What does Posit Science do?
Posit Science works with a global team of scientists to build scientifically validated, non-invasive programs for improving brain health. These practical tools act on breakthroughs in the science of brain plasticity–the ability of the brain to change itself at any age. Unlike other companies that exercise memory directly, our brain training exercises focus on the brain’s diverse systems and target the roots of memory, thinking, attention, focus, and much more. You can find our products at BrainHQ.com.
When and why was Posit Science founded?
Posit Science was founded (as Neuroscience Solutions Corporation) in July 2002 to develop brain health programs based on the latest advances in neuroscience research. We strive to move technologies out of the laboratories and into the hands of people, where they can do the most good. The company received its first round of venture financing and began operations on October 1, 2003. The name was changed to Posit Science in late 2004.
Is the company affiliated with a university or other institution?
No, not directly. However, most members of our Scientific Advisory Board are professors at leading universities around the globe, including: Cambridge University (Great Britain); the Institute for Language and Speech (Greece); Johns Hopkins University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Riken Brain Science Institute (Japan); Rutgers University; Stanford University; the University of California at San Francisco; the University of Konstanz (Germany); the University of Texas; the Weizmann Institute (Israel); Yale University and others.
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Why did the company choose the name Posit Science?
The name Posit Science suits us. Posit means “to put forward or advance” and that’s really the way we work. Our global team of scientists uses recent breakthroughs in neuroscience to help us invent and test new approaches to improving brain health. Posit also reflects our hope to make a positive change in people’s lives. Science is at the center of what we do. Our programs are rooted in rigorous scientific research and are validated in studies with the foremost researchers from universities around the world.
What needs or issues do the programs address?
Our programs are designed to keep people sharp, vital and independent even as they grow older. There is also ongoing research in specific clinical conditions. Ultimately, we intend for our offerings to expand to cover an even broader range of cognitive concerns.
Who typically faces age-related cognitive change?
Most people experience significant decline in cognitive abilities as they age. It is a natural and predictable part of aging, characterized by progressive troubles with memory, communication and other cognitive abilities. The experience of such decline may begin with occasional forgetfulness in one’s thirties, with the rate of decline accelerating after age 50.
Can I personally do anything about predictable age-related decline?
Yes. People can assert a degree of control over predictable, decade-by-decade decline. The brain is highly adaptive, and the right activities can make a huge difference. These activities must challenge the brain to stay sharp. Doing the exercises at BrainHQ.com is the most important step to take. We have information on a wealth of other brain-healthy lifestyle choices, too.
How many people are affected by these issues?
There are already more than 75 million Americans age 50 and older. More than 35 million Americans are now over the age of 65, and, with the aging of the “Baby Boomers,” there will be more than 70 million Americans over age 65 by 2030.
What scientific support do the company and its programs have?
Substantial science stands behind everything we do. Our core scientific expertise is in neuroplasticity, a subfield of neuroscience. It’s an exciting and forward-thinking discipline. Scientists who specialize in neuroplasticity are pushing the edge of the scientific frontier to discover and share new ways to improve cognitive health. We have the active participation of dozens of respected neuroscientists (specialists in neuroplasticity and others) as well as neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychophysicists and experts in aging from all over the world.
What core issues of brain health do the programs address?
Our programs engage the brain’s natural plasticity (its ability to change and adapt) to improve and sharpen the learning processes in the brain as they relate to six areas of focus: Memory, Attention, Brain Speed, People Skills, Intelligence, and Navigation. The definition of learning in this context is broad. It includes skills that people normally think of as innate, such as learning to separate background noise from important sounds, understanding fast or mumbled speech, being able to see details quickly and accurately, and other tasks.
Science: Brain Plasticity
What is neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, is the brain’s ability to change physically — creating new neural pathways and connections — in response to new learning or stimuli. These physical changes can happen at any age, and go hand in hand with functional changes.
Is the concept of brain plasticity new? Is it broadly accepted in the science community?
Is it broadly accepted in the science community? A few decades ago, most scientists believed that the brain became “hard wired” within the first year or so of life and its structure or abilities could not be changed. One of the founders of Posit Science, Dr. Michael Merzenich, and other scientists working in this field began challenging this belief. Their research suggested that the brain was actually plastic – that it constantly remodeled itself in response to everyday events or stimuli. This adaptability or malleability of the brain has become known as neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. During the last 10 years, the neuroscience community has undergone a major shift in thinking, and there is now widespread consensus that most brain systems are highly plastic throughout life. You can learn more about brain plasticity here.
How can understanding brain plasticity help people in the real world?
Brain plasticity is a powerful and natural force for driving beneficial changes in the brain. As the scientific community improves its understanding of specific neurological issues, we can create training activities designed to harness the brain’s plasticity to create and reinforce neural pathways for specific results. In other words, we are pioneering a whole new way of addressing a range of conditions that we hope will include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and chronic pain, to name a few. Programs based on brain plasticity engage the brain’s natural learning mechanisms, and so require no invasive procedures or medication. You can learn more about brain plasticity here.
What is the relationship between brain plasticity and healthy aging of the brain?
Although cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, studies have shown that using the right kind of scientifically designed cognitive exercises can significantly improve cognitive abilities in adults. Posit Science programs are specially designed to stimulate a high level of mental activity in order to engage, harness and direct the brain’s plasticity. Some of the world’s leading brain experts, at our request, have looked across brain systems at what is happening on a biological and chemical basis and we have used their findings to design exercise programs to enhance performance and prevent decline.
What is required for programs to engage brain plasticity?
You can engage the brain’s natural plasticity – its ability to change in response to stimuli – if you present the right stimuli, in the right order, with the right timing. This sounds simple enough, but figuring out how is not so simple. That’s why we have teams of brain scientists from around the world working with us to design our programs. The programs need to be intensive, repetitive and progressively challenging. Only by pushing the brain to learn new skills will it build and refine neural pathways.
Science: Cognitive Decline
What is cognitive decline?
Cognitive decline — a gradual weakening of understanding, thinking and remembering— is a natural and expected part of aging. This has been confirmed by numerous studies on memory, response time, attentiveness, the ability to speak and to understand what others are saying, and even IQ. We all face a gradual loss in mental sharpness as we age. This type of decline is not the same as Alzheimer’s disease, which is a pathological condition.
Why do people experience cognitive decline as they age?
Cognitive decline is driven by a number of underlying interacting changes in the brain that, together, gradually and significantly cause a decline in brain function. There are three key underlying changes in the brain that cause this decline:
- A slowing in brain processing speed.
- A weakening of brain signals from the senses.
- A decrease in the production of key brain chemicals (neuromodulators).
Why do brain processes slow down with age?
Like most older machines, the brain undergoes slow physical deterioration. This is aggravated by declining use. In the early part of life, the rapid pace of learning makes continuous, powerful changes in brain machinery. However, as people get older, they often become like concert violinists who have stopped practicing. Resting on their laurels, they still play a pretty good fiddle, but a practiced ear could hear that their skills are gradually fading.
What does it mean to have a weakening of signal or input from the senses?
Several kinds of changes in people’s bodies make it difficult for their brains to represent what they hear and see as accurately as they did when they were younger. Hearing and vision rarely improve with age. In addition to the well-known declines in the function of the ear and the eye, there are declines in function in the brain systems that deal with all of the senses. As these systems decline, it becomes difficult for the brain to create crystal-clear representations of sounds and experiences–of the input from the senses. The fuzzier those representations are, the harder it is for the brain to record and store them. It is then harder to find, retrieve and manipulate them.
How does the production of neuromodulators decline, and why does it matter?
As we age, the brain’s production of neuromodulators (brain chemicals that help with learning and remembering) drops sharply. For example, studies suggest that after age 40, with each passing decade people produce an average of 13% less of the critical neuromodulator dopamine than in the previous decade. Neuromodulators – especially dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – are essential ingredients in the brain’s ability to learn and remember. They are released when something important happens, which signals the brain that the event should be stored and remembered rather than dismissed and forgotten.
What is the net result of these changes?
As the brain’s ability to encode the things that we hear and see slowly deteriorates, the brain adapts by slowing down the pace at which it operates. Imagine that you are out at dusk, trying hard to figure out what you see in the distance. You must look at it for a longer time than you would in the bright of day to make it out. In the same way, the brain adjusts the time that it records incoming information for longer and longer periods. It takes longer and longer for the brain’s machinery to decide what it is hearing or seeing. As a result, the brain has difficulty keeping up.
For instance, at times it can no longer follow rapid conversations, causing us to disengage from the conversation or to ask people to repeat what they said. The brain is still trying to encode the first few syllables when the talker is midway through the sentence. Storage of this unclear, fuzzy and partial signal is further weakened by low neuromodulator production. As a result, when the brain tries to remember the conversation later, it has trouble doing so.
How do your programs address the issues of the aging brain?
The breakthrough in our approach is to go after the three root problems described above that the aging brain faces. Addressing the root problems gets to the symptoms, such as memory loss and waning problem-solving and communication skills. Our extended scientific team has looked across brain systems at what is happening on a biological and chemical basis and used their findings to design exercise programs to enhance performance and prevent decline.
Our programs are designed to:
- Increase processing speed.
- Help improve the fidelity (the strength and clarity) with which the brain processes signals or information.
- Stimulate the machinery in the brain that naturally produces key brain chemicals.
Science: Studies & Results
How do you measure results in your science studies?
The studies use various neuropsychological tests and three types of brain imaging to understand the extent and nature of improvements. The neuropsychological tests explore such fields as memory, processing speed/response time, attentiveness and language fluency. Brain imaging indicates areas of increased activity in the brain. On a more human level, we see people become more engaged, more communicative and happier, which are very important but softer qualities to measure.
Who is measuring your results?
In addition to conducting many of our own studies, we are collaborating with academic and government-sponsored centers to substantiate our findings. These groups include the University of California at San Francisco, the University of California at Davis, the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Veterans Administration of Northern California Health Care System, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, Mayo Clinic, and Yale University. We plan to continue to run studies to refine and improve our offerings and collect longitudinal data. By continuously studying results, we expect to be able to build better and better programs over time. Learn more about our published, peer-reviewed studies and our clinical collaboration partners.
How many studies have been completed on your products?
More than 30 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Many additional studies are completed or underway and on their way to publication. Some of these studies have been conducted by our company and/or funded by our company. Many others have been funded by grants, including grants from the NIH, and conducted independently. Click here to see a list of our studies.
You may note that some of our studies pre-date Posit Science. That is because Posit Science has acquired some technologies that had been clinically validated prior the acquisition. These technologies have been carefully integrated into our products with the close collaboration of the scientists who originally developed them.
The breadth and depth of these studies differentiate Posit Science from others. No other commercially available brain fitness products for healthy aging are backed by any published studies at all. To our knowledge no products other than ours have been shown generalize to standard measures of cognitive function (memory) in healthy older adults in published randomized controlled trials.
What makes Posit Science products uniquely effective?
We invest heavily in scientific design and outcomes studies of our products to ensure we lead the field in both of these scientific undertakings. As a result, our design methodology and protocols are unsurpassed, and the body of published scientific literature specifically on our products far exceeds the support for any other products that are commercially available today. Our mission is to get proven science out of the labs and into the hands of people who can benefit.
What do studies of your products show?
Posit Science and other researchers are constantly studying a variety of outcomes measures. Clinical trials have demonstrated several benefits, and more work is constantly underway. Click here for details and results from our published, completed, and ongoing studies of our products.
In brief, our programs have been demonstrated to:
- Improve processing speed and processing accuracy of the visual and auditory systems of the brain
- Generalize to standardized measures of improvements in memory and attention
- Improve performance in everyday activities as measured by Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) and Timed IADLs
- Improve health-related quality of life
- Improve driving as measured by decreases in dangerous maneuvers, increases in driving frequency, conditions and distance, and road sign observations
- Reduce automotive crash risk
What are the ages and other characteristics of study participants?
The ages and characteristics of participants vary by study. Most studies are of healthy adults over age 55. Some studies include younger participants and some include participants with impairments. The characteristics of study participants can be found in each study listed here.
What are the protocols?
The protocols vary by study as the investigators seek to answer different questions in different studies. Most studies of our auditory training technology are based on 40 total hours of training over 8-10 weeks. Most studies of our visual training technology are based on 10 total hours of training over 4-10 weeks.
What is “generalization” and has it been shown?
When scientists ask about generalization, they are asking whether the beneficial effects can be seen in measures that are not directly related to the task trained. For example, if I work on my golf swing, does my tennis game improve? Generalization is important because it shows that participants can reasonably expect to improve their cognition rather than just improve at a strategy that compensates for a cognitive deficiency. For example, using mnemonic strategies can help people remember lists but does not “generalize” to improvements in other memory tasks. Using “standard measures” is important because it shows that the generalization occurs with the kinds of measures that scientists know are useful and appropriate in the study of aging.
Participants in our studies get better at the activities on which they have trained. This is not surprising as people improve at most skills at which they practice. For example, we see a 131% improvement in auditory processing speed in a recent study as measured by a test that corresponds to the training task. In the past, this has been where most studies have started and ended. People got better at the task at which they trained and it is assumed that has some value in everyday life.
One exciting aspect of our research is that we have seen generalization such that people notice differences in their everyday lives. Studies show: improvements in standardized measures of memory and attention, in standard measures of health-related quality of life, in standard measures of everyday function, and in various measures of driving ability.
What is UFOV®?
UFOV (Useful Field of View) is the area over which you can quickly and accurately see details without moving your eyes or head. This area generally gets smaller as people age. UFOV is also the name of a visual training and assessment technology that has been investigated in dozens of published studies, many funded by the National Institutes of Health. Developed by Visual Awareness Inc, the UFOV technology is proven to increase driving skill and safety and reliably predict an individual’s risk of being involved in a traffic accident.
UFOV training can also help people complete activities of daily living more quickly and accurately and help older adults maintain overall health-related quality of life. In early 2008, Posit Science acquired Visual Awareness Inc and UFOV. UFOV is incorporated into BrainHQ exercises.
Is your UFOV technology the same technology used in the ACTIVE study?
Yes. In the ACTIVE study, the UFOV technology was called “speed of processing training.” Posit Science worked closely for more than a year with the scientists who invented the UFOV technology and participated in the ACTIVE study to integrate it into BrainHQ.
Do you plan additional randomized controlled trials on your programs?
Absolutely. We run studies to validate our claims, expand the claims we’ve already validated and to advance the science in the field. We have many randomized controlled trials planned and currently underway and we support many independent researchers in this area.
What types of control activities have been used in trials of your technology?
Different control activities are used in different trials. We use control activities that ensure that the improvements that we see in individuals using our training program are specifically due to the unique science of our training programs, and not, for example, due to a “placebo effect” (meaning that participants show improvements just because they believe the training program might be helpful), or due to general cognitive stimulation (which any activity might provide). Our control activities are designed to be plausibly helpful to people (so that they engage the placebo effect), and to provide cognitive stimulation through learning (so that they provide a meaningful comparison to our training program). In addition, our control activities are time-matched, computer-matched, and social-contact matched to our training programs, ensuring that these factors are not by themselves responsible for the gains we see with our training programs. For example, we have used educational DVDs with daily quizzes to test learning as a control activity, because they provide plausible benefit to participants through learning of facts, they match current doctors’ recommendations for staying cognitively active (i.e., people are often advised to “stay cognitively active” for brain fitness), participants have high engagement with this activity (resulting in a low dropout rate from the study), and they can be matched for time on a computer. Other control or comparison activities have also been used in the studies, including computer games, audio books, internet surfing, reasoning classes, and memory classes. Some studies also have been run with “no contact” controls, which are control groups who engage in no special activity during the study period but are matched to the study group and tested before and after.
Does the ACTIVE study mean that any form of cognitive training is effective?
No. The scientists who developed the training programs used in the ACTIVE study made very specific decisions regarding the specific details of those training programs. The study demonstrated that these training programs provided correspondingly specific and unique benefits. For example, only participants in the reasoning training program showed improvements on reasoning skills, and only participants in the UFOV-technology-based training program showed improvements in health-related quality of life. This means that the specific details of cognitive training programs matter—and that new cognitive training programs that are different from these three need to specifically demonstrate effectiveness in randomized controlled trials.
What do the programs include?
Our scientists have designed comprehensive computer-based programs that involve education about the brain, assessments of the user’s cognitive status, training exercises, incentives and rewards to encourage regular use and completion, community support and additional opportunities for learning and improvement. We build these programs with the user’s experience in mind. They are designed to be enjoyable and rewarding.
Each program element is designed with one or more of our three central goals in mind: to help people understand their cognitive status, learn about cognitive training and find tools they can use to achieve their goals.
What prompted your research and program development effort?
Dr. Merzenich’s early research demonstrated that it was possible to generate physical changes in the brain to restore missing brain function. As time passed and computer technology improved, Dr. Merzenich had a key insight: advanced methods of training could be created and delivered on computers to induce beneficial brain changes in human populations. Computer-based training more precisely trains subjects and, through the use of complex algorithms, monitors responses and adjusts in a manner that heightens engagement and becomes customized to address individual deficiencies. The Posit Science programs are built around this idea.
Who will want to use Posit Science programs?
We think that everyone who wants to keep their mind vital or do something to improve their cognitive performance will want to use our programs. For some people, it may be to address concerns about decline. For others, it may be to “keep their edge” or even enhance their skills.
Why does Posit Science have more than one suite for brain fitness?
The brain is probably the most complex piece of machinery in the world. It has many diverse systems with unique exercise needs. To achieve widespread brain fitness, you must work out different areas of the brain. Part of the reason that Posit Science has a 40-person Scientific Advisory Board is that they each bring their specialized expertise to the team. Some advise us on the auditory system, some the visual system, some on the attention system, and so on.
With so much science built into your exercises, will they be difficult for people to use?
While our programs are highly complex, algorithmically defined and measured down to milliseconds, the rigorous science that goes into the creation of the programs will be largely invisible to the person using it. This person will find them easy to use and even entertaining.
Why are the exercises computer based?
Improving brain health relies on substantial and precise practice. A tool that can deliver stimuli accurately, track performance gains and adjust task difficulties in accordance with each person’s progress is key to efficient training. That’s why we use computers. Hundreds of people who have used our programs in studies have never used a computer before. Our programs are designed to be used just by pointing and clicking—not much more difficult than using a television remote control.
Can Posit Science programs be used on a personal computer?
How do you know Posit Science programs work?
Numerous studies have demonstrated that people who use Posit Science programs experience significant improvements in cognitive abilities. Results from some of these studies have been published in prestigious scientific journals. Read more in our scientific results section.
Common sense says that people have to “use it or lose it.” What makes your programs different?
Every Posit Science program is created using a set of rigorous scientific design protocols known collectively as SAAGE™. The SAAGE standards incorporate the feedback of world-renowned neuroscientists and allow Posit Science programs to improve fundamental brain functions.
The acronym SAAGE stands for Speed, Accuracy, Adaptibility, Generalizability, and Engagement, but to be fully SAAGE-compliant a program must follow the rigorous, specific requirements in each of these categories.
SAAGE-based programs do not teach people memory tricks, how to perform an exercise, or other ways to compensate for deterioration in cognitive function. Instead, they target the root causes of cognitive difficulties to generate widespread improvements in cognition. People who use SAAGE-based programs see the positive changes they experience extend to standardized cognitive assessments–tests that are widely used by doctors and scientists–not just on the training program itself.
How are Posit Science programs for healthy aging better than playing bridge or doing crossword puzzles?
Two large, controlled, randomized clinical studies, the IMPACT study and the IHAMS study, demonstrated that using our brain training is more effective in improving cognitive abilities than doing crosswords or other commonly recommended activities for brain fitness. Led by distinguished scientists from Mayo Clinic and the University of Southern California, the IMPACT study proved that people can make statistically significant gains in memory and processing speed if they do the right kind of scientifically designed cognitive exercises. The IMPACT study also demonstrated that the cognitive gains made by people who use Posit Science programs “generalize,” or extend, to everyday life situations. This means that if you do a lot of crossword puzzles, you will probably get very good at them. However, if you use a Posit Science program, you will find it easier to think more quickly and remember more information even when you’re not using the program. Read more about the IMPACT study and the IHAMS study.
So is it still a good use of time to do other kinds of activity to keep the brain healthy?
Actually, as scientific knowledge grows, we believe a variety of lifestyle changes is helpful in maintaining cognitive function. You can learn more about our recommendations here. However, we also believe that our exercises play a fundamental role in maintaining and revivifying brain function, and will go beyond what ordinary activities can do.
What proof is there that Posit Science programs work?
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Do you offer a discount for non-profit and HUD communities?
Yes. We offer a discount for non-profit or HUD communities who meet our criteria for serving low-income seniors. Please call 1-866-599-6463 for details.
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