Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions).

Accord­ing to the press release,

- “The report shat­ters unsub­stan­ti­ated crit­i­cism and instead empha­sizes the safety and cost-effectiveness of these tools and calls on Con­gress to develop a national demen­tia screen­ing policy.”

- “Lift­ing the bar­ri­ers to early detec­tion is long over­due, Hall said. “Con­ver­sa­tions about brain health are not tak­ing place. We must edu­cate and empower con­sumers to talk openly about mem­ory con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly with pri­mary care providers, so they get the atten­tion and qual­ity of life they deserve.

- “Demand for screen­ings is evi­denced by the suc­cess of AFA’s recent sixth annual National Mem­ory Screen­ing Day held on Novem­ber 18, dur­ing which an esti­mated 50,000 peo­ple were given free con­fi­den­tial mem­ory screen­ings at nearly 2,200 com­mu­nity sites nation­wide. Dur­ing last year’s event, approx­i­mately 16 per­cent of indi­vid­u­als who had a face-to-face screen­ing scored pos­i­tive and were referred to their pri­mary care providers for follow-up. An AFA sur­vey of par­tic­i­pants revealed that fewer than one in four with self-reported mem­ory com­plaints had pre­vi­ously dis­cussed them with their physi­cians despite recent visits.”

Excel­lent report avail­able: here

Please note that the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion recently argued in the oppo­site direc­tion (no screen­ings) — which prob­a­bly trig­gered this response.

We see emerg­ing trends that sug­gest the posi­tion in favor of cog­ni­tive assess­ments may in fact gather momen­tum over the next few years: wide­spread com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive screen­ings in the US Army, insur­ance com­pa­nies like OptumHealth adding such tools to its clin­i­cal decision-making sys­tems, polls such as the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Aging’s a cou­ple of years ago indi­cat­ing a very strong demand for an “annual men­tal check-up”, the avail­abil­ity of use­ful assess­ment tools and research-based pre­ven­tive advice.

The start­ing point is to under­stand what those assess­ments are NOT: they are not diag­nos­tic tools. When used prop­erly, they can be used as a base­line to track per­for­mance in a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive domains over time, so that both the indi­vid­ual AND the physi­cian are not blinded by a one-time assess­ment, com­par­ing an indi­vid­ual with his or her peers (instead of his or her past per­for­mance) when seri­ous symp­toms have fre­quently already been going on for a while.

Our con­trib­u­tor  Dr. Joshua Sil­ver­man, from Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine, recently gen­er­ated a nice debate on the topic by ask­ing our read­ers their reac­tion to these 3 ques­tions: Read the rest of this entry »

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Thank you for your inter­est, atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Sharp­Brains com­mu­nity. As always, we appre­ci­ate your com­ments and suggestions.

Sum­mit of the Global Agenda

How can we per­suade busi­ness lead­ers, policy-makers and researchers of the urgency to develop and pro­mote an inte­grated “Healthy Liv­ing” agenda focused on main­tain­ing life­long phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health, vs. the usual mind­set focused on deal­ing with spe­cific dis­eases and prob­lems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Cap­i­tal?, I sum­ma­rize some of the key themes dis­cussed at the World Eco­nomic Forum event in Dubai on Novem­ber 7-9th. The world is aging — and in health­ier ways. But our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on track to go bank­rupt — their premises are out­dated. The cur­rent disease-based research agenda com­pounds the prob­lem. Solu­tions? 1) Pro­mote Healthy Lifestyles that help Main­tain Phys­i­cal and Cog­ni­tive Func­tional Abil­i­ties, 2) Redesign Envi­ron­ments to Fos­ter Health, Engage­ment and Finan­cial Secu­rity, 3) Develop an Inte­grated Healthy Liv­ing & Aging Research Agenda. Specif­i­cally, we could work with the UN and Global 2000 com­pa­nies to move for­ward a new agenda.

Planet Earth 2.0: A New Oper­at­ing Sys­tem: Imag­ine see­ing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in tra­di­tional Arab cloth­ing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Obama) in front of the 800 global experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the atten­dants of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Sum­mit of the Global Agenda urged us to “reboot” the sys­tem. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new global “Yes We Can” oper­at­ing system.

Brain Fit­ness Research

Train­ing Atten­tion and Emo­tional Self-Regulation: Dr. Michael Pos­ner, a promi­nent  cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on what atten­tion, self-regulation, and effort­ful con­trol are, and how to improve them using soft­ware, med­i­ta­tion, and par­ent­ing. In his words, “we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing (…) the higher the results.”

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and the Brain That Changes Itself: Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the excel­lent book by Nor­man Doidge, explain­ing that “the neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, which is the brain’s abil­ity to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intel­li­gence,  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing entity.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments?: In our view, a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the matu­rity of the brain fit­ness mar­ket will be the avail­abil­ity of inex­pen­sive, valid and reli­able objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments,  to help mea­sure how our brain func­tions change over time and iden­tify pri­or­i­ties for tar­geted improve­ments. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Prop­erly) or Lose It

Mem­ory Prob­lems? Per­haps you are Multi-tasking: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Multi-tasking vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­ory works.” He explains that “(multi-tasking) prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clearly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effective.”

Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline: The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a weekly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle on the impor­tance of phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise. We are very happy to see efforts like these to train physi­cians and health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­eral,  given that most of them were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recently announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, to start air­ing soon.

MetaCar­ni­val #1: a con­ver­sa­tion across the blo­gos­phere: We often insist on “Nov­elty, Vari­ety and Chal­lenge” as key ingre­di­ents for good “brain exer­cise”. There are many ways to mix those ingre­di­ents — you may enjoy this one, the first inter­dis­ci­pli­nary gath­er­ing of blogs and blog car­ni­vals cov­er­ing health, sci­ence, anthro­pol­ogy, gen­eral advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Men­tal Exer­cise: Over the last 2 years we have pub­lished close to 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, and every kind of men­tal exer­cise (with­out count­ing our in-depth inter­views with top neu­ro­sci­en­tists). Which ones have proven most stim­u­lat­ing for you. Let us know. Here is a selec­tion of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offer­ing another great selec­tion of arti­cles: Dr. Andrew New­berg will dis­cuss the brain value of med­i­ta­tion,  Dr. David Rabiner will review a recent study on how neu­ro­feed­back may assist in the diag­nos­tic of atten­tion deficits, and much more.

Please share this newslet­ter with your friends and col­leagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Brain Fitness 2: Sight & Sound, at PBS

PBS recently announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, and released this trailer via YouTube:

Watch: Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound (2:30)

Descrip­tion: Join host Peter Coy­ote in “Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound,” the follow-up to “The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram,” as he explores the brain’s abil­ity to change and grow, even as we age, help­ing us main­tain and improve our vision and hearing.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound” is a spe­cial in-depth look at the advances in neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and how it relates to healthy aging, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on mak­ing the most of infor­ma­tion fil­tered through our eyes and ears. Check your local list­ings to catch it, begin­ning in Decem­ber 2008. Your brain will thank you. Help PBS con­tinue to offer all Amer­i­cans; from every walk of life; the oppor­tu­nity to explore new ideas and new worlds through tele­vi­sion and online con­tent. To donate, please visit http://www.pbs.org/support

Sched­ule: You can check the sched­ule for the pro­gram by city Here.

And Here you have some infor­ma­tion on the first show Read the rest of this entry »

Can We Pick Your Brain re. Cognitive Assessments?

If you could, you would. You can, but pre­fer not to know it?

More than any other organ, your brain is up to you. You are what you think, not just what you eat. Here’s some food for thought:

Design your Mind

Set­ting cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral goals raises chal­leng­ing and wor­thy ques­tions: What do you want from your brain? Will you know it when you achieve it?

To attain the brain of our choos­ing, we must under­stand our selves and cur­rent abil­i­ties. Intro­spec­tion and curios­ity are help­ful if they trig­ger and sus­tain the effort to enrich the mind. How­ever, objec­tive infor­ma­tion which leads to informed assess­ment of brain func­tion is often lacking.

Mind your Brain

Hon­esty. Open­ness. Self-awareness.

Irrefutable virtues, but in prac­tice most peo­ple fall short. Few reg­u­larly appraise their brain skills; even so, the abil­ity to accu­rately judge one’s own men­tal per­for­mance is not guar­an­teed. I believe the first step to mind­ing the brain is shed­ding hang-ups while offer­ing and solic­it­ing frank feed­back from fam­ily and close con­fi­dants. In the clin­i­cal set­ting, rou­tine cog­ni­tive screen­ing and “men­tal check ups” are not cur­rently prac­ticed, in part due to time con­straints and lim­ited util­ity of tra­di­tional paper-and-pencil tests. From a pub­lic health per­spec­tive, the U.S. Pre­ven­ta­tive Task Force reviewed Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Blogs and Michael Merzenich

Two quick notes:

- Encephalon #56 edi­tion: the lat­est edi­tion of this neu­ro­science and psy­chol­ogy blog car­ni­val is ready for your read­ing plea­sure.
- Michael Merzenich Elected to Insti­tute of Med­i­cine: Con­grat­u­la­tions! “The Insti­tute of Medicine’s total active mem­ber­ship is now 1,576 and the num­ber of for­eign asso­ciates is 89. With another 71 mem­bers hold­ing emer­i­tus sta­tus, IOM’s total mem­ber­ship is now 1,736. Estab­lished in 1970 by the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences, the Insti­tute of Med­i­cine is a national resource for inde­pen­dent, sci­en­tif­i­cally informed analy­sis and rec­om­men­da­tions on issues related to human health. With their elec­tion, mem­bers make a com­mit­ment to devote a sig­nif­i­cant amount of vol­un­teer time as mem­bers of IOM study com­mit­tees.“
You may have seen him talk­ing about neu­ro­plas­tic­ity in the PBS spe­cial titled Brain Fit­ness Program.

Newsletter: Navigating Games for Health and Education

Here you have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brain fitness and health newsletterremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Quick, Are videogames good or bad?

That’s an impos­si­ble ques­tion. Good or bad for what? What  spe­cific games are we talk­ing about? More impor­tantly, what are they sub­sti­tut­ing for, given time is a lim­ited resource?  Con­trib­u­tor Jeremy Adam Smith, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Greater Good mag­a­zine, offers an in-depth review on the trade-offs videogames present in: Play­ing the Blame Game.

News Round-Up

Math Inno­va­tion in UK Schools: a recent (and unpub­lished) study seems to sup­port the poten­tial role for “Seri­ous Games” in edu­ca­tion. Learn­ing and Teach­ing Scot­land reports sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in pupils’ con­cen­tra­tion and behav­ior, on top of math skills, after using Nin­tendo Brain Train­ing game.

Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia endorses Posit Sci­ence pro­grams: this announce­ment brings to sur­face a gen­uine pub­lic health dilemma — do you, as an asso­ci­a­tion, pro­mote pro­grams before they have been shown to have long-term effects on Alzheimer’s pro­gres­sion and preva­lence, or do you wait until you have “per­fect” research, and then per­haps lose 10–20-30 years or use­ful con­tri­bu­tion to thousands/ mil­lions of brain’s Cog­ni­tive Reserves? In our judg­ment, it may well be worth offer­ing options today, as long as they are accom­pa­nied by inde­pen­dent mea­sure­ment of the cog­ni­tive benefits.

More Sep­tem­ber News: Sep­tem­ber has brought a wealth of addi­tional world­wide media cov­er­age on cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics, includ­ing the role of schools in nur­tur­ing student’s exec­u­tive func­tions, the impor­tance of base­line neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing in sports, the need for geron­tol­ogy as a dis­ci­pline to incor­po­rate brain research, how walk­ing can enhance brain func­tion, and the value of brain fit­ness pro­grams for long-term care operators.

Resources for Brain Fit­ness Navigation

Well­ness Coach­ing for Brain Health and Fit­ness: will Well­ness Coaches expand their role and become “Brain coaches”? We have part­nered with Sut­ter Health Part­ners, the pio­neer­ing coach­ing group of a major health sys­tem, to train their well­ness coaches on the impli­ca­tions of emerg­ing brain research for their work: focus on the 4 pil­lars of brain health –bal­anced nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment and men­tal exer­cise.

Eval­u­a­tion Check­list for Orga­ni­za­tions: many health­care and edu­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions are already mak­ing pur­chase deci­sions which involve eval­u­at­ing dif­fer­ent pro­grams that make “brain train­ing” or “cog­ni­tive health” claims. Here we present our 10-Question Sharp­Brains Check­list to help orga­ni­za­tions make informed decisions.

Eval­u­a­tion Check­list for Con­sumers: if you are an indi­vid­ual inter­ested in pro­grams for your­self and/ or a loved one, you can use this check­list. The start­ing point is to rec­og­nize that no pro­gram is a “magic pill” or “gen­eral solu­tion”, but a tool to be used in the appro­pri­ate context.

Learn­ing to Lead, and To Think

Round­table on Human Resources and Lead­er­ship: sev­eral blog­gers dis­cuss lat­est news around lead­er­ship, social intel­li­gence, appli­ca­tions of brain research, and more.

Help­ing Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think: David Fos­ter Wal­lace gave a mas­ter­ful com­mence­ment speech on Life and Work to the 2005 grad­u­at­ing  class at Kenyon Col­lege.  Worth read­ing, with full attention.

Brain Teasers

Seven Brain teasers for Job Inter­views: A recent CNN arti­cle explains why a grow­ing num­ber of tech­nol­ogy and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies use brain teasers and logic puz­zles of a type called “guessti­ma­tions” dur­ing job inter­views. What are they look­ing for? Good exec­u­tive func­tions. Here you have a few typ­i­cal questions.

Enjoy!

Update: Work as a Brain Fitness Program

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.

There is one type of “brain fit­ness pro­gram” which is not only free but also pays you back. You guessed it, that pro­gram is your “job”. Our occu­pa­tions can pro­vide ben­e­fi­cial men­tal exer­cise if they incor­po­rate the key ingre­di­ents of nov­elty, vari­ety, and chal­lenge, and are not a source of chronic stress.

We start today’s newslet­ter with two arti­cles related to the brain value of hav­ing men­tally stim­u­lat­ing jobs.

Your Brain At Work

Your Brain At Work Brochure: Aren’t “tal­ent” and “human cap­i­tal” all about brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, really? Indi­vid­u­als and Human Resources depart­ments can access excel­lent cog­ni­tive fit­ness tips, an action plan, and a great brochure pro­vided by the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives and the Con­fer­ence Board for our readers.

ABC Reporter Bob Woodruff’s Recov­ery from Trau­matic Brain Injury: For­mer US pres­i­den­tial con­tender and Sen­a­tor John Edwards recently granted an inter­view to reporter Bob Woodruff. The most remark­able aspect of the inter­view? Bob Woodruff’s spec­tac­u­lar recov­ery from the trau­matic brain injury he suf­fered in Iraq 2 years ago. You can’t miss this inter­view with his wife Lee, where we dis­cuss Bob’s recov­ery process (includ­ing mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary, co-writing a book and other projects at ABC), the Bob Woodruff Foun­da­tion, and the over­all chal­lenge of cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion fol­low­ing trau­matic brain injuries.

Research

San­ti­ago Ramon y Cajal’s “Rec­ol­lec­tions of My Life”: Remark­able and can­did views on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, learn­ing, aging and life, straight from the auto­bi­og­ra­phy of one of the founders of mod­ern neu­ro­science, who once said “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor of his own brain.”

Can food improve brain health?: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon pro­vides an overview of the effects of food on the brain, build­ing on Fer­nando Gomez-Pinilla’s recent study in Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science. Can­di­dates for “brainy” foods con­tain: Omega-3 fatty acid, folic acid, flavonoids, anti-oxidant foods. Please note her warn­ing, though: most of the stud­ies show­ing pos­i­tive effects have been con­ducted in mice.

The biol­ogy of aging: A monthly vir­tual gath­er­ing of blog­gers to dis­cuss Biol­ogy of Aging top­ics includ­ing research, pol­icy, lifestyle guid­ance, and open ques­tions. We are aware that “aging” may not be the sex­i­est  of words in our vocab­u­lary… unless you con­sider the most com­mon alter­na­tive.

Tech­nol­ogy

Brain Fit­ness Cen­ters in Senior Hous­ing — A Field in the Mak­ing: The Amer­i­can Seniors Hous­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (ASHA) has released an Spe­cial Issue Brief pre­pared by Sharp­Brains to pro­vide qual­ity infor­ma­tion on mar­ket trends, best prac­tices by lead­ing seniors hous­ing and long-term care orga­ni­za­tions, lessons from pilot stud­ies, nav­i­ga­tional guid­ance, and more. If you are a pro­fes­sional or exec­u­tive in the sec­tor, please con­sider pur­chas­ing a copy.

The Future of Computer-assisted Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy: Cog­ni­tive ther­apy is one of the most researched types of brain train­ing, espe­cially in deal­ing with depres­sion and anx­i­ety. Why don’t more peo­ple ben­e­fit today from it? The lack of a scal­able dis­tri­b­u­tion model may per­haps explain that. We pre­dict that tech­nol­ogy will help com­ple­ment the role of ther­a­pists, help­ing more peo­ple bet­ter cope with change, life, anx­i­ety, and a range of cog­ni­tive and emo­tional chal­lenges. With­out any stigma. Just as nat­u­rally as one trains abdom­i­nal mus­cles today.

Brain Teaser
Games for the Brain: Quick, can you iden­tify what is going on in these photographs?

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We hope you enjoyed this edi­tion. As always, you are wel­come to share these arti­cles with friends, and to give us feed­back, for extra brain workout.

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