Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.

Manage your feelings for conflict resolution

Stephanie West Allen kindly alerted us of her impres­sive new ini­tia­tive and blog, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz, titled Brains On Pur­pose. They have part­nered to bring a series of sem­i­nars on neu­ro­science and con­flict res­o­lu­tion: Port­land, Ore­gon, in Novem­ber 2007, and San Fran­cisco Bay Area in Jan­u­ary 2008-so far. Dr. Schwartz has pre­vi­ously par­tic­i­pated in a sim­i­lar and fruit­ful ini­tia­tive on The Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship with David Rock. We wish them best luck in this excit­ing initiative.

Stephanie writes a great blog post on “What are you feel­ing?” “What am I feel­ing?” These ques­tions are tools for brain tam­ing, explain­ing how “A flurry of arti­cles appeared this week (such as this one in Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can: “Name that feel­ing: You’ll feel bet­ter”) about the neu­ro­science research show­ing that label­ing your feel­ings can quiet your brain and increase impulse control”

adding that…

In our recent arti­cle “Lead Your Brain Instead Of Let­ting It Lead You,” we talk about the prac­tice of mak­ing men­tal notes (first described by Jeff in his book Dear Patrick: Life is Tough — Here’s Some Good Advice). Devel­op­ing your skill in mak­ing men­tal notes can bring relief when high con­flict occurs.” and “The more skilled you get at label­ing, the more quickly no mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion you can return to equa­nim­ity and composure.”

Check her post to learn more about the label­ing tech­nique. Devel­op­ing men­tal notes can be a very pow­er­ful way to self-regulate behav­ior, not too dif­fer­ent from cog­ni­tive ther­apy and emo­tional self-regulation tech­niques.

Excit­ing to see more sci­en­tists and prac­ti­tion­ers bring­ing research into prac­tice! As we have men­tioned, Brain Fit­ness is some­thing that applies to dif­fer­ent ages and dif­fer­ent pur­poses, and this is a great exam­ple for lawyers.


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