Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Study: Combining aerobic and mental training can significantly improve mental and cognitive health

mental_physical_training(Editor’s Note: Hat tip to co-author Tj Shors for bringing this fascinating new study to our attention)

“It is widely accepted that aerobic exercise and meditation training are useful behavioral therapies for remediating clinical symptoms of depression. However, no study to date has assessed the combined effects of the two behavioral interventions. Here, we present data indicating that Read the rest of this entry »

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

Peo­ple of all ages read SharpBrains.com, 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 SharpBrains.com, 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?

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    New Brain Health Series

    People of all ages read SharpBrains.com 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 SharpBrains.com, you can follow us in Facebook and Twitter. Tell your friends and colleagues about the series!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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..

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    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

    productivity_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.

    1. CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH NEW LEARNING

    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 »

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