Archive for February, 2009

Published Study Shows Brain Exercises Improve Memory and Attention

February 17, 2009

A study to be published in the April 4, 2009 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that computerized brain exercises can improve memory and attention in older adults. 

The study, conducted by by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Mayo Clinic, found that participants who trained on The Brain Fitness Program from Posit Science more than doubled their processing speed, with an average increase of 131%. The researchers also report gains on standard measures of memory and attention of 10 years, on average.

From Posit’s press release about the study:

“The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable – and significantly larger than the gains in the control group,” said Liz Zelinski, PhD, a principal investigator for the study from the University of Southern California. “From a researcher’s point of view, this was very impressive because people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to standardized measures of memory and people noticed improvements in their lives. What this means is that cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable part of aging. Doing properly designed cognitive activities can enhance our abilities as we age.” 

“We saw gains of 4% in memory scores in the brain exercise group,” said Glenn Smith, PhD, the study’s principal investigator from the Mayo Clinic. “That may not sound like much, but it is about what an older person normally loses in a 10 year period. The lectures group saw about a 2% gain, which may sound like they did half as well; however, we look at memory on a curve, not a straight line, and a 2% gain is not something you are apt to notice in your life.” 

Posit Science is a San Francisco-based company that develops computer programs that engage the brain’s natural plasticity to improve brain health. It’s founder, Dr. Michael Merzenich, was a founder of Scientific Learning (creators of the Fast ForWord programs). And Posit Science licenses some of the patented technology behind the Fast ForWord programs for use in its Brain Fitness program.

The USC/Mayo Clinic study obviously addressed improvements in a different population from that with which Be Amazing typically works. Still, it’s great to see another published study definitively showing the improvements in brain fitness that are possible with a program based on Fast ForWord’s technology.

The full study is available online on the Web site of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The abstract is free, and the full article is available for a fee.

Where in the world is Be Amazing?

February 17, 2009

Be Amazing is based in Oakland, California. But we serve families throughout North America through our remote tutoring model. 

So where are Be Amazing families? In short, all over. California, Oregon, Texas, Missouri, Colorado… We’ve posted a map on our Web site.

School Improves Literacy Through Brain Fitness

February 9, 2009

The Salt Lake Tribune has an article today about a trial project at an area elementary school where 50 6th graders are working with Fast ForWord.

The results teachers and parents are reporting aren’t surprising to anyone who has followed Fast ForWord over the years. But what I found interesting about this pilot project was the population of students represented:

Not all the children are disabled; they were picked for the experiment from classrooms at random to represent the full spectrum of learners.

And while the test score results won’t be in for a few months, families are already noticing improvements:

“I’ve seen a real improvement in Alex’s ability to articulate what he wants, and it seems to have boosted his self-confidence,” said his grandmother, Joan Watson, who describes her grandson’s disorder simply as an inability to express emotions and thoughts.

The “money quote” comes from a teacher though:

Said 20-year teacher Dale Johnson, “I wish we could put them all into it, if you want to know the truth … I’ve seen a lot of things come and go, but this is really getting down to the nitty gritty. This will give them a foundation that will help them academically for the rest of their lives.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

Sleeping makes you smarter?

February 2, 2009

I knew there was a reason I haven’t gotten any smarter since my kids were born: I haven’t been sleeping enough! 

A recent article in Scientific American summarizes recent research into memory, concluding that:

During sleep, the brain reactivates patterns of neural activity that it performed during the day, thus strengthening the memories by long-term potentiation.

Not only that, say the authors, but:

recent discoveries show that sleep also facilitates the active analysis of new memories, enabling the brain to solve problems and infer new information.

So what does this mean for the legion of sleep-deprived parents?

… skimping on sleep stymies … crucial cognitive processes: some aspects of memory consolidation only happen with more than six hours of sleep.

That’s just great. Wait. What were we talking about?

(Hat tip to the good folks at Scientific Learning’s Brain Gain email series for alerting us to the article.)

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