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Online Test Measures Speed of your Brain 256

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the new-kind-of-quick-draw dept.
KingSkippus writes "According to CNet, a company named Posit Science has produced an online test using Flash that uses sounds to measure the speed of your brain down to the millisecond. According to the company, the test 'measures auditory processing (listening) speed—one of many measures of brain function...The faster we can take in information accurately, the better we can keep up with, respond to and remember what we hear.'"
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Online Test Measures Speed of your Brain

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  • What a joke (Score:5, Informative)

    by gooberguy (453295) <gooberguy@gmail.com> on Saturday March 25, 2006 @04:41PM (#14994945)
    First, their test only works on windows systems. Secondly, it's just a ploy to get you to buy their stupid software for the low low price of $500.
  • Hmm, accurate? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25, 2006 @04:54PM (#14995000)
    Just noting that there were times near the end of the test that either no audio would play at all, or I'd hear a loud click - so I'd just have to guess at the tones. I still managed to get about half of them right when that happened (programmers have good pattern matching algorithms), so that probably coloured my score at the end.

    For this test to be at all accurate, it would need to be done with something more reliable than shockwave.
  • Cognitive Psychology (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 25, 2006 @04:56PM (#14995005)
    The people in cognitive psychology have been doing this - reaction time studies to build models of processing - for decades (to over a century).

    Inspection time is also used in the study of intelligence. I haven't read the original article, but can confidently suggest that they have developed squat - just open your intro to psychology text book.
  • Article is wrong... (Score:2, Informative)

    by dcapel (913969) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:06PM (#14995045) Homepage
    It uses shockwave, not flash. Ergo, it is windows only. :/
  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:08PM (#14995055) Homepage
    Four of my friends took it and we all got 27!!!

    Something smells rotten in Denmark...
  • Score (Score:3, Informative)

    by airjrdn (681898) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:09PM (#14995063) Homepage
    I'm 36, and scored 27ms.
  • old ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lazy Jones (8403) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:10PM (#14995064) Homepage Journal
    a friend of mine wrote this [epij.org] a long time ago, it measures your reflexes too (and doesn't require some stupid windows software)
  • by adolfojp (730818) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:20PM (#14995107)
    I got a 27 also. This raises some suspicions.
  • Re:Problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:25PM (#14995123) Homepage Journal
    we're all familiar with plasticity, eg blind people who acquire acute hearing as a way of coping with their loss by "exercising" the parts of the brain that deal with hearing.

    It should also be known that there is negative plasticity as well, such as the type that can be found in epilepsy, retinal degeneration and other neurodegenerative diseases.

    There could be some legitimacy behind this program under these principals, couldn't there? If you constantly tax those parts of the brain through these tests, as those who are blind do every day, couldn't you reap the same benefits? Here's a snip of some of the benefits I'm talking about, taken from a clinical study on the subject.

    You are absolutely correct, and there is some legitimacy to this. My objection was the lack of disclosure (and being Windows only) as well as pointing out that there are healthier and cheaper ways to accomplish the same results. i.e. One does not have to buy into dumbed down science and fork over $500 to get the same results.

  • Re:Problems (Score:2, Informative)

    by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:28PM (#14995147) Homepage
    I may be uniquely qualified to comment on this, as I spent the last decade of my life, until last October, working closely with Dr. Merzenich on issues of how the brain is altered by reinforced behaviors, and know the details of the testing that has, so far, gone into their program to address age-related cognitive decline.

    First, let's clear up any thought this would address Alzheimer's. It has nothing to do with neurofibrillary tangles and plaques that define Alzheimers.

    What has been done so far, is to demonstrate that practicing certain types of computer guided behaviors for about an hour a day, every day, can have a fairly enormous impact on age-related cognitive decline. Attention and vigilance in rewarded behaviors, nothing more.

    And you might wonder where this guy, Merzenich, gets off thinking this...well, here are some resume highlights.

    1) Developed the ONLY US-developed cochlear implant at UCSF. Merzenich was the project head. The head engineer (Loeb) went to Advanced Bionics to continue the work that became the Clarion cochlear implant, and cured Rush Limbaugh's deafness (I kid), This work was led by Merzenich, and there was a team of about 6-8 other integral participants.

    2) Provided a cure for the vast majority of language learning impaired children, which then became the company Scientific Learning, which has trained over 600,000 children at speech skills, with an AVERAGE improvement of 2 standard deviations in the six week training period. This is today far and away easily the most effective, and often recommended, program for children aged 4-10 who are diagnosed language learning impaired/dyslexic (partnered with Paula Tallal in this effort, as well as a team of at least a dozen other PhD scientists).

    3) Member, National Academy of Sciences.

    This one definitely works also. Is it a fountain of youth? Will it succeed in the market? Your guess is probably as good as mine. But for certain in the initial short-term, people who have substantially advanced cognitive decline relative to their peers can lose a decade or more of their age-related loss in a several week long training period. And that is worth getting excited about.

  • by user24 (854467) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:41PM (#14995217) Homepage
    erm that would be funny, except that for this test, a lower score is better....
  • Re:Problems (Score:3, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 25, 2006 @05:59PM (#14995299) Homepage Journal
    I may be uniquely qualified to comment on this, as I spent the last decade of my life, until last October, working closely with Dr. Merzenich on issues of how the brain is altered by reinforced behaviors, and know the details of the testing that has, so far, gone into their program to address age-related cognitive decline.

    I love it. We need more scientists on Slashdot. Seriously.

    First, let's clear up any thought this would address Alzheimer's. It has nothing to do with neurofibrillary tangles and plaques that define Alzheimers.

    No, not the cellular/molecular pathology per se, but the cognitive decline in Alzheimer's is of interest, yes? From the website: "Early-Stage Alzheimer's Disease: We are conducting a pilot study with UCSF in early-stage Alzheimer's disease. This study is currently enrolling participants through the UCSF Memory and Aging Center."

    What has been done so far, is to demonstrate that practicing certain types of computer guided behaviors for about an hour a day, every day, can have a fairly enormous impact on age-related cognitive decline. Attention and vigilance in rewarded behaviors, nothing more.

    Absolutely. I am not refuting this, rather I am saying that it could be surmised that an equivalent degree of mental exercise doing a number of real world tasks could have the same effect.

    And you might wonder where this guy, Merzenich, gets off thinking this...well, here are some resume highlights.

    I was not questioning the credentials (or yours for that matter). I was simply pointing out that one does not necessarily need a $500 piece of software to limit age related cognitive decline.

    But for certain in the initial short-term, people who have substantially advanced cognitive decline relative to their peers can lose a decade or more of their age-related loss in a several week long training period. And that is worth getting excited about.

    I have no doubt. The brain, just like any biological system, gets "better" with use/reinforcement.

  • Re:Problems (Score:4, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Saturday March 25, 2006 @06:02PM (#14995312) Homepage Journal
    It is quite easy to pose the pundit.

    True. It is harder however to make informed decisions without training/knowledge and that is what we rely upon our scientists to do for us, inform us as to their opinion based upon their knowledge and their training. I was simply functioning in that role for this community.

    Controlled scientific studies show over a decacde-equivalent improvement in age-related decline.

    You are absolutely correct. This has been the case in study after study for what...... 40 years or more?

    What basis do you have to claim that these effects may be obtained more simply? What have you done, or what are you referring to, that has been studied in a carefully controlled manner?

    As I said just above, these studies have been done for years and the literature is very, very rich. You and the author of this software are not incorrect here.

  • by updog (608318) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @06:12PM (#14995359) Homepage
    I got 27ms as well!
  • Re:Problems (Score:3, Informative)

    by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Saturday March 25, 2006 @06:20PM (#14995392) Homepage
    I am completely financially disengaged, I don't work for them, don't work for Merzenich anymore, and have no conflict of interest with their work. I've just been around it a lot...
  • Bah! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Godji (957148) on Saturday March 25, 2006 @06:25PM (#14995419) Homepage
    WTF?! The latency ( != speed ) of a certain brain subsystem is NOT brain speed. Why? Because, as far as I know, brain speed is not defined! That's like measuring computer speed: you could measure the performance of the computer/brain at a given task but that says nothing about its performance on a different task. What is computer speed? The frequency of the CPU, the efficiency of the CPU, the input/output throughput, or the RAM latency? The same problem holds for defining brain speed as well.

    Besides, being a somewhat experienced programmer (and by no means a guru), I could write the same program and release it for free (given the same amount of probably freely available scientific knowledge and a month or two of time). Why charge $500? If you ask me, they want to cover their rather low production costs with 5 sales or so...

    Also, what's that nonsense about improving something by testing it? Short of the exercise performed during the test, this makes no sense whatsoever!
  • Re:Problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by hmahncke (963618) <henry AT mahncke DOT org> on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:01AM (#14996473)
    Hi,

    I am the Vice President for Research and Outcomes at Posit Science, which means that among other things, I worked with the team that designed the on-line test and collected the relevant normative data. Like BWJones, IAANS - I did my Ph.D. with Mike Merzenich, the co-founder of the company, on temporal processing in cortical sensory systems (and worked with Blakestah when he was a postdoc there - althought a friend of mine, he's irascible enough that I guarantee he's not an astroturfer :-). I'd like to answer a few of BWJones thoughts:

    1) brain speed and brain efficiency: BWJones is correct, there's a difference between brain speed and brain efficiency. In the interests of making an interesting on-line test, we called this brain speed because the threshold output is a reasonable measure of the minimum amount of time the brain requires to correctly identify and sequence two similar sounds. The task is relevant to the fundamental accuracy of the brain's ability to process auditory information and speech.

    2) aging and brain speed: BWJones suggests that there should be no differences in these time order judgment (TOJ) thresholds across generally healthy populations, but only in pathological conditions like MS. However, it is the case that many elements of basic brain function, particularly including TOJ thresholds, change significantly over the the normal non-pathological course of aging. We've collected quite a lot of data on this topic over the past year, which is consistent with a large literature on changes in temporal processing (e.g., backward masking, temporal integration) that occur with normal aging.

    3) ordinary physical and mental activity: it's absolutely the case that staying physically and mentally active is helpful. However, on the basis of our research and that of many others, we think that larger improvements are possible using appropriate tasks and stimuli that are specifically designed to renormalize the accuracy and speed with which the brain processes information using the principles of brain plasticity.

    4) negative plasticity: BWJones mentioned negative plasticity. I agree completely - we have suggested (coming out this year in Progress in Brain Research) that normal age-related cognitive decline is contributed to by negative plastic processes in the CNS, and that appropriate designed training programs to reverse that negative plasticity are likely to improve perception, cognition, memory, and action.

    It's nice to see at least a small group of neuroscientists here on slashdot...

    Thanks,

    Henry

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