I’m looking forward later today to (virtually) participating in the 2017 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.” I’ll learn more about that on Thursday from a Summit presentation. 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 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 and to continue those relationships over the next few years.
My student research team has now spend a semester investigating brain fitness research claims. We are in the process of reflecting on what we have learned. Here are a few preliminary thoughts which will be expanded into a book.
- “Brain Training” is a huge and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Like this one:
- There exist a number of excellent, current, science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. this one).
- There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy of “brain fitness” programs (e.g. this one).
- 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.)
- Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and other like works (Such as these).
Time to log into the summit. To paraphrase the proverb, all work and no play makes David a dull boy.
These are exactly the points I think we ought to concern ourselves with at the moment, especially points 4 and 2. Many of the programs available border on extraordinary claims (some have crash through this border head first). As we know, Carl Sagan tells us, those kinds of claims require extraordinary evidence, which I don’t think we have quite yet. I think our best bet at achieving such evidence will be to insist on best practices for experimental design.
Glad to know someone else has read Carl Sagan! I came away from my first several hours of the Sharp Brain summit encouraged that reason may prevail and that our important message will be heard.
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