'Brain fitness' market booming with Boomers

Even teenagers cramming for tests are turning to brain exercises.

Raemon Matthews, a history teacher in New York City, uses some of the techniques in his curriculum and says he's seen a difference in his students' performance. SharpBrains estimates the K-12 market was worth $60 million in 2007, mostly for children with learning disabilities.

"It's a tool like any other tool," says Matthews. "Children in the 21st century are 30-second people. If you cannot grab them in that 30-second period, they become disillusioned and don't feel they are capable of grabbing it."

Tony Dottino, who founded the USA Memory Championships more than a decade ago and teaches memory techniques, says people have the misperception that the drills are "some awful thing, where you have to sit there and stuff this information into your head."

"It's not a matter of stuffing it into their heads," he says. "It's a matter of helping them organize it in a way that their brains will be able to retain."

For now, the brain fitness market is poised to grow. SharpBrains estimates the software market will reach $2 billion in 2015 in the United States. Fernandez has visions of certified brain coaches, brain fitness programs in the workplace and government-led efforts.

Hart's goals are more modest: He suggests people find something that is mentally challenging and fun and do it on a regular basis.

"I am hoping that in the future, you will be able to go a health care provider or other expert who will be able to give folks a brain physical" and prescribe the proper exercises, he says.

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