Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Training and Cognitive Health: September News

A round-up of interested news during the month:Brain Health News

1) Training Young Brains to Behave (New York Times)

2) Head Games (OpEd in New York Times)

3) Will Gerontology recognize the Brain? (American Society on Aging event)

4) Brain function gets a boost from walking (Los Angeles Times)

5) An idea whose time has (finally) come (McKnight’s Long Term Care News)

6) Train your brain (Financial Times Germany)

7) Toman auge ejercicios que adiestran la mente (Milenio, Mexico)

8) Trois nouvellestudes IDATE : Serious Games (Publi-News, France)

Links and commentary below.

1) Training Young Brains to Behave (New York Times)

– “But just as biology shapes behavior, so behavior can accelerate biology. And a small group of educational and cognitive scientists now say that mental exercises of a certain kind can teach children to become more self-possessed at earlier ages, reducing stress levels at home and improving their experience in school. Researchers can test this ability, which they call executive function, and they say it is more strongly associated with school success than I.Q.”

Comment: we are happy to see the growing number of articles on the importance of executive functions and the role of schools in helping children “accelerate biology”. In the next couple of weeks we will be publishing a fascinating interview with researcher Mike Posner precisely on this topic.

2) Head Games (OpEd in New York Times)

– “CHILDREN aged 5 to 18 suffer at least 96,000 sports-related concussions every year in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Even more troubling, as many as 20 percent of all high school football players sustain concussions annually, studies show.”

– “The only way to know for sure whether a concussion victim’s brain has returned to normal is to compare the results of neuropsychological tests conducted before and after the injury. That requires preparing athletes for the season by putting them through baseline testing.”

Comment: Great OpEd, raising awareness of a problem with growing importance – not only in terms of sports concussions, but also car accidents, strokes, and a variety of life-events that may provoke brain damage – and introducing readers to the need for cognitive baselines for specific individuals.

Now, we will probably need to go further than the author of the OpEd suggests. There are simply not enough neuropsychologists in the whole planet to test one-person at a time for 4-hours each, and the cost of trying so would be astronomical.

The more realistic route is to combine a) fully-automated computer-based assessments as a baseline, b) the involvement of a neuropsychologist when needed, probably both to supervise the whole assessment program for a sports team, for example, and then to supervise the post-damage rehabilitation process.

3) Will Gerontology recognize the Brain? (American Society on Aging event)

A few weeks ago, during the American Society on Aging’s Brain Health day, a participant made a comment along the lines, “I just completed my Masters in Gerontology at University XYZ. Despite my best efforts, I could not find a single brain-related class to attend as part of my studies. Which is why I decided to come to a conference like this”.

Comment: Incredible that this happens in 2008, a decade after the “Decade of the Brain”. Healthcare and cognitive science seem to have inhabited different universes for too long. I hope we start to see more active cross-pollination between both fields. Gerontology would be a great place to start, given the growing demand for preventive programs to contribute to the cognitive health of an aging population.

4) Brain function gets a boost from walking (Los Angeles Times):

Comment: A couple of recent studies have reinforced the lifelong potential for brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself through experience) and the importance of physical exercise for cognitive vitality. One study focused on 1) adults over 50 with mild cognitive impairment, the other one on 2) stroke survivors. The press release for the second study contains this quote:”This is great news for stroke survivors because results clearly demonstrate that long-term stroke damage is not immutable and that with exercise it’s never too late for the brain and body to recover,” says Daniel Hanley, M.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Indeed, there is no reason why the process of physical and cognitive rehabilitation (or “enhancement”) should ever stop, either as part of formal therapy or as a lifestyle modification.

5) An idea whose time has (finally) come (McKnight’s Long Term Care News):

“Like many revolutions, long-term care’s recent embrace of technology-based brain fitness tools began quietly. Then it exploded.”

Comment: Indeed. We see more and more seniors housing and long-term care operators evaluate options to help maintain residents’ cognitive health.

And, now, in case you want to use your language skills, you may also enjoy these recent articles:

6) Train your brain (Financial Times Germany):

“Ob Gehirntraining etwas ntzt ist nicht bewiesen. Aber in den USA boomt der Markt, Hersteller kooperieren mit Krankenkassen und Seniorenheimen. In Deutschland fassen die Spiele gerade erst Fuf.”

7) Toman auge ejercicios que adiestran la mente (Milenio, Mexico):

“La clave est en encontrar actividades que estimulen ms nuestra memoria.”

8) Trois nouvelles studes IDATE : Serious Games (Publi-News, France):

“A travers une analyse dtaille des caractristiques, des usages et des diffrentes familles de serious games, cette tude met en vidence les enjeux associs aux phases de conception, de developpement et de diffusion des diffrents types de serious games.”


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2 Responses

  1. Dr. Donald Thibeault says:

    #3 above as it relates to gerontology. Come visit MENTAL GYMNASTIC classes in Oxnard, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks, Calfornia. With more than 220 “students’ there is widespread interest.

  2. Donald, please see my answer to your comment here:
    http://tinyurl.com/3t5wjd

    Thank you

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