Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Games for Brain Health – Novelty, Variety and Challenge

Landmark study just published: Basak C, et al “Can training in a real-time strategy video game attenuate cognitive decline in older adults?” Psychol Aging 2008; DOI: 10.1037/a0013494.

Playing computer games improves brain power of older adults, claim scientists (Telegraph)

– The team at the University of Illinois recruited 40 adults over 60 years old, half of whom were asked to play a computer game called Rise of Nations, a role-playing game in which you have to build your own empire.

– Game players have to build cities, feed and employ their people, maintain an adequate military and expand their territory.

– Both groups were assessed before, during and after the video game training on a variety of tests.

– As a group, the “gamers” became significantly better – and faster – at switching between tasks as compared to the comparison group. Their working memory, as reflected in the tests, was also significantly improved and their reasoning ability was enhanced.

– (Professor Art Kramer, an author of the study published in the journal Psychology & Aging) “This is one mode in which older people can stay mentally fit, cognitively fit. I’m not suggesting, however, that it’s the only thing they should do.”

Professor Kramer and I discussed this study last June during our conversation on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs:

Question (me): Tell us more about your work with cognitive training for older adults.

Answer (Prof Kramer): We have now a study in press where we evaluate the effect of a commercially available strategy videogame on older adults’ cognition.

Let me first give some context. It seems clear that, as we age, our Read the rest of this entry »

Posit Science Program Classic and InSight: Alzheimer’s Australia

Brain-fitness plan can improve memory (Sydney Morning Herald), reports on the recent endorsement of Posit Science’s programs (Posit Science Program Classic, focused on auditory processing training, and Posit Science Cortex with InSight, on visual processing). Quotes: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Update: Why We Need Walking Book Clubs

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CNN: Aging boomers fuel ‘brain fitness’ explosion: An excellent article via Associated Press exploring why the brain fitness market passed a tipping point in 2007 and predicting future trends building on our market report.

Brain Age: Great Game, Wrong Concept: One reason why we believe the field will keep growing is because we are seeing more tools available than ever before to assess and train a variety of cognitive skills. The bad news (is this really news?) is that we shouldn’t be expecting magic pills and that “brain age” is a fiction. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs

Dr. Arthur Kramer is a Professor in the University of Illinois Department of Psychology, the Campus Neuroscience Program, the Beckman Institute, and the Director of the Art KramerBiomedical Imaging Center at the University of Illinois.

I am honored to interview him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by trying to clarify some existing misconceptions and controversies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (Note: referenced below), what are the 2-3 key lifestyle habits would you suggest to a person who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symptoms and improve overall brain health?

First, Be Active. Do physical exercise. Aerobic exercise, 30 to 60 minutes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a variety of experiments. And you don’t need to do something strenuous: even walking has shown that effect. There are many open questions in terms of specific types of exercise, duration, magnitude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neuroscience article, there is little doubt that leading a sedentary life is bad for our cognitive health. Cardiovascular exercise seems to have a positive effect.

Second, Maintain Lifelong Intellectual Engagement. There is abundant prospective observational research showing that doing more mentally stimulating activities reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Let me add, given all media hype, that no “brain game” in particular has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the maintenance of cognition across extended periods of time. It is too early for that-and consumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some companies are being more science-based than others but, in my view, the consumer-oriented field is growing faster than the research is.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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