Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


The Neurobiology of Stress: the Human Brain and How It Responds to Stress


Worry is like a rock­ing chair. It gives you some­thing to do, but it gets you nowhere.
— Erma Bombeck

The brain is the con­trol cen­ter for all of our thoughts, actions, atti­tudes, and emo­tions. It ’ s the pilot­house on the river­boat of our lives. It’s Mis­sion Con­trol for all of our ? ights into space or time. It ’ s the air traf?c con­troller that helps us nav­i­gate and reroute our paths based on incom­ing and out­go­ing infor­ma­tion and how we’re feel­ing about it at the time. It’s the John Williams of our per­sonal sym­phony. It ’ s the Mother Ship to our Star?eet; it’s … (Uh, sorry, I got car­ried away there, but I think you get my point!) Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Monthly Insights: How will we assess, enhance and repair cognition across the lifespan?

When you think of how the PC has altered the fab­ric of soci­ety, per­mit­ting instant access to infor­ma­tion and automat­ing processes beyond our wildest dreams, it is instruc­tive to con­sider that much of this progress was dri­ven by Moore’s law. Halv­ing the size of semi­con­duc­tor every 18 months catal­ysed an expo­nen­tial accel­er­a­tion in performance.

Why is this story rel­e­vant to mod­ern neu­ro­science and the work­ings of the brain? Because trans­for­ma­tive tech­no­log­i­cal progress arises out of choice and the actions of indi­vid­u­als who see poten­tial for change, and we may well be on the verge of such progress. Read the rest of this entry »

Technology as the missing link to enable a brain-based model of brain care: interview with Dr. John Docherty

Dr. John Docherty is an Adjunct Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try at the Weill Med­ical Col­lege, Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity, Direc­tor of Post Grad­u­ate Edu­ca­tion there, and Chief Med­ical Offi­cer of Brain Resource. Trained as a clin­i­cal research fel­low in neu­ropsy­chophar­ma­col­ogy at NIMH, he later returned as Chief of the Psy­choso­cial Treat­ments Research Branch, respon­si­ble for all fed­er­ally sup­ported psy­choso­cial treat­ment research in men­tal health nation­wide. He over­saw the land­mark National Col­lab­o­ra­tive Study of the Treat­ment of Depres­sion and served as a mem­ber and Chair­man for over 10 years on the NIMH and then NIDA Treat­ment Research IRGs. Dr. Docherty has wide expe­ri­ence in suc­cess­fully imple­ment­ing inno­va­tion in both clin­i­cal oper­a­tions and man­aged health care. He founded North­east Psy­chi­atric Asso­ciates in 1985. As National Med­ical Direc­tor for National Med­ical Enter­prises, he over­saw med­ical con­trol and qual­ity improve­ment in 74 hos­pi­tals in 34 states. He was the Exec­u­tive Vice-President and Chief Med­ical Offi­cer for Merit Behav­ioral Care, which then cov­ered 30 mil­lion peo­ple. In 1998, he founded Com­pre­hen­sive Neu­ro­Science (CNS). Its Care Man­age­ment Tech­nolo­gies are cur­rently imple­mented in 17 state Med­ic­aid plans. Dr Docherty has received numer­ous hon­ors and awards and has authored over 100 sci­en­tific publications.

(Editor’s note: this inter­view with Dr. John Docherty was orig­i­nally pub­lished in Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket report Trans­form­ing Brain Health with Dig­i­tal Tools to Assess, Enhance and Treat Cog­ni­tion across the Lifes­pan, pub­lished in July 2010)

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Dr. Docherty, it is a plea­sure to be with you today to dis­cuss the main theme of Sharp­Brains’ 2010 mar­ket report – how the con­ver­gence of sci­en­tific find­ings and tech­nol­ogy plat­forms and tools is reshap­ing how as a soci­ety and as indi­vid­u­als we will take care of cog­ni­tion and men­tal well­ness along the life­course, giv­ing birth to the emerg­ing dig­i­tal brain health and fit­ness mar­ket. Can you first briefly dis­cuss your career tra­jec­tory and your cur­rent role at Brain Resource?

Dr. John Docherty: Sure. The main theme of my work since the 1960s has remained the same, “How do we put knowl­edge into effec­tive use to improve men­tal health?” Over the last cen­tury, med­i­cine made tremen­dous progress in gen­er­at­ing sci­en­tific and clin­i­cal knowl­edge. Basic research dis­cov­ery sci­ence and clin­i­cal treat­ment devel­op­ment sci­ence have made great progress. Within Psy­chi­a­try there was stan­dard set­ting advance in the 1960’s through the NIMH-VA coop­er­a­tive stud­ies to the method­ol­ogy of assess­ing the effi­cacy of psy­chophar­ma­co­log­i­cal drugs. This work estab­lished prin­ci­ples adopted for the study of med­ica­tions in the other areas of med­i­cine. The study of psy­chother­apy, how­ever, lagged in devel­op­ment. In my role of Chief of the Psy­choso­cial Treat­ments Branch of the NIMH , I helped con­tribute to the advance of that work by sup­port­ing the efforts of an extra­or­di­nary group of indi­vid­u­als led by Irene Waskow who car­ried out the TDCRP. This study estab­lished the method­olo­gies that made pos­si­ble the effec­tive sci­en­tific study of the effi­cacy of psy­chother­a­pies. The evi­dence base and of such treat­ments as CBT, DBT, Moti­va­tional Enhance­ment Treat­ment and other evidence-based psy­chother­a­pies derives directly from this study and its sem­i­nal influ­ence. This was a con­tri­bu­tion to the sci­ence of Clin­i­cal Treat­ment Devel­op­ment research.

I would say that my major inter­est, how­ever, has been in the next step, the sci­ence of knowl­edge trans­fer. There has been and remains a long and costly (in terms par­tic­u­larly of unnec­es­sary suf­fer­ing) lag between the devel­op­ment of new knowl­edge and its com­mon and effec­tive use in practice.

In order the help the field moved for­ward, I have worked for the last 20 years in the devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of meth­ods to effec­tively trans­fer knowl­edge into prac­tice. Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Games for Physical, Cognitive and Behavioral Health

The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion (RWJF) just announced more than 200px-Dance_Dance_Revolution_Extreme_arcade_machine_left_side_stage$1.85 mil­lion in grants for research teams to study how dig­i­tal games can improve play­ers’ health behav­iors and out­comes (both brain-based and behavioral).

The press release: Nine Lead­ing Research Teams Selected to Study How Dig­i­tal Games Improve Play­ers’ Health

  • Dig­i­tal games are inter­ac­tive and expe­ri­en­tial, and so they can engage peo­ple in pow­er­ful ways to enhance learn­ing and health behav­ior change, espe­cially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strate­gies,” said (UC Santa Barbara’s Dr. Debra) Lieberman.
  • The pace of growth and inno­va­tion in dig­i­tal games is incred­i­ble, and we see tremen­dous poten­tial to design them to help peo­ple stay healthy or man­age chronic con­di­tions like dia­betes or Parkinson’s dis­ease. How­ever, we need to know more about what works and what does not — and why,” said Paul Tarini, team direc­tor for RWJF’s Pio­neer Port­fo­lio. “Health Games Research is a major invest­ment to build a research base for this dynamic young field. Fur­ther, the insights and ideas that flow from this work will help us con­tinue to expand our imag­i­na­tion of what is pos­si­ble in this arena.”

All 9 stud­ies sound inter­est­ing, 3 of them are closer to what we track:

  1. Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco (San Fran­cisco, CA) A Video Game to Enhance Cog­ni­tive Health in Older Adults. As peo­ple age, they lose some of their abil­ity to sus­tain their atten­tion and to focus their atten­tion on their main task while ignor­ing dis­trac­tions. This study aims to improve these and other related cog­ni­tive skills by using a dri­ving game in which Read the rest of this entry »

Brain-Based Carnival of Education, 186th Edition

Wel­come to the 186th edi­tion of the Car­ni­val of Edu­ca­tion, the weekly vir­tual gath­er­ing of dozens of blog­gers to dis­cuss all things education.

Q: Why do you say this edi­tion is “brain-based”?
A: Because the Q&A frame we are using is inspired by how Chris at Ouroboros recently hosted Encephalon Brain and Mind blog car­ni­val. (Is clas­sic Greek mak­ing a comeback?).

Q: As edu­ca­tors, what inspires us to do what we do?
A: Tracy sug­gests, “Hope for the future”.

Q: And what may hap­pen in the future?
A: Eric pro­poses that the field can learn much about how ath­letes train their minds and bod­ies to max­i­mize performance.

Q: What should not hap­pen in the future?
A: Dave hopes we stop the Text­book Insan­ity, killing trees to cre­ate books not every­one uses.

Q: What comes first, sub­ject or learner?
A: Bogu­sia has “switched sides”. She now cen­ters her teach­ing around her stu­dents, to make sure they appre­ci­ate the beauty of the subject.

Q: How do you know if some­thing is devel­op­men­tally appro­pri­ate?
Read the rest of this entry »

Carnival of Education #159: Briefing the Next US President on 35 Issues

Dear Mr or Mrs Next US President,

Thank you for stop­ping dur­ing recess for a quick study sessiMeditation School Studentson. 35 edu­ca­tors have col­lab­o­rated to present this Car­ni­val of Edu­ca­tion as a use­ful les­son plan for you and your edu­ca­tion pol­icy team on what our real con­cerns and sug­ges­tions are.

In case this is your first visit to our Sharp­Brains blog, let me first of all point out some use­ful resources to stay sane dur­ing the rest of the cam­paign: selected Brain Teasers, a list of 21 great Brain Books, over a dozen inter­views with lead­ing sci­en­tists on learn­ing and brain-based top­ics, and more.

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s pro­ceed to the issues raised. We hope they pro­vide, at the very least, good men­tal stim­u­la­tion for you and your advisors.

Edu­ca­tion as a System

Learning & The Brain Conference: discount for SharpBrains readers

San Francisco Golden Gate BridgeCon­text: Last Feb­ru­ary we had the chance to attend a great con­fer­ence on how brain research is influ­enc­ing edu­ca­tion. Highly rec­om­mended. Car­o­line wrote our impres­sions, sum­ma­rized as “It was a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of neu­ro­sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors talk­ing with and lis­ten­ing to each other. Some top­ics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought — insight on where sci­ence and edu­ca­tion are headed and how they influ­ence each other”. See some of our take-aways below.

Announce­ment: the 2008 edi­tion of this con­fer­ence, titled Using Brain Research to Enhance Learn­ing, Atten­tion & Mem­ory For Edu­ca­tors, Par­ents and Clin­i­cians, will take place in San Fran­cisco, on Feb­ru­ary 7-9th, 2008. The orga­niz­ers have kindly invited me to deliver a lec­ture on Inter­ven­tions to Sharpen Minds, as part of the Brain Plas­tic­ity & Atten­tion track. I will pro­vide an overview of the sci­ence behind computer-based cog­ni­tive train­ing inter­ven­tions and dis­cuss a num­ber of research-based pro­grams that are being used today. Let me know if you are plan­ning to attend!

Reg­is­tra­tion fees: the gen­eral reg­is­tra­tion fees are $495 per per­son, if you reg­is­ter before Jan­u­ary 25th, 2008.

Spe­cial Dis­count for Sharp­Brains read­ers: you can reg­is­ter for $450 before that date,  mak­ing sure to write
SharpBrains1 in the com­ments sec­tion of How did you hear about the con­fer­ence? in this Reg­is­tra­tion Page.

To learn more about the con­fer­ence: Read the rest of this entry »


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