Using Digital Tools to Channel our Minds: Staying Sharp

Bonnie Feldman, Digital Health Analyst & Bus Development Consultant

By Bonnie Feldman, Ellen M. Martin, Melinda Speckmann

First posted on Dr. Bonnie 360 1/2/2014


Digital games can help us stay sharp by exercising different parts of the mind, including short and long-term memory, speed, accuracy and efficiency in processing information and solving problems.

The market for brain games is still in its infancy, with emerging companies taking three different slants toward market development.
1. Capture the consumer market and exploit the data generated by users.

Lumosity has captured 50 million consumers by creating engaging games with fun user interfaces. The program includes:

  • A personalized brain-training program that allows users to choose which cognitive functions they want to improve.
  • More than 40 games that test memory, attention, flexibility, speed of processing, and problem solving.
  • Machine-learning algorithms that find the sweet spot – not too hard and not easy- for the user, making the questions just right.

The Human Cognition Project (HCP) has built a database of 1 billion gameplays from those 50 million users of Lumosity to better understand how to improve their brain-training program.

  • The HCP has completed 15 peer-reviewed studies that show the benefits of using Lumosity including:
    • relationship between the use of Lumosity and cognition,
    • validity of the Brain Performance test compared to other intelligence tests,
    • improving everyday life in different demographics and age,
    • learning improvement in the mentally handicapped.
  • There are currently 38 ongoing studies.

2. Start with research and then use output to build a brain assessment and training program for the consumer market.

Brain Resource started with the Brain Resource International Database (BRID), the largest integrated and standardized brain database in the world to measure both healthy and diseased brains.

Features include:

  • Integration of 50,000 data sets from screening questionnaires, cognitive assessments, genetic profiles and MRI and fMRI scans
  • 5,000 healthy controls from ages 6 to 100 years
  • 1000 subjects with diagnoses such as depression, schizophrenia and mild cognitive impairment
  • Standardized measurements and procedures that allow the comparison of brain function across disease state.

Ongoing research includes:

  • BRISC, an online questionnaire that identifies possible mental diseases as well as coping ability. (i.e. depression)
  • WebNeuro assesses a person’s cognitive ability and efficiency, and then sends a report to the patient’s clinician.
  • International Studies to Predict Optimized Treatment Response (iSPOT) are two global studies to identify biomarkers and develop companion diagnostics to better diagnose and treat depression and ADHD.

Commercialize the outcomes of the research into a brain assessment and training program for corporate wellness programs.

  • MyBrainSolutions is a brain-training program with 24 games to help improve cognitive and emotional functioning.
  • Through monitored breathing, MyCalmBeat program trains users to decrease heart rate and better control stress.

3. Start with research and focus first on products for the professional market.

CogniFit, provides scientific assessments and brain training programs to professionals and consumers.

  • 50 different kinds of assessments and training tasks.
  • Measures 25 key cognitive skills such as working memory, eye-hand coordination, concentration and response time to personalize the experience.
  • Global availability in more than 13 languages
  • professional platform

Ongoing research is generating data collected from its users to improve the product.

These examples show three different approaches to building this market. Lumosity began with an engaging front end and is now enriching the data back end. Brain Resource began with data and is adapting their training for the corporate health and wellness market. Cognifit is a hybrid, using its initial data to create products for the professional market but with consumers targeted through providers.

Can these collective new data sources for brain training ignite a growing market for personalized learning?

Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA
As principal of DrBonnie360, Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA brings a unique triple lens to her consulting, speaking, and writing. She combines her expertise as an entrepreneurial dentist, a Wall Street analyst, and a digital health consultant to always ask the questions of how new digital tools and data can help each of us. She interviewed more than 200 digital health companies and attended over 60 meetings. DrBonnie360 is an invited speaker for SXSW, Stanford Medicine X, Bio-IT, Data to Drugs to Diagnostics, StrataRx, Games for Health, the Center for Connected Health, the NY eCollaborative Digital Health Summit, the mHealth Summit, and Ideas LA. Her work is featured in Medium, O’Reilly Strata, Greatist, Forbes and The Doctor Weighs In. DrBonnie360’s recent multimedia work spotlights, “The Invisible Epidemic of Autoimmune Disease,” “The Lonely Voices of Autoimmune Disease,” and “Bridging the Autoimmune Abyss Through New Discoveries.” Using company interviews, extensive scientific literature reviews, and an analysis of the conventional and integrative care landscape, DrBonnie360 uncovers a large and growing need in the autoimmune community. She is working with forward-thinking companies to apply new data and digital tools to reshape research, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of autoimmune disease. She welcomes collaborative partners in this initiative.


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