Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain & Health Interview Series

Since 2006, as part of the research sup­port­ing The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness and Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket reports, we have inter­viewed dozens of leading-edge sci­en­tists and experts. Below are some of our favorite inter­views and quotes:

“…putting good evi­dence to work in prac­tice requires more than pub­lish­ing good research. I’d say that sci­en­tific evi­dence is directly rel­e­vant to per­haps 15% of clin­i­cal deci­sions…we require tech­nolo­gies that trans­late emer­gent knowl­edge into prac­tice.” - Dr. John Docherty, Adjunct Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try at Weill Med­ical Col­lege, and for­mer Branch Chief at NIMH.
Full Inter­view Notes.
“We should be think­ing about the brain through its whole life­time…We need to break the silos, to aggre­gate knowl­edge, to help advance our knowl­edge of the brain 50 years in 5 years.” — Patrick Dono­hue, founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Project.
Full Inter­view Notes.
My dream in all of this is to have stan­dard­ized and cred­i­ble tools to train the 5–6 main neu­rocog­ni­tive domains for cogni tive health and per­for­mance through life, cou­pled with the right assess­ments to iden­tify one’s indi­vid ual needs and mea sure progress” — Dr. Michael Merzenich, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at UCSF, and pio­neer in brain plas­tic­ity research.
Full Inter­view Notes.
“We have an oppor­tu­nity to make major progress in Brain Health in the XXI cen­tury, sim­i­lar to what hap­pened with Car­diovascular Health in the XX, and tech­nol­ogy will play a cru­cial role.” — Dr. William E. Reich­man, Pres­i­dent and CEO of Bay­crest.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Growth only really comes at the point of resis­tance, but that is the moment that we tend to stop. Because it hurts…pushing our lim­its is a mus­cle that can be cul­ti­vated like any other–incrementally” — Joshua Wait­zkin, chess cham­pion and author of The Art of Learn­ing.
Full Inter­view Notes.
“The cor­re­la­tion between iden­ti­cal twins reared apart gives an over­es­ti­mate of her­i­tabil­ity because the envi­ron­ments of iden tical twins reared apart are often highly sim­i­lar. But the main con­tra­dic­tion of her­i­tabil­ity esti­mates lies in the fact that adop­tion pro­duces a huge effect on IQ” –Dr. Richard Nis­bett, Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan and author of Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Michael Posner “Let me add that we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing, even with nor­mal peo­ple, the higher the results.” — Dr. Michael Pos­ner, promi­nent cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon, and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize.
Full Inter­view Notes.
In an Instant - Bob and Lee Woodruff “There is much more opti­mism and hope today than only a few years ago about how many trau­matic brain injury patients can improve, if given the oppor­tu­nity to, through a sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment and phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive ther­apy.” — Lee Woodruff, co-author of In An Instant with hus­band, reporter and TBI sur­vivor Bob Woodruff.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Art Kramer “Ide­ally, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grated and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more likely we will do them.” — Dr. Arthur Kramer, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy and Direc­tor of the Bio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Martin Buschkuehl “(What sur­prised us the most was) the clear trans­fer into fluid intel­li­gence, which many researchers and psy­chol­o­gists take as fixed. Sec­ond, I was sur­prised to see that the more train­ing the bet­ter the out­come. The improve­ments did not seem to peak early. Third, that all trained groups improved, no mat­ter their respec­tive start­ing points”. — Dr. Mar­tin Buschkuehl, Researcher at Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Robert Sylwester
“Par­ent­ing, men­tor­ing, teach­ing, and mass media are exam­ples of the cul­tural sys­tems that humans have devel­oped to help young peo­ple mas­ter the knowl­edge and skills they need to sur­vive and thrive in com­plex envi­ron­ments.” — Dr. Robert Syl­wester, author of The Ado­les­cent Brain: Reach­ing for Auton­omy and Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Edu­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon
Full Inter­view Notes.
“I would say that a cross­word puz­zle is not a form of cog­ni­tive train­ing. It can be stim­u­lat­ing, but it is not a form of struc­tured men­tal exer­cise that has been shown to improve spe­cific cog­ni­tive skills.” — Dr. Jerri Edwards, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­sity of South Florida’s School of Aging Stud­ies and Co-Investigator of the influ­en­tial ACTIVE study.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Eric Jensen Learning and the Brain
“It seems clear that there are impor­tant skills that can be trained, that make for a bet­ter and more suc­cess­ful human being — such as the abil­ity to defer grat­i­fi­ca­tion, sequenc­ing, emo­tional intel­li­gence, improved work­ing mem­ory, vocab­u­lary, and pro­cess­ing skills. How­ever, the type of assess­ments used today to mea­sure schools’ per­for­mance don’t focus on these.” –Eric Jensen, founder of Learn­ing Brain Expo.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Judith Beck
“Today, thanks to fMRI and other neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, we are start­ing to under­stand the impact our actions can have on spe­cific parts of the brain.”- Dr. Judith S. Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy and Research, and author of The Beck Diet Solu­tion: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Per­son.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Yaakov Stern
“Indi­vid­u­als who lead men­tally stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms. Stud­ies sug­gest that they have 35–40% less risk of man­i­fest­ing the dis­ease”- Dr. Yaakov Stern, Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter at the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, New York.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Bradley S. Gibson, Ph.D.
Train­ing is very impor­tant: atten­tional con­trol is one of the last cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties to develop in nor­mal brain development…I can eas­ily see the rel­e­vance in 2 fields. One, pro­fes­sional sports. Two, mil­i­tary train­ing.” Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son is the Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab at Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Robert Emmons Thanks
“The prac­tice of grat­i­tude can increase hap­pi­ness lev­els by around 25%, and this is not hard to achieve — a few hours writ­ing a grat­i­tude jour­nal over 3 weeks can cre­ate an effect that lasts 6 months if not more.” — Pro­fes­sor Robert Emmons, Editor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy and Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy at UC Davis.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Arthur Lavin
I don’t see that schools are apply­ing the best knowl­edge of how minds work. Schools should be the best place for applied neu­ro­science, tak­ing the lat­est advances in cog­ni­tive research and apply­ing it to the job of edu­cat­ing minds.” — Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Elizabeth Zelinski IMPACT “What was very sur­pris­ing was that there was also a clear ben­e­fit in audi­tory mem­ory, which wasn’t directly trained. In other words, peo­ple who were 75-years-old per­formed audi­tory mem­ory tasks as well as aver­age 65-year-olds, so we can say they reversed 10 years of aging for that cog­ni­tive abil­ity.” — Dr. Liz Zelin­ski, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Andrus Geron­tol­ogy Cen­ter.
Full Inter­view Notes.
James Zull
“Learn­ing is phys­i­cal. Learn­ing means the mod­i­fi­ca­tion, growth, and prun­ing of our neu­rons, connections–called synapses– and neu­ronal net­works, through experience…When we do so, we are cul­ti­vat­ing our own neu­ronal net­works. We become our own gar­den­ers”- Dr. James Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­ogy and Bio­chem­istry at Case West­ern Uni­ver­sity.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg
“Exer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cally is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies. In my expe­ri­ence, “Use it or lose it” should really be “Use it and get more of it”.- Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at New York Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of the great neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Alexan­der Luria.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Picture of Daniel Gopher
“What research has shown is that cog­ni­tion, or what we call think­ing and per­for­mance, is really a set of skills that we can train sys­tem­at­i­cally. And that computer-based cog­ni­tive train­ers or “cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions” are the most effec­tive and effi­cient way to do so.” — Dr. Daniel Gopher, Direc­tor of the Research Cen­ter for Work Safety and Human Engi­neer­ing at Tech­nion Insti­tute of Sci­ence.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Go Hirano
“It is hardly deni­able that brains enchant Japan­ese peo­ple. We love brain train­ing. Dentsu, the biggest adver­tis­ing agency, announced the No.1 Consumer-chosen 2006 Prod­uct was game soft­ware and books for brain train­ing.”- Go Hirano, Japan­ese exec­u­tive, founder of NeuWell.
Full Inter­view Notes.
Picture of Brett Steenbarger
“Elite per­form­ers are dis­tin­guished by the struc­tur­ing of their learn­ing process… It is impor­tant to under­stand the role of emo­tions: they are not “bad”. They are very use­ful sig­nals. It is impor­tant to become aware of them to avoid being engulfed by them, and learn how to man­age them.” — Dr. Brett Steen­barger, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences, SUNY Med­ical Uni­ver­sity, and author of Enhanc­ing Trader Per­for­mance.
Full Inter­view Notes.
torkel_s.jpg
“We have shown that work­ing mem­ory can be improved by train­ing…I think that we are see­ing the begin­ning of a new era of com­put­er­ized train­ing for a wide range of appli­ca­tions” – Dr. Torkel Kling­berg, Direc­tor of the Devel­op­men­tal Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Lab at Karolin­ska Insti­tute.
Full Inter­view Notes.
David Rabiner “Cog­ni­tive train­ing rests on solid premises, and some pro­grams already have very promis­ing research results. Some of the most are promis­ing areas are: neu­ro­feed­back, which as a whole is start­ing to present good research results, and work­ing mem­ory train­ing.” — Pro­fes­sor David Rabiner, Senior Research Sci­en­tist and the Direc­tor of Psy­chol­ogy and Neu­ro­science Under­grad­u­ate Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­sity.
Full Inter­view Notes.
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