[Editors note — this is a continuation of 12-part feature by The Wall Street Journal profiling “pioneers who are shaping the way Americans will live, work and play in later life.”]
Number Eight — Keeping Minds in Shape
Michael Merzenich is working to make “brain exercise” as much a part of your routine in retirement as walking or jogging.
As chief scientific officer at Posit Science Corp., a San Francisco software maker, Dr. Merzenich, age 65, is at the forefront of efforts to improve mental health in later life. His interest in the field dates to the mid-1980s, when he was involved in experiments training animals at the University of California, San Francisco.
“We were watching [the animals’] brains change as they acquired skills and abilities,” he remembers. Consequently, he began investigating tools that could promote and measure mental fitness in humans.
His first company, Scientific Learning Corp., started in 1996, created software for children struggling with language problems. Posit Science, which Dr. Merzenich founded in 2003, is focused on older adults. Its first product was designed to improve memory and cognition (thinking and processing speed), mainly through listening exercises; this spring, the company plans to release a new brain-training program focused on vision.
Dr. Merzenich, still a neuroscience professor at UCSF and an inventor with more than 50 patents, is working on exercises that support decision making, fine motor control (playing musical instruments, for example), and gross motor control (to help restore balance).
— By Kelly Greene, The Wall Street Journal