Why "Brain Gyms" May Be The Next Big Business | Fast Company

Why "Brain Gyms" May Be The Next Big Business | Fast Company

Why "Brain Gyms" May Be The Next Big Business

BY E.B. Boyd | 06-16-2011 | 7:21 PM
Four years ago, investors gingerly handed over seed money to Lumosity, a startup creating brain games. Today they're happily tossing the same company $32 million. What changed?

Back in 2007, Lumosity was a scrappy startup scrounging for seed money. Today, the San Francisco-based company that creates games to make your brain work better is announcing it’s landed over $32 million in new funding.

What a difference four years make.

“When we first invested, we were concerned this was just a niche area for people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems,” Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners tells Fast Company. “But Lumosity has proved there’s universal demand for this among all demographics.”

Indeed, today, over 14 million people in 180 countries either subscribe to Lumosity’s website or have downloaded one of its iPhone apps. And revenues have grown 25% every quarter since its launch.

Other companies, like CogniFit and Posit Science, also compete in this space, though none has received as large a round of funding as Lumosity. Sharp Brains, a market research firm tracking the brain fitness space, estimates that the size of the market for digital products was just under $300 million in 2009 and will grow to at least $2 billion by 2015.

Lumosity’s website offers 40 games designed to sharpen a wide range of cognitive skills. The signup process walks you through a series of questions to figure out whether you want, for example, to improve your ability to remember names, get better at problem solving, or develop better concentration at work or while driving. It then designs a series of “courses” tailored to your particular interests.

word bubbles
In one game, players are given a three-letter prefix and must come up with as many words as possible while a clock counts down. In another, arithmetic problems appear in bubbles, and the player has to solve them before the bubble bursts. A third, which is reminiscent of the IQ tests you took as a kid, challenges you to remember the locations of various tiles in a grid.
But all of this comes at a price. Website subscriptions cost $14.95 a month, or $80 a year. And yet, plenty of people are paying.

Lumosity CEO Kunal Sarkar tells Fast Company that’s in part because brain fitness is the latest wave in the trend of healthy living that started three decades ago when suburbanites started flocking to gyms and continues today with the widespread interest in yoga and organic foods. Many people pony up the annual subscription, equating it with a gym membership, but for their brains.

Meanwhile, the neuroscience research coming out of universities over the past couple of decades has confirmed that cognitive abilities are not necessarily fixed. Just as you can beef up your body by lifting weights, the types of games that Lumosity and its competitors offer can make your brain stronger and work faster and better.

“There’s a growing understanding that you can affect core cognitive functioning throughout your life,” says Sarkar, whose cofounder Michael Scanlon was a neuroscience graduate student at Stanford before he--in good Silicon Valley form--dropped out to help start the company.

The fact that more and more of us work in fields that rely on how well that piece of jelly between our ears functions is also part of what’s driving the interest in brain fitness. Lumosity users include everyone from traders in Chicago who use the tools to warm up their noggins before heading to the trading floor, to actors in Los Angeles wanting to get better at memorizing scripts, to pilots using them to improve their spatial abilities and reaction times.
“We don’t necessarily teach you anything,” Sarkar says, “but we make it easier for you to learn new things, which is more and more important.”

[Image: Flickr user Arend Vermazeren]

Sexless Marriage Is Surprisingly Common | Psychology Today

Sexless Marriage Is Surprisingly Common | Psychology Today
"Maybe we should marry our best friends and have sex with the people who turn us on, because it seems like that's what's happening."

Sexless Marriage Is Surprisingly Common

Why are so many spouses losing interest in sex? 
Why is it that love and sex are so often at odds? Or, is the issue rather that losing interest in sex has something to do with marriage? Because, if I hear one more married guy matter-of-factly justify sniffing out other women with, "I'm not attracted to my wife," or have one more woman scrunch up her face and say, "Ew, no," at the mere mention of sex with her husband, I don't know if I will be able to resist my urge to ask why not.

Sexless marriage is no longer a taboo topic or one that lurks in the shadows as it once had. Articles, studies, books and forums are popping up everywhere and we are learning that it is not an uncommon occurrence at all. But which comes first, the proverbial chicken or the egg? Is the marriage sexless because it lacks love or is the reverse true? Does the absence of one cause the disintegration of the other?  Or, have we simply misunderstood the relationship between sex and love by expecting them to go hand in hand? Surely, many married couples love one another that do not have sex, while others no doubt have sex in the absence of love. Cause and effect in either direction is difficult to establish. But, I think it is safe to say that marriage = love = sex is not a given. Not by any stretch. We only have to note reality to see how true a statement that is.
Often, the stress of marriage is blamed. That's probably the first clue. What stress? People long for relationships to enhance their lives, to love and be loved, to learn, to share and to grow. I mean, after all, it's love. It should feel good. So what's with the stress? Is it actually the reason or is it a symptom reflecting a deeper root cause? Because really, shouldn't sex and love reduce life's stresses rather than add to them? Maybe the problem is with the social construct of marriage itself. There are so many rules, so many ways you "have to be," so many pretenses attached, is it any wonder that the roles forced upon husband and wife cause one to lose his/her appeal after awhile? If you're acting out "happily ever after," unhappily, it's just not sexy.

I'm not saying all marriages are a bust. I think like many other things in life (if not all), it's an 80/20 breakdown. Twenty percent of the time marriage is for love, the kind of love that excites sexual interest and where the restrictions of marriage don't get in the way. My parents, an ex-boyfriend, my best friend and a coworker are in that twenty percent. The other eighty... well, you know, it seems obvious. In fact, in my own unofficial count, of thirteen couples I know, just three of them enjoy having sex with their spouses. That's almost 25%.
In broader terms, it is estimated that anywhere between fifteen and twenty percent of marriages are sexless. That's after over fifty percent of them fail and end in divorce, which doesn't count the amount of people who stay in their marriages miserable and imprisoned, lonely and longing for real love, and the opportunity to express that love through sexual intimacy.

To confuse things further, what I hear more often than not is, "Don't get me wrong. I love my wife," - or husband as it were. "I'm just not into it," he or she says. So, there is love, at least sometimes, yet they rationalize getting a different kind of love outside the marriage is the name of "the romance is gone."But, that's what I want to know. What happened to it? And what kind of love is so selfish that it involves that kind of deceit? Maybe we should marry our best friends and have sex with the people who turn us on, because it seems like that's what's happening.

Now, I get platonic love and I understand sexual love too. I also know what having love in your heart feels like as well as how physical love inspires the desire to touch. Once, I even had a boyfriend describe a weekend together as "soulful." Did that mean his soul came alive? Or maybe he felt mine. Who knows? Then there is that "real connection" you hear people describe as spiritual love. No matter what kind of love it is though, breaking promises, going back on your word and lying about it can't possibly be one that counts.

The problem is that marriage forces love into a singular, finite, unforgiving, inflexible model that allows no room for any other kind. There is one expectation imposing what you can feel and what you can't. Period. In some ways it prevents us from being human.

So, I ask, do we need the institution of marriage to love and be loved? I don't think so. In fact, it may make it worse.