Monclarity Raises $5 Million Seed Round, Launches Brain Training App

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The scientifically questionable, yet increasingly crowded marketplace for brain training apps is about to have another vendor to contend with. Monclarity, a new digital health startup co-founded by a seasoned gaming industry entrepreneur and a clinical cognitive neuroscientist, just announced that it has closed a $5 million seed round led by Access Industries. The team is also launching its flagship product, Brainwell, a cognitive training app that claims to help with many of the same conditions that its competition, Lumosity, Elevate, Fit Brain, and Brain HQ, are already tackling.

At its core, Brainwell is a personalized training app that runs users through a series of games designed to stimulate key parts of the brain, with the goal of improving performance in similar real-life scenarios. An often referenced use case for cognitive training “brain games” is facial recognition. People that struggle remembering names or faces can use Brainwell or any of the other commercially available apps to improve their ability to remember these details. The apps attempt to improve these cognitive deficiencies by having users train with simulated game-based scenarios that exercise the parts of the brain responsible for name recollection and facial recognition. The quality of these games varies widely between the competing vendors, with most agreeing that Lumosity games are boring and difficult to stick with, while Fit Brain offers a more video game-like experience in its training program. Brainwell should compete well from this perspective. Its founder, Anthony Tikhman, is a computer scientist with a long and successful career in the gaming industry. He built and sold several earlier startups to major video game companies.

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The issue for Brainwell, along with the rest of the digital health startups working in this space, is that the scientific community remains skeptical. In 2014, the scientific community went so far as to publish a consensus paper on the subject, signed by 70 of the world’s most prominent neuroscientists, declaring, “The strong consensus of this group is that the scientific literature does not support claims that the use of software-based ‘brain games’ alters neural functioning in ways that improve general cognitive performance in everyday life, or prevent cognitive slowing and brain disease."

Despite the scientific skepticism, Brainwell has managed to raise a $5 million seed round and has recruited an advisory board comprised of 15 neuroscientists and psychiatrists. In Brainwell’s case, the team behind the games cites new research in neuroplasticity as the reason their solution will deliver the promised results. Brainwell explains, “Our new understanding of neuroplasticity implies that cognitive exercise not only improves cognitive skills, the ‘software’ on which the brain runs, but that it actually changes the brain itself, the neural ‘hardware.’

Whether or not the company can deliver on its promises, the startup is freshly funded and has an app that is ready for launch. Time will tell if it falls in line with the rest of the market’s lackluster performers, or if its technology is actually able to help people drive cognitive improvements.


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