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New Interview Series (Part 1 of 10): Why Care About Brain Fitness Innovation?

Posted Jan 10 2011 3:57pm

Every Monday during the next 10 weeks we’ll discuss here what leading industry, science and policy experts –all of whom will speak at the upcoming 2011 SharpBrains Summit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011)– have to say about emerging opportunities and challenges to address, over the next 10 years, the growing brain-related societal demands.

Without further ado, here you have what four Summit Speakers say…

Alvaro Pascual-Leone is the Direc­tor of the Berenson-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Invasive Brain Stim­u­la­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

1. How would you define “brain fitness” vs. “physical fitness”?

Physical fitness can refer to an overall or general state of health and well-being. However, it is also often used more specifically to refer to the ability to perform a given activity, occupation, or sport.

Similarly brain fitness might be used to refer to a general state of healthy, optimized brain function, or a more specific brain-based ability to process certain, specific information, enable certain motor actions, or support certain cognitive abilities. Importantly though, I would argue that physical fitness REQUIRES brain fitness, while brain fitness benefits from, but does not require physical fitness.

2. Where do you see a significant opportunity for brain fitness innovation to improve the lives of a large number of people in the next decade?

A) Education; B) Access to support; C) Individually-tailored programs that can be truly deployed as therapies and can be appropriately monitored in their efficacy.

3. What is one big challenge in the way?

The establishment of a reliable screening test to assess individual brain health that might be used to optimize interventions and assess their efficacy.

4. What are your main activities in the field and where can people learn more?

Conducting research, clinical programs, developing educational programs. Our main website is: Berenson-Allen Center for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation .

Brief bio: Dr. Pascual-Leone researches the phys­i­ol­ogy of higher cog­ni­tive func­tions and the study of brain plas­tic­ity in skill acqui­si­tion and recov­ery from injury. He is also the Pro­gram Direc­tor of the Harvard-Thorndike Clin­i­cal Research Cen­ter of the Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter. Dr. Pascual-Leone obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Neu­ro­phys­i­ol­ogy from the Fac­ulty of Med­i­cine of Albert Lud­wigs Uni­ver­sity in Ger­many, and trained at the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota and the US National Insti­tutes of Health. He greatly enjoys teach­ing and is the recip­i­ent of numer­ous awards.

Nathanael Eisenberg is the CEO of CogniFit.

1. How would you define “brain fitness” vs. “physical fitness”?

To the extent that body fitness or physical fitness can be maintained or improved by physical exercise of motor muscles, similarly, the term brain fitness, as it is used today, mirrors that cerebral health (cognitive, emotional, biological) might be maintained or improved by exercise of different kinds, both physical AND cognitive.

2. Where do you see a significant opportunity for brain fitness innovation to improve the lives of a large number of people in the next decade?

The aging population, mental health needs and changing socio-economic realities will demand significant innovation and applications in the next decade to improve lifelong quality of life and productivity. It will be key to to make cognitive training enjoyable and fun while improving consumers’ cognitive reserve in targeted ways.

3. What is one big challenge in the way?

Changing consumers’ habits towards brain health, to make them more proactive and personally relevant.

4. What are your main activities in the field and where can people learn more?

We have initiatives and business relationships with a diverse group of partners ranging from direct to consumers offering to health provider, physicians, mental health association, driving schools and insurance companies. People can learn more at: CogniFit . Also, SharpBrains.com just published a nice article on a recent study based on one of our products to see whether Cognitive Training Can Improve Physical Fitness .

Brief bio: Mr. Eisen­berg started his career in bank­ing at Schroders before work­ing as a finan­cial ana­lyst in the Trad­ing Room of the Union Ban­caire Privé. Mr. Eisen­berg then worked for the IT Con­sult­ing firm Cap Gem­ini, and was recruited by Proc­ter and Gam­ble to man­age sev­eral mar­ket­ing and home care ini­tia­tives. After this, Mr. Eisen­berg co-founded ven­ture fund Milk Cap­i­tal, which became a major investor in Cog­niFit. Nathanael Eisen­berg is grad­u­ated from the HEC Lau­sanne with a Mas­ter of Man­age­ment and Busi­ness Administration.

Kenneth Kosik is the Co-Director of UC Santa Bar­bara Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute, and Founder of Cognitive Fitness and Innovative Therapies (CFIT).

1. How would you define “brain fitness” vs. “physical fitness”?

The brain is simply an organ in the body with all the health requirements of any other organ. Therefore, I am troubled by the “versus” in your question. Why set up an unnecessary dualism? I can see the point of talking about two historical movements, but would rather discuss how they complement each other.

2. Where do you see a significant opportunity for brain fitness innovation to improve the lives of a large number of people in the next decade?

These programs could reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Rigorous studies are needed to validate this hypothesis.

3. What is one big challenge in the way?

The challenge is laying the research groundwork that will put brain fitness on a firm scientific basis.

4. What are your main activities in the field and where can people learn more?

I’d suggest checking out my recent book The Alzheimer’s Solution: How Today’s Care is Failing Millions and How We Can Do Better , and the website for CFIT .

Brief bio: Dr. Kosik received his M.D. degree from the Med­ical Col­lege of Penn­syl­va­nia, com­pleted a neu­rol­ogy res­i­dency from Tufts New Eng­land Med­ical Cen­ter, and held var­i­ous appoint­ments at the Har­vard Med­ical School. In the fall of 2004 he assumed the co-directorship of the Neu­ro­science Research Insti­tute and the Har­ri­man Chair at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Santa Bar­bara. He has received mul­ti­ple awards, includ­ing a Whitaker Health Sci­ences Award from Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, the Derek Denny-Brown Neu­ro­log­i­cal Scholar Award from the Amer­i­can Neu­ro­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, the Zenith Award from the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion, and a NASA Group Achieve­ment Award.

Ken Gibson is the President of LearningRx.

1. How would you define “brain fitness” vs. “physical fitness”?

If physical fitness is the “ability to function efficiently and effectively without injury, to enjoy leisure, to be healthy, to resist disease, and to cope with emergency situations” then brain fitness is the ability to mentally function efficiently and effectively at work, play, or leisure, to be sharp, to resist mental disease, and to cope with mentally demanding situations. Components of brain fitness include cognitive skills needed for fast, easy, and better learning or work performance such as: attention, working and short term memory, processing speed, logic and reasoning, and auditory and visual processing. The relative importance of each of the components varies for each task a person performs.

2. Where do you see a significant opportunity for brain fitness innovation to improve the lives of a large number of people in the next decade?

Because brain fitness doesn’t require the space and equipment of physical fitness it can become parts of many venues (insurance programs, total fitness centers – brain and physical, school and job training programs, etc). We believe a major shift will be made in
cognitive rehab – from accommodating cognitive weakness to training skills.

3. What is one big challenge in the way?

Whereas physical fitness can result in seen physical changes or functions (weight loss, larger muscles, run longer, more energy, etc) brain fitness results in harder to define results – that connection will have to be made convincingly.

4. What are your main activities in the field and where can people learn more?

We’re growing a network of physical locations (currently there are 71 LearningRx Brain Training Centers, mostly helping kids with learning difficulties), expanding online activities,  and looking for independent research validation of our mostly internal trials (we have over 15,000 student records with over 20 pre/post training test results – WJ3 Cog & Ach – and over 100 Hx Dx data field – all available to researchers). Our main website is: LearningRx .

Brief bio: In 2002, Dr. Gib­son founded Learn­ingRx, a net­work of more than 60 cen­ters across the United States and abroad offer­ing cog­ni­tive skills test­ing and train­ing. The com­pany has been named to Fran­chise Times “Fast 55” and Fran­chise Mar­ket­ing Magazine’s “Top 100 New Fran­chises,” as well as an hon­or­able men­tion on the Fran­chise 50 list put out by Fran­chise Busi­ness Review.

To Learn more and Register: click on  2011 SharpBrains Summit . Remember that we offer friends of SharpBrains a 15% discount using discount code: sharp2011


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