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Transcript: Q&A with Alvaro Fernandez about The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Alvaro Fernandez

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez

You can now read the full tran­script of yesterday’s Q&A ses­sion on a vari­ety of brain health and fit­ness top­ics, from mem­ory improve­ment to heart rate mon­i­tors, exer­cise, med­i­ta­tion, “Grain Brain,” brain train­ing, and more. A cou­ple of good exchanges:

Ques­tion by Stephen Jep­son
What spe­cific phys­i­cal activ­i­ties con­tribute to the great­est changes in the brain in the short­est period of time? Once the neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and neu­ro­plas­tic­ity that results from those changes has occurred what must one do to main­tain that growth?

Answer by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez
Take a look at chap­ter 3, fully devoted to exer­cise. In short, aer­o­bic exer­cise is what brings high­est returns, espe­cially when you start from a low base­line (much higher mar­ginal value in going from 0 to 3 hours per week than from 20 to 23). And great related ques­tion — men­tal exer­cise is key to influ­ence where those new neu­rons go and how long they sur­vive. So the media con­tro­versy about what is bet­ter, phys­i­cal vs men­tal exer­cise, is essen­tially point­less. You need both, for com­ple­men­tary reasons.

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Ques­tion by Jose Estrella and Ellen
Thank you for the very use­ful reviews and com­ments about brain train­ing in chap­ter 8. It seems that, if I’d like to embark on an on line brain train­ing pro­gram focus­ing on work­ing and short term mem­ory and higher level cog­ni­tive skills, I could start with Lumos­ity, brainHQ or Cogmed. How do I choose which one? How can I as a lay per­son know if a par­tic­u­lar set of brain exer­cises is work­ing for me? How do i gauge this. Thank you!

Answer by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez
As we explain in the book we don’t endorse par­tic­u­lar pro­grams but there are a num­ber of brain train­ing options that make may sense based on your own pri­or­i­ties and con­text. We share a lot of the research we did on the sci­ence behind the main pro­grams and their cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion rates so you can see which one to start with…it is not a purely sci­en­tific deci­sion but more of a prac­ti­cal one. What is your bud­get? Do you need a lot of super­vi­sion or are self-directed? Do you pre­fer a “younger” inter­face, like Lumosity’s, or one designed for 50+ users, like Posit Science’s brainHQ? Once you start, what is crit­i­cal is your other ques­tion — how to objec­tively eval­u­ate progress. We sug­gest sev­eral options in chap­ter 9, from keep­ing sub­jec­tive impres­sions to things like Brain­Base­line app. I believe this self-assessment part is a key SharpBrainsGuide_3Dcom­po­nent of the brain fit­ness puz­zle and good news is there’s sig­nif­i­cant progress under way.

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