Beth Israel Deaconess Launches A ‘Brain Fit Club’

The new program aims to be like a personal trainer for your brain.

Neuron image via shutterstock

Neuron image via shutterstock

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) is launching a “Brain Fit Club” to help support brain health by creating personalized brain “workout routines” which are designed to keep the brain limber and active. Concussions due to high school sports are on the rise, and aging parents along with President Obama’s new brain initiative have dementia and Alzheimer’s constantly in the news. So many of us are rightfully concerned about brain health. BIDMC looked at brain health like you’d look at your own body. To keep in shape, you join a gym. It’s this way of thinking that led them to launch the Brain Fit Club, like a neighborhood gym for your brain.

According to BIDMC, a brain “workout routine” might involve a combination of scientifically-validated computerized cognitive training, brain stimulation, nutritional coaching, mindfulness training, sleep and lifestyle education, gait and balance evaluation and treatment, and group classes in meditation, tai chi, and gentle yoga designed to target a full range of cognitive problems. “At BIDMC we have nearly 40 years of experience in expertly diagnosing and treating disorders of cognition,” says Albert Galaburda, MD, chief of cognitive neurology in a press release. “Through research here and elsewhere we know that there’s a lot to be gained from pairing traditional treatments like medication with special kinds of exercises, and we’re very excited to offer this comprehensive approach to our patients.”

How it works: Brain Fit Club members start with an evaluation by a neuropsychologist who assesses cognitive abilities. “Based on that cognitive profile, we then identify targeted interventions to address each individual’s area of weakness. The ‘workout’ regimen will be different for a person dealing with an attention issue, say, than for a person having trouble with memory,” says Bonnie Wong, a neuropsychologist and the director of the Brain Fit Club. “Not only do we develop a program that’s tailored to that particular person’s needs, but we can also track their progress and adjust their program as time goes on.”

Coaching is an important part of the Brain Fit Club which helps to ensure that members stay motivated and on the right track. “We want to help people understand that it’s not just about continuing to lift the same two pound weight, we want to make sure each person is working for the right amount of time at the right level and not falling back on what feels comfortable or routine,” Wong says.

The Brain Fit Club relies on the science of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change or adapt in the presence of new experiences. Research shows that the brain never stops producing new cells, so there is lifelong potential for brain development. “We know that a healthy brain is better able to cope with challenges that come with injury, disease and the natural aging process,” says Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation in a press release. “Fundamentally there are things we could all do better for better brain health, things like making sure we get enough sleep, eating a healthy, balanced diet, participating in heart pumping exercise, and then we need to challenge our brain outside of its comfort zone in an environment like the Brain Fit Club.”

BIDMC says that many Brain Fit Club members are already reporting benefits. For more information, visit the Brain Fit Club web site.