Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Sure, you’re left slackjawed by the natural beauty of the New River Valley. But you really should appreciate this region for its mind, as well.
That’s the message that New River Valley government leaders and economic development officials are spreading after a recent national data analysis ranked the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metropolitan statistical area as one of the smartest metro areas in the United States.
No metro area in Virginia surpasses this one for raw brain power — at least as it’s measured by a San Francisco-based company called Lumosity that created an online brain training program to test cognitive performance.
These rankings aren’t based on sophisticated research conducted in controlled settings. They amount to a marketing tool for Lumosity, which mined data from more than 3 million users of its online games to compile the rankings.
But when a marketing gimmick makes you look good, you may as well run with it. Montgomery County’s economic development department issued a news release on June 25 touting the region’s No. 14 ranking in the Lumosity survey, one spot ahead of Charlottesville. Take that, Wahoos.
The mayors of Blacksburg and Radford also chimed in, celebrating the ranking as an affirmation of the region’s quality of life and of the caliber of its schools, colleges and workforce.
It should come as no surprise that the rankings are dominated by metro areas that have major research universities and higher concentrations of residents with advanced degrees. Ithaca, N.Y., home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, tops this year’s Lumosity list.
But it’s not just college students and young academics padding the score for the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford area. Lumosity also ranked this region fourth nationally in cognitive performance by users age 55 and older. It’s nice to think that the valley’s brain power also has staying power.
What, exactly, did Lumosity measure to compile these rankings? Researchers compiled data from users who played at least one of Lumosity’s games in each of five “brain areas” to test speed, attention, flexibility, memory and problem solving.
The rankings are based on the median overall score for users in each geographic area, with a minimum sample size of 500 users per area. The Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford area was one of 478 “core-based statistical areas” ranked by Lumosity in its 2013 survey. A No. 14 ranking seems pretty impressive.
But we won’t get carried away with a ranking based on performance in a company’s brain-training computer games. The Roanoke metro area came in at No. 173 in the Lumosity survey, but its score of 100.79 was within 3 points of the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford area’s total. No one should use these numbers to argue that there’s a brain power gap between the Roanoke and New River valleys.
But if Lumosity’s rankings draw positive outside attention to one of the New River Valley’s important and perhaps overlooked attributes, that’s all for the good. As for folks around here, Lumosity’s data analysis doesn’t tell them anything they don’t already know. They’re pretty smart people, after all.
Weather JournalMix on Sat AM; coming blog changes