March 23, 2009
Paul Briand

March 16 to 22 was Brain Awareness Week. I forgot all about it.

And that’s the point. For Baby Boomers and others, there are ways to train the brain, shape the synapses, and nudge the neurons to help maintain memory function.

One company claims in a press release that computer-based brain fitness is big business.

“The brain fitness market, with estimated 2007 sales of more than $225 million, has been growing at more than 50 percent per year — driven by the aging of the baby boom cohort,” said a release from Posit Science Corporation.

To support its marketing of computer-based brain exercises, Posit Science cites a new study linking computerized brain exercises to improved memory and attention in older adults.

“Just five years ago, brain fitness was a little known concept,” said Posit Science chairman Jeff Zimman. “But with leading edge baby boomers advancing in age to their mid-60s, it has become a national phenomenon.”

A University of New Hampshire researcher and psychology professor says physical health can affect cognitive ability.

But Robert Mair, professor of psychology and chairman of the UNH Department of Psychology, noted in a Sunday story in the Portsmouth, N.H., Herald of the benefits of playing cards, or doing crosswords or engaging in other games and activities that tickles the gray matter.

“There’s a lot of anecdotal (information) that exercise and enriching improve memory,” Mair said in the article. He also noted that volunteering is a way to keep the brain engaged as someone gets older.

There was an interesting coda to Brain Awareness Week with the airing yesterday of a piece about Mensa on the CBS “Sunday Morning” news show.

The piece noted that a favorite activity of Mensans (minimum accepted score on the Stanford-Binet IQ test is 132) is playing games.

Does that mean all Mensans have a better chance at retained brain cognizance as they age? Someone will have to remember to figure that one out at some point.