January 25, 2018
Library Journal
Matt Enis

Sterling Heights Public Library, MI, has been offering BrainHQ, an online suite of gamified brain training exercises available to libraries through Demco’s partnership with Posit Science, as a component of a yearlong community initiative called “Exercise Your Brain!”

In a city council meeting last September, library director Tammy Turgeon noted that exercising at gyms is much more popular now that it was 50 years ago, and mental fitness exercises could follow a similar trend among an aging population, according to the Sterling Heights Sentry. “Brain fitness is the next step in that revolution,” Turgeon said. “Just as you can exercise your abs and quads, you can exercise your memory and attention.”

A recently published analysis of data collected during the ten-year Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicated that computerized cognitive training may help lower the risk of dementia. Specifically, the analysis published in the November 2017 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions found that “speed training resulted in a reduced risk of dementia…compared to control [group], but memory and reasoning training did not…. Each additional speed training session was associated with a 10 percent lower hazard for dementia.”

To encourage use of BrainHQ, Sterling Heights partnered with the local senior center, introducing the software to attendees of computer classes and book groups, and incorporating it into the broader Exercise Your Brain! program, which includes events ranging from trivia and puzzle competitions to history presentations and open mic nights with local authors.

Turgeon “wanted to really highlight it, so instead of just signing onto the service and then marketing it by itself, we created a larger multi-tier project and integrated it,” Jason Groth, Sterling Heights’ public relations and programs coordinator, told LJ. “We have programs that are specific to promoting brain health in multiple ways—[programs] that have a social function, or things involving puzzles, using your head.”

At those events, library staff give a brief overview of what BrainHQ is, and introduce the new resource to attendees, Groth said. And “beyond that, we also have specific classes that we’re running at the senior center about BrainHQ—how to use it, step by step instructions.”

The events, which are held at both the library and the senior center, are linked and promoted in library newsletters, online and print event calendars, flyers, and with raffles for $25 gift cards, which can be used at local businesses. The program is currently scheduled to continue through June.

Groth said that spontaneous feedback on BrainHQ has been uniformly positive, although most users have made simple comments such as “this has really helped me.” However, a few patrons have offered more substantive comments, including one younger person whose family has a history of dementia, and whose doctor recommended “activities to stimulate the mind” as a preventative measure.

“It was compelling for me to hear that, because when we first launched this, we were thinking mostly that it would be appealing to the senior population, but it does have broader implications,” Groth said.

Turgeon’s description of mental fitness exercise as an emerging trend may prove to be accurate, particularly as evidence of its effectiveness continues to emerge. Last week, Demco announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense through the libraries of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to offer BrainHQ to active, reserve, and retired members of the armed services, as well as their families. In a prepared statement, Kristen Campbell, chief of the Air Force Libraries Division, said that the software was chosen “to help service members hone qualities such as lifelong learning, readiness, and resilience. This unique program will help our personnel improve their attention spans, decision making skills, and cognitive speed.”