Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Scientists issue a call to action for TBI patients to benefit from latest neuroscience findings

Brain Trauma

Credit: Julie McMahon


Brain-injured patients need ther­a­pies based on cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science (U. Illi­nois press release):

Patients with trau­matic brain injuries are not ben­e­fit­ing from recent advances in cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science research — and they should be, sci­en­tists report in a spe­cial issue of Cur­rent Opin­ion in Behav­ioral Sci­ences. Read the rest of this entry »

Why addressing brain health priorities requires open science (8-minute video)

Descrip­tion of talk (8 min­utes): Why open sci­ence? The rea­sons are many, but here are a few: our ser­vice mem­bers return­ing from 14 years of war, the rise in aware­ness of sports related brain injuries and Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Traumatic Brain Injury patients with high cognitive reserve recover 7 times better

Car_AccidentPeo­ple with More Edu­ca­tion May Recover Bet­ter from Trau­matic Brain Injury (Neurology):

The study exam­ined peo­ple with mod­er­ate to severe trau­matic brain injuries, most of which were from motor vehi­cle acci­dents or falls. All were taken to Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscience, brain development and cognitive health

Round-up of recent arti­cles on neu­ro­science, brain devel­op­ment and cog­ni­tive health:

Encephalon 68: A car­ni­val of neu­ro­science:

Chris hosts a great col­lec­tion of neu­ro­science and psy­chol­ogy posts in his sig­na­ture Q&A style.

Bilin­gual Babies Get Head Start — Before They Can Talk:

- Unlike the mono­lin­gual group, the bilin­gual group was able to suc­cess­fully learn a new sound type and use it to pre­dict where each char­ac­ter would pop up.

- The bilin­gual babies’ skill applies to more than just switch­ing between lan­guages. Mehler likened this appar­ently enhanced cog­ni­tive abil­ity to a brain select­ing “the right tool for the right oper­a­tion” also called exec­u­tive function.

- In this basic process, the brain, ever flex­i­ble, nim­bly switches from one learned response to another as sit­u­a­tions change.

- Mono­lin­gual babies hone this abil­ity later in their young lives, Mehler suggests.”

Study shows how kids’ stress hurts mem­ory:

Now, research is pro­vid­ing what could be cru­cial clues to explain how child­hood poverty trans­lates into dim­mer chances of suc­cess: Chronic stress from grow­ing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leav­ing chil­dren with impair­ment in at least one key area — work­ing memory.”

Return­ing troops get­ting tested for brain injuries:

- “More than 150,000 ser­vice mem­bers from the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy have under­gone the test­ing that became manda­tory last year. Those who suf­fer a con­cus­sion or sim­i­lar head injury will get a follow-up test.”

Dia­betes ‘impact on brain power’:

- “Fail­ure to con­trol type 2 dia­betes may have a long-term impact on the brain, research has suggested.

- Lead researcher Dr Jackie Price said: “Either hypos lead to cog­ni­tive decline, or cog­ni­tive decline makes it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to man­age their dia­betes, which in turn causes more hypos.

- “A third expla­na­tion could be that a third uniden­ti­fied fac­tor is caus­ing both the hypos and the cog­ni­tive decline.”

Stress Management as Key Factor For Cognitive Fitness, and More News

Brain Health NewsA roundup of sev­eral excel­lent arti­cles this week:

Keep­ing Your Brain Fit (US News and World Report)

- “In a study of more than 2,800 peo­ple ages 65 or older, Har­vard researchers found that those with at least five social ties—church groups, social groups, reg­u­lar vis­its, or phone calls with fam­ily and friends—were less likely to suf­fer cog­ni­tive decline than those with no social ties.”

- “The work­ing hypoth­e­sis is that it has some­thing to do with stress man­age­ment,” says Mar­i­lyn Albert, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Johns Hop­kins and codi­rec­tor of the Alzheimer’s research cen­ter there. In ani­mal stud­ies, a pro­longed ele­va­tion in stress hor­mones dam­ages the hip­pocam­pus. Social engage­ment appears to boost people’s sense of con­trol, which affects their stress level. Cre­ative arts seem to be a highly promis­ing way to increase social engage­ment. George Wash­ing­ton University’s Cohen has found that elderly peo­ple who joined choirs also stepped up their other activ­i­ties dur­ing a 12-month period, while a non­sing­ing con­trol group dropped out of some activ­i­ties. The singers also reported fewer health prob­lems, while the con­trol group reported an increase.”

We Never For­get Any­thing (Any­more) (Pre­ven­tion Magazine)

- “Pro­cess­ing new infor­ma­tion when we’re anx­ious is tough; the stress itself is a dis­trac­tion. Fer­nan­dez taught Lau­rie this relax­ation trick: Read the rest of this entry »

Happier, and Positive Psychology

LifeTwo, the web­site focused on all aspects of midlife chal­lenges, from midlife cri­sis to midlife career change, is pre­sent­ing a “How to be Happy” week, based on the work of Har­vard Pro­fes­sor Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and his book “Hap­pier”. Dr. Ben-Shahar teaches Harvard’s most pop­u­lar class, on Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy.

Today is their Day 1: From Happy to Hap­pier.

A num­ber of good blog­gers are col­lab­o­rat­ing: Hap­pi­ness Project, The Brazen Careerist, MenAlive, The Dat­ing God­dess, Boomer Chron­i­cles, Man-o-Pause, Aging­Back­wards. I will be hon­ored to pro­vide a guest col­umn, this Thurs­day, on how to iden­tify and over­come some com­mon brain-based obsta­cles to being happy, and how you apply the lat­est brain sci­ence devel­op­ments in your own quest to be hap­pier. In the mean­while, you may enjoy the post On being pos­i­tive, and check out Day 1: From Happy to Hap­pier.

Enjoy the week!

Books on neuroplasticity and memory training

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: the brain’s abil­ity to reor­ga­nize itself by form­ing new con­nec­tions through­out life. (see more con­cepts in our Glos­sary).

We coudn’t be hap­pier about the grow­ing num­ber of books pop­u­lar­iz­ing the key lessons about brain train­ing that Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg has been research­ing and writ­ing about for years, and that moti­vated us to embark our­selves in the Sharp­Brains adventure.

Dis­cover Mag­a­zine presents a great arti­cle, Rewiring the Brain, review­ing two recent books.

  • The sub­ti­tle is “Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity can allow for treat­ment of senil­ity, post-traumatic stress, ­obsessive-compulsive dis­or­der, and depres­sion and Bud­dhists have been cap­i­tal­iz­ing on it for mil­lenia.” I would add that the strong value of life­long learn­ing present in jesuit and jew­ish tra­di­tions reflects the same wis­dom. Some quotes:
  • Two new books, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (Bal­lan­tine Books, $24.95) by sci­ence jour­nal­ist Sharon Beg­ley and The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, $24.95) by psy­chi­a­trist Nor­man Doidge, offer mas­ter­fully guided tours through the bur­geon­ing field of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research. Each has its own style and empha­sis; both are excellent.”
  • Finally, both authors con­clude that adult neu­ro­plas­tic­ity is a vastly under­tapped resource, one with which West­ern med­i­cine and psy­chol­ogy are just now com­ing to grips. An impor­tant emerg­ing research agenda is to Read the rest of this entry »


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