Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

July 16, 2010

Table of Contents:

  • NeoCORTA for Proactive Brain Fitness (Introduction to special issue)
  • How NeoCORTA Promotes Older Adult Brain Health (A scientific approach)
  • Senior Fitness Providers: You Can Excel in the Brain Fitness Movement (Here's how!)
  • Meet the Experts (This team can enhance your professional health-fitness services)
  • Contact NeoCORTA (And boost your senior fitness career)

NeoCORTA for Proactive Brain Fitness

The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) strongly urges older adult fitness providers to help clients achieve whole-person wellness, which includes taking practical evidence-based steps to optimize brain health. To that end, SFA's respected professional education program Brain Fitness for Older Adults teaches senior fitness leaders how to integrate cognitive fitness into their physical activity services. To credibly and confidently offer such guidance, senior fitness specialists need a basic understanding of: (1) brain anatomy and physiology; (2) social, emotional, lifestyle and other impacting factors; and (3) how to make current research actionable in the older adult health-fitness setting. SFA's popular distance-learning course, Brain Fitness for Older Adults, provides these necessary foundations.

Today, we are pleased to announce SFA's endorsement of a related resource, the NeoCORTA proactive brain fitness service, which is exceptionally compatible for use with SFA's study program and brain fitness activity plans. Together, SFA and NeoCORTA professional tools well-equip senior fitness instructors, trainers, and program directors to provide their mature clientele with comprehensive, state-of-the-art cognitive fitness support.

Founded in 2008, NeoCORTA is an internet-based service that applies assessment and predictive modeling capabilities in its mission to enable adults to maintain and improve their brain fitness. Its Brain Fitness Check-up assesses each person in 32 key areas and uses this data to forecast specific changes in each individual's brain fitness status. Each user receives a Personal Brain Fitness Report, which relates their results and suggests specific actions (physical activities, lifestyle changes, nutritional corrections, etc.) that will help them reach their personal brain fitness objectives.

NeoCORTA's assessment and analytical procedures utilize scientific findings from more than 200 major studies, including extensive data from the NIH Healthy Brain Project. NeoCORTA's instruments were designed by Dr. Jay Chyung, who earned his MD and PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard Medical School and has led research on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and mood disorders.

The NeoCORTA Check-up is a questionnaire that users can complete privately at their own pace. This typically takes fewer than 45 minutes, after which each person's data is analyzed to produce a unique, detailed report for each individual. NeoCORTA evaluates 9 direct measures of cognition and emotion that indicate current brain fitness status, plus 23 key influencers that can cause changes in brain fitness over time. Included are:

  • Key Measures of Cognition. Cognition involves processing, coordinating, strategizing, and responding to information. It includes critical brain functions such as the ability to remember, pay attention, and make decisions. NeoCORTA measures cognition in 4 main areas: Memory, Attention, Processing Speed, and Executive Function.
  • Key Measures of Emotion. Emotional well-being allows one to calmly handle day-to-day challenges, maintain a positive outlook, adapt to change, and understand and care for others. NeoCORTA measures emotion in 5 areas: Anxiety, Stress, Mood, Emotional Control, and Emotional Recognition.
  • Key Influencers of Brain Fitness. NeoCORTA measures 23 variables in 4 domains that can affect long-term brain fitness: Lifestyle and Behaviors (physical activity, diet, etc.); Psychosocial Factors (social support, optimism versus negativism, etc.); Medical Status (cardiovascular health, medications, etc.); and Functional Status (sleep patterns, hearing, etc.).

SFA president Janie Clark says, "With NeoCORTA, senior fitness professionals can help clients appraise their brain fitness status, anticipate potential changes, and personalize a practical action plan. It's easy, economical, and science-based. Whether you manage a large facility or operate a one-trainer business, this presents an excellent opportunity to expand your professional services and better serve your older adult fitness clients."

How NeoCORTA Promotes Older Adult Brain Health

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

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

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.

Contact NeoCORTA

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!

Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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