Posts Tagged ‘news’

New Brain Cells Support Cognition and Emotion

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

We’ve reported before on the evidence that our brains keep generating new neurons even into adulthood. Now scientists have been able to investigate more about specifically where these neurons appear in the brain, and how these areas differ between different mammals (in this study, humans and mice).  The scientists from Sweden and Germany noted that a key difference in adult neurogenesis in humans seems to be the generation of new neurons in the human striatum — a region of the brain associated with coordination, cognition and emotions.

A layman’s interpretation of this might be that in human society we need to keep adapting and developing our cognitive and emotional skills throughout our lives as we adapt to new phases of life and new demands.  Therefore we have evolved brains that can grow and change in the regions that support these processes.

MindSparke v3.1

Monday, January 7th, 2013

The Brain Fitness Pro upgrade to version 3.1 adds some exciting new features:

Facebook integration: Connect your training account to your Facebook account through the Account panel and you can login with Facebook and share your training progress and blog posts with your Facebook friends.

Focus Helper: In the training panel you’ll see the “Focus Helper” audio player.  Listen to this background audio while training and it will help you focus.

If you have questions or comments on the upgrade, please let us know.

Martin Walker
CEO, Founder

NEW: Version 3 Upgrade

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Great new features and a slew of enhancements:

  1. Support for the iPad
  2. Targeted training by personality type
  3. Blog integration

V3 also adds a “frequently asked questions” column, embedded the Stage 3 Help demo right into the Info screen, easy access to account information, improved password reset process, and incorporated several useful automated “training tips” that show up as needed.

To learn more about the new features, enhancements and fixes in version 3, Click here

MindSparke Tops AARP Brain Games Roundup

Friday, February 17th, 2012

After a prominent mention in the USA Today last summer, we’re very pleased that MindSparke has again made news by topping the list of AARP brain games published recently by the AARP Magazine.  Although the accompanying article is a little circumspect about the proven benefits of brain training, the AARP seems to be firmly in favor of brain training as a piece of the brain fitness puzzle.

Brain Training Updates – Pro, SE, and IC

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Today we’ve released an interim update to the MindSparke suite of brain training programs, Brain Fitness Pro, SE and IC. This update includes the following changes:

1. In Stages 3 and 4, the N-level indicator will now change color at the end of a training block when the N-level moves up or down.  The background will show green when the N-level increases, and orange when it decreases. Otherwise it will remain white.


2. We’ve added subscription status and subscription management features to the Profile panel.  If you need to update your payment method, cancel your subscription, or renew your subscription you can get to these functions through the Profile panel (click on the toolbar button that looks like the a person’s silhouette).

3. We’ve added version management. Version management happens behind the scenes but should prevent you having to reload the program or clear your browser’s cache when we release further updates in the future.

Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions!

Best wishes,
Martin Walker

MindSparke Working Memory Training

Brain Fitness Pro Revisions – Update on v2

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Hi, All.

new bfi stats

Updated Statistics

As promised we’ve updated the comparative BFI (Brain Fitness Index) statistics now that we have collected some data with the revised algorithm.

To see the new stats, clear your browser’s cache and reload the training page.

We’ve also rationalized the dashboard statistics to show “Most recent session average score”. This statistic seems to be more helpful and meaningful than showing an overall average score for the stage (which was what we had been showing).

most recent brain training session

Dashboard Stats Update

As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Brain Fitness Pro Version 2

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Brain Training SoftwareHi all.

We’re very pleased to announce the release of Brain Fitness Pro and SE Version 2. In this new release we’ve focused primarily on usability. Here are some things to look out for in v2:

1. It’s faster! We’ve boosted the speed with which the program launches. This will be particularly noticeable to those with slower internet connections.

2. If you restart or reload the program during a training session, you don’t need to log in a second time. The program will relaunch automatically. (To avoid this feature, simply logout.)

3. We’ve brought the Help guide, meditation and entrainment features into the main panel (rather than being pushed off to the side).

4. The greeting toolbar menu is fixed, making navigation easier.

5. The Training and Practice dashboards are now clearly labeled so you know where you are.

6. You can now control the n-level in Practice mode for Stages 1 and 2 mid-session without exiting.

In addition we’ve tweaked the algorithms that calculate the Brain Fitness Indices, making them more consistent, particularly when starting out on the training. Don’t worry if your BFI suddenly increases when you use the new version. It’s now more accurate.

We’d love to hear your feedback on the changes.

Best wishes,
Martin Walker

Working Memory And Genetic Inheritance

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in July, 2011 shows that genetics plays a strong role in working memory capacity. By measuring working memory ability in sets of twins using n-back testing, the scientists found that twin sets had very similar working memory ability.

Now, the interesting thing about this result is that we also know that working memory is highly trainable. Working memory training with MindSparke can easily double or triple our working memory ability on the n-back task. This tells me that everyday mental tasks tend not to challenge our working memory intensively enough to change it. Our brains tend to coast when they can and we largely have the working memory capacity we were born with. Unless, that is, we engage in a course of working memory training!

Memory Loss: A Reversible Problem?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

It’s well known that our working memory capacity decreases as we age (by about 1% per year after we turn 40). But now Min Wang from the Yale University School of Medicine has found that the environment around the neurons that process working memory seems to be the culprit, not the neurons themselves. And, by suppressing these changes in monkeys, he has been able to reverse some of the age-related decline in their working memory.

Monkeys, like humans, have a highly developed pre-frontal cortex. After training a group of monkeys to remember the location of a visual display, Wang recorded the level of activity in their pre-frontal cortex after the display flashed on and off. This activity is typical of working memory activity as the monkeys tried to remember the location of the display long enough to enjoy a reward.

In older monkeys Wang found that the delay neurons fired less strongly and became less sensitive. They found it correspondingly harder to remember the location from test to test.

Graphic Courtesy of Scientific American

While working memory decline likely has several causes, Wang looked at the impact of changes in the surrounding cells, in particular an increase in the level of a protein known as cAMP, a multipurpose molecule that carries signals around the body. cAMP inhibits neural activity.

When Wang used a drug called guanfacine to block the effects of cAMP, the neurons fired more strongly. Conversely, using etazolate to amplify the effects of cAMP, he was able to suppress the response of the delay neurons.

Guanfacine is already used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and some of the behavioural problems associated with autism. “We have found that guanfacine improves self-control in young adults, which is also a prefrontal ability,” says Amy Arnsten, lead on Wang’s new study. “It is currently being tested in people who want to quit smoking or other types of substance abuse, and appears to be having positive results.”

Personally, I’d like to see a similar study using working memory training to stimulate the response of delay neurons. Brain exercise is a great alternative to medication in reversing the effects of age-related memory loss.


USA Today: MindSparke Brain Training In The News

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

USA Today Brain TrainingIn an article titled Brain-training games are new exercise craze USA Today’s Rachel Roubein discusses the growing interest in brain training software through the lens of a boxer’s new-found success in the ring. Roubein gives the high-profile Lumosity a look of course, but MindSparke makes her very short short-list as a brain fitness program to check out.

“MindSparke is another Web-based brain-fitness program that works to increase memory and the ability to multitask. Play the game 30 minutes a day for about a month, and your memory and attention span will jump more than 40%.”