(SAN FRANCISCO) — The National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a competitive grant to Posit Science, the maker of the BrainHQ brain training app. The newly-funded study will measure the impact of BrainHQ computerized brain exercises on fall incidence among older adults.
More than one out of four older adults fall each year, making falls the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among people older than 65. The grant funds a new approach to preventing falls based on a new understanding of the importance of brain’s visual speed and accuracy in maintaining gait and balance. Five prior studies using BrainHQ technology have shown this connection, including three that measured the relationship between fall risk and visual cognitive abilities, and two trials showing BrainHQ exercises significantly improved measures of balance and gait — both among predominately white, residents of up-scale retirement communities, and among older African-American residents of Chicago’s South Side.
What makes this planned study unique is that — in this age of COVID — the entire study will be conducted remotely. Participants across the United States will enroll in the study on the web, and then will be shipped an Apple Watch and provided with the BrainHQ cloud-based brain training program. Researchers will monitor their training remotely, and use Apple Watch features – including fall detection – to track balance and mobility.
“Many people are surprised to learn that doing visual training exercises on a computer can improve balance and gait,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “However, it’s not that surprising when you understand that falls among the elderly are not generally caused by physical issues, but rather by the slowing— with age — of reaction times of the brain’s visual systems, which are constantly monitoring conditions and adjusting movement to keep you on your feet.
“Even a momentary glitch in those systems is what causes most falls,” Dr. Mahncke continued. “But now, we know that training with BrainHQ exercises can improve the brain’s speed and accuracy and strengthen the operation of balance and gait.
“This new study will go further than the prior studies to measure actual real-time fall incidence and to administer the entire study remotely,” Dr. Mahncke continued. “The results will contribute greatly toward making effective fall risk programs for health plans and community-based programs.”
More than 100 published studies of the exercises in BrainHQ have shown benefits, including gains in standard measures of cognition (attention, speed, memory, executive function, social cognition), in standard measures of quality of life (mood, confidence and control, maintaining independence, health-related quality of life) and in real world activities (gait, balance, driving, everyday cognition, work). BrainHQ is now offered, without charge, as a benefit by leading national and 5-star Medicare Advantage plans, and by hundreds of clinics, libraries, and communities. Consumers can also try BrainHQ for free at https://dev-bhq.pantheonsite.io.