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Glossary: Brain/ Cognitive Terms

Key Con­cepts in Brain and Cog­ni­tive Fitness

Brain Fit­ness: the gen­eral state of good, sharp, brain and mind, espe­cially as the result of men­tal and phys­i­cal exer­cise and proper nutri­tion. Hav­ing the men­tal abil­i­ties required to func­tion in soci­ety, in our occu­pa­tions, in our communities.

Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram: struc­tured set of brain exer­cises, either computer-based or not, designed to train spe­cific brain areas and func­tions in tar­geted ways.

Chronic Stress: ongo­ing, long-term stress. Con­tin­ued phys­i­o­log­i­cal arousal where stres­sors block the for­ma­tion of new neu­rons and neg­a­tively impact the immune system’s defenses.

Cog­ni­tive train­ing (or Brain Train­ing): vari­ety of brain exer­cises designed to help work out spe­cific cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. The prin­ci­ple under­ly­ing cog­ni­tive train­ing is to help improve “core” abil­i­ties, such as atten­tion, mem­ory, problem-solving.

Cog­ni­tive ther­apy: type of ther­apy based on the idea that the way peo­ple per­ceive their expe­ri­ence influ­ences their behav­iors and emo­tions. The ther­a­pist teaches the patient cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral skills to mod­ify his or her dys­func­tional think­ing and actions.  CT aims at improv­ing spe­cific cog­ni­tive skills or behav­iors (such as plan­ning and men­tal flex­i­bil­ity), as well as at help­ing the indi­vid­ual com­bat the symp­toms and unde­sir­able effects of clin­i­cal con­di­tions (such as depres­sion, obsessive-compulsive dis­or­ders, or phobias).

Cog­ni­tive Reserve (or Brain Reserve): the­ory that addresses the fact that indi­vid­u­als vary con­sid­er­ably in the sever­ity of cog­ni­tive aging and clin­i­cal demen­tia. Men­tal stim­u­la­tion, edu­ca­tion and occu­pa­tional level are believed to be major active com­po­nents of build­ing a cog­ni­tive reserve that can help resist the attacks of men­tal disease.

Exec­u­tive Func­tions: Abil­i­ties that enable goal-oriented behav­ior, such as the abil­ity to plan, and exe­cute a goal. These include flex­i­bil­ity, the­ory of mind, antic­i­pa­tion, self-regulation, work­ing mem­ory and inhibition.

fMRI: func­tional mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing (fMRI) is a non-invasive neu­roimag­ing tech­nique that enables researchers see images of chang­ing blood flow in the brain asso­ci­ated with neural activ­ity. This allows images to be gen­er­ated that reflect which struc­tures are acti­vated (and how) dur­ing per­for­mance of dif­fer­ent tasks.

Heart Rate Vari­abil­ity (HRV): describes the fre­quency of the car­diac cycle, and is one of the best pre­dic­tors of stress and anx­i­ety. Our hear rate is not “flat” or con­stant: HRV mea­sures the pat­tern of change.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduc­tion (MBSR): yoga and med­i­ta­tion prac­tices designed to enable effec­tive responses to stress, pain, and illness.

Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis: the process by which neu­rons are cre­ated all through­out our lives.

Neu­roimag­ing: tech­niques that either directly or indi­rectly image the struc­ture, func­tion, or phar­ma­col­ogy of the brain. Recent tech­niques (such as fMRI) have enabled researchers to under­stand bet­ter the liv­ing human brain.

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: the brain’s abil­ity to reor­ga­nize itself by form­ing new con­nec­tions through­out life.

PubMed: very use­ful tool to search for pub­lished stud­ies. “PubMed is a ser­vice of the U.S. National Library of Med­i­cine that includes over 16 mil­lion cita­tions from MEDLINE and other life sci­ence jour­nals for bio­med­ical arti­cles back to the 1950s. PubMed includes links to full text arti­cles and other related resources.”

Work­ing mem­ory: the abil­ity to keep infor­ma­tion cur­rent for a short period while using this infor­ma­tion. Work­ing mem­ory is used for con­trol­ling atten­tion, and deficits in work­ing mem­ory capac­ity lead to atten­tion prob­lems. Recent research has proven that work­ing mem­ory train­ing is pos­si­ble and help­ful for peo­ple with ADD/ ADHD.

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