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Brain fitness software market -- consumer fear and hope outpace research

A market research firm, SharpBrains, which bills itself as "The Brain Fitness Authority," has posted a product evaluation checklist for determining whether a brain or cognitive fitness software product  is the 'right' product for you. By the way, SharpBrains estimates this software market was $225 million in 2007. You, in that checklist, could be an individual consumer using Nintendo's Brain Age or a professional trying to improve the cognitive health of Alzheimer's or dementia sufferers -- like Alzheimer's Australia has done with technology from Posit Science.

But listen to this. SharpBrains' Alvero Fernandez did an interview with Professor Arthur Kramer, a U of Illinois professor of perception and performance. Here's one of his comments: "Let me add, given all media hype, that no “brain game” in particular has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the maintenance of cognition across extended periods of time. It is too early for that-and consumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some companies are being more science-based than others but, in my view, the consumer-oriented field is growing faster than the research is."

Hmmm. This is the striking opposite of much of the rest of the market for aging in place technology -- where the research initiatives are outpacing the technology market entrants.  For seniors,and those who care for them, perhaps brain fitness technology investment is to games as triathalon training is to a walk in the park? One is a major commitment of time and intensive effort, the other is just fun. I think everyone would agree that any game (like any of the Ninendo Wii games now popping up everywhere in senior housing) or tool that that gets people mentally engaged and sharpens their focus -- this can't be bad. And I wonder if the growth rate of the consumer market for brain fitness software (versus games) is based on a mixture of fear and hope.  Fear of aging and mental decline -- and hope (however unfounded in long-term proof) that using the software will delay or defer that decline.

Your thoughts?

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