Posit Science Participating in the SharpBrains Summit in January11:05 am: This session has now concluded. That is the end of my blogging from the Sharp Brains summit. All the best, Peter.

11:04 am: Dr. Stern believes that improving executive functioning performance with training can increase cognitive reserve. Improving cognitive reserve may delay or reverse the effects of aging.

10:56 am: Now speaking is Dr. Yaakov Stern from Columbia University. He is talking about cognitive reserve which is greater in brains that are more efficient, have greater capacity and can adapt better. People with more cognitive reserve are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Cognitive reserve is associated with IQ, education, and occupation. But are we born with higher function brains with increased cognitive reserve? Can we do anything to increase our cognitive reserve? Dr. Stern says that cognitive reserve is flexible and can be improved by challenging the brain.

10:40 am: Dr. Steinerman emphasized that it is important to let all segments of the community have access to cognitive training interventions including people who are do not have much money. Many economically challenged segments of the community may particularly benefit from this type of intervention. This is important from a public health viewpoint. He echoed Alvaro’s comment of ‘brain fitness for all’.

10.33 am: Joshua Steinerman M.D. is now talking. He is an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Steinerman co-directs the Einstein-Montefiore Center for Healthy Brain Aging. He is also the scientific founder of ProGevity Neuroscience.

10:25 am: Dr. Klingberg is discussing his research. He has shown improvements in working memory in children with ADHT,  patients with stroke, young adults and pre-schoolers. In one study he showed training benefits were still apparent at the 6-month follow up date. He has also demonstrated function brain changes after training using fMRI.

10.17 am: Dr. Torkel Klingberg is now talking. Dr. Klingberg is a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the Stockholm Brain Institute. In 2001, Klingberg founded Cogmed to develop and produce working memory training programs based on his breakthrough research demonstrating that the working memory can be improved through training. He is is currently discussing the genetic basis of ADHT and dyslexia.

10:12 am: Dr. Merzenich is discussing the Brain Plasticity Institute which he recently set up to scientifically investigate prototype cognitive training interventions. He invites scientists to contact him with research ideas.

10.10 am: Dr. Merzenich believes that in the future drugs will be used to enhance the effect of cognitive training. They will be used in collaboration with cognitive training rather than alone. He believes that schizophrenia can be avoided by intensive cognitive therapy and can be most effectively addressed using cognitive training in conjunction with appropriate drug therapies.

10:08 am: Dr. Merzenich was asked if cognitive training can ever have negative effects. Dr. Merzenich replied that it is possible to change the brain in a negative direction and that is why it is important to carefully evaluate cognitive exercises.

10:05 am: One of the most impressive outcomes of Dr. Merzenich’s work are the benefits demonstrated in patients with schizophrenia. He is discussing his work with Dr. Sophia Vinogradov (UCSF/VA) and Dr. Bruce Wexler (Yale) – two leading scientists in this field who have employed Posit Science’s training programs in their studies. These scientists have demonstrated significant improvements in cognitive functioning in patients with schizophrenia. Dr. Merzenich believes the cognitive training programs will revolutionize the way maladies are treated. Unlike drugs, cognitive training have few side effects and fundamentally changes the way the brain works and therefore can prove much more effective than drugs.

10:00 am: Dr. Merzenich is reviewing studies showing the benefits of InSight visual training in normal healthy older adults.

9:56 am: Dr. Merzenich has many targets for cognitive training programs including TBI (traumatic brain injury), schizophrenia, autism, attention deficit disorder, and changes due to normal aging. He says that these maladies are due to chronic neurological changes in the brain and most can be reversed.  Dr. Merzenich is validating this claim by briefly reviewing many studies demonstrating this reversibility lab animals. This reversibility is also demonstrated in human brains – he is now talking about the IMPACT clinical trial which evaluated the Brain Fitness Program auditory training program. The results showed improved auditory processing and significantly increases in memory performance.

9:45 am: The next session is titled:  ‘How can neuroscience inform and refine mental health care’. The first speaker is Dr. Michael Merzenich. Dr. Merzenich is a co-founder of Posit Science. Here is a short bio:  ‘For more than three decades, Dr. Merzenich has been a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invented the cochlear implant. In 1996, Dr. Merzenich was the founding CEO of Scientific Learning Corporation, and in 2004 became co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and will be inaugurated into the Institute of Medicine this year.’

9:28 am: There is a short break until 9:45 am.

9:20 am: Dr. Michael Noir is now talking. He is the CEO of Scientific Brain Training/ HappyNeuron. Dr. Noir is discussing requirements for an effective cognitive training program. Clinicians who work with people with cognitive impairments need targeted condition specific solutions. His talk includes testimonials from a variety of clinicians who have used the products from his company.

9:15 am: Dr. Gazzaley mentioned that Baby Einstein videos have never been shown to benefit children and may actually harm development. Crossword puzzles have never been shown to improve memory. It is very important to evaluate cognitive interventions scientifically.

9:10 am:  Dr. Gazzaley is now talking about recent research he has done in collaboration with Posit Science to evaluate the effect of cognitive training on improving memory. He has used brain recording techniques to evaluate training for a visual discrimination task (Sweep Seeker), one of the exercises in the InSight visual training program. The results have shown significant improvements in memory due to an increased ability to suppress irrelevant information. The results have been submitted for publication.

9:08 am: The current speaker is Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California, San Francisco.  He is talking about the importance of brain imaging/recording to evaluate cognitive function. These measures include fMRI, EEG, and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). Dr. Gazzaley’ work has demonstrated that older adults decline in memory is largely due to the decreased ability to ignore distracting information. They use memory resources coding information that is not important

8:56 am: Professor Wesnes mentioned that many drugs and interventions for Alzheimers, Parkinson’s Disease and other diseases that impair cognitive function have a high failure rate in clinical trials. He believes that this is partly due to the poor choice of the battery of tests used to evaluate outcomes.

8:48 am: Professor Wesnes is a great advocate of computerized assessments particularly in combination with electrophysical measures such as EEG recordings. He is not a fan of paper/pencil tests. Cognitive assessments are beginning to be available on hand-held devices as well as on the internet. He would like cognitive assessments to be used as part of general medical evaluations by family doctors so that they can check your mental as well as physical health.

8:33 am: The next speaker is Professor Keith Wesnes who works Unitied BioSource Corporation. He holds Professorships at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK and the Brain Sciences Institute at Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia. He is talking about the characteristics of tests and assessments that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention such as cognitive training.  Assessments should be both reliable and sensitive enough to measure change. Practice effects should be taken into account.

8:30 am: Chuck commented that it can take many years for an invention to get to the market. There are four stages of development.

  1. The invention is generally ignored.
  2. The invention is opposed by many.
  3. The invention is modified and adapted by others.
  4. People who originally opposed it then take credit for the invention!

He believes that the field of cognitive training is in the third stage.

8:20 am: The kick off talk this morning is a 15 presentation by Chuck House. His talk is titled ‘Innovation, People and Technology’. Chuck House is the executive director of Media X, Stanford University’s Industry Affiliate research program on media and technology, and a senior research scholar in the Human Sciences and Technology Advanced Research division at Stanford. He recently co-authored The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business Transformation.

8:00 am: Good morning. My name is Peter Delahunt. I am Research Scientist here at Posit and will be making some comments about the morning sessions of today’s Sharp Brains Virtual Summit.  Alvaro Fernandez, the CEO of SharpBrains has just advised that the discussions will start at 8:15 am.