Brain Exercise Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on preventing memory loss through brain exercise. Its founder is UCLA student Esin Gumustekin. She first became fascinated with Alzheimer’s Disease while interning at Samumed, a San Diego based biotech company focused on developing medicine for a wide range of diseases including osteoarthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease using the Wnt pathway. After conducting research on Samumed's novel Alzheimer’s drug SM07883, Esin became interested in researching other potential therapeutics to combat this debilitating disease.
Esin took a special interest in Alzheimer’s Disease as the condition afflicted her grandmother, causing this beloved matriarch to forget the identity of her children and grandchildren. In the course of researching, Esin came upon the captivating research done in Japan regarding the power of math exercises and reading aloud on Alzheimer’s patients. Pioneered by neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, it has been found that doing simple math and reading aloud for just 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, caused marked improvements for those with Alzheimer’s. Most showed improvements in cognitive function as tested by Mini Mental State Examinations (MMSE) and Frontal Assessment Batteries (FAB). Many began to feel happier and improvements in communication and cognition were recorded. Near miraculous case studies were also observed. For example, an individual who was previously bedridden began to walk again after completing these exercises for six months. Some patients showed improvements in bowel movement. The gentle mental activities Dr. Kawashima used activated the prefrontal cortex, the control center for memory, cognition and planning. These activities are currently being done in over 1400 care centers with over 15,000 patients in Japan. For more information regarding this groundbreaking research done in Japan, please reference these two articles: https://www.tohoku.ac.jp/en/research/research_highlights/research_highlight_22.html and https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/60/3/380/630607.
Drawing from the research conducted in Japan, Esin was inspired to create an intergenerational nonprofit in which university students would hold brain exercise programs at retirement homes. She creates daily packets which include simple math, writing and "read-alouds" that are completed by each individual with the guidance of university students. Several retirement homes have integrated her program into their center and chapters are currently being founded at different universities. For a complete list of the locations please refer to the Home section.
Not only does the Brain Exercise Initiative hope to improve the memory of those suffering from Alzheimer’s but we also create an invaluable, all-too-rare avenue for intergenerational service, discussion, and collaboration.