Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most pop­u­lar ques­tion we got when we announced that PBS had a great spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity in Decem­ber was, when will the DVD be available?

Well, finally here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This pro­gram presents a work­out to help view­ers get their brains in bet­ter shape. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on neuro-plasticity, the abil­ity of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped computer-based stim­u­lus sets that drive ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tional changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco and his col­leagues around the world have been lead­ing this effort; he brings the research find­ings, along with a sci­en­tif­i­cally based set of brain exer­cises, to PBS view­ers in this inno­v­a­tive and life-altering pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote narrates. ”

To pur­chase: click Here.

You can watch a 3-minute trailer: click here.

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each other?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­ory? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­ory? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Finally, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the National Alliance for Caregiving

Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health arena.“
Eliz­a­beth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Association

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promises to stim­u­late a much needed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on solid, research-based, foun­da­tions.“
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­sity and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

Order Book at Amazon.com
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95

Order Kin­dle Edi­tion
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

Update (11/10/10): Have you seen PBS great spe­cials on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity ?

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95)

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on the brain’s abil­ity to change and adapt, even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped computer-based stim­u­lus sets that drive ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tional changes in the Peter Coyote Brain Fitness Programbrain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and his col­leagues share their sci­en­tif­i­cally based set of brain exer­cises in this life-altering pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote (pic­tured) narrates. ”

PBS aired in Decem­ber 2007 a spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, brain fit­ness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram”. To watch the 3-minute trailer: click here.

In 2008, PBS released a sec­ond DVD:

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight and Sound DVD ($24.95)

This pro­gram, specif­i­cally designed to help peo­ple get the most from their vision and hear­ing as they age, con­sid­ers how these senses change through­out life and what peo­ple can do to keep them healthy and fully functional.”

.

If you do not have time to watch these great doc­u­men­taries, here are a few points one needs to under­stand about neuroplasticity:

1.  The human brain is now con­sid­ered to be a highly dynamic and con­stantly reor­ga­niz­ing sys­tem capa­ble of being shaped and reshaped across an entire lifes­pan. It is believed that every expe­ri­ence alters the brain’s orga­ni­za­tion at some level. The key words in this new approach to the brain are neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time. The lat­ter process is also referred to as synap­to­ge­n­e­sis. This new par­a­digm con­trasts with tra­di­tional ideas of the human brain being a fixed and essen­tially lim­ited sys­tem that only degrades with age.

2. As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.

3. Brain plas­tic­ity is cru­cial fol­low­ing head injury. It is the one brain’s abil­ity that allows recov­ery. Brain plas­tic­ity is also the abil­ity that brain train­ing takes advan­tages of to try to slow down the aging process.

To read about evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity in the human brain take a look at Brain plas­tic­ity: How learn­ing changes you brain

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each other?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­ory? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­ory? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Finally, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the National Alliance for Caregiving
“Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health arena.“
Eliz­a­beth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Association

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promises to stim­u­late a much needed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on solid, research-based, foun­da­tions.“
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­sity and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95


SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Memory Improvement Techniques and Brain Exercises

Fitness TrainerA reader (thanks Mike!) sends us this fun arti­cle, titled A mat­ter of train­ing, on how to train our mem­ory. Some quotes:

It’s a skill, not a tal­ent. It’s some­thing any­one could have picked up … I’m not born with this. It’s about train­ing and tech­nique, he says, explain­ing his unusual abil­ity. Anant holds the Limca Record  the Indian equiv­a­lent of the Guin­ness Record œ for mem­o­ris­ing 75 tele­phone num­bers, along with the names of their own­ers, in less than an hour. He is recog­nised as “the man with the most phe­nom­e­nal mem­ory in India.

Unfor­tu­nately, most peo­ple think that mem­o­ris­ing is very dif­fi­cult. The moment they see some­one demon­strate some­thing like this, they think it’s out of this world.

If you want to remem­ber some­thing, you have to link it to some­thing you already know. Asso­ci­a­tion is the nat­ural prin­ci­pal. For exam­ple, if you need direc­tions to a place, a land­mark is often used as a point of ref­er­ence. And if you derive plea­sure from some­thing you do, there’s a good chance you’ll remem­ber it. Since the brain already works in this man­ner, why don’t we take con­trol of it?

To me, an intel­li­gent per­son is some­one who is able to put together more of his skills to solve a prob­lem. Intel­li­gence is about using strategies.

The key con­cept here is that mem­ory, as well as other cog­ni­tive skills, can be trained through Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training from a pediatrician perspective, focused on attention deficits

Arthur Lavin Today we inter­view Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice, and one of the first providers of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing in the US (the pro­gram whose research we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and Dr. Bradley Gib­son). Dr. Lavin has a long stand­ing inter­est in technology-as evi­denced by Microsoft’s recog­ni­tion of his paper­less office– and in brain research and applications-he trained with esteemed Mel Levine from All Kinds of Minds-.

————————–

Key take-aways:

- Schools today are not yet in a posi­tion to effec­tively help kids with cog­ni­tive issues deal with increas­ing cog­ni­tive demands.

- Work­ing Mem­ory is a cog­ni­tive skill fun­da­men­tal to plan­ning, sequenc­ing, and exe­cut­ing school-related work.

- Work­ing Mem­ory can be trained, as evi­denced by Dr. Lavin’s work, based on Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing, with kids who have atten­tion deficits.

————————–

Con­text on cog­ni­tive fit­ness and schools

AF (Alvaro Fer­nan­dez): Dr. Lavin, thanks for being with us. It is not very com­mon for a pedi­a­tri­cian to have such an active inter­est in brain research and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Can you explain the source of your interest?

AL (Arthur Lavin): Through­out my life I have been fas­ci­nated by how the mind works. Both from the research point of view and the prac­ti­cal one: how can sci­en­tists’ increas­ing knowl­edge improve kids’ lives? We now live in an truly excit­ing era in which solid sci­en­tific progress in neu­ro­science is at last cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve people’s actual cog­ni­tive func­tion. The progress Cogmed has achieved in cre­at­ing a pro­gram that can make great dif­fer­ences in the lives of chil­dren with atten­tion deficits is one of the most excit­ing recent devel­op­ments. My col­league Ms. Susan Glaser and I recently pub­lished two books: Who’s Boss: Mov­ing Fam­i­lies from Con­flict to Col­lab­o­ra­tion (Col­lab­o­ra­tion Press, 2006) and Baby & Tod­dler Sleep Solu­tions for Dum­mies (Wiley, 2007), so I not only see myself as a pedi­a­tri­cian but also an edu­ca­tor. I see par­ents in real need of guid­ance and sup­port. They usu­ally are both very skep­ti­cal, since Read the rest of this entry »

The Gregarious Brain and cognitive skills

I find via Mind­Hacks that NYT Mag­a­zine has pub­lished a great arti­cle titled The Gre­gar­i­ous Brain, sub­ti­tled “Williams syn­drome — a genetic acci­dent that causes cog­ni­tive deficits-”. The writer, David Dobbs, does an spec­tac­u­lar job at explain­ing that syn­drome in the con­text of what cog­ni­tive skills are and how they evolved. Some sam­ple quotes:

  • In the view of two of Bellugi’s fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tors, Albert Gal­aburda, a Har­vard Med­ical School pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy and neu­ro­science, and Allan Reiss, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Stan­ford School of Med­i­cine, Nicki’s learned facil­ity at sports talk illus­trates a cen­tral les­son of Williams and, for that mat­ter, mod­ern genet­ics: genes (or their absence) do not hard-wire peo­ple for cer­tain behav­iors. There is no gene for under­stand­ing cal­cu­lus. But genes do shape behav­ior and per­son­al­ity, and they do so by cre­at­ing brain struc­tures and func­tions that favor cer­tain abil­i­ties and appetites more than others.”
  • …This doesn’t mean that spe­cific behav­iors are hard-wired. M.I.T. math majors aren’t born doing cal­cu­lus, and peo­ple with Williams don’t enter life telling sto­ries. As Allan Reiss put it: “It’s not just ‘genes make brain make behav­ior.’ You have envi­ron­ment and expe­ri­ence too. By envi­ron­ment, Reiss means less the atmos­phere of a home or a school than the end­less string of chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties that life presents any per­son start­ing at birth.”
  • (Talk­ing about when our ances­tors started to live in larger groups) “But the big­ger groups imposed a new brain load: the mem­bers had to be smart enough to bal­ance their indi­vid­ual needs with those of the pack. This meant coop­er­at­ing and exer­cis­ing some indi­vid­ual restraint. It also required Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness news.

A cou­ple of good recent articles:

(You can join our monthly newslet­ter by sub­scrib­ing at the top of this page).

Brain Games will give adults all the chal­lenge they can handle

Bal­ti­more Sun, MD. Mar 22, 2007.The reporter pro­vides a great sur­vey of prod­ucts. The only parts I find miss­ing are:

1) what spe­cific cog­ni­tive skill/s is/are being trained by each prod­uct? if we under­stand that the brain has a vari­ety of struc­tural and func­tional areas, it becomes evi­dent that dif­fer­ent pro­grams may be train­ing dif­fer­ent “men­tal muscles”.

2) How does each pro­gram enable the user mea­sure progress in an objec­tive way? I’d say this is the main dif­fer­ence between “games” and brain fit­ness pro­grams. If you have a wildly dif­fer­ent brain age every­time you try…that so-called brain age is not very credible.

Does brain exer­cise fight demen­tia?
Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune (sub­scrip­tion), MN. Mar 18, 2007.As the arti­cle men­tions, no pro­gram can claim to “pre­vent Alzheimer’s”. And I haven’t seen Posit Sci­ence (or us) claim such a thing, or imply it. But what can be claimed is mean­ing­ful: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training with Cognitive Simulations

Today we will con­tinue our review of the ben­e­fits of brain train­ing for spe­cific occu­pa­tions: in this case, pilots and bas­ket­ball play­ers. The lessons can be rel­e­vant not only for cor­po­rate train­ing but also for edu­ca­tion and brain health & wellness.

To do so, we will select quotes from our inter­view last year with one of the major sci­en­tists in the field of cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions, Pro­fes­sor Daniel Gopher. You can read the full inter­view here.

Prof. Gopher pub­lished an award-winning arti­cle in 1994, Gopher, D., Weil, M. and Baraket, T. (1994), Trans­fer of skill from a com­puter game trainer to flight, Human Fac­tors 36, 1–19., that con­sti­tutes a key mile­stone in the cog­ni­tive engi­neer­ing field.

On Cog­ni­tive Train­ing and Cog­ni­tive Simulations

AF: Tell us a bit about your over­all research interests

DG: My main inter­est has been how to expand the lim­its of human atten­tion, infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and response capa­bil­i­ties which are crit­i­cal in com­plex, real-time decision-making, high-demand tasks such as fly­ing a mil­i­tary jet or play­ing pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball. Using a ten­nis anal­ogy, my goal has been, and is, how to help develop many “Wimbledon”-like cham­pi­ons. Each with their own styles, but per­form­ing to their max­i­mum capac­ity to suc­ceed in their environments.

What research over the last 15–20 years 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.

This is an impor­tant point, so let me empha­size it. What we have dis­cov­ered is that a key fac­tor for an effec­tive trans­fer from train­ing envi­ron­ment to real­ity is that the train­ing pro­gram ensures “Cog­ni­tive Fidelity”, this is, it should faith­fully rep­re­sent the men­tal demands that hap­pen in the real world. Tra­di­tional approaches focus instead on Read the rest of this entry »

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