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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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

Here you are have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brainremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

News

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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