears to offer evidence for specific uses of HRT in targeted populations, here in newly menopausal women at-risk for AD.

The Takeaway:  While the health concerns regarding HRT remain, peri-menopausal women with an increased risk for AD may wish to revisit hormone supplementation with their physician. This study also demonstrated some differential benefit of 17beta-estradiol formulation versus conjugated equine estrogen, raising another consideration when weighing HRT use.

November 16th, 2015
Give The Gift Of Better Brain Fitness! Our 2015 Brain Healthy Gift Guide

Where has the year gone? The holiday season is just around the corner, which means that it’s time once again for our annual Total Brain Health “Brain Healthy Gift Guide!”

We know that finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can be difficult, so we’ve put together our 2015 Brain Healthy Gift Guide to keep your holidays stress-free. At Total Brain Health we are always on the look out for cool and fun ways keep you, your family and friends brain healthy, and what better way to celebrate the season than with a gift to boost the brainpower of those on your list? From your boss to your spouse, mom or mom-in-law, kids, grandkids and all those folks in between, each can use a way to maximize their intellectual potential.

We always have a great time putting together our Total Brain Health Brain Healthy Gift Guide and know these items are sure to tickle the neurons of those on your list.

Here’s this year’s top 10 list for brain healthy gifts, plus a few extras for good measure. We’ve covered the full range of Body, Mind, Spirit activities that are part of our Total Brain Health Blueprint, with ways of engaging that have been shown to improve everyday performance and long term brain vitality. There’s something for everyone and every price point – even some suggestions that are free! Each suggestion is linked to make your shopping even easier.

Here’s to a holiday season full of many wonderful memories!

 

THE TOTAL BRAIN HEALTH 2015 BRAIN HEALTHY GIFT GUIDE

Get Them MovingThe inventors of Spikeball, sometimes described as “volleyball’s brilliant distant cousin,” have modest goals: to build a community around the next great American sport,” and after a successful showing on Shark Tank, they may be on their way. The game involves a little yellow ball, a net that sits a few inches off the ground and two teams of two players. The objective of the game is to hit the ball across to your opponents, just like in volleyball, but with Spikeball, you need to bounce the ball on the net first, so it ricochets upwards at an opposing player. While it’s definitely a game that will keep you moving, you’ll also be working on your reaction time and strategizing. Our favorite review: “Spikeball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.”

 

The Gift of Guiltless EatingThe Spiralizer is the Holy Grail for low-carb dieters, or anyone simply trying to eat healthier — a guiltless way to eat bowls of pasta! Zucchini, carrots, beets and other vegetables can be “spiralized” into linguine-like strands that are low calorie and packed with nutrients. The Spiralizer is a cool, easy-to-use tool that produces spiral cuts, shoestrings and vegetable “noodles” for adding new texture to pasta dishes, stir-fries and salads, and it’s also a great way to get your kids to eat their fruits and veggies!

 

Give With Their Brains In MindLight on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar, is the definitive guide to philosophy and practice of yoga from the master yogi and practitioner who believed that yoga should be accessible to all.  Iyengar, who passed away in 2014, was the founder of the style of yoga known as “Iyengar Yoga” and was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world.  Whether a novice or a seasoned yogi, this book is perfect for anyone who is interested in the art and science of yoga.

 

 

Simon Says, “Enjoy Some Retro Fun!” Simon Carabiner. Nothing makes us happier than the re-release of this highly portable version of our favorite handheld game, Simon. Build attention, visual and auditory tracking and memory with this classic game of doing what Simon Says!

 

 

Stretch It. FlingOns. Stretch your imagination with these fun, magnetic objects. Fidgety? These nifty toys spark clearer thinking, boost creative brainstorming, improve focus and provide mental clarity. For a change of pace, fling ‘em! You’ll improve hand-eye coordination and develop visual perception skills. Fun for the whole family!

 

An App(le) A Day. Elevate, Apple’s 2014 App of the Year, makes online brain training feel like studying for the SATs (but in a good way), with real-world applications such as recalling conversation details, everyday math and reasoning.  The app comes with 25 sets of games and stands out from its competitors because of its great design, as well as having the best progress tracker, loads of interactivity and smart daily motivation reminders.

 

Holidays Are For SocializingPino’s Palette. Friends, art and wine will make you smarter! Studies have proven that social interaction is key to maintaining good mental health and warding off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other studies have shown that creativity, in the form of flexibility and originality, is connected to whole brain functioning and psychological development. And then there’s red wine, shown in some studies to reduce the risk of dementia. Have a party with friends at Pinot’s Palette, and while you’re having a great time, you’ll be on your way to better brain health.

 

Color Their World.  Adult Coloring Books. We normally associate the activity with children, but recently, studies have shown that coloring is also beneficial for adults – primarily for its distressing power. Coloring generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity, and this year, book stores are filled with coloring books for adults. Some of our favorites are “The Artful Mandala Coloring Book: Creative Designs for Fun and Meditation,” “Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation,” and “Outside the Lines: An Artists’ Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations.”

 

A Gift That Gives Throughout The Year.  Words To Live By 2016 Wall Calendar. Everyone can use a little motivation throughout the year, right? This calendar features the extremely popular box designs from Primitives by Kathy, and each month features a straight-forward, inspirational saying that will keep you smiling all year.  There’s also a mini version, which makes a perfect stocking-stuffer! 

 

 

The Gift of a Good BookCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. Selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is a brutally honest, touching memoir of her parents’ final years. “Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.”

 

Yes, It’s A Top 10 List, But We’ve Got A Few More Great Ideas!

Give In Their Honor. The holidays are a wonderful time to give to charity. Why not make a donation in a recipient’s name to those who are in need? Among our top choices are the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which funds early stage research in Alzheimer’s treatments.

Finally, A Brain Fitness Gift That Keeps On Giving. Why not give them the chance to keep on top of their brain fitness? Sign them up for our Total Brain Health Newsletter! They’ll get a great resource full of science updates, tips for getting brain healthy, and other information four times a year – and it’s free!

Happy shopping!

November 1st, 2015
TBH Science Update | October 2015

ADD SOME WEIGHT TO THAT WORKOUT! NEW EVIDENCE SUGGESTS POTENTIAL BRAIN BENEFITS

WHAT: Researchers in Canada found that a one-year program of resistance training (RT) slowed progression of white matter change in a sample of community-dwelling older women. Study participants who participated in weight training twice a week demonstrated significantly less increase in white matter lesions on MRI than those subjects in a once weekly RT group or in the comparison control group.

WHY IT MATTERS: Previous research has primarily supported the benefit from aerobic exercise over weight training for cognitive health. This is one of a handful of studies focusing solely on the potential benefit of RT for long-term brain health.

THE TAKEAWAY: When it comes to a brain-building way to exercise, consider adding some weights to that workout.

 

MUSIC THERAPY MATTERS: STUDY FINDS BENEFIT IN MODERATE TO SEVERE DEMENTIA 

WHAT: A study in patients diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia found that a music therapy intervention significantly reduced behavioral symptoms. The research protocol, conducted in a nursing home population with 132 subjects, found that participating in a music therapy program three times a week over 2-weeks significantly reduced depression and agitation behaviors when compared to each subject’s symptoms prior to participation in the intervention, even up to two weeks after the completion of the music therapy protocol. 

WHY IT MATTERS: Evidence regarding the efficacy of behavioral interventions and other non-pharmacological management of challenging behaviors in dementia is greatly needed. This study demonstrates clear impact of a simple, traditional music therapy program in reducing behaviors that often contribute to a lower quality of life and caregiver challenges in working with adults affected by serious memory loss. This study is somewhat unique in its use of the subjects as their own “controls” and inclusion of patients with advanced dementia.

THE TAKEAWAY: This study demonstrates support for the efficacy of music therapy, joining other protocols that have shown the efficacy of this modality in dementia care. The bottom line? Music matters, and may be worth including in any caregiving protocol.

October 16th, 2015
Wellness Planners Take Note: Why Brain Health Is Now Essential to Marketing What You Do

We are pleased to feature this article by Melissa Engel, our COO, in this month’s newsletter.

Have you noticed that brain health is “top-of-mind” these days?  The motion picture “Still Alice” about early-onset Alzheimer’s starring Julianne Moore was a critically acclaimed success. Elevate, the brain fitness app, was voted Apple’s 2014 App of the Year.  And everybody and their mother seems to have a Lumosity account!  Sharp Brains, a leading neuro-wellness research firm, reports spending on brain fitness was at $1.3 billion worldwide in 2013 and is expected to rise to $6 billion by 2020.

The message for anyone in the wellness and lifestyle profession, including in active aging, is clear:  As consumers live longer they seek to preserve not only healthy bodies, but healthy minds as well.  The good news?  As those of you who regularly receive our TBH publications know, what we do can make a difference. Research continues to show that our brains remain plastic, or able to change, as we age. That means there are lots of ways to improve cognitive skills and keep memory sharp throughout our lives.

Anyone in active aging whose message to current and prospective clients is “we’ll keep you strong and healthy” has a great opportunity to differentiate in the marketplace by including legitimate brain health findings as part of their marketing message. Since much of what you already offer – exercise classes, intellectual enrichment programs, social activities – ties to what the science shows helps us stay sharp and lower dementia risk, why not use that brain-boosting element to for more effective promotion? Going further, most businesses focused on healthy living, especially active aging programs and services, would do well to include more tangible brain fitness programs, developed by experts, into their products and services.  This not only provides meaningful and sought-after consumer benefits, it also can also provide a competitive edge.

Here’s an example of a recent success story in utilizing brain fitness content in this way from our own company.  NuStep, a leading maker of fitness equipment for seniors, recently retained Total Brain Health to add a brain fitness dimension to a cause-related event, called The Longest Day, to raise money for The Alzheimer’s Association.  The results were a resounding success.  The program raised nearly $100,000 for the cause.  And as for the brain health dimension, survey results showed:

  • 68% of facilities agreed that that the brain fitness programming was a valuable addition to the program
  • 74% found the brain fitness activities developed by TBH easy to incorporate into their fitness program
  • 86% would like to add more brain health activities in the future
  • 62% would like to be certified in brain health training

These results suggest that every exercise program in the country could help their clients – and their business – by offering brain workouts alongside physical workouts. Active aging communities could also add brain fitness components to their activities if they don’t already.  Now imagine that healthy eating companies such as Weight Watchers, Slim Fast and Lean Cuisine added a dimension of brain health to their marketing, if not their overall programs.  Same for personal care products with, for example, brain challenges that earned reward points for their products or education about the value of healthy esteem to overall brain health. The possibilities are endless.

I’ll make a prediction:  “What’s good for the body, is good for the mind” will soon become the mantra for lifestyle and wellness marketers worldwide. Isn’t it time to incorporate brain health into your outreach?

Melissa Engel, COO

TBH Brands, LLC

September 30th, 2015
TBH Science Update | September 2015

How Your Brain is Wired May Impact How You Live: Findings from the Human Connectome Project

What: Scientists released findings suggesting a strong correlation between classically considered positive lifestyle behaviors and demographic measures (education, SES, IQ, life satisfaction) and a pattern of brain connectivity between areas of the brain typically associated with higher level aspects of human cognition, such as memory, creativity, and reasoning. The findings, released online in Nature Neuroscience this week, used data from 461 subjects participating in the Human Connectome Project, a large-scale program using imaging data to discover the neural networks that underlie brain function. Interestingly there was also an association with low activity along this particular pattern of brain connectivity and negatively considered lifestyle outcomes. While there is some suggestion that the connectome pattern associated with classically positive behavioral outcomes ressembles the “g-factor” thought to associate to general intelligence, the researchers state that the connectome more closely ressembles a general model of positive brain function that may “influence life in a complex society.”

Why It Matters: The ability of researchers to map the brain’s pathways and look at the association of those patterns (which is a reflection, if you will, of how we “think”) to behavior and other outcomes is truly on the cutting edge,.  Focus on the patterns of connections of brain activity through research like this will give us tremendous insight into not only the brain’s function but further our understanding of trauma, disease and eventually inform treatment.

The Takeaway: This study suggests that we can know image and map data to support that how we think may influence how we live.  This is “next level” research and the result of advances in imaging, data science and public support for brain mapping and additional revolutionary areas of brain science. It is a harbinger of more to come, including how we can understand these findings in relationship to policy, education, and treatment.  Also, if you are a “brain geek” this is super cool stuff.

 

Atrial Fibrillation in Young Older Adults Associated with Greater Risk for Dementia: Results from the Rotterdam Study

What:  Atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm) has been previously associated with increased risk for stroke and dementia. However, longitudinal findings have not always been consistent and therefore have not always clearly informed treatment. Recently published findings suggest that younger subjects (under age 67 years) with longer duration of atrial fibrillation exposure where at significantly increased risk for dementia over time. The study, released online this month in JAMA Neurology, looked at 20 years of follow-up data from 6,514 dementia-free subjects participating in the Rotterdam Study to determine whether increased dementia risk was associated with atrial fibrillation.

Why It Matters: Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia (CDC, 2015). While a known risk factor for stroke, the implication of a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation to long-term dementia risk has been relatively unclear based on the longitudinal literature. This study, which uses a large database over a significant period of time, suggests that exposure to atrial fibrillation when we are younger, and are exposed for longer, does indeed increase our chances of developing a serious memory disorder.

The Takeaway: Anyone with atrial fibrillation should be treated to reduce stroke risk and now, perhaps in addition, dementia risk. This is especially true for those adults under 65.

 

September 16th, 2015
Welcome to the Brain Age!

One morning this past spring, I woke to find a flurry of posts about a dress on my Facebook page. Was it blue and black or gold and white? Overnight,­­ colleagues, friends and relatives from Australia, Belgium and even Morocco had already caught the “viral wave” now known worldwide as “the dress.” As the sun rose across the U.S. “the dress” followed, and by the next day it seemed everyone was talking about exactly how our visual perception caused us to so differently perceive information such as color.

Welcome to the Brain Age! “The dress” phenomenon is just another example or our current fascination with the brain. The brain is having its moment in history, and it is well-deserved. Thanks to many distinct yet overlapping factors, we are in the midst of a fascinating revolution in our ability to understand, influence, and change the physiology and function of our most vital organ—the brain. Among them:

  • We’re living longer and older. Economic prosperity in the developed world, along with improvements in medical care, mean that people are living approximately 22 years longer than a generation ago. Experts report that by 2047 there will be a worldwide population shift with more people over 60 than under 18, with over 2 billion over age 60 by 2050. In the U.S. we have become more and more concerned about the different ways in which aging affects us, which has made cognitive health a top priority. A 2014 AARP survey found that 93% of those asked feel that maintaining brain health is very or extremely important.
  • Age-related diseases are on the rise. The downside of living longer is that we’re at an increased risk of developing conditions that affect the function and health of our brains. The Centers for Disease Control report that one in eight adults over 60 say that they’ve experienced increasingly frequent changes in their ability to remember over the past year (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). What’s more, rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are on the rise. According to The Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.3 million American adults in the United States have been diagnosed with memory impairment. By 2050, an astounding 16 million adults in this country will have the disease. Direct care costs will run $226 billion in 2015 alone, climbing to an estimated $1.1 trillion dollars by 2050 (with indirect costs increasing the economic burden of the disease significantly). For these reasons, researchers are striving to understand better how to preserve brain health and prevent dementia, as public policy makers are focusing on promoting brain healthy behaviors and providing better care for those affected by serious memory loss through programs such as the Healthy Brain Initiative and the National Alzheimer’s Plan Act.
  • Scientists are advancing their knowledge of how the brain works. Researchers are making tremendous gains in our understanding of brain function. Neuroimaging capacities through functional imaging now allow us to study the brain in vivo, greatly expanding our ability to understand how the brain works, the impact of injury, learning challenges, disease, and even behaviors. Most critically, science has shifted in the last two decades to commonly accept what was once a revolutionary notion: That the brain is plastic and capable of change through experience, producing new neurons and creating new synapses (structures that allow information to flow from one neuron to another). This has contributed to improved diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of brain-health challenges, including developmental and acquired brain-related disorders, as well as behavioral health conditions. However, none have been more dramatically impacted than our understanding of how aging affects the brain and the potential for reducing age-related changes in everyday intellectual function, as well as maintaining cognitive vitality over our lifetime. A number of government-funded research projects are advancing our knowledge of brain health, including the BRAIN Initiative in the United States and the Human Brain Project in Europe.
  • Consumers want help with their brain health. When it comes to commercial products and services, it seems the brain health obsession is everywhere. Traditional services such as business consulting and educational tutoring are rebranding around the brain and mind, and products to save our smarts abound. Folks of all ages, but especially those over 50, want to do whatever they can to keep their brains healthy and their minds sharp. While the markets for traditional brain-training programs, as well as for nutritional supplements that claim to boost cognitive health, have grown, none have matched the incredible rise of the digital brain-fitness market. New technologies, scientific advancements, and commercial opportunity have merged to give rise to a multitude of new products offering tools for assessment, training, and monitoring multiple brain health challenges, including aging. The brain-training app Elevate was recently voted 2014 App of the Year by Apple.  Sharp Brains, a market research firm specializing in the digital brain fitness space, reports that this digital brain fitness market grew to a $1 billion dollar industry in 2012, and estimates growth to over $6 billion dollars by 2020. Well-founded criticism focusing on the true value of such products from the scientific community has not stalled growth.  However, as consumers and professionals interested in providing brain health training become more savvy about the field, we are seeing growth in wellness-based brain fitness products and services that better reflect the research evidence for what best promotes staying sharp and reducing dementia risk over our lifetimes.

No matter the reason, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a tremendous shift in how we think about our brains, and that tremendous changes in the scientific landscape and resulting opportunities for consumers lay ahead. Whatever the Brain Age brings, it is exciting to imagine what is possible.

Dr. Green