Unless you live in a cave, you are well aware of all the growing interest in-and controversies around-the topics of brain fitness and brain training.
A little perspective may help separate the signal from the noise. Take a minute to think about the early years of the physical fitness movement. It took decades of conflicting research and confusing media coverage to finally spread the idea that daily life activities are far from sufficient to keep us physically fit. And, at the same time, to develop the exercise protocols, the validated assessments, the professional standards and bodies, and the overall infrastructure to support the emerging "being fit" aspiration. From those humble beginnings, health club memberships in 2013 amounted to $20+ billion dollars in annual revenues...in the US alone.
Same as with physical fitness, maintaining if not enhancing brain fitness requires a holistic approach which includes mental novelty, variety and targeted challenge. Our routine-driven daily mental activities are simply not enough. One can achieve this in multiple ways: learning and practicing a new language, mastering meditation, rotating through complex professional assignments, volunteering to run a hiking or cycling club...and, also, understanding, navigating and using the emerging technology-enabled brain fitness toolkit at our disposal.
83% of surveyed early-adopters agree that "adults of all ages should take charge of their own brain fitness, without waiting for their doctors to tell them to" and say that they "would personally take a brief assessment every year as an annual mental check-up." Not a big surprise, then, to witness the significant growth of web-based, mobile and biometrics-based solutions to assess and enhance brain function. Of note, the key question many people are asking is not "Do brain health assessments and brain training programs have perfect science behind them" but "Do they have better science than most common alternatives-solving crossword puzzle a million and one, taking "brain supplements," doing nothing at all until depression or dementia hits home?" And the answer to this question is a resounding yes.
Here are some of the most important brain fitness news in 2014, covering research, assessment and training trends. They hint at the drivers fueling growth and shaping up the emerging landscape. Hopefully, in relatively short notice, we will all benefit from a brain fitness/ brain training field as proven and valuable as the physical fitness field is today.
- In January: Rosetta Stone completes acquisition of Fit Brains creator Vivity Labs, entering fast-growing brain-training market
- In March: AARP to feature a new "Staying Sharp" membership during QVC debut
- In April: Groundbreaking online registry at UCSF to drive brain disease research
- In May: Baycrest memory experts launch 'thermometer' for the mind
- In June: Feeding the brain's curiosity helps delay Alzheimer's, study says
- In August: InteraXon teams up with Reebok & Gaiam to bring biometrics-based meditation to the masses
- In September: The Lifestyle Medicine course at Harvard Extension School adopts a new brain fitness textbook
- In October: Thync gets $13 million to send electric currents to your brain
- In October: Brain-training companies get advice from some academics, criticism from others
- In October: AnthroTronix receives FDA clearance for brain health assessment tool
- In October: 200+ experts in 16 countries gather around a virtual table to discuss and shape brain health innovation
- In November: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience completes research series on Effects of game and game-like training on neurocognitive plasticity
- In December: Apple names brain training apps "Best of 2014″ in 20+ countries
- In December: 127 scientists challenge the purported brain training "consensus" released by the Stanford Center for Longevity
As you can see, there's much going on, and much to look for in the near future.
Have a great 2015!
Alvaro Fernandez, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, runs SharpBrains.com, the leading clearinghouse tracking news and resources on neurotechnology, cognitive abilities and training, neuroplasticity, brain fitness, brain teasers and more. He is also the co-author of the acclaimed The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age (2013).