Posit Science Participating in the SharpBrains Summit in JanuaryEd. Note: We are live blogging selected sessions of this year’s SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Retooling Brain Health for the 21st Century.

12:03 PM: This session has wrapped up. We’ll be back live blogging tomorrow for a couple of sessions, including Michael Merzenich on “Past, Present, and Future of Applied Neuroplasticity” at 8 AM, and a panel at 12:45 PM entitled “Beyond the Controversy: Defining ‘Brain Training’ and Its Applications.” Thanks for joining today!

11:55 AM: Margaret Morris of Intel is beginning her presentation. She’s a clinical psychologist working in health innovation. She works on embedded assessments, feedback tools, and Facebook and phone apps for behavior change and psychotherapy.

You can see some of her projects on the web:

  • Mobile therapy: http://www.jmir.org/2010/2/e10
  • Embedded Assessment: http://www.intel.com/technology/itj/2007/v11i1/7-heart-mind/1-abstract.htm
  • Facebook for behavior change: http://apps.facebook.com/helpfrommyfriends
  • Social networks as health feedback displays: http://tinyurl.com/social-networks-for-health

She is very hopeful about the promise of embedding monitoring and assessments into social networking tools and mobile phones. What is an embedded assessment? It’s a way of tying monitoring to coaching

11:42 AM: Dr. Reiner says that his center is looking at different ways to approach brain health and brain fitness–pharmacological approaches, brain exercise, etc. One thing they’ve found is that using peer pressure may be a good way to enhance cognitive abilities.They’re gathering data on this via survey right now.

They ask people to answer questions about different scenarios to gauge their interest in cognitive enhancement via computer-based brain training exercise or a drug. When they ask how likely people are to use the pill or the software, they see that people are significantly more likely to use the software than the drug. When they add a peer pressure effect into the scenario and ask people about the pill vs. software, they see that people are still more likely to use the software than the drug, and more people overall are likely to use either.

Then they ask if people feel pressured to use the pill or software. In all cases, people reported feeling pressured. Then they ask if people are BOTHERED by the pressure, and interestingly, people only report feeling much more bothered by the pressure for the pill than the software.

Conclusions: People are more likely to use software than drugs to enhance cognitive abilities. People sense peer pressure (explicit or implicit) to use enhancements. People are not terribly bothered by the peer pressure for either, even less bothered by software.

11:28 AM: Alexandra Morehouse notes that AAA has had great success working with Posit Science’s DriveSharp program for their auto insurance members.

Question: what can we do to make brain health sexy? Mahncke says it would be great if we could make smarts as sexy as physical fitness…

On that note, Peter B. Reiner from the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia is beginning his presentation.

11:23AM: Moderator Alexandra Morehouse congratulates Dr. Henry Mahncke on his new position as CEO. He begins his presentation and thanks Alvaro and Sharp Brains.

Mahncke notes that the mission of Posit Science is to bring the science of brain plasticity out of the lab and into the real world. The goal is to help people improve their cognitive function and stay sharp throughout their lives.

He says that 15 years ago, while getting his PhD in neuroscience, no one would have guessed that brain fitness would be such a big industry. But we can look at the analogy of physical fitness and cognitive fitness–physical fitness has changed a great deal over the past several decades. Now many people do physical fitness! He shows a slide of several world leaders out jogging and sweating to prove the point. He also notes that some of the most successful brands in the current era are fitness brands like Nike. As well, insurers give discounts to people who work out.

Another analogy might be heart health and brain health–think of pacemakers and surgery that can now cure people of their congestive failure, vs. the past where people didn’t understand enough about it or how to fix it.

Moving to the evolution of brain health, let’s imagine how backwards phrenology was. Mahncke believes that future generations may look back on this time as the Dark Ages of brain fitness. He notes that it’s difficult in this early era to “separate the wheat from the chaff” in terms of what kind of brain interventions are efficacious. He believes we’ll undergo big changes in the area of brain health like those that were seen in physical fitness and heart health.

In the future, it will be WEIRD if you DON’T do brain fitness.

Three predictions for what brain fitness will be like in the near future:

  1. Consumers will like free, and love getting paid. Products now are too expensive and they aren’t covered by health insurance. Some auto insurers work with Posit Science to pay their members to take DriveSharp or InSight which have been proven to reduce auto accidents.
  2. Consumers will assume brain fitness will be compelling and addictive–like Farmville or other popular games. Not necessarily fun, but addictive and viral.
  3. Consumers will segment and have different demands, eg doctor prescribed, people who have good intentions but might not use it as much, people who are really into it (like with exercise), and so forth.

He ends by saying “let’s not guess the future–let’s build it!”

11:00 AM: Robin Klaus of Club One begins his presentation. He says there is a widely known positive relationship between exercise and cognitive function–exercise improves cognition, might prevent AD, help working memory. Complex exercise is better than simple.

As a percent of the adult population, the amount of exercisers has not changed in 20 years. Total exercisers have moved up with population growth, but the percentage is flat. Older people today are more physically active than previously, and also more computer literate.

The savvy older consumer wants age-appropriate information. They also want online and offline tools to measure progress. They look to fitness clubs for total wellness, including diet, medical (including brain) fitness, etc.

Ideas: exercise equipment with embedded cognitive enhancement games? Virtual reality? Specialized one-on-one training in fitness centers? Development of small exercise and brain fitness centers, a la “Curves” for seniors?

10:54 AM: In the Q&A portion, Gaskins says that the most popular thing sold at Marbles is Buckyballs! Now Robin Klaus, Chairman and CEO of Club One, is beginning his presentation, focused more on physical fitness.

10:48 AM: Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store begins her presentation. Their customers have four main areas of interest: improving at mental math, job interview, remembering names, learning a new language. Marbles uses playful and fun language because they feel this tone is more effective than using terms like “fitness” or “exercise”.

Gaskins talks about some issues with pricing and working with partners. She notes that many products are for seniors or kids but may be missing the market share of 30-50 year olds.

She assumed most people would be interested in memory, but in fact their sales break down like this:

  • 33% coordination
  • 20% visual perception
  • 18% critical thinking
  • 14% memory
  • 11% word skills
  • 3% brain education

Combining Posit Science’s two programs InSight and Brain Fitness Program, Posit Science has the largest market share at 16% total (9% InSight 7 % BFP). There is a stress product (emWave) that also does well, and a math product (Brainetics) with 15% each.

10:32 AM: The panel entitled “Anticipating Future Demands of Savvy Consumers” is starting.

This session is moderated by Alexandra Morehouse of AAA North California. The panelists are:

  • Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store
  • Robin Klaus, Chairman, Club One
  • Dr. Henry Mahncke, Posit Science
  • Dr. Peter Reiner, Co-Founder National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia
  • Margaret Morris, Senior Researcher, Intel’s Digital Health Group