I’m looking forward to (virtually) participating in the 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit.  As I await its starting, I am flooded by emails from brain fitness companies. Lumosity claims to have “…adapted age-old-techniques of Mindfulness training into a series of easy-to-learn courses and activities.” BrainHQ from Posit Science shares with me their latest claims. A new blog piece is published by Smartbrainaging.

I now am a subscriber to a number of very science-based brain health resources coming from Harvard Medical School and UC Berkeley,  I just received my copy of the University of California, Berkeley’s 2019 White Paper: Memory: Your Annual Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. I also now monitor National Institute of Aging clinical trial research. There are some intriguing ongoing randomized trials investigating cognitive, dietary and behavioral interventions (such as exercise programs) for mild cognitive impairment such as these.

I am looking forward to opportunities to interact at the summit with some of these CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and fellow investigators. The challenge is to distinguish between hope and hype.

My student research team spent a semester investigating brain fitness research claims.  Here are some of our preliminary conclusions from 2017.

 

  1. “Brain Training” is a huge and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Like this one:
  2. There exist a number of excellent, current, science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g.this one).
  3. There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy of “brain fitness” programs (e.g. this one).
  4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (See this study.)
  5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and other like works.