Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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 »

Brain Exercise and Fitness: September Monthly Digest

Crossword PuzzleFollowing our July and August editions, here you have our Monthly Digest of the Most Popular Blog Posts. Today, October 2nd, we will list the most popular September posts. You can consider it your monthly Brain Exercise Magazine.

(Also, remember that you can subscribe to receive our RSS feed, check our Topics section, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter at the top of this page).

Market News

Education, Training, Health events: some events I will blog about/ speak at over the next 2-weeks.

Brain Fitness and in the Press: including a great Washington Post article.

Brains Way Smarter Than Ours (and yours, probably): roundup of relevant news, including some Awards.

News you can use

10 (Surprising) Memory Improvement Tips: on the relationship between stress and memory.

Judith Beck: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person: a cognitive therapy pioneer tells us about the latest application of brain training: diets.

Brain Wellness: Train Your Brain to Be Happier: our essay to participate in LifeTwo’s Happiness week.


11 Neuroscientists Debunk a Common Myth about Brain Training: summary of our 11 original interviews with leading neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists.

Neuroplasticity 101 and Brain Health Glossary: no one is born knowing it all…check this summary of concepts and keywords that can help navigate through the brain fitness field.

Working Memory: an image that says much: bad and good news.

Best of the Brain from Scientific American: review of this great book.

An online application system is now open for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships.

Corporate Training & Leadership

Carnival of the capitalists with a brain: we hosted this business blog carnival with a brain spice.

Executive Functions and Google/ Microsoft Brain Teasers: examples of what our executive functions are.

Software Product News

MindFit by CogniFit, and Baroness Susan Greenfield: a brain fitness program starting to get traction in Europe.

Penn Treaty First To Offer Brain Fitness Program: today’s press release on another brain training software (Posit Science)’s deal with an insurance provider.

Visualization Software of IBM for the Future of Medicine: Interview: “It’s like Google Earth for the body”. Hopefully it will include the brain.

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers with a Neuroscience angle: enjoy.

SharpBrains Announcements

Services: we will formally announce soon how we “help companies, health providers, investors, and policymakers understand and profit from the emerging brain fitness field.” But now you know.

Speaking: if your organization needs a good speaker and brain fitness expert, please contact us.

Finally, we are starting to look for qualified guest bloggers to add their perspective. If you are interested, please contact us and let us know about what you would like to write about, and include a brief bio or links to samples. Thank you.

Best of the Brain from Scientific American

Best of Brain, Scientific American

The Dana Foundation kindly sent us a copy of the great book Best of the Brain from Scientific American, a collection of 21 superb articles published previously in Scientific American magazine. A very nicely edited and illustrated book, this is a must for anyone who enjoys learning about the brain and speculating about what the future will bring us.

Some essays, like the ones by Eric Kandel (The New Science of Mind), Fred Gage (Brain, Repair Yourself), Carl Zimmer (The Neurobiology of the Self) and that by Steven Hollon, Michael Thase and John Markowitz (Treating Depression: Pills or Talk), are both intellectual feasts and very relevant to brain fitness. And finally starting to percolate into mainstream consciousness.

Let me quote some quotes and reflections as I was reading the book a couple of days ago, in the courtyard of a beautiful French cafe in Berkeley:

1) On Brain Plasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself), Fred Gage says: “Within the past 5 years, however, neuroscientists have discovered that the brain does indeed change throughout life-…The new cells and connections that we and others have documented may provide the extra capacity the brain requires for the variety of challenges that individuals face throughout life. Such plasticity offers a possible mechanism through which the brain might be induced to repair itself after injury or disease. It might even open the prospect of enhancing an already healthy brain’s power to think and ability to feel”

2)  and How Experience affects Brain Structure: Under the section title “A Brain Workout”, Fred Gage says “One of the mot striking aspects of neurogenesis (Note: the creation of new neurons) is that experience can regulate the rate of cell division, the survival of newborn neurons and their ability to integrate into the existing neural circuits…The best way to augment brain function might not involve drugs or cell implants but lifestyle changes.”

3) Biology of Mind: Eric Kandel provides a wonderful overview of the most Read the rest of this entry »

Judith Beck: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person

Brain Fitness doesn’t require the use of expensive equipment. Your brain is enough. Today, as part of our research for The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, we are honored to interview Dr. Judith Beck on how cognitive techniques can be applied to improve our health and our lives. The latest application? Losing weight.Judith Beck, Cognitive Therapy

Dr. Judith Beck is the Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Her most recent book is The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person.

Dr. Beck, thanks for your time. What does the Beck Institute do?

We have 3 main activities. One, we train practitioners and researchers through a variety of training programs. Two, we provide clinical care. Three, we are involved in research on cognitive therapy.

Please explain cognitive therapy in a few sentences

Cognitive therapy, as developed by my father Aaron Beck, is a comprehensive system of psychotherapy, based on the idea that the way people perceive their experience influences their emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses. Part of what we do is to help people solve the problems they are facing today. We also teach them cognitive and behavioral skills to modify their dysfunctional thinking and actions.

I understand that cognitive therapy has been tested for many years in a variety of clinical applications. What motivated you to bring those techniques to the weight-loss field by writing The Beck Diet Solution?

Since the beginning, I have primarily Read the rest of this entry »

Every man can, if he so desires, sculpt his own brain

Santiago Ramon y CajalA Spanish friend and neuroscientist just reminded me of a great quote by Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934): “todo hombre puede ser, si se lo propone, escultor de su propio cerebro“.

Which means: “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor his own brain“.

Which really means: “Each of us can literally refine the structure and function of our brains, the same way we can do so with the rest of our body muscles” (my 2 cents…).

Our daily thoughts and actions, learnings, meditation, cognitive therapy, the growing number of software-based programs, and more, are “sculpting” tools…no more no less than tools. Good for some goals and contexts, like improving concentration and memory, becoming “sharper”, helping protect our minds from decline, or manage stress better.

I just bought Cajal’s autobiography, titled Recollections of My Life (thanks, Mind Hacks). Will be writing about it in a month or so-I have too many books on the table now, and only one brain.

If you want to read some good neuroscience blog posts, you can find a nice collection in the latest edition of Encephalon, hosted by Dr Deborah Serani.

For general science ones, try Tangled Bank. For education, enjoy The Education Carnival.

Finally, I will be hosting the next edition of Carnival of the Capitalists (I don’t really love the name…but it is the oldest and best blog carnival for business and economics). If you have some good posts, please submit them here.

For some additional thoughts on sculpting brains, intelligence, and becoming smarter, you can check this post.

Brain Fitness Program 2.0, MindFit, and much more on Brain Training

Let’s quickly review 4 recent articles in both “Times” newspapers: the New York Times and the UK-based Times, on brain fitness and a couple of programs. 

1) Calisthenics for the Older Mind, on the Home Computer: good overview of one of the growing areas for cognitive training, “healthy aging”.emWave for Stress Management

  • Quotes:
  • – “In the past year, some half-dozen programs, with names like Brain Fitness Program 2.0, MindFit and Brain Age2, have aimed at aging consumers eager to keep their mental edge. Read the rest of this entry »

Attention deficits: drugs, therapy, cognitive training

Shelley launched a good discussion on The Neuroscience of ADHD in her blog, discussing the situation and providing a technical overview of drug-based interventions. Something I hadn’t heard is that “For example, babies born prematurely face a significantly greater risk of developing ADHD than full-term babies (socioeconomic status was controlled for).”

Which helps me better understand the need to think about pre-schoolers, as discussed in the article Diagnosing ADD/ ADHD in Preschoolers, at ADDitude Magazine. I quote:

  • “The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study, or PATS, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is the first long-term study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of treating preschoolers with ADHD with behavioral therapy, and then, in some cases, methylphenidate. In the first stage, the children (303 preschoolers with severe ADHD, between the ages of three and five) and their parents participated in a 10-week behavioral therapy course. For one third of the children, ADHD symptoms improved so dramatically with behavior therapy alone that they did not progress to the ADHD medication phase of the study.”

As Shelley’s post and the article explain, drugs do help when used appropriately. Now, they are not the only answer. I am happy to see that behavioral therapy can be as useful when appropriate. Which is not a surprise, given the growing literature on different methods of cognitive training, including therapy and working memory training like the one discussed with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gibson and in our post Cognitive Neuroscience and ADD/ADHD Today.

Learn more & Register today at early-bird rates

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

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