Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


New Brain Health Series: The Child, Adolescent, Adult and Aging Brain

Peo­ple of all ages read, so we are prepar­ing a series of arti­cles on Brain Health across the Lifes­pan.

The series will include 4 parts:

  • The Child Brain, pub­lished in Novem­ber 2010
  • The Ado­les­cent Brain, in Decem­ber 2010
  • The Adult Brain, in Jan­u­ary 2011
  • The Aging Brain, in Feb­ru­ary 2011
  • Each part will :

    • Include sur­pris­ing facts on how the brain works
    • Debunk com­mons myths about cog­ni­tion and brain health
    • Link to resources such as books and documentaries.

    If you want to read these arti­cles as we pub­lish them via, you can either fol­low us in Face­book and Twit­ter or, if you have not done so already, sub­scribe to our monthly update (eNewslet­ter).

    Tell your friends and col­leagues about the series!

    Update: Let’s move, slow down, innovate, think and play

    You have heard that phys­i­cal exer­cise is good for the brain. How much exer­cise are we talk­ing about? Can the ben­e­fits be seen both for chil­dren and adults? In Fit­ter bod­ies = fit­ter brains. True at all ages? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon answers these ques­tions for you, based on lat­est sci­en­tific studies.

    We need fun ways to get out the couch more and exer­cise both phys­i­cally and cog­ni­tively. What about set­ting up community-based adult play­grounds, such as this one in Beijing?


    New Brain Health Series

    Peo­ple of all ages read and this monthly update, so we are prepar­ing a series of arti­cles on Brain Health across the Lifes­pan. The series will include 4 parts:

  • The Child Brain, pub­lished in Novem­ber 2010
  • The Ado­les­cent Brain, in Decem­ber 2010
  • The Adult Brain, in Jan­u­ary 2011
  • The Aging Brain, in Feb­ru­ary 2011
  • Each part will include sur­pris­ing facts on how the brain works, debunk com­mons myths about cog­ni­tion and brain health, and link to resources such as books and doc­u­men­taries. If you want to read these arti­cles as we pub­lish them via, you can fol­low us in Face­book and Twit­ter. Tell your friends and col­leagues about the series!


    Let’s Move

    Walk­ing increases Brain Vol­ume: A recent neuro-imaging study shows that walk­ing reg­u­larly can increase brain vol­ume and reduce the risks of devel­op­ing cog­ni­tive impairment.

    Move to another Coun­try, to another Occu­pa­tion: A cou­ple recent stud­ies rein­force the Cog­ni­tive Reserve frame­work that sug­gests we can pro­tect our brains by speak­ing more than one lan­guage and by not retir­ing early.


    Let’s Slow Down

    Take that Nap - It May Boost Your Learn­ing Capac­ity: Scott Barry Kauf­man tells us why sleep is good for the brain. It turns out that sleep is tied to a bet­ter immune sys­tem, meta­bolic con­trol, mem­ory, learn­ing, cre­ativ­ity and emo­tional func­tion­ing.

    Boost your Atten­tion with Med­i­ta­tion: Another way to slow down is to med­i­tate. Through sum­maries of stud­ies and an inter­view with Dr. New­berg, we dis­cuss how med­i­ta­tion can improve your con­cen­tra­tion skills.

    Train your Brain to Focus on Pos­i­tive Expe­ri­ences: In this arti­cle by the Greater Good Mag­a­zine, Rick Han­son explains the “neg­a­tiv­ity bias” of the brain and what steps we can take to rewire our brains for last­ing happiness.


    Let’s Inno­vate

    If much health care is actu­ally evidence-free, what type of evi­dence and tools do we need to make real-world progress?: build­ing on a recent OpEd by Peter Orszag, Alvaro Fer­nan­dez asks us to assess the value and lim­i­ta­tions of inno­v­a­tive brain health tools based on how they seem to per­form com­pared to exist­ing alter­na­tives– not com­pared to Pla­tonic research ideals. This basic con­cept serves as the foun­da­tion of the new Sharp­Brains Coun­cil for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion.


    Let’s Think

    Cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion helps Alzheimer’s patients: Another sci­en­tific review shows that pro­grams focus­ing on global cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease by 5 years. The authors con­clude that efforts to develop and imple­ment cognitive-based inter­ven­tion for the treat­ment of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease must be pursued.

    The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: In his new book, Dr. Gary Small describes how the onset of brain health prob­lems may resem­ble a brain fog, mak­ing the role of the physi­cian and the care­giver par­tic­u­larly important.

    Have you read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg?: if so, please take 5 min­utes to answer this brief sur­vey. Your feed­back will ensure that future edi­tions are even more rel­e­vant and valu­able. If you haven’t read it yet, you can learn more and order here.


    Let’s Play: Top 10 Illusions

    Are you ready to expe­ri­ence our selec­tion of Visual Illu­sions? See if you can trust your brain…enjoy these Top 10 Visual Illusions..


    Brain Fitness Update: Best of 2008

    Dear reader and mem­ber of Sharp­Brains’ com­mu­nity,
    We want to thank you for your atten­tion and sup­port in 2008, and wish you a Happy, brain fitness and health newsletterPros­per­ous, Healthy and Pos­i­tive 2009!

    Below you have the Decem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter. Enjoy:

    Best of 2008

    Announc­ing the Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008: Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Torkel Kling­berg has writ­ten a very stim­u­lat­ing and acces­si­ble book on a cru­cial topic for our Infor­ma­tion Age: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­ory. We have named it The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Kling­berg to write a brief arti­cle to intro­duce his research and book to you. Enjoy it here.

    Top 30 Brain Fit­ness Arti­cles of 2008: We have com­piled Sharp­Brains’ 30 most pop­u­lar arti­cles, writ­ten by thir­teen Expert Con­trib­u­tors and staff mem­bers for you. Have you read them all?

    November-December News: No month goes by with­out sig­nif­i­cant news in the field of cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Sum­ma­rized here are 10 recent devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion, includ­ing an upcom­ing brain train­ing prod­uct for ice hockey play­ers, my lec­ture at New York Pub­lic Library, and more.

    Inter­views: Videogames, Med­i­ta­tion

    Are videogames good for your brain?: A land­mark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues has shown that play­ing a strat­egy videogame can bring a vari­ety of sig­nif­i­cant men­tal ben­e­fits to older brains. Another recent study, also by Kramer and col­leagues, does not show sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to younger brains (despite play­ing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kindly agreed to serve on Sharp­Brains’ Sci­en­tific Advi­sory Board, elaborates.

    Med­i­ta­tion on the Brain: Dr. Andrew New­berg pro­vides an excel­lent overview of the brain ben­e­fits of prac­tices such as med­i­ta­tion. He rec­om­mends, “look for some­thing sim­ple, easy to try first, ensur­ing the prac­tice is com­pat­i­ble with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match prac­tice with need: under­stand the spe­cific goals you have in mind, your sched­ule and lifestyle, and find some­thing practical.“

    The Need for Objec­tive Assessments

    Cog­ni­tive screen­ings and Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 given the right con­di­tions). Sharp­Brains read­ers, probed by Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man, seem to agree.

    Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG for ADHD diag­no­sis: Dr. David Rabiner reports on the find­ings from a recent study that doc­u­ments the util­ity of Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG as an objec­tive test to assist in the diag­no­sis of ADHD. If this pro­ce­dure were to become more widely used, he sug­gests, the num­ber of chil­dren and ado­les­cents who are inap­pro­pri­ately diag­nosed and treated for the dis­or­der would dimin­ish substantially.

    Shall we ques­tion the brand new book of human trou­bles?: The fights over the new ver­sion of the psy­chi­atric diag­nos­tic man­ual, the DSM-V, are start­ing to come to light. Dr. Vaughan Bell won­ders why the pub­lic debate avoids the key ques­tion of whether diag­no­sis itself is use­ful for men­tal health and why psy­cho­met­rics are sim­ply ignored.

    Resources for Life­long Learning

    Edu­ca­tion builds Cog­ni­tive Reserve for Alzheimers Dis­ease Pro­tec­tion: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reviews a recent study that sup­ports the Cog­ni­tive Reserve hypoth­e­sis — men­tally stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ences through­out life, such as for­mal edu­ca­tion, help build a reserve in our brains that con­tributes to a lower prob­a­bil­ity of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

    5 Tips on Life­long Learn­ing & the Adult Brain: Lau­rie Bar­tels asks us to please please 1) chal­lenge our­selves with new learn­ing, 2) remem­ber that neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis are hall­marks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learning on an ongo­ing basis, 4) more visu­als, less text, 5) move it, move it — start today!

    Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts: We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science (SfN) has just released a user-friendly pub­li­ca­tion titled Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts, aimed at help­ing edu­ca­tors and the gen­eral pub­lic learn more about the brain.

    5 Tips on Lifelong Learning and Neuroplasticity for the Adult Brain


    Learn­ing & the Brain is a con­fer­ence that gets marked on my cal­en­dar annu­ally because I always return home hav­ing either been exposed to new infor­ma­tion, or with a new per­spec­tive on an old topic. Last month’s con­fer­ence in Cam­bridge, MA, themed Using Emo­tions Research to Enhance Learn­ing & Achieve­ment, was no excep­tion. As with pre­vi­ous con­fer­ences, in addi­tion to the many keynote ses­sions, I focused on the adult learn­ing strand, since so much of my time is spent pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment for, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with adults. Here are five con­fer­ence cues as they relate to education.


    Aaron Nel­son stated that our mem­ory starts to decline between ages twenty-five and thirty, or to phrase it a bit more pos­i­tively, Sam Wang says our mem­ory peaks around age thirty. On the other end of the age spec­trum, accord­ing to Ken Kosik, there is unequiv­o­cal evi­dence that edu­ca­tion pro­tects against Alzheimer’s. Both Nel­son and Kosik men­tioned the the­ory of cog­ni­tive reserve, which trans­lates roughly to the more we learn, the more con­nec­tions we cre­ate, and there­fore the greater the neu­ronal buffer we have to draw upon as we age.

    Elkhonon Gold­berg of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness stated at last April’s con­fer­ence that “as one ages, the domain of the novel shrinks, and the domain of what is known grows”. He cau­tioned the audi­ence to beware of being on men­tal autopi­lot. Thus, the goal is not to sim­ply get bet­ter at doing more of the same. The type of learn­ing that makes a dif­fer­ence con­sists specif­i­cally of new, novel chal­lenges. The result of such engage­ment is that Read the rest of this entry »

    Exercising the body is exercising the mind

    I apol­o­gize for the long delay in get­ting back to this col­umn but I have a good excuse. We just recently had a baby, and boy, that takes care right there of the phys­i­cal exer­cise need. Between car­ry­ing the baby upstairs and down­stairs, run­ning to get the baby, get­ting out of the bed and pick­ing the baby up and putting the baby down a cou­ple of times a night no you need not worry about get­ting your daily exer­cise dose in…Now, the major­ity of the answers to my post on the brain virtues of phys­i­cal exer­cise sug­gests that most peo­ple think that the brain ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exer­cise are mostly to be under­stood as com­ple­men­tary effects of a healthy life style.

    Is this cor­rect? In my post today I will attempt to answer this question.

    First, while gen­er­ally health­ier peo­ple seem to have health­ier brains, the phys­i­cal exer­cise effect on the brain seems to be inde­pen­dent of other things. One of the most impor­tant devel­op­ment in neu­ro­science was when the offi­cial dogma claim­ing that there was no neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (pro­duc­tion of new brain cells) in the adult brain was top­pled. Now we know that the brain is “plas­tic” mean­ing that, under the right cir­cum­stances, the brain can change Read the rest of this entry »

    Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

    Back in July, I wrote a post enti­tled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to stu­dents of any age, includ­ing adults, for ide­ally adults are still learn­ers. Why is adult learn­ing rel­e­vant in a brain-focused blog, you may wonder:

    The short of it

    As we age, our brain:

    still forms new brain cells
    can change its struc­ture & func­tion
    finds pos­i­tive stress can be ben­e­fi­cial; neg­a­tive stress can be detri­men­tal
    can thrive on novel chal­lenges
    needs to be exer­cised, just like our bodies

    The long of it

    Adults may have a ten­dency to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence, the theme of which was neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, I attended sev­eral ses­sions on adult learn­ing. Here’s what the experts are saying.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Learning & the Brain: Resources for Educators

    As promised in my pre­vi­ous post (10 Brain Train­ing Tips To Teach and Learn), here are some of the resources that inform my under­stand­ing of the brain: books, con­fer­ences, and websites.


    There are a mul­ti­tude of books about the brain. For edu­ca­tors, the best of these are books that demys­tify the lan­guage of neu­ro­science while pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion applic­a­ble to the teaching/learning process.

    Among the more pro­lific or well-known authors of this type include Jeb Schenck, Robert Syl­wester, Bar­bara Givens, Robert Marzano, Mar­ilee Sprenger, and Eric Jensen.

    I have found books Read the rest of this entry »


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