Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Grand Rounds: 22 Health and Medicine Questions and Answers

Wel­come to Grand Rounds, the weekly col­lec­tion of best health and med­ical blog posts. This week we invite you to enjoy a broad range of insights, tips, and first-hand sto­ries, pre­sented as a Q&A con­ver­sa­tion with blog­gers will­ing to answer, below, a total of 22 good questions.

On Health and Med­i­cine

  1. What can one-word pre­scrip­tions deliver
  2. How does food pro­cess­ing change food´s nutri­tional value
  3. Can diet Increases Risk of ADHD
  4. Is alco­holism an illness
  5. What´s bet­ter: steady dete­ri­o­ra­tion over 10 years, or symp­tom-free life for 9 years fol­lowed by rapid dete­ri­o­ra­tion in year 10

On Patient Life

  1. As we talk about wellness…what about devel­op­ing self-compassion
  2. Can patients with chronic pain still live a full life
  3. What is the patient-doctor eti­quette for using Face­book and Twitter
  4. Should patients in an ideal world con­tract directly with their doctors
  5. What are patient advo­cates focus­ing on these days

On Health Care pro­fes­sion­als Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Expo Day; Top 15 Articles of 2009

In this Jan­u­ary issue of our eNewslet­ter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlight­en­ing demos that will take place on Wednes­day, Jan­u­ary 20th, as part of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, and then present the 15 most stim­u­lat­ing Sharp­Brains arti­cles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and dis­cuss the lat­est pro­grams and tech­nolo­gies for brain fit­ness, pre­sented by Sum­mit Spon­sors, Wednes­day Jan­u­ary 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 min­utes, fol­lowed by 15 min­utes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cog­nic­iti will intro­duce the new Memory@Work work­shop, designed to teach what mem­ory is, how lifestyle fac­tors such as dis­trac­tion and stress can affect mem­ory, and how to enhance mem­ory per­for­mance at work with the use of enabling strategies.

10am. Cog­niFit will demo Cog­niFit Per­sonal Coach and Cog­niFit Senior Dri­ver, two online pro­grams designed to assess and main cog­ni­tive func­tions for healthy liv­ing and safe dri­ving, respectively.

11am. Posit Sci­ence will demo InSight, a software-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pack­age designed to sharpen brain’s visual sys­tem. This is the pro­gram being tested by All­state for safer driving.

Noon. Happy Neu­ron will intro­duce HAP­PYneu­ron PRO, a new plat­form for pro­fes­sion­als for the effec­tive deliv­ery and man­age­ment of cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams in a patient cen­tric manner.

1pm. Sharp­Brains will help nav­i­gate this grow­ing field by dis­cussing The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware 2009 report and The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness con­sumer guide, and sum­ma­riz­ing key Sum­mit take-aways.

Learn more and reg­is­ter HERE. Please remem­ber that reg­is­tra­tion closes on Jan­u­ary 17th.

We want to thank our most recent spon­sor, the Arrow­smith Pro­gram, a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties avail­able in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in Canada and the U.S. More infor­ma­tion here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stim­u­lat­ing arti­cles of 2009.

The Big Picture

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine.

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Barry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodigy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learning.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to pre­vent mem­ory prob­lems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths.

Why is work­ing mem­ory rel­e­vant to read­ing and math­e­mat­ics: A recent large UK study iden­ti­fied 1 in 10 stu­dents as hav­ing work­ing mem­ory dif­fi­cul­ties. Dr. Tracy Alloway elab­o­rates why this matters.

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barger explains why new envi­ron­ments  force us to exit our rou­tines and actively mas­ter unfa­mil­iar challenges.”

Tools

Retool­ing Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez dis­cusses why rou­tine, doing things inside our com­fort zones, is the most com­mon enemy of the nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge our brains need.

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, dis­sects a cou­ple of recent press releases and the under­ly­ing stud­ies to clar­i­fy­ing what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled trial on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans offers a  thought­ful review of the evi­dence and asks, “Now, is this the right question?”

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reports good news (long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­eral brain functions).

Indus­try

Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When insur­ance com­pa­nies and pol­icy mak­ers pay atten­tion, Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore reports.

Visual Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the State of the Mar­ket 2009: Paul Van Slem­brouck beau­ti­fully presents the main find­ings of our 150-page mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fit­ness: neu­ro­sci­en­tist Michael Merzenich dis­cusses neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, tech­nol­ogy, safe dri­ving, men­tal health, and the need for stan­dards, auto­mated assess­ments and “per­sonal brain trainers”.

Brain Teaser

Stim­u­late your Con­cen­tra­tion Skills: when one really wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon chal­lenges you to count a few sim­ple letters.

Res­o­lu­tion

Finally, an arti­cle that may inspire some New Year Res­o­lu­tions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpower, Daniel Gole­man dis­cusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to other brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­fully, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Wish­ing you a Happy and Pro­duc­tive 2010, and look­ing for­ward to meet­ing many of you (200 so far) at the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit!

Update: Live Well to 100 by Using Your Brain

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing 107px-gray1197thumbnailcog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Liv­ing Well to 100

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Mag­a­zine. They are dis­cov­er­ing that genetic fac­tors may account for only 20 to 30 per­cent of a person’s lifes­pan, while envi­ron­men­tal and behav­ioral fac­tors can dic­tate the other 70 to 80 percent.

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon weighs the evi­dence and reports good and bad news. The good news: long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm. The bad news: there are no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­eral brain func­tions (impli­ca­tion for pro­po­nents of “smart pills”: don’t use cof­fee as the analogy).

10 Inno­va­tions for the Aging Soci­ety: In the Thanksgiving’s spirit, we want to thank 10 pio­neers for emerg­ing inno­va­tions that may help mil­lions of peo­ple alive today to keep our brains in top shape per­haps till we are 100 or more. Many of those pio­neers will par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit.

In Autopi­lot?

Train your autopilot.…and how to turn it off: Madeleine Van Hecke, Ph.D shares an excerpt from The Brain Advan­tage, in which she encour­ages main­tain­ing men­tal “autopi­lot” when it’s work­ing well, yet shift­ing to more con­scious delib­er­a­tions when needed.

Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica:  A good way to turn off autopi­lot is to enjoy some great sci­ence and nature blog­ging, cour­tesy of Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica blog car­ni­val. Addi­tion­ally, you can enjoy read­ing some of the best neu­ro­science, psy­chol­ogy and med­ical blog­ging at the first ever com­bined Grand Rounds/ Encephalon edi­tion.

Games for Health

Games for Health Research: The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion announced more than $1.85 mil­lion in grants for research teams to study how dig­i­tal games can improve play­ers health. One of the grantees is UCSF’s Adam Gaz­za­ley (who will be speak­ing at the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit) to develop a dri­ving game for cog­ni­tive fit­ness among younger and older adults.

Smart industry-research col­lab­o­ra­tion: Lumos Labs and researchers Susanne Jaeggi and Mar­tin Buschkuehl announce a col­lab­o­ra­tion to make the orig­i­nal Dual N-Back work­ing mem­ory train­ing pro­gram avail­able online and use it for ongo­ing research.

News

Mar­ian C. Dia­mond to open Sharp­Brains Sum­mit: Kick­ing off our Jan­u­ary 2010 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit is Mar­ian C. Dia­mond, one of the pio­neers of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research since the 1960s. She will intro­duce us to the human brain, its anatomy and func­tion, and impli­ca­tions of  neu­ro­plas­tic­ity for brain health and per­for­mance at any age.

The Sharp­Brains Guide’s reviews and inter­views: a col­lec­tion of links to inter­views and reviews of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fitness.

Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion (members-only): Dis­cus­sion on the future of com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­apy; United BioSource acquires Cog­ni­tive Drug Research; inno­v­a­tive part­ner­ship between Nav­i­gen­ics and Posit Sci­ence; new research on brain impact of Tetris; how a drop in visual skills may pre­cede Alzheimer’s Dis­ease;  excel­lent report by the National Acad­e­mies for the US Army avail­able for free now.

Brain Teaser

Who will you believe, me or your own eyes? dis­cover the 3 Win­ners of the 2009 Best Visual Illu­sion of the Year Con­test. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Mack­nik, who help orga­nize the con­test, will give a fun demo on Magic and the Brain at Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, to dis­cuss the lim­its of human per­cep­tion and cognition.

Enjoy the final month of 2009!

Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?

A fewA_small_cup_of_coffee eter­nal ques­tions:
– Is caf­feine good for the brain?
– Does it boost cog­ni­tive func­tions?
– Does it pro­tect against dementia?

There is lit­tle doubt that drink­ing that morn­ing cup of cof­fee will likely increase alert­ness, but the main ques­tions that research is try­ing to answer go beyond that. Basi­cally: is there a sus­tained, life­time, ben­e­fit or harm from drink­ing cof­fee regularly?

The answer, so far, con­tains good news and bad news. The good news for cof­fee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are direc­tion­ally more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caf­feine has ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­eral brain func­tions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).

It is impor­tant to note that many of the stud­ies show­ing an effect of cof­fee con­sump­tion on brain func­tions or risks of demen­tia report a cor­re­la­tion or asso­ci­a­tion (they are not ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als). As you know, cor­re­la­tion doesn’t prove cau­sa­tion: cof­fee drinkers may seem to do well in a num­ber in these long-term stud­ies, but there may be other rea­sons why cof­fee drinkers do better.

Q: How does caf­feine affect my brain?
A: Caf­feine is a stimulant.

It belongs to a chem­i­cal group called xan­thine. Adeno­sine is a nat­u­rally occur­ring xan­thine in the brain that slows down the activ­ity of brain cells (neu­rons). To a neu­ron, caf­feine looks like adeno­sine. It is there­fore used by some neu­rons in place of adeno­sine. The result is that these neu­rons speed up instead of slow­ing down.

This increased neu­ronal activ­ity trig­gers the release of the adren­a­line hor­mone, which will affect your body Read the rest of this entry »

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