March 23, 2006
Stefanie Olsen

As some researchers examine brain functions with advanced imaging technology, other scientists are measuring brain speed with the click of a mouse.

San Francisco-based Posit Science unveiled a program in recent weeks that tests how fast a person’s brain can process information, based on his or her hearing speed.

“Auditory processing speed is important because much of the information we receive each day is communicated through sound–especially speech,” according to Posit Science, which has developed software that promotes brain fitness. “The faster we can take in information accurately, the better we can keep up with, respond to and remember what we hear.”

The 10-minute online test, at the company’s Web site, measures how fast and accurately the test-taker can detect different sounds, by having the test-taker click on arrows. Once finished, the test-taker will receive a measurement of his or her brain speed, down to the millisecond.

In your 20s, the average speed of auditory processing is 68 milliseconds. That number jumps to an average of 87 milliseconds in your 40s and 106 milliseconds in your 60s.

Focus on brain research has been heightened in recent years with advances in technology that make it possible to determine everything from brain speed to emotional responses to Super Bowl ads. Posit Science, through its founder, neuroscientist and software entrepreneur Mike Merzenich, is concentrating on developing software programs that promote cognitive fitness and reverse the effects of aging.

Recent research findings show its brain fitness software, a computer-based training program, is having positive effects on elderly people. Seniors who participated in an eight-week training study with Posit Science showed improvement in neuron-cognitive function and memory, growing younger on average of auditory memory and attention by 10 years.

Still, the software to improve brain speed and memory isn’t cheap. It costs about $500 for one PC. Or people can buy it bundled with a Dell Dimension 1100 computer for $1,000.