Many of you may not be aware that Posit Science has launched another wonderful suite of brain fitness exercises, for visual training in BrainHQ, that focuses on improving visual perception, attention, memory/cognition, and fast-responding abilities (see www.positscience.com). We are very proud of this new training program suite. It was created with the help and assistance of a wonderful team of international scientists to address the many problems stemming from the near-universal decline in visual behaviors and abilities that (alas) accompany normal aging.

We are also proud of the fact that exercises have been created in game-like formats that are more engaging and fun than are our earlier training program suites. We believe that these changes will increase the likelihood that every BrainHQ brain fitness ‘student’ will enjoy almost every minute of this valuable training, and that the more effective and compelling ‘rewards’ that occur every time you make even a little progress in improving your brain health will a) more rapidly drive b) stronger and c) more-enduring learning-induced plastic changes in your brain!

BrainHQ targets visual reception accuracy and visual processing speed. It is designed to substantially improve the brain’s reconstruction of, and memory for complex visual scenes…

a) by increasing its capacity for simultaneously representing and interpreting complex visual information analyzed with each visual glance;

b) by substantially increasing the rates and control with which you move your eyes as you scan across the objects that compose the visual scene via multiple fast saccades (eye movements, ‘glances’); and

c) by increasing the accuracy with which you interpret how things might be moving or changing within that scene.

BrainHQ is also designed to help you improve your control of visual attention, and to strengthen the information that you receive from your eyes as you rapidly shift your attention back and forth between the details of a scene or object or printed word, and out to a wider-angle view of the scene or object or printed page.

A goal of BrainHQ training is to strengthen your brain’s ability to identify individual objects or actions within a visual scene. That requires an improvement of its ability to unify those signals that represent a ‘figure’, and that facilely separate it from the ‘background’. It requires an improvement of its ability to keep track of multiple things that can change over time, as your live-action vision rolls over time. And it requires that you improve your ability to keep on task, with focused attention, even while their might be a lot of ongoing visual “noise”, or “distractors”.

A primary goal of BrainHQ is to re-expand your useful field of view back out to the operational range of the average 20-30 year old. As you may or may not be aware, the effective operational field of view in an older individual progressively contracts, with progressively less-competent operations in the periphery of vision normally arising as a very regular function of aging. The vision of the average older citizen operates as if they have “blinders” on!

Many 50-60 year olds, and most 70+ year olds can only operate effectively to identify and rapidly respond to things that are happening pretty directly in front of them, because they simply do not see even-important things that are occurring away from the “center of gaze” (near the center of their focused vision). The contraction of your range of useful vision is a main cause of a sharply increased accident rate in older drivers. It is a main reason why many older individuals literally lose the ability to drive safely (and for the protection of all concerned, lose their driver’s license), and a main cause of falling in older individuals. If you don’t see things coming at you that can result in a collision, or that can knock you on your keister, driving and walking can be a highly risky business!

The expansion of your field of view must be accompanied by an improvement in the speed at which you can react to those now-identifiable things coming at you from all sides! Improving the accuracy and speed of identifying — THEN RESPONDING TO — important things happening in the periphery of vision are main training targets.

In our scientific validation studies, we have been able to show that the average older individual who completes these training programs achieves neurological performance abilities that match the capabilities of the average young (circa 30-35 year old) adult. Impacts on cognition, memory and quality of life derived from using this program suite are the subject of a large controlled trial that is not yet complete; preliminary studies indicate that gains shall be of the order of magnitude of gains achieved with the aural language-targeted Brain Fitness Program, and that gains with BrainHQ shall be substantially additive to gains achieved with the BFP.

One of the five elaborate training programs in this suite has been extensively tested in earlier National Institute of Aging:NIH-supported trials. Called “Useful Field Of View” (UFOV) training, this program was initially applied more than 9 years ago, as a component program of the ACTIVE study, conducted with the help of more than 3,000 older volunteers. Created by Karlene Ball and Dan Roenker, UFOV training was specifically designed to expand the useful field of view without compromising the accuracy of visual reception near the center of gaze, AND to improve the rate of rapid responding to stimuli arising in peripheral vision. More than $20 million in NIA-NIH grants has now been invested in documenting the effects of this training for this large subject population, recorded for up to 5 years after that ten hours of UFOV training was completed in 1998 (10-year follow-ups shall soon be underway!). Those studies have shown that this 10 hours of training was undoubtedly the BEST 10 exercise hours ever spent by these individuals, for ANY reason, because as a consequence:

  1. Trainees were STILL taking in information from a wider field of view, and were STILL more accurate and faster in responding to visual information farther away from the center of gaze more than 5 years after they had completed the 10-hour epoch of UFOV training!
  2. Improvements generalized to improvements in visual memory, and in the use of vision related to everyday tasks and quality of life; again, significant gains could still be recorded 5+ years later!
  3. Trainees had had far fewer automobile accidents over the ensuing 5 years.
  4. Trainees drove their cars more frequently, for longer distances, all across that 5-year epoch.Trainees were more likely to have sustained their independence, and were significantly healthier (had much lower projected health-care expenses).

How could 10 hours have been BETTER spent?!

Other studies led by Professor Ball and colleagues (and by investigators at other university laboratories) have shown that:

  1. UFOV trainees have a much lower probability of having a collision at an intersection, in an at-risk scenario;
  2. the very substantial increase in driving proficiency and safety attributable to this training has been validated in a large trial conducted by the DMV and NTSB in the State of Maryland;
  3. trainees have a much lower probability of having a fall, in an at-risk-for-falling scenario; and
  4. repeating UFOV training once/year results in even greater benefits, in all of the aspects of gain described above.

In the creation of BrainHQ, the new version of the patented UFOV training program originally developed by Drs. Ball and Roenker was created with their guidance and supervision, to make sure that all of the training values recorded in the ACTIVE trial population were assured in these new, more exciting exercises. Drs. Ball, Roenker and colleagues are now evaluating the additional values of the much more extensive training applied in BrainHQ in their University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Western Kentucky laboratories, with a specific emphasis on documenting gains for personal safety, for driving competence and safety, visual memory/cognition, and for achieving extended impacts on their trainees’ quality of life.

It might be remembered that UFOV training represents about 1/5th of the training values of BrainHQ. It might also be remembered that repeating the many other training tasks encompassed in BrainHQ should help the average older individual sustain the visual aspects of their brain fitness in fine fettle, hopefully far out into the future. In my view, there are not too many things that you can do for yourself that can have a greater value for you than this wonderful program. I recommend it to you, with very high enthusiasm!

Again, for further information, see www.positscience.com