Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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.

Maximize the Cognitive Value of Your Mental Workout

Phys­i­cal fit­ness. Cognitive/ brain fit­ness. Both require nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge. Pro­fes­sor Schlomo Breznitz, a sci­en­tific and busi­ness leader in the cog­ni­tive fit­ness field, explains why, elo­quently, below. Per­haps “we want change” really means “we need change”. Enjoy!

————————

Why are every­day life chal­lenges not suf­fi­cient to keep our brains fit?

– By Prof. Shlomo Breznitz

Often, when describ­ing the ben­e­fits of Mind­Fit to brain health, I am asked by peo­ple in the audi­ence whether this soft­ware is really needed. After all, so they argue, life pro­vides con­tin­ues cog­ni­tive chal­lenges, which should suf­fice for ensur­ing brain fit­ness. From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep our brains have to attend to com­plex stim­uli, plan many activ­i­ties, some of them quite com­plex, and carry us through what­ever the day offers. These tasks should pro­vide suf­fi­cient “brain exer­cise” with­out the need to engage in spe­cific men­tal workout.

This line of argu­ment sounds oddly famil­iar, since it is an exact dupli­ca­tion of claims made in the recent past against the need for phys­i­cal exer­cise. One jumps into the car and from the car and per­haps even climbs a few stairs before sit­ting in the chair, which should be enough to burn the calo­ries and keep fit.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most pop­u­lar ques­tion we got when we announced that PBS had a great spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity in Decem­ber was, when will the DVD be available?

Well, finally here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This pro­gram presents a work­out to help view­ers get their brains in bet­ter shape. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on neuro-plasticity, the abil­ity of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped computer-based stim­u­lus sets that drive ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tional changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco and his col­leagues around the world have been lead­ing this effort; he brings the research find­ings, along with a sci­en­tif­i­cally based set of brain exer­cises, to PBS view­ers in this inno­v­a­tive and life-altering pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote narrates. ”

To pur­chase: click Here.

You can watch a 3-minute trailer: click here.

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each other?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­ory? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­ory? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Finally, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the National Alliance for Caregiving

Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health arena.“
Eliz­a­beth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Association

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promises to stim­u­late a much needed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on solid, research-based, foun­da­tions.“
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­sity and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

Order Book at Amazon.com
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95

Order Kin­dle Edi­tion
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

Update (11/10/10): Have you seen PBS great spe­cials on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity ?

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95)

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on the brain’s abil­ity to change and adapt, even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped computer-based stim­u­lus sets that drive ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tional changes in the Peter Coyote Brain Fitness Programbrain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and his col­leagues share their sci­en­tif­i­cally based set of brain exer­cises in this life-altering pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote (pic­tured) narrates. ”

PBS aired in Decem­ber 2007 a spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, brain fit­ness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram”. To watch the 3-minute trailer: click here.

In 2008, PBS released a sec­ond DVD:

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight and Sound DVD ($24.95)

This pro­gram, specif­i­cally designed to help peo­ple get the most from their vision and hear­ing as they age, con­sid­ers how these senses change through­out life and what peo­ple can do to keep them healthy and fully functional.”

.

If you do not have time to watch these great doc­u­men­taries, here are a few points one needs to under­stand about neuroplasticity:

1.  The human brain is now con­sid­ered to be a highly dynamic and con­stantly reor­ga­niz­ing sys­tem capa­ble of being shaped and reshaped across an entire lifes­pan. It is believed that every expe­ri­ence alters the brain’s orga­ni­za­tion at some level. The key words in this new approach to the brain are neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time. The lat­ter process is also referred to as synap­to­ge­n­e­sis. This new par­a­digm con­trasts with tra­di­tional ideas of the human brain being a fixed and essen­tially lim­ited sys­tem that only degrades with age.

2. As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.

3. Brain plas­tic­ity is cru­cial fol­low­ing head injury. It is the one brain’s abil­ity that allows recov­ery. Brain plas­tic­ity is also the abil­ity that brain train­ing takes advan­tages of to try to slow down the aging process.

To read about evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity in the human brain take a look at Brain plas­tic­ity: How learn­ing changes you brain

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each other?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­ory? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­ory? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Finally, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the National Alliance for Caregiving
“Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health arena.“
Eliz­a­beth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Association

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promises to stim­u­late a much needed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on solid, research-based, foun­da­tions.“
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­sity and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95


SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance

There has been an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about the issues related to the aging of the legal pro­fes­sion. Stephanie intro­duced us to the arti­cle “the Gray­ing Bar: let’s not for­get the ethics” by David Giacalone.

In short: sta­tis­tics about the increas­ing ratio of lawyers over 70 in active prac­tice, on the one hand, and the gen­eral inci­dence of Alzheimer’s and other demen­tias, on the other, lead David to point out an increas­ing like­li­hood that some lawyers may be prac­tic­ing in less than ideal con­di­tions for their clients, beyond a rea­son­able “brain age”. The ques­tion then becomes: who and how can solve this prob­lem, which is only going to grow given demo­graphic trends?.

We are not legal experts, but would like to inform the debate by offer­ing 10 con­sid­er­a­tions on healthy aging and job per­for­mance from a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, that apply to all occupations:

1– We should talk more about change than about decline, as Sharon Beg­ley wrote recently in her great arti­cle on The Upside of Aging — WSJ.com (sub­scrip­tion required).

We dis­cussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, who wrote his great book The Wis­dom Para­dox pre­cisely on this point, at The Exec­u­tive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

2– Some skills improve as we age: In our “Exer­cis­ing Our Brains” Classes, we typ­i­cally explain how some areas typ­i­cally improve as we age, such as self-regulation, emo­tional func­tion­ing and Wis­dom (which means mov­ing from Prob­lem solv­ing to Pat­tern recog­ni­tion). As a lawyer accu­mu­lates more cases under his/ her belt, he or she devel­ops an auto­matic “intu­ition” for solu­tions and strate­gies. As long as the envi­ron­ment doesn’t change too rapidly, this grow­ing wis­dom is very valuable.

3– …whereas, yes, oth­ers typ­i­cally decline: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Management for lawyers

How does this neuro fron­tier inside our skulls specif­i­cally inform law firm man­age­ment? By peer­ing inside the brain, we can see how its owner takes in infor­ma­tion, makes deci­sions, changes and resists change, remem­bers and recalls, and responds to peo­ple. What we are learn­ing about the brain affects three fac­tors crit­i­cal to law firms and to each indi­vid­ual lawyer: con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and com­pe­tence. Let’s take a tour of some of what’s been learned and see how the new infor­ma­tion can be useful.”

This is part of the great arti­cle that Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz and Stephanie West Allen have writ­ten for the Feb­ru­ary, 2007 edi­tion of Of Coun­sel: The Legal Prac­tice and Man­age­ment Report, titled “Brain Man­age­ment: Law Firm Lead­er­ship on the Neuro Fron­tier” (Not avail­able online.)

You can read a bit more in Stephanie’s blog (a must-read blog for lawyers).   

In short: our actions can change our brains. Actu­ally, our thoughts can do so too. We all can ben­e­fit from “self-directed neuroplasticity”-which requires prac­tice, imag­i­na­tion and empa­thy. The arti­cle men­tions spe­cific exam­ples for lawyers.

Learn­ing assumes and induces neu­ro­plas­tic­ity (how the brain changes).

How can you apply this to your occu­pa­tion? what have you learned today?

You can read more on a sim­i­lar topic, by Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz and David Rock: check out The Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship.

 

 

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Watch Larry King’s interview

» Click HERE in the USA, or HERE else­where (opens 28-min program)

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