Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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December Update: Wishing You and Yours a Very Brain-Fit Decade

How can we help younger gen­er­a­tions find the right path to life­long brain health and per­for­mance — espe­cially as they will live longer, and in more dynamic, com­plex envi­ron­ments? We cre­ated the Brain Health across the Lifes­pan series to curate reli­able sources of infor­ma­tion, and here you can  check out  the Top 10 Resources to Bet­ter Under­stand the Teenage Brain.

Wish­ing you and your fam­ily a very brain-fit decade…please enjoy the Decem­ber edi­tion of our monthly eNewslet­ter: Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn — Ideas for New Year Resolutions

My inter­est in the brain stems from want­ing to bet­ter under­stand both how to make school more palat­able for stu­dents, and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment more mean­ing­ful for fac­ulty. To that end, I began my Neu­rons Fir­ing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of read­ing, and been attend­ing work­shops and con­fer­ences, includ­ing Learn­ing & the Brain.

If you agree that our brains are designed for learn­ing, then as edu­ca­tors it is incum­bent upon us to be look­ing for ways to max­i­mize the learn­ing process for each of our stu­dents, as well as for our­selves. Some of what fol­lows is sim­ply com­mon sense, but I’ve learned that all of it has a sci­en­tific basis in our brains. Read the rest of this entry »

8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and Twit­ter, tra­di­tional read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is school text­books, mag­a­zines, or reg­u­lar books, peo­ple still read, though not as much as they used to. One rea­son that many peo­ple don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. Stu­dents, for example,may have to read some­thing sev­eral times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teach­ers and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade level in read­ing pro­fi­ciency. No doubt, tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and the Web are major con­trib­u­tors to this prob­lem, which will appar­ently get worse if we don’t empha­size and improve read­ing instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in read­ing teach­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­moted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor read­ing skills can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

  1. Read with a purpose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the read­ing mechan­ics right.
  4. Be judi­cious in high­light­ing and note taking.
  5. Think in pictures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay within your atten­tion span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Every­one should have a pur­pose for their read­ing and think about how that pur­pose is being ful­filled dur­ing the actual read­ing. The advan­tage for remem­ber­ing is that check­ing con­tin­u­ously for how the pur­pose is being ful­filled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more rel­e­vant parts of the text, and to rehearse con­tin­u­ously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because rel­e­vant items are most attended.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the pur­pose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask your­self, “Why am I read­ing this?” If it is to be enter­tained or pass the time, then there is not much prob­lem. But myr­iad other rea­sons could apply, such as:

  • to under­stand a cer­tain group of peo­ple, such as Mus­lims, Jews, Hin­dus, etc.
  • to crys­tal­lize your polit­i­cal posi­tion, such as why a given gov­ern­ment pol­icy should be opposed.
  • to develop an informed plan or proposal.
  • to sat­isfy a require­ment of an aca­d­e­mic course or other assigned reading.

Many of us have read­ings assigned to us, as in a school envi­ron­ment. Or the boss may hand us a man­ual and say Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Update: Best of 2008

Dear reader and mem­ber of Sharp­Brains’ com­mu­nity,
We want to thank you for your atten­tion and sup­port in 2008, and wish you a Happy, brain fitness and health newsletterPros­per­ous, Healthy and Pos­i­tive 2009!

Below you have the Decem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter. Enjoy:

Best of 2008

Announc­ing the Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008: Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Torkel Kling­berg has writ­ten a very stim­u­lat­ing and acces­si­ble book on a cru­cial topic for our Infor­ma­tion Age: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­ory. We have named it The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Kling­berg to write a brief arti­cle to intro­duce his research and book to you. Enjoy it here.

Top 30 Brain Fit­ness Arti­cles of 2008: We have com­piled Sharp­Brains’ 30 most pop­u­lar arti­cles, writ­ten by thir­teen Expert Con­trib­u­tors and staff mem­bers for you. Have you read them all?

November-December News: No month goes by with­out sig­nif­i­cant news in the field of cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Sum­ma­rized here are 10 recent devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion, includ­ing an upcom­ing brain train­ing prod­uct for ice hockey play­ers, my lec­ture at New York Pub­lic Library, and more.

Inter­views: Videogames, Med­i­ta­tion

Are videogames good for your brain?: A land­mark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues has shown that play­ing a strat­egy videogame can bring a vari­ety of sig­nif­i­cant men­tal ben­e­fits to older brains. Another recent study, also by Kramer and col­leagues, does not show sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to younger brains (despite play­ing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kindly agreed to serve on Sharp­Brains’ Sci­en­tific Advi­sory Board, elaborates.

Med­i­ta­tion on the Brain: Dr. Andrew New­berg pro­vides an excel­lent overview of the brain ben­e­fits of prac­tices such as med­i­ta­tion. He rec­om­mends, “look for some­thing sim­ple, easy to try first, ensur­ing the prac­tice is com­pat­i­ble with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match prac­tice with need: under­stand the spe­cific goals you have in mind, your sched­ule and lifestyle, and find some­thing practical.“

The Need for Objec­tive Assessments

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). Sharp­Brains read­ers, probed by Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man, seem to agree.

Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG for ADHD diag­no­sis: Dr. David Rabiner reports on the find­ings from a recent study that doc­u­ments the util­ity of Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG as an objec­tive test to assist in the diag­no­sis of ADHD. If this pro­ce­dure were to become more widely used, he sug­gests, the num­ber of chil­dren and ado­les­cents who are inap­pro­pri­ately diag­nosed and treated for the dis­or­der would dimin­ish substantially.

Shall we ques­tion the brand new book of human trou­bles?: The fights over the new ver­sion of the psy­chi­atric diag­nos­tic man­ual, the DSM-V, are start­ing to come to light. Dr. Vaughan Bell won­ders why the pub­lic debate avoids the key ques­tion of whether diag­no­sis itself is use­ful for men­tal health and why psy­cho­met­rics are sim­ply ignored.

Resources for Life­long Learning

Edu­ca­tion builds Cog­ni­tive Reserve for Alzheimers Dis­ease Pro­tec­tion: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reviews a recent study that sup­ports the Cog­ni­tive Reserve hypoth­e­sis — men­tally stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ences through­out life, such as for­mal edu­ca­tion, help build a reserve in our brains that con­tributes to a lower prob­a­bil­ity of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

5 Tips on Life­long Learn­ing & the Adult Brain: Lau­rie Bar­tels asks us to please please 1) chal­lenge our­selves with new learn­ing, 2) remem­ber that neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis are hall­marks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learning on an ongo­ing basis, 4) more visu­als, less text, 5) move it, move it — start today!

Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts: We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science (SfN) has just released a user-friendly pub­li­ca­tion titled Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts, aimed at help­ing edu­ca­tors and the gen­eral pub­lic learn more about the brain.

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 »

Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

Back in July, I wrote a post enti­tled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to stu­dents of any age, includ­ing adults, for ide­ally adults are still learn­ers. Why is adult learn­ing rel­e­vant in a brain-focused blog, you may wonder:

The short of it

As we age, our brain:

still forms new brain cells
can change its struc­ture & func­tion
finds pos­i­tive stress can be ben­e­fi­cial; neg­a­tive stress can be detri­men­tal
can thrive on novel chal­lenges
needs to be exer­cised, just like our bodies

The long of it

Adults may have a ten­dency to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence, the theme of which was neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, I attended sev­eral ses­sions on adult learn­ing. Here’s what the experts are saying.

Read the rest of this entry »

Update: The Future of Brain Assessments

Here you are 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.

News and Analysis

Com­put­er­ized Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments: oppor­tu­ni­ties and con­cerns: health com­pa­nies and the mil­i­tary are start­ing to use new tools to assess brain func­tions in con­texts that nei­ther neu­roimag­ing nor tra­di­tional neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing can reach. This is a crit­i­cal piece of the brain fit­ness puz­zle that is worth keep­ing track of, full of oppor­tu­ni­ties, but also pri­vacy concerns.

Cog­ni­tive Health News Roundup: recent news cov­er­ing stud­ies on men­tal train­ing and DNA, on nutri­tion and the brain, and more. Read the rest of this entry »

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