Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Research: Could studying the placebo effect change the way we think about medicine?

The Power of Nothing: Could studying the placebo effect change the way we think about medicine? (The New Yorker):

“For years, Ted Kaptchuk performed acupuncture at a tiny clinic in Cambridge, a few miles from his current office, at the Harvard Medical School. He opened for business in 1976, having just returned from Asia, where he had spent four years honing his craft. Not long after he arrived in Boston, he treated an Armenian woman for chronic bronchitis. A few weeks later, the woman returned with her husband and told Kaptchuk that he had “cured” her.” Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Training Clinical Trial: Seeking Older Adults

fmri.jpgNeuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center (see our previous interview with Yaakov Stern on the Cognitive Reserve) have asked for help in recruiting volunteers for an exciting clinical trial. If you are based in New York City, and between the ages of 60 and 75, please consider joining this study.

More information below:

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Use it or Lose it?

Train your Brain! Healthy adults between the ages of 60 and 75 living in NYC are invited to join a study of mental fitness training. Qualified individuals will play a scientifically-based video game in our laboratory, and will be tested to determine the effects on attention, memory, and cognitive performance.

You will earn up to $600 plus transportation costs if you complete the 3-month program.

This exciting study is being performed by the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

If interested, contact us today: Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Afternoon Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz to test your memory and thinking skills which should work out your temporal and frontal lobes. See how you do!

  1. Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.
  2. What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?
  3. Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year. What are the only two perennial vegetables?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the outside?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?
  6. Only three words in Standard English begin with the letters “dw” and they are all common words. Name two of them.
  7. There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the one vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter “S.”

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Answers To Quiz:

  1.  The one sport in which neither the spectators, nor the participants, know the score or the leader until the contest ends: boxing
  2.  The North American landmark constantly moving backward: Niagara Falls (the rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the millions of gallons of water that rush over it every minute.)
  3. Only two vegetables that can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons: asparagus and rhubarb.
  4. The fruit with its seeds on the outside: strawberry.
  5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bottle? It grew inside the bottle. (The bottles are placed over pear buds when they are small and are wired in place on the tree. The bottle is left in place for the entire growing season. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)
  6. Three English words beginning with “dw”: dwarf, dwell, and dwindle.
  7. Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar: period, comma, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, question mark, exclamation point, quotation marks, brackets, parenthesis, braces, and ellipses.
  8. The only vegetable or fruit never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form but fresh: lettuce.
  9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet beginning with “s”: shoes, socks, sandals, sneakers, slippers, skis, skates, snowshoes, stockings, stilts.

 

More brain teaser games:

Math Brain Teaser: Concentric Shapes or The Unkindest Cut of All, Part 2 of 2

If you missed Part 1, also written by puzzle master Wes Carroll, you can start there and then come back here to Part 2.

Concentric Shapes:
The Unkindest Cut of All, Part 2 of 2

Difficulty: HARDER
Type: MATH (Spatial)
Vitruvian Man

Question:
Imagine a square within a circle within a square. The circle just grazes each square at exactly four points. Find the ratio of the area of the larger square to the smaller.

In this puzzle you are working out many of the same skills as in Part I: spatial visualization (occipital lobes), memory (temporal lobes), logic (frontal lobes), planning (frontal lobes), and hypothesis generation (frontal lobes).

Solution:
Two to one.

Explanation:
Draw the smaller square’s diagonal to see that the the smaller square’s diagonal is the diameter of the circle. Divide the larger square into two equal rectangular halves to see that the larger square’s side is also the diameter of the circle. This means that the smaller square’s diagonal equals the larger square’s side. (Or, if you prefer, simply rotate the inner square by 45 degrees.) As we’ve seen in the earlier puzzle “The Unkindest Cut Of All,” the area of the smaller square is half that of the larger, making the ratio two to one.

 

More brain teaser games:

Math Brain Teaser: The Unkindest Cut of All, Part 1 of 2

In honor of Mathematics Awareness Month, here is another mathematical brain bender from puzzle master Wes Carroll.

The Unkindest Cut of All, Part 1 of 2

Difficulty: HARD
Type: MATH (Spatial)
Square

Question:
The area of a square is equal to the square of the length of one side. So, for example, a square with side length 3 has area (32), or 9. What is the area of a square whose diagonal is length 5?

In this puzzle you are working out your spatial visualization (occipital lobes), memory (temporal lobes), and hypothesis generation (frontal lobes).

Solution:
12.5

Explanation:
I am especially fond of these two ways to solve this problem:

1. Draw the right triangle whose hypotenuse is the square’s diagonal, and whose two legs are two sides of the square. Then use the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2) to solve for the length of each side. Since two sides are equal, we get (a^2 + a^2 = c^2), or (2(a^2) = c^2) ). Since c is 5, 2(a^2) = 25, making a^2 equal to 25/2, or 12.5. Since the area of the square is a^2, we’re done: it’s 12.5.

2. Tilt the square 45 degrees and draw a square around it such the the corners of the original square just touch the middles of the sides of the new, larger square. The new square has sides each 5 units long (the diagonal of the smaller square), and it therefore has area 25. However, a closer inspection reveals that the area of the larger square must be exactly twice that of the smaller. Therefore the smaller square has area 25/2, or 12.5.

You can now go on to Concentric Shapes: The Unkindest Cut of All, Part 2 of 2

 

More brain teaser games:

Mental Imagery and Spatial Rotation Brain Teaser

Here’s a fun puzzle that a friend gave me over dinner a few days ago …

How do you cut a cake into eight equal pieces with only three cuts?
the cake in the puzzle is not necessarily the one pictured below

mental rotation task

You have to use your mental rotation and mental imagery skills to visualize the answer for this puzzle. In doing so, you are using your visual cortex in the occipital lobes, your somatosensory cortex in your parietal lobes, and your executive functions in your frontal lobes to help create and evaluate your hypotheses.

Answer: Use two cuts to cut the cake into four equal pieces. Stack the four pieces vertically, and use your third cut to cut the four pieces in half horizontally.

Next brain teaser:

Brain Teaser: Dr. Nasty’s Giant Cube

Here is another mind-bender created by Wes Carroll for the SharpBrains readers.

Presenting …
Dr. Nasty’s Giant Cube

Difficulty: HARDER
Type: HYBRID (Logic/Spatial)

Question:
The diabolical Dr. Nasty has turned his Growth Ray on a perfect cube that used to measure one foot on a side. The new larger cube has twice the surface area of the original. Find the volume of the larger cube.

cube brain teaser

Click to read Hint #1.

Click to read Hint #2.

Click to read Hint #3.

Click to read Hint #4.

Click to read the Solution and Explanation.

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