Marketplace of Memory

What the Brain Fitness Technology Industry Says About Us and How We Can Do Better

Daniel R. George, PhD, MSc; Peter J. Whitehouse, MD, PhD


Gerontologist. 2011;51(5):590-596. 

In This Article


Ultimately, brain fitness technology has a role to play in the complex project of cognitive well-being and may make even more profound contributions to acute recovery from such conditions as stroke and traumatic brain injury. However, their current limitations—not to mention the excesses of the marketing departments currently promoting the products worldwide, especially to baby boomers—must be deeply scrutinized and matched by a counter-narrative that reinforces broader multifactorial notions of brain health and the interdependency of human populations and pushes us to think more imaginatively about cognitive health in the context of communities. Framing brain health as a community/public health, ethical, and social issue can countervail against the current reductionism of the neoliberal "brain fitness" marketplace while encouraging greater reflection on what it means to protect brains that exist over time in shared social and natural environments that can exert deleterious, neutral, and ameliorative effects on human cognition. We have no doubt that learning technologies have a significant potential role to play in improving our thinking and valuing of each other and of nature that likely far exceeds the capacity of biological products. We do hope, however, that the promise of these technologies is not weakened by the excessive expectations created for the rather limited contemporary approaches to brain fitness. As we have demonstrated at The Intergenerational School, the most powerful "brain health" activities can have the double benefit of enriching one's local community and creating life-affirming relationships at the same time as they aim at the improvement of one's brain at the molecular level.


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