CogniFit and Ermua: Helping the Small Spanish Town at the Vanguard of Cognitive Health Tech in the Classroom

Ermua, a small town with big ideas for the future.
Ermua, a small town with big ideas for the future.

Ermua, home to around 16,000 inhabitants, is a quaint village in the north of Spain nestled in the scenic hills of the Basque Country (Pais Vasco), located between the cities of Bilbao and Pamplona and roughly 50 miles (80 km) from the border with France.

As a village that has long served as a quiet refuge that the workers and their families from the nearby industrial towns could call home, you might be tempted to think that the citizens of Ermua would be content to enjoy the relaxed country lifestyle and the beautiful architecture and natural scenery of the surrounding area.

But Ermua is actually at the forefront of the digital revolution playing out in classrooms, not only in Spain, but across the globe.

Ermua: The Small Town with Big Ambitions for Their Students

Starting in December of 2020, the Ermua City Council began collaboration on a major project with leading companies and academic institutions to achieve an ambitious goal so far not reached by any other municipality:  Comprehensive attention to the cognitive needs of their student as an integral pillar of their academic growth.

The First Steps in the Project to Promote Cognitive Improvement in Ermua’s School Population

During the first phase of the project, the team undertook a complete cognitive profiling of the municipality’s school population aged between 6 and 16 years old and improve the basic psychological processes of each student through digital cognitive training.

Impulso Cognitivo—a company that focuses on improving the assessment and improvement of cognitive abilities by bringing together experts in neuroscience, psychology, healthcare, and education—was tapped to coordinate the implementation of this phase of the digital cognitive transformation.

Working in five schools based in Ermua, the team implemented a cognitive assessment battery created in collaboration with researchers from the Nebrija Center for Cognition Research (Centro de Investigacion Nebrija en Cognicion) at Nebrija University which focused on measuring the group of cognitive skills known as Executive Functions, which are used to set and achieve goals, to control and self-regulate actions based on our environment, or to develop a plan of action to meet novel challenges or situations.

Based on the results of the assessment battery, the team designed a training plan intended to promote the development of the students’ Executive Functions.

The team selected Executive Functions as a primary focus because, as the scientific literature has continued to grow over recent decades, evidence has shown that a student’s Executive Functions are closely tied to their overall academic performance, successful teaching-learning processes, and many learning difficulties that lead to special educational needs.

With the help of specialized personnel who were sent to each center, the students completed the series of tasks using tactile electronic devices provided by Cognitive Impulse

As of the summer of 2021, more than 1,200 students—over 85% of the school population of Ermua—had been able to participate in this first-in-the-world collaborative project to perform precision cognitive profiling of the municipality’s entire school population.

But this was just the beginning. City council members and educators of Ermua have even more plans to use digital cognitive platforms in their schools to promote the healthy development of the cognitive abilities related to Executive Functions of the boys and girls of the town.

How CogniFit is Helping to Build the Next Phase of Cognitive Improvement in Ermua’s Schools

As the project moves beyond this initial phase, CogniFit is leveraging our precision digital cognitive training expertise to empower Ermua with advanced digital tools that allows them to provide each student with personalized training plans based on their individual cognitive level and executive functions through a system of adaptive cognitive stimulation games.

Each Ermua student who participates in this project will be able to make use of the most advanced digital cognitive training tools throughout the entire 2021/2022 academic year, both inside the education center and at home.

The scientific team at Nebrija University will evaluate the impact that personalized training programs made possible through the use of CogniFit technology will have on the students’ Executive Functions by comparing the results from the Cognitive Impulse evaluation batteries throughout the school year.

Carlos Rodríguez, executive director of CogniFit, highlights the importance of using digital training for cognitive health, saying “similar to the pursuit of precision healthcare, we must also pursue precision education and understand how to develop tools, such as individualized stimulation programs, that promote the healthy development of the cognitive abilities of each student.”

With more than 20 years of experience in the cognitive health sector and more than 4 million users, we are proud to be able to collaborate and share our expertise directly with public institutions. “This project is a model to be replicated in many other towns and cities,” says Carlos Rodríguez.

Conclusion

Thanks to this unique, groundbreaking collaboration, the Ermua City Council is providing nearly all of its students with effective digital tools to assess and improve their cognitive abilities, becoming the first municipality in the world to fully serve its schoolchildren not only at a socio-educational level, but at a cognitive level as well.

Juan Carlos Abascal, the mayor of Ermua, notes that “the fact [we were able to complete] a cognitive profiling of the Ermua student body provides a unique opportunity to reinforce the improvement of executive functions by making scientifically proven digital tools available to the student body, their families, and practically the entire school community.”