Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Debunking 10 Cognitive Health and Fitness Myths

As part of the research behind the book The Sharp­Brains Guide for Brain Fit­ness we inter­viewed dozens of lead­ing cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and experts world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have a num­ber of take-aways to report.

What Santiago Ramon y Cajal can we clearly say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­ago Ramon y Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tury, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­ity in the XXI.

And trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process, since Read the rest of this entry »

Top 30 Brain Health and Fitness Articles of 2008

Here brain teasers job interview you have Sharp­Brains’ 30 most pop­u­lar arti­cles, ranked by the num­ber of peo­ple who have read each arti­cle in 2008.

Please note that, since the first arti­cle already includes most of our most pop­u­lar brain teasers, we have excluded teasers from the rest of the rank­ing. (If those 50 are not enough for you, you can also try these brain teasers).

Blog Chan­nel
Arti­cle
1. Top 50 Brain Teasers and Games to Test your Brain
It is always good to stim­u­late our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work. Here you have a selec­tion of the 50 Brain Teasers that peo­ple have enjoyed the most.
2. The Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains
Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can fol­low to main­tain, and improve, our vibrant brains. My favorite: don’t out­source your brain (even to us).
3. Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost?
You’re dri­ving through sub­ur­bia one evening look­ing for the street where you’re sup­posed to have din­ner at a friend’s new house. You slow down to a crawl, turn down the radio, stop talk­ing, and stare at every sign. Why is that? Nei­ther the radio nor talk­ing affects your vision. Or do they?
4. Brain Plas­tic­ity: How learn­ing changes your brain
You may have heard that the brain is plas­tic. As you know the brain is not made of plas­tic! Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity or brain plas­tic­ity refers to the brain’s abil­ity to CHANGE through­out life.
5. Top 10 Brain Train­ing Future Trends
In an emerg­ing mar­ket like brain fit­ness train­ing, it is dif­fi­cult to make pre­cise pro­jec­tions. But, we can observe a num­ber of trends that exec­u­tives, con­sumers, pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers, and the media should watch closely in the com­ing years, as brain fit­ness and train­ing becomes main­stream, new tools appear, and an ecosys­tem grows around it.

Read the rest of this entry »

CogniFit (MindFit, DriveFit) raises USD 5 million

From the web­site of the invest­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal firm, Milk Capital:

Milk Cap­i­tal invests USD 5 mil­lion in CogniFit

–July 31st, 2008. “Milk Cap­i­tal invest USD 5M in Cog­nifit, a com­pany spe­cial­ized in cog­ni­tive and brain soft­ware The solu­tions devel­oped by Cog­niFit are designed to be applied to a large num­ber of fields, such as health­care, dri­ving, edu­ca­tion, sport and many oth­ers. The field of appli­ca­tions is almost unlim­ited as it is only restricted by the capac­i­ties of the brain.”

-“Since its estab­lish­ment in 1999, as a start-up in the Ofer Group’s Incu­ba­tor, Naiot, Cog­niFit attracted 4.2M$. The com­pany has grown sig­nif­i­cantly and today, its soft­ware is dis­trib­uted in a large num­ber of coun­tries, from the United States through France to New Zealand, and has been trans­lated into ten lan­guages. This 5M$ invest­ment of MILK CAPITAL should drive the devel­op­ment of Cog­niFit all the more than the com­pany intends to con­quer new mar­kets by means of new prod­ucts and appli­ca­tions all over the world.”

Pre­vi­ous post on one of CogniFit’s prod­ucts, Dri­ve­Fit: Dri­ve­Fit; Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for Dri­ving.

Other recent ven­ture rounds in the brain fit­ness soft­ware space:

- Feb­ru­ary 2008: Dakim raises $10,6 mil­lion
– June 2008: Lumos Labs (Lumos­ity) raises $3 millions

I spoke at the MIT Club of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia in Feb­ru­ary to pro­vide an overview of the fas­ci­nat­ing land­scape. The write-up: Brain Train­ing Games: Con­text, Trends, Ques­tions.

For in-depth infor­ma­tion on the whole cat­e­gory –size, cus­tomer seg­ments, player land­scape, clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion, trends– you may enjoy our Mar­ket Report.

Cognitive Fitness and Brain Improvement: 10 Debunked Myths

Over the last year we have inter­viewed a num­ber of lead­ing brain health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and prac­ti­tion­ers world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have news to report.

What can we say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­ago Ramon ySantiago Ramon y Cajal Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tury, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­ity in the XXI. And influ­ence Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process.

We have only scratched the sur­face of what science-based struc­tured cog­ni­tive (i.e., men­tal) exer­cise can do for brain health and pro­duc­tiv­ity. We are now wit­ness­ing the birth of a new indus­try that crosses tra­di­tional sec­tor bound­aries and that may help us under­stand, assess and train our brains, har­ness­ing the grow­ing research about neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons), neu­ro­plas­tic­ity (the abil­ity of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence), cog­ni­tive train­ing and emo­tional regulation.

Let’s now debunk 10 myths, still too preva­lent, that may pre­vent us from see­ing the full poten­tial of this emerg­ing field:

Myth 1: It’s all in our genes.

Real­ity: A big com­po­nent of our life­long brain health and devel­op­ment depends on what we do with our brains. Our own actions, not only our genes, influ­ence our lives to a large extent. Genes pre­dis­pose us, not deter­mine our fates.

Indi­vid­u­als who lead men­tally stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s. Stud­ies sug­gest that they have 35–40% less risk of man­i­fest­ing the dis­ease” — Dr. Yaakov Stern, Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter at Colum­bia University.

Myth 2: The field of Cognitive/ Brain Fit­ness is too new to be credible.

Real­ity: The field rests on solid foun­da­tions dat­ing back more decades — what is new is the num­ber and range of tools that are now start­ing to be avail­able for healthy individuals.

Rig­or­ous and tar­geted cog­ni­tive train­ing has been used in clin­i­cal prac­tice for many years. Exer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cally is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies.” — Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, Frontal Lobes fMRIclin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at New York Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of Alexan­der Luria.

Today, thanks to fMRI and other neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, we are start­ing to under­stand the impact our actions can have on spe­cific parts of the brain.” — Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy and Research.

Myth 3: Med­ica­tion is and will remain the only evidence-based inter­ven­tion for a num­ber of brain-related problems.

Real­ity: Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams are start­ing to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers and Games for the Brain: Test your Brain

Frontal LobesIt is always good to stim­u­late our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work. Here you have a selec­tion of the 50 Brain Teasers that peo­ple have enjoyed the most in our blog and speak­ing engagements.

Fun exper­i­ments on how our brains work

1. Do you think you know the col­ors?: try the Stroop Test.

2. Can you count?: Bas­ket­ball atten­tion exper­i­ment (Interactive).

3. Who is this?: A very impor­tant lit­tle guy (Interactive).

4. How is this pos­si­ble?.

5. Take the Senses Chal­lenge (Interactive).

6. Are there more brain con­nec­tions or leaves in the Ama­zon?.

Atten­tionTwo In One Task

7. How are your divided atten­tion skills? check out “Inside and Out­side” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit).

8. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? try “Two in One” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit)

9. Count the Fs in this sen­tence.

10. What do you see? can you alter­nate between 2 views?.

Mem­oryPicasso Task

11. Easy one…draw the face of a penny, please. Read the rest of this entry »

10 (Surprising) Memory Improvement Tips

Healthy Seniors

There are sev­eral brain fit­ness top­ics where we still see a large dis­con­nect between research and pop­u­lar knowl­edge, and a major one is the rela­tion­ship between mem­ory and stress. Car­o­line and I col­lab­o­rated on this post to bring you some con­text and tips.

Our soci­ety has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with phys­i­cal, imme­di­ately life-threatening crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and ill­nesses that gnaw away at us slowly, that stress us out and that, believe it or not, end up hurt­ing our mem­ory and brain.

Dr. Robert Sapol­sky, in an inter­view about his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, points out that humans uniquely “can get stressed sim­ply with thought, turn­ing on the same stress response as does the zebra.” But, the zebra releases the stress hor­mones through life-preserving action, while we usu­ally just keep mud­dling along, get­ting more anx­ious by the moment.

What is the rela­tion­ship between stress and mem­ory? We all know chronic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­ory? Inter­est­ingly, acute stress can help us focus and remem­ber things more vividly. Chronic stress, on the other hand, reduce our abil­ity to focus and can specif­i­cally dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term memory.

When is stress chronic? When one feels Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Tips for Women Who Lead Men

Thinking menEllen recently wrote a nice post titled Top Ten Tips for Men Who Lead Women, and asked for vol­un­teers to offer a com­ple­men­tary per­spec­tive. I hope you enjoy!

  1. We men know we are hard to lead, and that can be stress­ful for you and for us. You should know that stress affects short term mem­ory, so it is impor­tant to be able to man­age stress well, with med­i­ta­tion or other meth­ods. Check here your level of stress to see how much this point applies to you. Please remem­ber, laugh­ing is good for your brain.
  2. Don’t think too much–we don’t. If we do, we try to find ways to self-talk us out of that uncom­fort­able state.
  3. Please remem­ber our hum­ble ori­gins. We are tool-using ani­mals, which is why we like play­ing with all kinds of toys, from a car to that blackberry.
  4. When we are stub­born, you are enti­tled to remind us that even apes can learn–if you help us see the point. Show us that change is pos­si­ble at any age. Believe it or not, we can lis­ten.
  5. Espe­cially if we can find com­mon ground: what about chat­ting about sports psy­chol­ogy?.
  6. Please moti­vate us to lis­ten and be open minded to learn with wise words. If that doesn’t work, please per­se­vere with nice words. Please don’t ever say that we are worse than pink dol­phins–if we feel attacked, we’ll just disengage.
  7. Some­times we don’t coop­er­ate enough?. Please give us time for our brains to fully evolve, we have been try­ing for a while!
  8. You can help us grow. For the next lead­er­ship work­shop, buy us copies of the Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain book. You may think we don’t need this… but at our core we really want to get bet­ter at Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism. We want to be able to play with the ulti­mate toy: our genes!
  9. If that book is sold out, we could also ben­e­fit from read­ing Damasio’s Descartes Error and dis­cover how emo­tions are impor­tant for good decision-making. Or help us improve our abil­ity to read emo­tional mes­sages. As long as we believe we can some­how ben­e­fit from it, we’ll try!
  10. If you lead some­one with Bill Gates-like Frontal Lobes, con­grat­u­late him for his brain. If you don’t, encour­age him to fol­low track. Please be patient

Now, any tak­ers for Top Ten Tips for Women Who Lead Women or Men Who Lead Men?

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