Topic: Cognitive Fitness

How NeoCORTA Promotes Older Adult Brain Health

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

In the interview segments presented below, Kathryn Thomas, PhD, NeoCORTA’s Director of Business Development, provides additional information for SFA members and Experience! readers.

SFA: Can you supply more details about the assessment process and how it works in practice?

NeoCORTA: In recent years, scientists have conducted hundreds of studies to better understand the key drivers of change in the human brain. Most of us are curious about our brain health and would like to identify the steps we can take to maintain or improve it. But until now, there has never been a practical or reliable way to measure and manage how we think and feel.

NeoCORTA empowers adults with the tools they need to measure, maintain, and improve their brain fitness. Designed by a Harvard-trained doctor, our service enables individuals to determine their baseline, identify their risk factors, and design a brain fitness action plan that fits their unique needs, goals, and preferences.

The process is actually quite simple for the user. Each person completes an internet-based questionnaire that explores the 32 key variables that define and influence how we think and feel. The questionnaire is self-paced, but most people complete it in 20 to 40 minutes. A few days after completing the questionnaire, each person receives his or her Personal Brain Fitness Report via email. This 12-page report summarizes the person’s current status and explains any noteworthy risk factors. It also provides a carefully tailored list of the critical few actions that are most likely to help the person achieve his or her brain fitness goals. The report explains everything in plain English, so it’s easy to understand and take action.

SFA: Please share a couple of hypothetical examples showing how the process can benefit mature adults.

NeoCORTA: Generally speaking, the Brain Fitness Check-up provides several important benefits: It introduces folks to the key measures of brain fitness; it allows them to track their abilities over time; and it provides the unbiased, expert direction they need in order to enjoy happier, more productive lives. But since the recommendations are tailored to each person’s goals, needs, and preferences, the specific benefits can vary significantly.

For example, imagine the case of a 50 year old woman who currently has satisfactory scores on all of the key measures of brain fitness. Imagine, though, that she is also living the lifestyle of a typical "couch potato": physically inactive, overweight, socially isolated, and mentally understimulated.This person would learn that her current lifestyle is creating significant long-term risks in memory, attention, and other key measures of cognition. To address these risks, her action plan might recommend that she sign up for a group aerobics class — a heart-healthy, mentally challenging activity that’s done with others who can help to encourage her. The plan might also encourage her to do some volunteer work, adopt the "Mediterranean" diet, and work more closely with her doctor to control her cholesterol and blood pressure.

For this woman, the key benefit of using NeoCORTA’s service is a reduced risk of future decline, achieved through the adoption of a heart-healthy (and therefore brain-healthy) lifestyle before it’s too late. Most folks are already aware of the physical downsides of living life as a couch potato. But studies have shown that most adults age 50-plus care more about their brains than their bodies. So NeoCORTA’s service uses this woman’s curiosity about her brain health to provide the extra motivation she needs to take action.

Now compare that woman’s circumstances to the case of a 71 year old retired engineer who lives in an "active adult" retirement community. This man remains socially engaged through a large group of friends and organized events in his community. He experiences chronic pain due to a few nagging sports injuries, but he is in excellent overall health and walks two to four miles each morning. This individual’s results indicate that he currently has minor deficits in attention, stress, anxiety, and emotional control. The results also indicate that he is not sleeping well and that his level of alcohol consumption might be adversely affecting both his current and future brain health.

In this case, the man’s action plan might suggest replacing some of his daily walks with a meditative yoga class. Like walking, yoga provides beneficial physical exercise, but the right class can also address his chronic pain, attention, stress, anxiety, and emotional control. Progress in these areas would be expected to help with his sleep problems, but this action plan would also include a list of additional suggestions for improving the quality of the man’s sleep. And finally, the plan would encourage the man to reduce his alcohol intake, an effort that would probably become easier as he addresses his pain, stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.

In this case, a generally motivated person learns that a few specific adjustments can help to address a shortlist of immediate needs. Though he would not normally consider an activity such as yoga, he is convinced to give it a try by the personalized, evidence-based justification provided in the report. In the end, the key benefit for this person is a noticeable near-term improvement in quality of life.


Senior Fitness Providers: You Can Excel in the Brain Fitness Movement

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Below, SFA’s exclusive interview with NeoCORTA’s Dr. Thomas turns toward practical applications in the older adult health-fitness field.

SFA: How can senior fitness professionals use NeoCORTA’s service to assist their older adult fitness clients?

NeoCORTA: From a purely practical standpoint, integrating NeoCORTA’s brain fitness service into your existing operation is probably much easier that you’d imagine. The service was carefully designed to ensure that it creates no additional burdens or disruptions for your operation or staff. Since the service is entirely internet-based, your clients can complete the questionnaire from anywhere, at any time. You simply distribute coupon codes to your clients, and they complete the questionnaire on their own. NeoCORTA handles all of the burdens and distractions of report processing and user support.

Meanwhile, several fascinating studies have shown that physical fitness and brain fitness are closely linked.For example, a long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life. Since surveys have also consistently shown that older adults fear memory loss more than heart disease, senior fitness professionals can attract, motivate, and retain more clients by integrating NeoCORTA’s brain fitness tools into their programs.

In addition, a recent AARP survey found that adults age 50-plus believe that health information is often too general or vague. Survey participants indicated that they are hungering for specific/detailed goal setting, individualized plans, and progress tracking. Clearly, NeoCORTA enables you to provide exactly what these 50-plus clients are seeking. But by doing so with a technology that eliminates the administrative burdens, you can devote your time and attention to client services instead of paperwork.

In summary, NeoCORTA’s approach is singularly powerful because it helps your clients understand the brain fitness benefits of physical activity. At the same time, it arms you to quickly and easily expand the scope of your services to include an important new component of the fitness movement. Adding brain fitness services will enable you to attract a whole new population of clients, increase participation and retention rates, and generate even greater impact in the lives of your clients. As a profession, it moves us one step closer to achieving the vision of true whole-person wellness.


Meet the Experts

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

NeoCORTA’s management team includes:

  • Patrick Brannelly, MBA, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Brannelly holds a BA in Psychology from Harvard College and his MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Chapter, and as an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and E-Commerce at the University of Northern Virginia. He is a frequent speaker on brain fitness issues at state and national conferences. His previous experience includes serving as Director of Group Programs at Posit Science, a leading provider of scientifically-validated brain fitness products, and as a management consultant to major industries in the U.S. and Europe.
  • G. Richard ‘Dick’ Ambrosius, MA, Vice President of Outreach & Group Programs. Mr. Ambrosius earned his BA and MA in Political Science from the University of South Dakota and is the author of Choices & Changes, a positive aging guide to life-planning. His extensive experience includes service as the Executive Director of an Area Agency on Aging in Iowa, membership on the National Advisory Committee to the 1981 White House Conference on Aging, and the founding of one of the first full-service marketing organizations to specialize in the older adult market. He has consulted and presented widely, as well as having served as Vice President of Marketing for two multi-community senior living companies.
  • Ryan McKim, PsyD, Vice President of Research & Outcomes. Dr. McKim, a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in the assessment of memory and cognitive rehabilitation, completed fellowships in Neuropsychology and Health Psychology at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He is involved in clinical research at the San Francisco VA Medical Center investigating neuroplasticity and developing novel cognitive rehabilitation strategies for returning veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injuries. He teaches Neuropsychological Assessment at the California Institute of Integral Studies. A popular speaker, Dr. McKim also teaches a Memory Fitness Program for patients and members of the public.
  • Kathryn Thomas, PhD, Director of Business Development. Dr. Thomas earned her MS and PhD in Gerontology at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, as well as her BS in Systems Engineering with Distinction at the University of Virginia. As a National Institute of Aging pre-doctoral fellow, her research covered employment, civic engagement, assistive technology, and long-term care policy issues. Her research has been published in peer reviewed journals and presented at national conferences. An active member of the Gerontological Society of America, American Society on Aging, and the Business Forum on Aging, Dr. Thomas is an Adjunct Professor at Georgia State University’s Gerontology Institute.
  • Key advisors include:

  • Jay Chyung, MD, PhD, Co-Founder and Board Member. In addition to his MD and PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Chyung earned his BS in Biochemistry magna cum laude at Harvard College. He led the development of NeoCORTA’s assessment, forecasting, and recommendation capabilities. Dr. Chyung currently serves as the Medical Director of Healthways, a leading provider of health management solutions.
  • Michael Knable, MD, Consulting Clinician. A board certified Neurologist and Psychiatrist, Dr. Knable earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at Ohio University. He is a faculty member at George Washington University Medical School and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. A respected researcher, Dr. Knable has authored numerous articles on neuropsychiatric diseases and co-authored a book about manic depression.
  • Sandra Timmerman, EdD, Advisory Board Member. Dr. Timmerman earned her advanced degrees at Columbia University, and has held key posts at the American Society on Aging, AARP, SeniorNet, National Alliance for Caregiving, and the Business Forum on Aging. A delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, she now serves as Director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute and as Financial Gerontology columnist for the Journal of Financial Service Professionals.
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    Contact NeoCORTA

    Friday, July 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    To learn more about NeoCORTA’s proactive brain fitness service, click on its website Have questions? Call 650-743-7141 or email Let the cognitive health experts at NeoCORTA help you succeed in the vigorous emerging market of older adult brain fitness!


    Earlier Alzheimer’s Detection

    Monday, May 3rd, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated by tardy detection, especially since newly developed medications work better when started early. This problem inspired Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center, to design a quick and simple test to help determine if someone is exhibiting the early memory and reasoning deficits that all too often foretell the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    In an OSU press release, Dr. Scharre (who specializes in treating Alzheimer’s) said it is often more than three or four years after symptoms of cognitive impairment first begin to appear before he sees affected patients. "People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears," he said.

    Scharre’s test is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). Research shows that 80 percent of persons with mild thinking and memory issues will be detected by the test, and 95 percent of those with normal thinking will achieve normal SAGE scores.

    While other accurate assessment instruments for cognitive disorders are presently in use, SAGE offers a number of advantages. Available cost-free to health workers, it only requires a paper, pen and about 15 minutes to self-administer. Therefore, it can be taken in the waiting room before seeing one’s doctor, doesn’t take much time away from medical staff or from the appointment itself, and is user-friendly for elders who are not comfortable with computers.

    Abnormal scores can alert physicians to look for problems other than dementia, such as certain thyroid conditions, that can affect memory — and that may be treatable and reversible. Dr. Scharre added: "Abnormal test results can serve as an early warning to the patient’s family. The results can be a signal that caregivers may need to begin closer monitoring of the patient to ensure their safety and good health is not compromised and that they are protected from financial predators."

    To read the full OSU press release about SAGE, click here. Healthcare personnel can download the actual test free of charge at


    Sharing Caring

    Monday, April 19th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (online) has verified what many in the elder care field have always "known": Persons with memory loss feel emotions related to their sad or happy experiences and retain those feelings even after their memory of the actual event has faded.

    When researchers at the University of Iowa showed sad and happy movie clips to patients with memory loss, they found that although the patients could not recall what they had watched, they did continue to feel the emotions prompted by the clips.

    In a news release, lead author Justin Feinstein said, "… both emotions [sad and happy] lasted well beyond [the subject's] memory of the films." He continued, "A simple visit or phone call from family members might have a lingering positive influence on a patient’s happiness even though the patient may quickly forget the visit or phone call. On the other hand, routine neglect from staff at nursing homes may leave the patient feeling sad, frustrated, and lonely even though the patient can’t remember why."

    "Intuitively, I’ve always known this due to my experience as the activity director of an adult day-care center with an Alzheimer’s unit and from my work as a nursing home exercise provider," said SFA president Janie Clark, MA, who was not involved in the study. "But it is very good to see it confirmed through research."

    Feinstein wrote, "Here is clear evidence showing that the reasons for treating Alzheimer’s patients with respect and dignity go beyond simple human morals."

    Clark added, "Even when elders have lost much long- and short-term memory, they still know when they’re receiving kindness and loving attention."


    Blood Pressure Levels and Dementia

    Thursday, April 1st, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Is there a definitive link between high blood pressure and cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease? That is a question the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will seek to answer through its upcoming Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).

    This autumn, the NIH will begin enrolling participants in SPRINT, the most ambitious trial to date designed to determine whether reducing systolic pressure below the currently recommended level of 140 mm Hg can also reduce the risk for age-related dementia. Some subjects will be randomly assigned to a program endeavoring to keep systolic pressure below 120.

    This trial will involve 7,500 persons. The participants, all age 55-plus, will be followed-up for at least four years.