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Brain Plasticity (Posit Science) greatly improves speed, recall

Henry Lahore started exploring Brain Fitness software Aug 13, 2009

Continuing to use Posit Science 2023 GREAT!!

Their "claim" = using the software for 1 hour per week for 10 weeks reduces the chance of accident by 50% for 2 years.

Taking Software For Older Drivers On a Quick Spin - WSJ Aug 2009

by Walter S. Mossberg NYT Aug 11 2009

If your driving is getting a bit worse as you grow older, it may be because of a natural decline in the brain’s ability to process visual information. Some scientists believe that, as people age, their capability to rapidly grasp and act on what their eyes see can degrade. And one of the activities most affected is driving, a task that demands you simultaneously track multiple moving objects, often at the edge of your field of vision. The decline of this capability may be one of the reasons the elderly have to stop driving.

But this problem doesn’t affect only the oldest people. Some experts say that the speed and accuracy of the brain’s visual processing can begin to gradually decline in middle age or even earlier. Now there’s a software program, for both PCs and Macs, that claims it can “train the brain to think and react faster on the road” by putting a user through brief, repetitive exercises aimed at bolstering his or her visual-processing prowess.

It’s called DriveSharp, and is from a San Francisco-based company called Posit Science (positscience.com), which also produces other brain-training programs. DriveSharp isn’t a driving simulator, but a pair of simple-looking visual memory games, plus assessment tests, that Posit Science says are based on published scientific research.

The company says it purchased a training technique that researchers have proven to be effective at improving visual processing. Posit Science makes some strong claims for DriveSharp.

It asserts that people who use the program as directed (at least three times a week for 20 minutes at a time) can cut their “crash risk” by 50% and stop their cars 22 feet sooner at 55 miles per hour. It says these users can expand by 200% their “useful field of view,” the area within which you can take in details with a single glance.

And the company adds that, if you use DriveSharp as instructed for a total of 10 hours, its positive effects can last for several years. To back up these claims, Posit Science cites a number of scientific studies and articles published in well-known journals.

I’ve been testing the DriveSharp software, which costs $139 at the company’s Web site, or $99 from participating AAA Clubs. (The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has endorsed the product.)

My verdict is that it was easy to use, and it did indeed work on my ability to rapidly recall the color and position of multiple moving objects and of objects on the periphery of my vision. It intelligently adjusted to my performance, and gradually presented me with tougher tasks.

However, two major caveats are in order. First, I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, so I can’t vouch for the company’s claims about DriveSharp’s benefits or even the underlying problem it aims to alleviate. Secondly, I wasn’t able to test DriveSharp long enough to know if it actually made me a better driver.
When you first install the product, you are required to set up an account so your progress can be tracked. The software checks your computer’s video capability, suggests a distance you should sit back from the screen, and changes your screen resolution to one it deems optimal for the training. It then plays an introductory video explaining how it works. Your first step for each of the two exercises is to take a tough assessment test to establish a baseline from which your progress is measured.

DriveSharp doesn’t tell you how you’re progressing after every session, only after you take another assessment, which isn’t recommended until you’ve put in a few hours of work with the software. The first of the two exercises in DriveSharp is called Jewel Diver.

This game aims to train you to divide your attention so you can track multiple moving objects at once. Your goal is to locate colored “jewels” that have been covered by identical opaque objects and surrounded by decoys, all of which then move around. Over time, you have to find more jewels, and they move faster, for longer periods and over larger areas.

The second exercise is called Road Tour and is designed to expand your useful field of view. The exercise involves correctly recalling a car displayed in the middle of a circle and also a particular road sign, among many, near the edge of that same circle. These objects flash in front of you very quickly and are then hidden.

Again, the test gets harder over time. Both exercises are sensitive to your progress. If you’re doing well, they get tougher faster. If you’re struggling, they revert to simpler challenges for a while. I saw both of these behaviors in my tests. I did encounter a few annoyances.

For instance, a bug fix required me to re-install the entire program, not just a patch. And the company automatically emails you “newsletters” once you establish your account.

But, even though I am not endorsing Posit Science’s claims, I can say that DriveSharp was fun and challenging, and that it makes sense to this layman that it could help you notice and track things you see more accurately. Find all of Walt Mossberg’s columns and videos online, free, at the All Things Digital Web site, walt.allthingsd.com. Email him at mossberg at wsj.com.

Article in Seattle Times Aug 13 2009

Brain-fitness companies applying neuroscience to make safer drivers

By Richard Seven Seattle Times Aug 13 2009 same day as Wall St Journal article

Young drivers cause accidents mainly through carelessness, distraction and inexperience. Older drivers face a challenge: brains that work at slower processing speeds — a critical disadvantage when navigating the unpredictable traffic world.

Neuroscientists are taking aim at both groups with "brain fitness" computer programs they say can hone the cognitive skills that come in most handy while behind the wheel.

Last month, Posit Science released a computer program that exercises brain systems involved with "divided attention" and "useful field of vision." And this month, another company, CogniFit, is releasing an online program targeting new drivers.

Brain fitness has become big business.
SharpBrains, a market-research company that focuses on cognitive-fitness research and trends, says the industry sold about $265 million of computer-based products to U.S. customers in 2008, up from $100 million in 2005.

"The applications range from what schools buy for kids with cognitive-related learning difficulties to what senior-housing facilities buy for residents, and programs that help assess and/or train cognitive functions," said SharpBrains CEO Alvro Fernandez. "There are over 50 companies in the space."
Using the technology to make better drivers is a niche that makes sense with 34,999 fatal crashes in the U.S. last year.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety feels strongly enough about the research behind the DriveSharp program that it sells it.

"We are very careful about putting our name behind a product," said J. Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the foundation. "But we believe in this program because it concentrates on the brain functions shown to be most relevant to driving. This is a tool to intervene and actually improve performance — or at least delay problems."

Delaying problems is especially important because drivers over 65 are also considered higher accident risks and they will account for about 25 percent of all drivers in the U.S. by 2025.

Posit Science says its program is based on research that showed specific training could help drivers see more, react faster and dramatically cut at-fault crash risk.

One of the key points of emphasis is "useful field of view," which represents the swath from which a person can extract information in a single glance without moving his or her head or eyes.

The concept was developed by University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Karlene Ball and a team of researchers. Posit Science acquired technology and incorporated it into its DriveSharp exercises.

CogniFit, an Israeli company with its U.S. headquarters in Seattle, has marketed driving programs targeting seniors. In a few weeks it will be rolling out one for new drivers. It will include training for 10 skills, including response time, changing plans, distance estimation and divided attention.

Teens make up 7 percent of the driving population but account for 12 percent of the accidents.
CogniFit President Shlomo Breznitz says previous versions of this software have been in use by the largest driving schools in the U.K. and Canada.
"The brains of new drivers have to acquire new skills that take time to develop," he said. "Typically, they take about two years of driving, as witnessed by accident records all over the world. By actively training these skills the time needed for the brain to achieve the same level of expertise is shortened. This shortens the extremely high risk period of new drivers."
While Posit sells its program on a DVD, for $99 up to $139, CogniFit does its testing and coaching online with packages of 12, 18 or 24 sessions of training, depending on the initial assessment. Packages range from $19.95 per month to $99 for six months.
Fernandez, of SharpBrains, whose company has produced "The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness," ( www.sharpbrains.com/book )to help decipher claims and research, sees several reasons behind the explosion of brain fitness.
Research that shows the brain's neuroplasticity — its ability to change — in adulthood requires repetitive, targeted exercises. With more research and public acceptance of the applications, more companies have jumped in and explored niches. Funding and research has followed.
The demand has increased, thanks mainly to aging boomers and seniors keen on improving mental acuity as a way to maintain quality of life.
Industry experts like Fernandez note that consumers struggle with big claims (like "lower your brain age!") but Kissinger believes programs targeting the brain skills needed to keep drivers safe is as common sense that there is.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

DriveSharp: www.drivesharpnow.com/wa
CogniFit: www.cognifit.com
SharpBrains: www.sharpbrains.com

Highlights from Industry Study of Brain Fitness Marketplace- 2009

The report tracks developments at over 20 public and private companies offering tools to assess and train brain functions and provides important industry data, insights and analysis to help investors, executives, entrepreneurs, and policy makers navigate the opportunities and risks of this rapidly growing market. The report discusses the implications of cognitive science on healthy aging, education, peak performance, and a number of disorders such as attention deficits, dyslexia, stroke and traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. The report also provides information and frameworks to help institutional buyers make informed partnering and purchase decisions.
Top Highlights from The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009 Report

  • 1) Growth market: Consumers, seniors’ communities and insurance providers drove year on year sustained growth, from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008. Revenues may reach between $1 billion to $5 billion by 2015, depending on how important problems (Public Awareness, Navigating Claims, Research, Health Culture, Lack of Assessment) are addressed.
  • 2) Increased interest and confusion: 61% of respondents Strongly Agree with the statement “Addressing cognitive and brain health should be a healthcare priority.” But, 65% Agree/Strongly Agree “I don't really know what to expect from products making brain claims.”
  • 3) Investment in R&D seeds future growth: Landmark investments by insurance providers and government-funded research institutes testing new brain fitness applications planted new seeds for future growth.
  • 4) Becoming standard in residential facilities: Over 700 residential facilities – mostly Independent and Assisted Living facilities and CCRCs – have installed computerized cognitive training programs.
  • 5) Customer satisfaction: Consumers seem more satisfied with computer-based products than paper-based options. But, satisfaction differs by product. When asked “I got real value for my money”, results were as follows: Lumosity.com (65% Agree), Puzzle Books (60%), Posit Science (52%), Nintendo (51%) agreed. Posit Science (53% Agree) and Lumosity.com (51%) do better than Puzzle Books (39%) and Nintendo (38%) at “I have seen the results I wanted.”
  • 6) Assessments: Increasing adoption of computer-based cognitive assessments to baseline and track cognitive functions over time in military, sports, and clinical contexts. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America now advocates for widespread cognitive screenings after 65-75.
  • 7) Specific computerized cognitive training and videogames have been shown to improve brain functions, but the key questions are, “Which ones”, and “Who needs what when?”
  • 8) Aggressive marketing claims are creating confusion and skepticism, resulting in a distracting controversy between two misleading extremes: (a) “buying product XYZ can rejuvenate your brain Y years” or (b) “those products don’t work; just do one more crossword puzzle.” The upcoming book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness aims to help consumers navigate these claims.
  • 9) Developers can be classified into four groups, based on our Market and Research Momentum analysis: we find 4 Leaders, 8 High Potentials, 3 Crosswords 2.0, and 6 Wait & See companies.
  • 10) Increased differentiation: Leading companies are better defining their value proposition and distribution channels to reach specific segments such as retirement communities, schools, or healthcare providers.

Ordered book from Amazon Aug 13, 2009
The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp
Update" Posit Science is far beyond the competition
Bought DriveSharp software Aug 20. As of Sept 3, 2009 it is fun to use, seems to help.
Strongly considering buying more software from the same company.
Testing of the results of the use of the new software shows an improvement of memory of a 65 year old to being that of a 45 year old.

Oct 15
Judy has had excellent success with DriveSharp
We will be buying the full package very soon (Nov)
Reading lots of material on brain plasticity - such as excellent 2007 book The Brain That Changes Itself"

Nov 7 2009
Have listened to book The Brain That Changes Itself" twice now (2nd time at high speed)
Excellent - scores of examples where brains have had wonderful recoveries

  • recover 47 years after a stroke,
    • recover from stroke so much as to be able to teach and climb mountains after a stroke which had damaged 97% of the brain motor controls
  • get most of the usage of hand or arm back after a stroke in just 3 weeks,
  • reverse aphasia in weeks,
  • perform surgery on a "phantom limb" (1997 book on Phantom Limbs)
  • 4 year old child with Cerebral Palsy recovered so much that he got onto the baseball all-star team by age 6

quickly cure many types of tinnitus

Nov 16
I am amazed at what has been done with Brain Plasticity. and that this had not been rapidly taken up by the medical profession, etc.
A few highlights:
DRIVESHARP: half life from 10 hours of training is 5 years
Allstate tried giving DriveSharp free to all of its drivers in a single state.
it provided so much decrease in accidents that in 2010 Allstate will provide drivesharp to all US customers over the age of 60
100,000 US kids have now used software to improve their brains
The software so far has been used on disabled: children, seniors, stroke patients, etc.
They are just getting started on having non-disabled use it.
Posit Science hopes that it will be applied in the US soon, but expects that US will wait till after Japan, Korea, and China show its benefits to the general population.
Rats which were given learning environments in the month before normal death lived much longer and became healthier
Posit Science wants to apply the same benefits to people.

  • London taxicab drivers have been known to develop bigger brains
    • In just 1 year after getting GPS taxicab drivers brains have been shown to shrink back to the normal size - use it or lose it

We purchased a 2 user version of both of their software packages and have started to use it.
Jan 5, 2010 Have had great improvement with the Posit Science software. We are using it about 4 hours per week. Just starting the 14th of 40 lessons on the first CD.
Have noticed great improvements in remembering things: example: where I left my keys, glasses, etc.
Able to hear conversations in noisy environments far better (currently the program is having me identify sounds which are just 1/30 of a second long)
For many years I have used software to speed up speech and videos - to save time. (I currently use the free VLC media player)
In the past the upper limit for speed-up was 1.5X. I am now able to use a 2X speedup factor. Looking forward to listening/watching at a 3X speedup - like a blind person does at Google

Summer 2010 The Posit Science programs continue to challenge. About when I am able to sustain about 80% success rate on a task the task become a little harder. Depending on the task it becomes: faster, smaller, quieter, further, dimmer, less contrasty, more similar, etc.
Dec 30, 2010
Just about finished the program. Have liked it so much that I continued to use it about 3 times per week for the entire year. The second, newer CD suggested only 40 minutes a day instead of 60 - much nicer. Have met my goal of listening to videos at the 3X speedup, any typically use 2X to 2.5X. Feel far more confident with traffic when driving or on my bike. Am able to see things much more quickly - an extremely short glance is enough - perhaps a 30 year improvement. Many people go thru the exercises again after a delay of a year or so. Unless Posit Science comes out with new program I will do the same. I am now 64 years old, but my brain feels like it did in my early 50's. = at least 10 years improvement!

March, 2011 I am nearly at the end of both programs. Am able to watch a video at 3X faster when I can see the speakers lips and about 2X otherwise. Looking forward to restarting Posit from the beginning very soon.
There was another review in Mossberg in WSJ March 23, 2011 This time they looked at Dakim and Lumosity
http://www.sharpbrains.com/ wrote the book which reviewed the Brain Fitness programs in 2009 - and as of March 2011 I do not see anything like it. They have up-to-date information on their website.

Example - show 8 objects for a short time, go blank and then show the image with 9 objects - which is the new one?

As your brain gets better at the task, the program:
1) Increases the number of objects shown
2) Decreases the time that they are shown
3) Decreases the contrast between the object and the background
I am able to get to about 17 objects shown for 0.05 seconds with low contrast
This is just one of perhaps 50 different types of braining training tasks

Their list of benefits (2023)

Examples of amazing increase in
Ability to remember where I last saw an object at home
Ability to view a video at 3X speed so long as I can see the speaker's lips moving
Ability to glance at a traffic scene and see all details in <0.2 second
Ability to remember studies: >10,000 in VitaminDWiki
Ability to remember what was discussed in an hour-long conversation
   age 77 - Sept 2023

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