Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Music: Another Pillar of Brain Fitness?

Musi­cians’ brains are often used as mod­els of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. Indeed, numer­ous stud­ies to date have shown that musi­cal train­ing can change the brain. Musi­cians have larger brain vol­ume in areas that are impor­tant for play­ing an instru­ment: motor, audi­tory and visuo-spatial regions.

A recent Nature Review Neu­ro­science arti­cle shows that music train­ing can ben­e­fit the brain beyond music. Specif­i­cally, musi­cians may have an advan­tage for pro­cess­ing speech in chal­leng­ing lis­ten­ing envi­ron­ments com­pared with non-musicians Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Brain Health Promotion Event and Predictions

Here you 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 and Events

Brain Health Pro­mo­tion by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging: You may be inter­ested in the excel­lent agenda the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging has put together for health pro­fes­sion­als, from Sep­tem­ber 2-5th in San Fran­cisco, devot­ing a full day to Brain Health. Alvaro will par­tic­i­pate in 3 of the ses­sions, includ­ing giv­ing a keynote on the Future of Brain Health.

Can Google Kill Neu­rons and Rewire Your Whole Brain?: The Atlantic Monthly pub­lished an arti­cle titled Is Google Mak­ing Us Stu­pid, which basi­cally blamed Google for lit­er­ally rewiring our brains into more stu­pid brains (not being able to pay atten­tion, read deep books…). We are not very impressed by the super­fi­cial treat­ment given to this very impor­tant topic.

Mobile Brain Train­ing, Sci­en­tific Learn­ing, and More News: Overview of cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness news, includ­ing recent research on how phys­i­cal exer­cise can help diag­nosed Alzheimer’s patients, the new Mac ver­sion of Posit Science’s audi­tory pro­cess­ing train­ing pro­gram, and more.

Mar­ket Analysis

Top 10 Brain Health Pre­dic­tions: In an emerg­ing mar­ket, like brain health and train­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to make pre­cise pro­jec­tions. Here we point out a num­ber of trends that exec­u­tives, con­sumers, pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers, and the media should watch closely in the com­ing years. Your feed­back is very wel­come…we will give a com­pli­men­tary copy of our mar­ket report to the per­son who pro­vides the most insight­ful addi­tional pre­dic­tion by August 10th.

Cog­ni­tive Health Pio­neers: Thank You! The qual­ity and vari­ety of our client list brings up the cross-sector demand for qual­ity infor­ma­tion in the emerg­ing brain fitness/ cog­ni­tive health cat­e­gory. And it helps us pri­or­i­tize efforts and cov­er­age of mar­ket and research news and trends.

Research Analy­sis

Encephalon blog car­ni­val: Brain & Mind Research: We hosted Encephalon´s 50th edi­tion, where you will find a selec­tion of superb blog posts on all things Brain and Mind. Exam­ples? you may enjoy Face­book Ate My Psy­chi­a­trist or per­haps the Com­pul­sive Col­lect­ing of Toy Bul­lets and Tele­vi­sions.

Atten­tion Deficits At Work: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon pro­vides an in-depth overview of a recent study by Ron de Graaf and col­leagues, in which they found that an aver­age of 3.5% of work­ers (in ten coun­tries) meet the cri­te­ria for adult ADHD, In the US, the per­cent­age increased to 4.5%. This has clear effects on productivity.

Edu­ca­tion and Learning

Learn­ing & the Brain: Resources for Edu­ca­tors: Edu­ca­tor Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews her favorite brain resources for teach­ing and learn­ing: books, con­fer­ences, and websites.

Brain Teasers

Top 25 Brain and Mind Haikus. Yours?: Read­ers have con­tributed a good num­ber of haikus on brain-related top­ics. You can fol­low the link to check out our Favorite 7, and many other fun ones…which ones do you like the most?

Brain Fitness/ Training Newsletter: January Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesAs we have been doing for the last 6 months, here you are have the Monthly Digest of our Most Pop­u­lar Blog Posts. You can con­sider it your monthly Brain Fitness/ Train­ing Newsletter.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our blog RSS feed, or to our monthly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this Monthly Digest by email).

Let me first intro­duce our new ros­ter of Expert Con­trib­u­tors, high­light­ing first an arti­cle by Duke University’s Dr. David Rabiner, a lead­ing author­ity on atten­tion deficits and author of the Atten­tion Research Update newslet­ter, on the “promis­ing, yet unproven” value of neu­ro­feed­back for atten­tion deficits: How Strong is the Research Sup­port for Neu­ro­feed­back.

Two other great arti­cles by our Expert Con­trib­u­tors this month:

Look­ing inside the Brain: cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon intro­duces us to the world of neu­roimag­ing and build­ing men­tal reserves.

Med­i­ta­tion in Schools: thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine, we offer an excel­lent arti­cle on the emerg­ing trend of schools using med­i­ta­tion to help stu­dents man­age anx­i­ety and stress.

The fol­low­ing Expert Con­trib­u­tors will be fea­tured in Feb­ru­ary, so make sure to visit our blog often:

- Wes Car­roll, Puz­zle Mas­ter for Ask a Sci­en­tist lec­ture series.

- Simon Evans, PhD., and Paul Burghardt, PhD., from Uni­ver­sity of Michigan’s Depart­ment of Psy­chi­a­try and the Mol­e­c­u­lar and Behav­ioral Neu­ro­science Institute.

- Gre­gory Kel­lett, mas­ters in Cog­ni­tive Neurology/Research Psy­chol­ogy from SFSU and researcher at UCSF.

- Joanne Jacobs, edu­ca­tion expert and blog­ger, will par­tic­i­pate in the “Sharp­Brains Author Speaks Series” to present her most recent book.

- Eric Jensen, well-known resource on brain research infor­ma­tion with impli­ca­tions for K12 education.

- Tom O’Brien, Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus in Math­e­mat­ics edu­ca­tion and author of prize-winning games.

- Adrian Preda, M.D., Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Human Behav­ior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

- Joshua Stein­er­man, M.D., Post­doc­toral Clin­i­cal Fel­low in the Depart­ment of Neu­rol­ogy at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Med­ical Center.

Brain Fit­ness and Sharp­Brains in the News

Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Trends (Jan­u­ary 3rd): Sci­en­tific Learn­ing Corp. (cog­ni­tive train­ing for chil­dren with dislexia and read­ing dif­fi­cul­ties) acquires Solil­o­quy Learn­ing, and Paris-based Sci­en­tific Brain Train­ing acquires Tech­no­me­dia, a Cana­dian provider of cor­po­rate training.

More News on the Field (Jan­u­ary 14th): Posit Sci­ence (audi­tory pro­cess­ing train­ing) acquires Visual Aware­ness, Inc (visual pro­cess­ing train­ing for dri­ving skills, used in ACTIVE tri­als). Cogmed announces work­ing mem­ory train­ing for adults. Nature Neu­ro­science brings great resources on the clas­sic Lon­don Taxi Dri­vers study. The 2008 Mind & Life Sum­mer Research Insti­tute starts accept­ing appli­ca­tions by researchers inter­ested in study­ing the effects of med­i­ta­tion on the brain.

Sharp­Brains Fea­tured in Newsweek & Fox Busi­ness Net­work (Jan­u­ary 19th): sev­eral great arti­cles on the emerg­ing brain fitness/ train­ing field. New Sci­en­tist (subscription-only) pro­vides a broad pic­ture of the research. Newsweek kindly invites read­ers to “check out, which pro­motes science-based cog­ni­tive train­ing”. Fox Busi­ness Net­work includes our mar­ket esti­mates of $225 mil­lion for the whole brain fit­ness soft­ware field in 2007 in the US. The New York Times has a great arti­cle on the value of music training.

Is Your Brain Ready To Drink Cheap Wine?: Prof. Baba Shiv, one of our advi­sors, pub­lished a fas­ci­nat­ing paper on the power of our beliefs to influ­ence brain acti­va­tion, and on how mar­ket­ing can influ­ence those beliefs.

Sharpen Your Brain to Improve Per­for­mance, Lower Stress (sub­scrip­tion required): Nicholas Genes from Med­scape inter­views me on the back­ground behind cog­ni­tive fit­ness and

Health and Wellness

It is Not Only Cars That Deserve Good Main­te­nance: If we can all agree on the impor­tance of main­tain­ing our cars that get us around town, what about main­tain­ing our brains sit­ting behind the wheel?.

Grand Rounds: Brief­ing the Next US Pres­i­dent on 40 Health Issues: we hosted an open let­ter to the “Next US Pres­i­dent”, gath­er­ing the ques­tions and impres­sions of 40 health and med­ical blog­gers. We will do the same on Edu­ca­tion issues on Feb­ru­ary 20th-see below.

Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Clin­i­cal Trial: Seek­ing Older Adults:  Neu­ro­sci­en­tists at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity Med­ical Cen­ter asked for help in recruit­ing vol­un­teers for an excit­ing clin­i­cal trial. If you are based in New York City, and between the ages of 60 and 75, please con­sider join­ing this study.

10 Brain Fit­ness New Year’s Res­o­lu­tions: prob­a­bly a bit late…but con­tains poten­tial New Years Res­o­lu­tions with the three prin­ci­ples of brain fit­ness in mind — nov­elty, vari­ety and challenge.


Inter­view with Robert Syl­wester on The Ado­les­cent Brain: Dr. Robert Syl­wester is an edu­ca­tor of edu­ca­tors, hav­ing received mul­ti­ple awards dur­ing his long career as a mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor of the impli­ca­tions of brain sci­ence research for edu­ca­tion and learn­ing. Enjoy this interview.

Don’t Out­source Your Brain: nei­ther to other peo­ple… nor to your GPS sys­tem. Funny, true story.

Feb­ru­ary 20th Blog Car­ni­val of edu­ca­tion: we will host this edi­tion and present it as an open let­ter to the “Next US Pres­i­dent”, gath­er­ing the ques­tions and impres­sions of a num­ber of edu­ca­tion bloggers.


20 Brain Plas­tic­ity Books: we just changed a few things in our site, includ­ing prepar­ing a more solid Resources sec­tion. Please take a look at the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top, includ­ing an expanded Books page.

PBS Brain Fit­ness DVD: the PBS shop is already sell­ing DVDs of its great Decem­ber spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity.

Brain Teasers

Mon­keys and Brain Games: did you read about the recent exper­i­ment where young chimps dis­played amaz­ing visual work­ing mem­ory capa­bil­ity, beat­ing humans? you can release your com­pet­i­tive juices here.

Brain Exer­cises for the Week­end: Har­riet Vines, Ph.D., an expe­ri­enced author and retired col­lege pro­fes­sor, sends us a few fun brain exer­cises to train our atten­tion and work­ing memory.

Events and Speak­ing Engage­ments (more details in our Speak­ing page)

» Feb. 2th: I will lead a Work­shop on Brain Fit­ness: The Sci­ence and Prac­tice, spon­sored by San Jose State University’s Osher Life­long Learn­ing Institute.

» Feb. 7th: will speak on “Sharp­en­ing Minds through Com­put­er­ized Cog­ni­tive and Emo­tional Train­ing Pro­grams,” at the Learn­ing & The Brain Con­fer­ence.

» Feb. 12th: will speak on The Emerg­ing Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket: Build­ing Bet­ter Brains: spon­sored by The MIT Club of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging, The Busi­ness Forum on Aging and Smart­Sil­vers, we will cover how “Sci­en­tific, tech­no­log­i­cal and demo­graphic trends have con­verged to cre­ate an excit­ing new mar­ket in brain fit­ness, where soft­ware and online appli­ca­tions can assess and train cog­ni­tive abilities.”

» March 4th: I will be a pan­elist on how to Use Your Head-The Future of Mind Hacks, at O’Reilly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­ogy Conference.

» March 27th, 2008: will present an Overview of Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Research and Pro­grams, at the NCOA/ ASA Aging in Amer­ica Con­fer­ence.

David Pescovitz, Research Direc­tor, Insti­tute for the Future, says “Alvaro Fer­nan­dez syn­the­sizes and trans­lates the lat­est neu­ro­science into provoca­tive, com­pelling, and enter­tain­ing sto­ries of men­tal fit­ness and the future of the brain.” Please con­tact us, sim­ply respond­ing to this email, if your orga­ni­za­tion is inter­ested in learn­ing more about Brain and Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and this emerg­ing field.

All feed­back and con­tri­bu­tions are wel­come, too. Please leave your com­ments below.

Books on neuroplasticity and memory training

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: the brain’s abil­ity to reor­ga­nize itself by form­ing new con­nec­tions through­out life. (see more con­cepts in our Glos­sary).

We coudn’t be hap­pier about the grow­ing num­ber of books pop­u­lar­iz­ing the key lessons about brain train­ing that Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg has been research­ing and writ­ing about for years, and that moti­vated us to embark our­selves in the Sharp­Brains adventure.

Dis­cover Mag­a­zine presents a great arti­cle, Rewiring the Brain, review­ing two recent books.

  • The sub­ti­tle is “Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity can allow for treat­ment of senil­ity, post-traumatic stress, ­obsessive-compulsive dis­or­der, and depres­sion and Bud­dhists have been cap­i­tal­iz­ing on it for mil­lenia.” I would add that the strong value of life­long learn­ing present in jesuit and jew­ish tra­di­tions reflects the same wis­dom. Some quotes:
  • Two new books, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (Bal­lan­tine Books, $24.95) by sci­ence jour­nal­ist Sharon Beg­ley and The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, $24.95) by psy­chi­a­trist Nor­man Doidge, offer mas­ter­fully guided tours through the bur­geon­ing field of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research. Each has its own style and empha­sis; both are excellent.”
  • Finally, both authors con­clude that adult neu­ro­plas­tic­ity is a vastly under­tapped resource, one with which West­ern med­i­cine and psy­chol­ogy are just now com­ing to grips. An impor­tant emerg­ing research agenda is to Read the rest of this entry »


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