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Jul 16, 2008

Einstein's Brain Game

Via MobileGames 

The Walt Disney Internet Group has released the "Einstein's Brain Game".

The game proposes 20 brain training exercises covering Einstein’s theories of relativity and ideas about the solar system. It features 4 categories - maths, memory, logic and visual coordination, as well as a bonus Sudoku puzzle game, to give the brain a thorough work-out.


Nov 25, 2007

Cognitive enhancement on BMA

The British Medical Association has just released a report on the ethical implications of using medical technology to enhance cognitive function and optimise the brain

Sep 09, 2007


Via SharpBrains 

MindFit is a software-based assessment and training program for 14 cognitive skills important for healthy aging. The software is recommended for people over 50 who want a novel and varied mental workout. The program has 21 exercises that train 14 cognitive skills.

MindFit was recently launched by Susan Greenfield, one of Britain's best-known neuroscientists

Link to BBC report

Mar 19, 2007

MindFit Clinical Trial Results Announced

NEW YORK and YOQNEAM, Israel, March 16 /PRNewswire/
For the first time, a double-blind clinical trial has shown that computer-based training improves the cognitive functions of the 50-plus crowd.

Against conventional wisdom, the computer training in MindFit(tm) cognitive skill assessment and training software, created by CogniFit, Ltd. http://www.cognifit.com), was found to improve short-term memory, spatial relations and attention focus--all skills used in driving and other daily activities that maintain our independence as we age.

The trial was conducted at the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center of Tel-Aviv University in Israel, where researchers are taking a leading role in the study of age-related disorders. During the two-year clinical trial, doctors conducted a prospective, randomized, double-blind study with active comparators of 121 self-referred volunteer participants age 50 and older. Each study participant was randomly assigned to spend 30 minutes, three times a week during the course of three months at home, using either MindFit or sophisticated computer games.

While all study participants benefited from the use of computer games, MindFit users experienced greater improvement in the cognitive domains of spatial short term memory, visuo-spatial learning and focused attention. Additionally, MindFit users in the study with lower baseline cognitive performance gained more than those with normal cognition, showing the potential therapeutic effect of home-based computer training software in those already suffering the effects of aging or more serious diseases.

"These research findings show unequivocally that MindFit, which requires no previous computer experience of users, keeps minds sharper than other computer games and software can," said Prof. Shlomo Breznitz, Ph.D., founder and president of CogniFit. "In fact, the same cognitive domains that MindFit keeps sharp are also central in most daily activities-including driving-that enable aging independently."

Breznitz continued, "These findings support CogniFit's belief that if you exercise your brain just as you do your muscles, you can build the speed and accuracy of your mental functions, significantly. 'Working out' with MindFit three times a week from the comfort of your home will yield similar results for your brain as exercising at the gym with that same frequency does for your muscles."

"We are additionally encouraged by the implications of our findings for those already below baseline in cognitive performance," said Nir Giladi, M.D., principal investigator, senior neurologist for the Department of Neurology for Tel-Aviv University's Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and faculty member in Tel-Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. "In the future, we may research MindFit's effect on Alzheimer's disease and forms of dementia."

MindFit software helps to assess and build overall cognitive skills for baby boomers, seniors and people of all ages. In other research studies, MindFit has helped users to improve their short-term memory by 18 percent. The comprehensive cognitive training program assesses, trains and enhances cognitive skills--including memory, focus, learning and concentration and safeguards overall cognitive vitality, an overall concept patented by CogniFit.

After an initial assessment session, users are encouraged to train with the software on their home PCs three times a week for 20 minutes a day. Then, MindFit provides fun, individualized training to match users' unique cognitive skill sets, changing exercises and levels to suit each individual's unique needs. No other cognitive assessment or training software product on the market has that personally tailoring technology.

Feb 25, 2007

TANGO: The Next Generation of Assitive Communication Devices



Via Medgadget 


A company called Blink Twice is developing a speech-generating device that promises to improve the way differently-abled children communicate with their world:


The tango! is an amazing communication aid that accomplishes all the amazing things you've seen in the emulation. It contains phrases, words, and spelling, all in easier-to-understand, digitally enhanced or synthesized voices. In a snap, it lets you create photo albums, do voice-morphing, and change icons using photos.

The tango! is the first speech-generating device to bring the power of mass communications and consumer electronics to the world of AAC. It combines a broad array of communication methods, such as an intuitive language hierarchy, ingenious new icons, and easy-to-access pop-ups, with the vast power of consumer electronics - like a built-in camera and voice morphing, so individuals can better match their specific communication needs with the best features to achieve them.

Dec 28, 2006

The state of mental-gymnastic

Via the BrainBlog

The New York Times has a front-page article concerning the current state of mental-gymnastic services. From the article:

Science is not sure yet, but across the country, brain health programs are springing up, offering the possibility of a cognitive fountain of youth.

From “brain gyms” on the Internet to “brain-healthy” foods and activities at assisted living centers, the programs are aimed at baby boomers anxious about entering their golden years and at their parents trying to stave off memory loss or dementia.

“This is going to be one of the hottest topics in the next five years — it’s going to be huge,” said Nancy Ceridwyn, co-director of special projects for the American Society on Aging. “The challenge we have is it’s going to be a lot like the anti-aging industry: how much science is there behind this?”


Read the full article

Dec 20, 2006

Top 25 Questions About Brain Fitness

Elkhonon Goldberg, Alvaro Fernandez and Caroline Latham (Sharpbrains) have written Brain Fitness for Sharp Brains: Your New New Year Resolution, an introductory guide to the concept, science, and practice of brain fitness

A free copy of the report can be ordered here 

Positive effects of cognitive training on daily function and cognitive abilities

Via Smart Mobs 

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published a study entitled "Long-term Effects of Cognitive Training on Everyday Functional Outcomes in Older Adults" that shows the positive effects of cognitive training on daily function and cognitive abilities.

Authors: Sherry L. Willis, PhD; Sharon L. Tennstedt, PhD; Michael Marsiske, PhD; Karlene Ball, PhD; Jeffrey Elias, PhD; Kathy Mann Koepke, PhD; John N. Morris, PhD; George W. Rebok, PhD; Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD; Anne M. Stoddard, ScD; Elizabeth Wright, PhD.

JAMA. 2006;296:2805-2814.

Context. Cognitive training has been shown to improve cognitive abilities in older adults but the effects of cognitive training on everyday function have not been demonstrated.  Objective. To determine the effects of cognitive training on daily function and durability of training on cognitive abilities. Design, Setting, and Participants. Five-year follow-up of a randomized controlled single-blind trial with 4 treatment groups. A volunteer sample of 2832 persons (mean age, 73.6 years; 26% black), living independently in 6 US cities, was recruited from senior housing, community centers, and hospitals and clinics. The study was conducted between April 1998 and December 2004. Five-year follow-up was completed in 67% of the sample. Interventions. Ten-session training for memory (verbal episodic memory), reasoning (inductive reasoning), or speed of processing (visual search and identification); 4-session booster training at 11 and 35 months after training in a random sample of those who completed training. Main Outcome Measures. Self-reported and performance-based measures of daily function and cognitive abilities. Results. The reasoning group reported significantly less difficulty in the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) than the control group (effect size, 0.29; 99% confidence interval [CI], 0.03-0.55). Neither speed of processing training (effect size, 0.26; 99% CI, –0.002 to 0.51) nor memory training (effect size, 0.20; 99% CI, –0.06 to 0.46) had a significant effect on IADL. The booster training for the speed of processing group, but not for the other 2 groups, showed a significant effect on the performance-based functional measure of everyday speed of processing (effect size, 0.30; 99% CI, 0.08-0.52). No booster effects were seen for any of the groups for everyday problem-solving or self-reported difficulty in IADL. Each intervention maintained effects on its specific targeted cognitive ability through 5 years (memory: effect size, 0.23 [99% CI, 0.11-0.35]; reasoning: effect size, 0.26 [99% CI, 0.17-0.35]; speed of processing: effect size, 0.76 [99% CI, 0.62-0.90]). Booster training produced additional improvement with the reasoning intervention for reasoning performance (effect size, 0.28; 99% CI, 0.12-0.43) and the speed of processing intervention for speed of processing performance (effect size, 0.85; 99% CI, 0.61-1.09). Conclusions. Reasoning training resulted in less functional decline in self-reported IADL. Compared with the control group, cognitive training resulted in improved cognitive abilities specific to the abilities trained that continued 5 years after the initiation of the intervention.

Link to full-text article

Link to Washington Post report about the study

Dec 15, 2006

Neuroenhancement technology: an ethical analysis


Belgian government funds researcher to study neuroenhancement:

‘Neuroenhancement technology: an ethical analysis and study of the conditions for research and clinical trials.’

A project funded by the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (G.0048.07) 01/01/2007-31/12/2010.

Aim and objectives:

The emergence of new treatments which have the capacity to profoundly alter or influence mood and cognition is considered by some as one of the most promising as well as most challenging developments of the 21st century within the life sciences (Wolp, 2002). Aside of other socially relevant aspects of current neuroscience (e.g. ‘brain reading’ ) and its technological tools (e.g. fMRI, TMS, PET), it is in particular the discussions regarding ethical and social implications of neuroenhancement technology which are giving rise to the gradual development of ‘neuroethics’. Some of the most pertinent concerns which shape this emerging domain include questions as to how this technology relates to the general goals of medicine and what the conditions for research and clinical trials should be. While the need for a thorough exploraiton of the social and ethical implications of enhancement technology is generally well acknowledged, scarce attention has gone out to the question if and under what conditions such research should be supported.

The aims of the research proposal are the following:

(1) to provide an overview of the current developments and results within neuroenhancement technology;

(2) to obtain thorough insight in the academic, social and policy debates surrounding these developments;

(3) to conduct a conceptual analysis of the conflict between ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ mental functioning and ‘enhanced’ functioning, both in terms of strictly medical as well as medical ethical standards;

(4) to conduct a comparative, medical ethical study of the conditions for acceptance of this and other forms of enhancement technology; and

(5) to apply the results obtained from the analyses to the current context of neuroenhancement technology.

Nov 06, 2006

Boosting slow oscillations during sleep potentiates memory

Via The Neurophilosopher 

Boosting slow oscillations during sleep potentiates memory

Nature advance online publication 5 November 2006

Authors: Lisa Marshall, Halla Helgadóttir, Matthias Mölle and Jan Born

There is compelling evidence that sleep contributes to the long-term consolidation of new memories. This function of sleep has been linked to slow (<1 Hz) potential oscillations, which predominantly arise from the prefrontal neocortex and characterize slow wave sleep. However, oscillations in brain potentials are commonly considered to be mere epiphenomena that reflect synchronized activity arising from neuronal networks, which links the membrane and synaptic processes of these neurons in time. Whether brain potentials and their extracellular equivalent have any physiological meaning per se is unclear, but can easily be investigated by inducing the extracellular oscillating potential fields of interest. Here we show that inducing slow oscillation-like potential fields by transcranial application of oscillating potentials (0.75 Hz) during early nocturnal non-rapid-eye-movement sleep, that is, a period of emerging slow wave sleep, enhances the retention of hippocampus-dependent declarative memories in healthy humans. The slowly oscillating potential stimulation induced an immediate increase in slow wave sleep, endogenous cortical slow oscillations and slow spindle activity in the frontal cortex. Brain stimulation with oscillations at 5 Hz—another frequency band that normally predominates during rapid-eye-movement sleep—decreased slow oscillations and left declarative memory unchanged. Our findings indicate that endogenous slow potential oscillations have a causal role in the sleep-associated consolidation of memory, and that this role is enhanced by field effects in cortical extracellular space.

Oct 30, 2006

Spoken SMS for the hearing impaired

From Textually.org

deaf tecg.jpg








According to Tokyomanga, "Japan's Ministry of Health just launched a major collaborative effort with 10+ companies and research institutes to create highly exportable, high-tech devices for people with hearing and vision disabilities, including one that will instantly translate spoken words into cell phone text messages for the hearing impaired"

Oct 26, 2006

'Tower of Babel' translator made

Re-blogged from KurzweilAI.net

A new device being created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University uses electrodes attached to the neck and face to detect the movements that occur as a person silently mouths words and phrases.

Using this data, a computer can work out the sounds being formed and then build these sounds up into words. The system is then able to translate the words into another language, which is read out by a synthetic voice.

Read the full story

Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges


Have a look at this very interesting article entitled "Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges" written by Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg. It focuses on the current state of the art in cognitive enhancement methods and consider their prospects for the near-term future. Authors also review some of ethical issues arising from these technologies.

Oct 23, 2006

Silicon retina mimics biology for a clearer view

Via KurzweilAI.net

An implantable silicon chip that faithfully mimics the neural circuitry of a real retina could lead to better bionic eyes for those with vision loss and would remove the need for a camera and external computer.

The top image shows the raw output of the retina chip, the middle one a picture processed from it and the third shows how a moving face would appear.

The chip, created by University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University researchers, measures 3.5 x 3.3 millimeters and contains 5760 silicon phototransistors, which take the place of light-sensitive neurons in a living retina. These are connected up to 3600 transistors, which mimic the nerve cells that process light information and pass it on to the brain for higher processing. There are 13 different types of transistor, each with slightly different performance, mimicking different types of actual nerve cells.

Read full article

Oct 09, 2006


Via ScienceDaily

Georgia Tech researchers are developing a wearable computing system called the System for Wearable Audio Navigation (SWAN) designed to help the visually impaired, firefighters, soldiers and others navigate their way in unknown territory, particularly when vision is obstructed or impaired. The SWAN system, consisting of a small laptop, a proprietary tracking chip, and bone-conduction headphones, provides audio cues to guide the person from place to place, with or without vision.

Read the full story on ScienceDaily

Oct 01, 2006

HiResolution Bionic Ear System

Via Medgadget

Medgadget reports that Boston Scientific has received FDA approval of its cochlear implant Harmony™ HiResolution® Bionic Ear System, a device designed for severely deaf patients.

From the press release:

Developed by the Company's Neuromodulation Group, the Harmony System delivers 120 spectral bands, 5 - 10 times more than competing systems, helping to significantly increase hearing potential and quality of life for the severe-to-profoundly deaf.

"The Harmony System represents the next generation of cochlear implant technology," said Jeff Greiner, President of Boston Scientific's Neuromodulation Group. "We have brought together unprecedented advancements in science, design and functionality for the user -- furthering our commitment to restoring hearing and improving quality of life for those living with hearing loss due to permanent inner ear or auditory nerve damage."

Designed to enhance music appreciation and improve hearing in a variety of difficult listening environments, the Harmony System couples revolutionary internal sound processing (with the optional HiRes Fidelity™ 120) with the new Harmony behind-the-ear (BTE) external sound processor. Together, the two key components of the Harmony System are designed to provide significantly enhanced spectral resolution compared to conventional systems for a more natural representation of sound to help improve patient performance...

Cochlear implant users can access soft whispers and loud sounds without adjusting dials or controls with Harmony's CD-quality processing and sophisticated dual-loop automatic gain control, helping users better appreciate music, hear in noisy environments, use the telephone, and hear sounds that are loud and soft.

In addition to the FDA approval, the Harmony HiResolution Bionic Ear System recently received approval from Health Canada and the CE mark in Europe.

According to clinical evaluation results, approximately 80 percent of the subjects reported a strong preference for the Harmony sound processor with HiRes Fidelity 120, most noting that they had improved clarity of speech and/or that environmental sounds were clearer and easier to distinguish.

The HiResolution Bionic Ear System with optional HiRes Fidelity 120 is approved in the U.S. for adults only at this time and for all patients in Canada and Europe. The product is expected to be available in early 2007.


Sep 17, 2006

Brain-training software

Via Videogame workout 

The latest BusinessWeek has an interesting report on brain training software. Although there is poor scientific evidence of the effectiveness of this approach in improving brain function, preliminary findings are encouraging:

This summer Posit released two studies [of their $395 Brain Fitness program] that Merzenich says prove its worth. One, involving 182 healthy people 60 and over, assigned half the group to Posit's brain exercises for eight weeks. The rest were asked only to watch educational DVDs. The researchers found that 93% of the Brain Fitness group significantly improved their memory function, while the control group did not.

In a second study released this summer, Posit's program was tried on 45 people diagnosed with MCI. PET scans of the brains of 15 participants were taken before and after the study. There was some evidence of memory gains in the Brain Fitness group, and the PET scans revealed a decline in brain activity in those who did not use the brain exercises. Brain activity held steady for the rest. "We've seen 80-year-old people improve from being sluggish and slow to having the mental performance level of a 35-year-old," says Merzenich.

Sep 06, 2006

Augmented reality may help people with visual impairment

Via NewScientist.com 

Eli Peli, an ophthalmologist and bioengineer at Harvard Medical School in Boston, has designed an augmented reality device to help patients with tunnel vision, a condition which narrows a person’s field of view.

The system, consisting of glasses fitted with a small camera and a transparent display on one lens, works by superimposing computer-generated images over real scenes.

According to preliminary test results, which will be reported in the September issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, patients who tried the system were able to search objects far more quickly.

Read the original article  

Aug 21, 2006

SWAN System to Help Blind Navigate Environment

Via Medgadget

Graduate student demos SWAN

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a system (dubbed SWAN) that can guide people with or without vision through a difficult terrain. The SWAN system, consisting of a small laptop, a proprietary tracking chip, and bone-conduction headphones, provides audio cues to guide the person from place to place, with or without vision.


From the press release

“We are excited by the possibilities for people who are blind and visually impaired to use the SWAN auditory wayfinding system,” said Susan B. Green, executive director, Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. “Consumer involvement is crucial in the design and evaluation of successful assistive technology, so CVI is happy to collaborate with Georgia Tech to provide volunteers who are blind and visually impaired for focus groups, interviews and evaluation of the system.”

In an unusual collaboration, Frank Dellaert, assistant professor in the Georgia Tech College of Computing and Bruce Walker, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Psychology and College of Computing, met five years ago at new faculty orientation and discussed how their respective areas of expertise — determining location of robots and audio interfaces — were complimentary and could be married in a project to assist the blind. The project progressed slowly as the researchers worked on it as time allowed and sought funding. Early support came through a seed grant from the Graphics, Visualization and Usability (GVU) Center at Georgia Tech, and recently Walker and Dellaert received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further develop SWAN.


Researchers discuss SWAN system

Dellaert’s artificial intelligence research focuses on tracking and determining the location of robots and developing applications to help robots determine where they are and where they need to go. There are similar challenges when it comes to tracking and guiding robots and people. Dellaert’s robotics research usually focuses on military applications since that is where most of the funding is available.

“SWAN is a satisfying project because we are looking at how to use technology originally developed for military use for peaceful purposes,” says Dellaert. “Currently, we can effectively localize the person outdoors with GPS data, and we have a working prototype using computer vision to see street level details not included in GPS, such as light posts and benches. The challenge is integrating all the information from all the various sensors in real time so you can accurately guide the user as they move toward their destination.”


Aug 18, 2006

Using TMS to enhance peripheral vision

Via Medgadget 

He drew the short straw

Christian Ruff, Jon Driver and colleagues at University College London have succesfully used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to sharpen peripheral visual perception. Results of their experiment were published in the August 8th issue of Current Biology (full text .pdf of the article is available on the Current Biology site)

From the Press Release:

In their new work, the researchers used trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to trigger a chain of activity in specific parts of the brain, while the activity was measured with a scanner. In this way, they were able to show that stimulating a particular region of the frontal cortex that is normally involved in generating eye movements can change activity in visual cortex, almost as though an eye movement had been made (even though the eye itself stayed still).

Perceptual tests confirmed that this brain stimulation had the effect of enhancing peripheral vision, as if people could now see better out of the corner of their eye.

Brain stimulation with TMS is beginning to be used in the treatment of various neurological conditions, including those, such as the after-effects of a stroke, that can impair vision. The technical breakthrough reported by the UCL group means that it is now possible to study the underlying brain activity triggered by TMS, both in the healthy brain and in patients with brain damage.