Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain training franchisor LearningRx settles FTC complaint about its marketing claims

BrainTraining_learningRxLearningRx To Pay $200K For Allegedly Unproven Claims That Brain Training Can Improve Income, Treat Autism & ADHD (Consumerist):

“The company behind the LearningRX “brain training” program has agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement and to stop making claims that its system is clinically proven to treat serious health conditions, or that it can Read the rest of this entry »

To address the upcoming Alzheimer’s “epidemic”, let’s approach 2016 with these 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention


As you probably know, we are in a health care crisis. The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease continues to sky-rocket as people age and may reach crisis proportions.  A national goal has been set to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s by 2020 or no later than 2025, with a lion’s share of this money going into drug research, which, while ongoing, has thus far has been elusive.

This focus entirely on drugs may be changing however, as the Read the rest of this entry »

Diagnosing early Alzheimer’s and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Emerging Challenges and Implications

Blurry line in diagnosing early Alzheimer’s: study (Reuters):

  • “The revised definition of a brain condition called mild cognitive impairment means that many people now considered to have mild or early Alzheimer’s disease could easily be given that diagnosis instead, suggests a new study.” Read the rest of this entry »

Alzheimer’s Disease and Music: A Door to Past and New Memories

Music can soothe and trigger memories. It is as such that music is most often used with Alzheimer’s patients. A new study suggests that music may also be used as a booster for learning new things, an ability very impaired in those with Alzheimer’s.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s and matched controls were presented with unfamiliar songs lyrics: half of the lyrics were sung and half were merely spoken. Participants were then presented with the lyrics they had heard as well as with new ones, and asked whether they recognized any lyrics.

Alzheimer’s patients’ memory was much better for sung lyrics than for spoken ones. There was no difference between the two types of lyrics for the healthy older adults.

Why do people with Alzheimer’s seem to benefit from musical stimuli? Read the rest of this entry »

Can Direct Brain Stimulation Boost Performance?

Neurons in the brain transmit information by exchanging electrical and chemical signals. What would happen if these electrical signals were transformed by applying an external current? Could this help boost brain functions?

In this article, Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is reported to help people solve brain-teasers. In the study weak currents altered the activity of neurons in the anterior temporal lobes through electrodes on the scalp. Read more

In this other article another technique was used: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS works by generating a magnetic field that passes the scalp and the skull. In the study an exploratory use of TMS combined with cognitive training was tested for a few months on 8 Alzheimer’s patients. The results were promising. Read more

Finally, this article reports the use of a different, more invasive technique: deep brain stimulation (DBS). Read the rest of this entry »

References on Cognitive Health/ Brain Fitness

This is a partial list of the literature we reviewed during the research phase of our new book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness.  We know many friends of SharpBrains are researchers, healthcare professionals, graduate/ Ph.D. students, who want have direct access to the references (perhaps PubMed should promote itself as a never ending source of mental stimulation?), so here you have this list, organized by relevant chapter. Please note that the list below appears in the book – whose manuscript we had to close in January 2009.


Basak, C. et al. (2008). Can training in a real-time strategy video game attenuate cognitive decline in older adults? Psychology and Aging.
Begley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain: How a new science reveals our extraordinary potential to transform ourselves. Ballantine Books.
DeKosky, S. T., et al. (2008). Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300, 2253-2262.
Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Viking Adult.

Chapter 1. The Brain and Brain Fitness 101

Bunge, S. A., & Wright, S. B. (2007). Neurodevelopmental changes in working memory and cognitive control. Current Opinion In Neurobiology, 17(2), 243-50.
Damasio, A. (1995). Descartes error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. Penguin Press.
David Kolb, D. (1983). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT Press.
Draganski, B., Gaser, C., Kempermann, G., Kuhn, H. G., Winkler, J., Buchel, C., & May A. (2006). Temporal and spatial dynamics of brain structure changes during extensive learning. The Journal of Neuroscience, 261231, 6314-6317.
Gage, F. H., Kempermann, G., & Song, H. (2007). Adult Neurogenesis. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, NY.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gaser, C. & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 9240-9245. Read the rest of this entry »

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Brain Health

Larry McLeary

Try eating food with one chop stick.

It is possible, for certain types of food. But probably not the best approach.

Let’s now talk brain health.

Dr. Larry McCleary is a former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, and author of the The Brain Trust Program (Perigee Trade, 2007). He agreed to help us answer an important, yet often neglected, question: Given That We Are Our Brains, How do We Nourish Them?

Alvaro: Dr. McCleary, Why did a former neurosurgeon such as yourself develop an interest in brain health public education?

Dr. McCleary: For two reasons … I am a Boomer and am trying to maximize my own brain health. Also, there is much exciting research documenting how we can be proactive in this regard. This information needs to be disseminated and I would like to help in this process.

And what is the single most important brain-related idea or concept that you would like every person in the planet to fully understand?

The most important take home message about brain health is that we now know that no matter what your brain status or age, there is much you can do to significantly improve brain function and slow brain aging. Based on emerging information, what is especially nice is the fact that unlike many things in life our brain health is largely under own control.

What are the most important elements to nourish our brains as we age?

I approach this question much like an athlete prepares for competition. They utilize a holistic approach. Read the rest of this entry »

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