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Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

Over the last months, thanks to the traf­fic growth of SharpBrains.com (over 100,000 unique vis­i­tors per month these days, THANK YOU for vis­it­ing today and please come back!), a num­ber of proac­tive book agents, pub­lish­ers and authors have con­tacted us to inform us of their lat­est brain-related books. We have taken a look at many books, wrote reviews of The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review‚ and Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can, and inter­viewed sci­en­tists such as Judith Beck, Robert Emmons and James Zull.

Brain Trust ProgramNow we are launch­ing a new Author Speaks Series to pro­vide a plat­form for lead­ing sci­en­tists and experts writ­ing high-quality brain-related books to reach a wide audi­ence. We are hon­ored to start the series with an arti­cle by Larry McCleary, M.D, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, and author of The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cally Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­ory, Ele­vate Mood, Enhance Atten­tion, Alle­vi­ate Migraine and Menopausal Symp­toms, and Boost Men­tal Energy (Perigee Trade, 2007).

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s enjoy Dr. McCleary’s article:

Brain Evo­lu­tion and Why it is Mean­ing­ful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

You may feel over­whelmed by the stream of seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory sug­ges­tions regard­ing the best way to main­tain men­tal clar­ity as you age. Based on an analy­sis of sem­i­nal fac­tors in the devel­op­ment of mod­ern brain anatomy, I believe it is pos­si­ble to make some very com­pelling rec­om­men­da­tions for grow­ing big brains, enhanc­ing their func­tion, and mak­ing them resis­tant to the aging process. These may be loosely cat­e­go­rized as fac­tors per­tain­ing to the men­tal or phys­i­cal attrib­utes of the brain. Although they are not truly inde­pen­dent enti­ties, such a con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion pro­vides a basis for the gen­er­a­tion of brain healthy pre­scrip­tions. Diet, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and stress reduc­tion enhance neu­ronal resilience. Sleep and men­tal stim­u­la­tion are vital for cog­ni­tive abil­ity, learn­ing, and memory.

Diet: Fol­low a mod­ern shore-based/marine diet includ­ing seafood in its most gen­eral sense, non-starchy veg­eta­bles of all col­ors, berries, and eggs. Other sources of lean pro­tein con­tain­ing long-chain omega 3 fatty acids such as free range beef, chicken, bison, or elk are nutri­tious alternatives.

Phys­i­cal exer­cise (Think fight or flight — activ­ity.): Include all types. Aer­o­bic activ­i­ties such as swim­ming, bicy­cling, walk­ing, or hik­ing for pro­mo­tion of vas­cu­lar health and weight con­trol; resis­tance train­ing for pro­mo­tion of neu­rotrophic fac­tors, nat­u­rally occur­ring com­pounds that make brain cells more resis­tant to aging, such as IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1) and BDNF (Brain-derived neu­rotrophic fac­tor); and bal­ance, coor­di­na­tion, and agility train­ing such as ping-pong, bal­ance beam, tram­po­line, and jump­ing rope to enhance cog­ni­tive speed and motor skills.

Stress Con­trol: From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, stres­sors (such as meet­ing a cave bear) and intense phys­i­cal activ­ity (run­ning or fight­ing) were brief in dura­tion and usu­ally occurred together. Mod­ern stres­sors (psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tional stress) tend to be unremit­ting and are gen­er­ally uncou­pled from the phys­i­cal (fight or flight) com­po­nent, mean­ing stress devel­ops with­out any asso­ci­ated phys­i­cal activ­ity. Such intense phys­i­cal pur­suits are now called exer­cise. Not sur­pris­ingly, exer­cise is a per­fect phys­i­o­logic anti­dote for stress due to its ben­e­fi­cial impact on cor­ti­sol (the stress hor­mone) and blood pres­sure and should be incor­po­rated into any pro­gram of stress reduction.

Ade­quate sleep: The body needs rest, but the brain requires sleep. Acute or chronic sleep depri­va­tion causes dev­as­tat­ing short and long-term con­se­quences to brain anatomy (synap­tic loss) and func­tion (mem­ory and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties). Off-line infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and mem­ory con­sol­i­da­tion are addi­tional sleep-related benefits.

Men­tal stim­u­la­tion: Brain-training, a cog­ni­tively chal­leng­ing lifestyle, nov­elty, and social­iza­tion are vital for the pro­mo­tion of neu­ronal plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the for­ma­tion of new nerve cells and neu­ronal con­nec­tions), the enhance­ment of spe­cific brain func­tions such as mem­ory, and the devel­op­ment of cog­ni­tive reserve — addi­tional men­tal pro­cess­ing poten­tial that may be brought online when needed.

The com­bi­na­tion of these rec­om­men­da­tions, each of which was instru­men­tal in the trans­for­ma­tion from prim­i­tive to mod­ern ner­vous sys­tems, pro­vides a tem­plate for the most log­i­cal approach for enhanc­ing men­tal func­tion and resist­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion as we travel through life.

The Evo­lu­tion­ary Rationale

The human brain clearly has the genetic poten­tial for dra­matic expan­sion. This was illus­trated about Read the rest of this entry »

Best practice for top trading performance: biofeedback (EmWave personal stress reliever)

Brett N. Steen­barger , Ph.D. Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences at SUNY Upstate Med­ical Uni­ver­sity, active trader for over 30 years, for­mer Direc­tor of Trader Devel­op­ment for Kingstree Trad­ing, LLC, author of The Psy­chol­ogy of Trad­ing and the new Enhanc­ing Trader Per­for­mance, and of the blog Trader­Feed: Exploit­ing the edge from his­tor­i­cal mar­ket pat­terns, is writ­ing a great col­lec­tion of best prac­tices for traders (many of which are very rel­e­vant for all high-pressure occupations).

He wrote a great arti­cle a few weeks ago on the value of biofeed­back in achiev­ing self con­trol, and now deep­ens the dis­cus­sion with this best prac­tice for traders.

Both arti­cles are a fun read-here go some quotes from the most recent one

  • This best prac­tice describes biofeed­back as a tool for per­for­mance enhance­ment among traders. It empha­sizes that the role of biofeed­back is to keep us in touch with our (implicit) knowl­edge, not to elim­i­nate emo­tion from the decision-making process.”
  • we want to con­trol the level of cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal arousal so that we retain access to exper­tise that is already present. Biofeed­back is a pow­er­ful tool for achiev­ing such cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal con­trol.”
  • “Through struc­tured prac­tice, peo­ple can learn to sys­tem­at­i­cally improve their abil­ity to enter and remain in states of calm focus. Such abil­ity is impor­tant to trad­ing (and many other per­for­mance activ­i­ties), not because it elim­i­nates emo­tion, but because it pre­serves our access to the somatic mark­ers that rep­re­sent our mar­ket feel. The heart rate vari­abil­ity feed­back is par­tic­u­larly user friendly, because it is com­puter based and can track progress both in prac­tice ses­sions and in real time performance.”
  • “Using the Freeze-Framer pro­gram, audi­ble sig­nals tell the user when he or she is expe­ri­enc­ing high, medium, or low “coher­ence”, which is a mea­sure of emo­tional reg­u­la­tion. On-screen games require the user to keep a float­ing bal­loon in the air, for instance, based upon sus­tained medium and high read­ings. I recently had an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence dur­ing one feed­back ses­sion: I sus­tained a high level of the bal­loon, but then clicked a wrong but­ton on the screen and erased my data acci­den­tally! After that frus­tra­tion, it was *much* harder for me to keep the bal­loon in the air. It was a nice illus­tra­tion of the impact of frus­tra­tion even sev­eral min­utes after an event.”

You can learn more about this best prac­tice for Traders and other high-pressure occu­pa­tions where learn­ing how to iden­tify and man­age our emo­tions and lev­els of stress is crit­i­cal for performance.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, CNN and more, Sharp­Brains is an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain science.
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