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SFU sits at center of Eighth Brainiest Region

June 8, 2012

The Johnstown-Altoona area has been named on the top 25 list of America’s Brainiest Cities. The area is listed at number eight in the country, and nestled in the heart of the number eight spot is Saint Francis University.  

There are a lot of college towns on the list, including the homes of the University of Virginia, and the home of Purdue University, and Saint Francis stands beside them as a university community with very high cognitive performance.

To measure the smartest cities scientists used Luminosity, a cognitive training and tracking software developed by Lumos Labs, which members use online games to assess and attempt to improve their cognitive performance. Luminosity scientists tracked the cognitive performance of over one million users on their games and tracked them across metros using IP geolocation software. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving.

The Luminosity data was associated with both the share of adults with a bachelor's degree or greater and the percent engaged in knowledge and creative work. Higher cognitive performance scores were associated with higher rates of innovation, greater concentrations of high-tech industry and higher per capita incomes. The data also showed that those living or working within university communities tend to perform better than those of the same age living or working in other areas.

“It was great to see our region represented in such a positive light, yet it isn’t all that surprising considering the high concentration of institutions of higher education in the area; Penn State Altoona, Pitt Johnstown, Mount Aloysius, and Saint Francis. The region also has a growing number of high tech firms such as Concurrent Technologies Corporation. There's a real entrepreneurial drive in the region and it's attracting a very enterprising, energetic population,” said Wayne Powel, provost of Saint Francis University. 

John Harris, professor of computer science at Saint Francis, added, "Using gaming to measure cognitive performance isn't new but the study using online gaming and IP addresses to geolocate and assess cognitive performance is something I haven't seen done before. As a local resident, it was pleasing to see the Altoona-Johnstown metropolitan area ranking 8th in the country on the list of 'brainiest' cities.

Gaming used to be viewed as just 'play' but today gaming is used in a wide variety of ways to improve our lives: From simulations to aid pilots and firefighters gain skills in their professions to gaming applications that help stroke victims regain mobility, speech and cognitive focus. Our Computer Science gaming concentration, in partnership with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, prepares our students to be the next generation of Computer Scientists engaged in exploring new and innovative ways in which gaming technology can be used today and tomorrow."

As a liberal arts institution, Saint Francis University’s campus community promotes and strives for both knowledge and creativity, the combination of which can greatly increase cognitive performance. It is for this reason that the students and faculty of Saint Francis prosper and succeed at the center of one of the brainiest metro areas in the nation.