I've been meaning for some time to do a post on the avalanche of interest in aging baby boomers not loosing their marbles any faster than absolutely necessary. An article on this topic by Pam Belluck in the 12/27/06 New York Times prompts me to go ahead. We are seeing a blooming of blogs and start up companies that focus on techniques for preserving memory and mental acuity (Posit Science, Third Age, Vigorous Mind, Rocky Mountain Learning, Sharp Brains, Happy Neuron, My Brain Trainer, to mention just a few). The Developing Intelligence blog has a post that discusses the Sharp Brains company, and the Sharp Brains Blog and the Brain Reserves Blog are among several that focus on brain fitness.
There are positive individual testimonials to the effectiveness of brain exercises, and a number of group studies are underway, but we are still absent any hard data that brain exercises bring a benefit that is distinguishable from general cardiovascular exercise. Belluck notes "human studies have generally relied on observations of people with healthier brains, but have not tested whether a particular behavior improves brain health. Perhaps people with healthier brains are more likely to do brain-stimulating activities, not the reverse." She also makes the point: "Certainly most brain-healthy recommendations are not considered bad for people. They do not have the potential risks of drugs or herbal supplements... The challenge we have is it’s going to be a lot like the anti-aging industry: how much science is there behind this?"