Hockey IntelliGym wins brain fitness award

    USA Hockey is used to receiving gold medals for winning games.
Yesterday the organization grabbed the award for an off-ice
achievement: First place in the first annual Brain Fitness Innovation Awards.

    Presented by SharpBrains, the 10 finalists demonstrated a commitment to brain fitness through their “results-oriented, scalable initiatives.” A panel of 16 judges made up of researchers and corporate executives judged the Hockey IntelliGym
program the best, calling IntelliGym a “personalized program that gives
very specialized feedback to players and allows them to improve their
skills.” The judges were also impressed that the Under-18 and Under-17
USA Hockey National Teams reported they have seen improved play since
using the IntelliGym.

    Co-developed by USA Hockey (ice
hockey’s national governing body) and Applied Cognitive Engineering
(ACE), the Hockey IntelliGym may look like a videogame but serves as a
cognitive training device. Danny Dankner, CEO of ACE, wrote in an
e-mail that the IntelliGym helps players with perception, short-term
memory focus, and decision-making, brain skills necessary for on-ice
success.

Intelligym2

    “The system also develops skills like
anticipation, attention control, working memory (particularly in the
context of covered areas), planning, and pattern recognition,” he
wrote. “The tasks embedded in the training system stimulate a similar
skill-set, only in a more intense workload (and thus this technology is
dubbed ‘Cognitive Simulation’). The player is presented with a
video-game-like scenario, where spaceships serve as the contextual
representation of the objects in the real environment.”    

    Dankner
also noted that ACE chose to develop products for athletes (they also
make the Basketball IntelliGym) because athletes want to outperform
competitors, and by using the product they’ll be able to see tangible
results.

      “When you talk to hockey experts, a lot of people
believed you either have (hockey sense) or you don’t,” said Ken Martel
during a conference call yesterday. Martel is the director of the
American Development Model, a USA Hockey initiative focusing on
age-appropriate training and long-term athlete development. “The really
fascinating thing for us is we firmly believed we could teach this. We
were looking for ways to make our players smarter on the rink—allow
them to make better decision. We were extremely excited with the
results (of the IntelliGym).”

    With the help of ACE, USA
Hockey is helping to disprove the myth that “game IQ” is an innate
characteristic that can’t be enhanced. As Dankner wrote, “Just like
lifting weights or working out your aerobic fitness, cognitive
performance can also be dramatically improved if only addressed by the
right ‘fitness room.’”

    The Hockey IntelliGym will be available to the public in October.

    –Andrew Kahn

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