(San Francisco, CA) – Posit Science, the maker of BrainHQ online brain exercises and assessments, has bee issued two patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office on brain training that targets what scientists call “social cognition” and “emotional cognition,” or what lay people may think of as “people skills.”
The patents cover a variety of exercises focused on elemental people skills, such as: recognizing faces; recognizing expressions of emotion; following eye movements; recognizing voice inflections; pairing faces with names and other information; inferring thoughts and feelings; and self-regulating responses.
The social and emotional cognition exercises covered by the patents were originally designed as part of research into treating populations with conditions in which deficits in social and emotional cognition are common, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
A number of research studies of patients with schizophrenia, who have trained with exercises covered by the new patents, have shown gains in standard neuropsychological measures of social cognition. In addition, imaging studies have shown structural changes in the brain itself, including increased activity in areas associated with improved social cognition.
“While we set out to build tools to help populations where social and emotional cognition challenges are signature deficits, we soon realized that all of us could benefit by improving people skills — such as, quickly and accurately recognizing the emotions behind facial expressions,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science. “Also, who among us has not been caught flat-footed, unable to associate a name — or other facts we at one time knew — with a face? A number of exercises in BrainHQ make use of the inventions covered by these patents.”
Researchers also have been field testing the use of the exercises in high-stakes situations — where it’s important to make fast and accurate assessments of facial expressions and motivations, or where there is benefit from quickly associating faces with names and other information. For example, field tests have been conducted with police cadets, experienced police officers, and SWAT teams.
“Of course, if you are in sales or customer service — or you are just dealing with bosses, co-workers, and subordinates in any workplace — improving the speed and accuracy of these skills should also be important,” Dr. Mahncke observed. “So, we have many new areas to explore for application of this type of training. We’re pretty excited about that!”