Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Growing evidence that brain health requires personalized, multi-pronged interventions



The Right Dose of Exer­cise for the Aging Brain (New York Times):

A small amount of exer­cise may improve our abil­ity to think as we age, but more may not be bet­ter, accord­ing to a new study of exer­cise and cognition…

In gen­eral, the researchers found, most of the exer­cis­ers showed improve­ment in their think­ing skills…but these gains were about the same whether peo­ple had exer­cised for 75 min­utes a week or 225 min­utes Read the rest of this entry »

Research trend: The brain benefits of learning and speaking a second language

scientist brain experiment

What hap­pens in the brain when you learn a lan­guage? (The Guardian):

Learn­ing a for­eign lan­guage can increase the size of your brain. This is what Swedish sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered when they used brain scans to mon­i­tor what hap­pens when some­one learns a sec­ond lan­guage. The study is part of Read the rest of this entry »

Update: ¿Habla Español? Know someone who’d enjoy a great brain book in Spanish?

Portada_ComoInvertirEnSuCerebroTime for Sharp­Brains’ Feb­ru­ary e-Newsletter, this time fea­tur­ing the global launch of our new book, in Span­ish, Cómo inver­tir en su cere­bro: Una guía Sharp­Brains para mejo­rar su mente y su vida, avail­able already as a soft-cover and e-book!

–> If you speak Span­ish, please get a copy for your­self. Tam­bién puede ver el video de la charla de pre­sentación aquí (comienza en el min­uto 5), y leer el artículo Esculpir el cere­bro, mucho más allá de un sueño de Ramón y Cajal.

–> If you don’t speak Span­ish, please share this with some­one who does…we believe he or she will love the book! We’ve been work­ing quite hard over the last year to deliver a great adap­ta­tion of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness to “la lengua de Cer­vantes” — the jury is now out.

Some other news…

Brain Health Sci­ence & Practice:

Dig­i­tal Brain Health Indus­try & technology:

Finally, please keep in mind that March 10-16th is 2014 Brain Aware­ness Week. Let’s all find a way to cel­e­brate and invest in our most pre­cious resource!


Being Bilingual Enhances Executive Functions and Brain

Bilin­gual­ism Asso­ci­ated With Brain Reor­ga­ni­za­tion Involv­ing Bet­ter Effi­ciency in Exec­u­tive Func­tions, Research Finds (Sci­ence News)

Find­ings are very impor­tant because they show an unknown aspect of bilin­gual­ism, which goes beyond lin­guis­tic advan­tages, and they also show bilin­guals are more effec­tive in respond­ing to cer­tain stim­uli,” explains researcher Cesar Avila, who ensures the research shows that bilin­gual­ism does not only have effects on the brain at a lin­guis­tic level, but that it also works dif­fer­ently, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of intro­duc­ing lan­guages at an early age because it gen­er­ates cog­ni­tive benefits.

Jour­nal Ref­er­ence: G. Garbin, A. San­juan, C. Forn, J.C. Bus­ta­mante, A. Rodriguez-Pujadas, V. Bel­loch, M. Her­nan­dez, A. Costa, C. Ávila. Bridg­ing lan­guage and atten­tion: Brain basis of the impact of bilin­gual­ism on cog­ni­tive con­trol. Neu­roIm­age, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.05.078

This study sup­ports another one we com­mented on a few years ago on how Bilin­gual brains stay sharp longer:

In short: learn­ing and speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage pro­vides con­stant brain exer­cise to the frontal lobes, the area of the brain right behind your fore­head that focuses our atten­tion, helps us ignore dis­trac­tions, and make decisions.”

Nintendo Brain Age/ Training vs. Crossword Puzzles

Nin­tendo brain-trainer ‘no bet­ter than pen­cil and paper’ (The Times):
“The sur­vey of ten-year-old chil­dren found no evi­dence to sup­port claims in Nintendo’s adver­tis­ing cam­paign, fea­tur­ing Nicole Kid­man, that users can test and reju­ve­nate their grey cells. The Nin­tendo DS is a tech­no­log­i­cal jewel. As a game it’s fine, said Alain Lieury, pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Rennes, Brit­tany, who con­ducted the sur­vey. But it is char­la­tanism to claim that it is a sci­en­tific test.

Com­ments: as we have said before, Nin­tendo Brain Age and Brain Train­ing should be seen as what they are: a game. And the con­struct of one’s hav­ing a  “brain age” makes no sense.

Hav­ing said that, the researcher quoted then offers, out of the blue, a highly inac­cu­rate statement:

The study tested Nintendo’s claims on 67 ten-year-olds. “That’s the age where you have the best chance of improve­ment,” Pro­fes­sor Lieury said. “If it doesn’t work on chil­dren, it won’t work on adults.”

That asser­tion (that some­thing won’t “work” on adults because it won’t “work” on kids) makes even less sense than hav­ing a “brain age”. The Cog­ni­tive Reserve research shows the need for life­long men­tal stim­u­la­tion — and the real­ity is that kids are more exposed to nov­elty and chal­lenge all the time, whereas older adults may not be. Fur­ther, that claim (some­thing that doesn’t “work” on kids won’t “work” on adults) has already been tested and proven wrong:

In a cou­ple of recent tri­als, dis­cussed here, the same strat­egy game (Rise of Nations, a com­plex chal­lenge for exec­u­tive func­tions), played for the same num­ber of hours (23)  showed quite impres­sive (untrained) cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits in peo­ple over 60 — and no ben­e­fits in peo­ple in their 20s.

How can this be? Well, we often say that our brains need nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge — and it should be obvi­ous that those ingre­di­ents depend on who we are Read the rest of this entry »

Newsletter: Navigating Games for Health and Education

Here you have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brain fitness and health newsletterremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Quick, Are videogames good or bad?

That’s an impos­si­ble ques­tion. Good or bad for what? What  spe­cific games are we talk­ing about? More impor­tantly, what are they sub­sti­tut­ing for, given time is a lim­ited resource?  Con­trib­u­tor Jeremy Adam Smith, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Greater Good mag­a­zine, offers an in-depth review on the trade-offs videogames present in: Play­ing the Blame Game.

News Round-Up

Math Inno­va­tion in UK Schools: a recent (and unpub­lished) study seems to sup­port the poten­tial role for “Seri­ous Games” in edu­ca­tion. Learn­ing and Teach­ing Scot­land reports sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in pupils’ con­cen­tra­tion and behav­ior, on top of math skills, after using Nin­tendo Brain Train­ing game.

Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia endorses Posit Sci­ence pro­grams: this announce­ment brings to sur­face a gen­uine pub­lic health dilemma — do you, as an asso­ci­a­tion, pro­mote pro­grams before they have been shown to have long-term effects on Alzheimer’s pro­gres­sion and preva­lence, or do you wait until you have “per­fect” research, and then per­haps lose 10–20-30 years or use­ful con­tri­bu­tion to thousands/ mil­lions of brain’s Cog­ni­tive Reserves? In our judg­ment, it may well be worth offer­ing options today, as long as they are accom­pa­nied by inde­pen­dent mea­sure­ment of the cog­ni­tive benefits.

More Sep­tem­ber News: Sep­tem­ber has brought a wealth of addi­tional world­wide media cov­er­age on cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics, includ­ing the role of schools in nur­tur­ing student’s exec­u­tive func­tions, the impor­tance of base­line neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing in sports, the need for geron­tol­ogy as a dis­ci­pline to incor­po­rate brain research, how walk­ing can enhance brain func­tion, and the value of brain fit­ness pro­grams for long-term care operators.

Resources for Brain Fit­ness Navigation

Well­ness Coach­ing for Brain Health and Fit­ness: will Well­ness Coaches expand their role and become “Brain coaches”? We have part­nered with Sut­ter Health Part­ners, the pio­neer­ing coach­ing group of a major health sys­tem, to train their well­ness coaches on the impli­ca­tions of emerg­ing brain research for their work: focus on the 4 pil­lars of brain health –bal­anced nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment and men­tal exer­cise.

Eval­u­a­tion Check­list for Orga­ni­za­tions: many health­care and edu­ca­tion orga­ni­za­tions are already mak­ing pur­chase deci­sions which involve eval­u­at­ing dif­fer­ent pro­grams that make “brain train­ing” or “cog­ni­tive health” claims. Here we present our 10-Question Sharp­Brains Check­list to help orga­ni­za­tions make informed decisions.

Eval­u­a­tion Check­list for Con­sumers: if you are an indi­vid­ual inter­ested in pro­grams for your­self and/ or a loved one, you can use this check­list. The start­ing point is to rec­og­nize that no pro­gram is a “magic pill” or “gen­eral solu­tion”, but a tool to be used in the appro­pri­ate context.

Learn­ing to Lead, and To Think

Round­table on Human Resources and Lead­er­ship: sev­eral blog­gers dis­cuss lat­est news around lead­er­ship, social intel­li­gence, appli­ca­tions of brain research, and more.

Help­ing Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think: David Fos­ter Wal­lace gave a mas­ter­ful com­mence­ment speech on Life and Work to the 2005 grad­u­at­ing  class at Kenyon Col­lege.  Worth read­ing, with full attention.

Brain Teasers

Seven Brain teasers for Job Inter­views: A recent CNN arti­cle explains why a grow­ing num­ber of tech­nol­ogy and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies use brain teasers and logic puz­zles of a type called “guessti­ma­tions” dur­ing job inter­views. What are they look­ing for? Good exec­u­tive func­tions. Here you have a few typ­i­cal questions.


Brain Fitness Programs For Seniors Housing, Healthcare and Insurance Providers: Evaluation Checklist

Dur­ing the research phase before the pub­li­ca­tion of the spe­cial report Brain Fit­ness Cen­ters in Seniors Hous­ing — A Field in the Mak­ing, pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Seniors Hous­ing Asso­ci­a­tion (ASHA), we real­ized that there were equal amounts of inter­est and con­fu­sion among exec­u­tives and pro­fes­sion­als think­ing about adding computer-based cog­ni­tive exer­cise prod­ucts to their mix of health & well­ness activ­i­ties, so we included the Eval­u­a­tion Check­list that follows.

The real-life expe­ri­ences at lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions such as Senior Star Liv­ing, Bel­mont Vil­lage Senior Liv­ing, Erick­son Retire­ment Com­mu­ni­ties and oth­ers were instru­men­tal in the devel­op­ment of the Check­list. We hope it is useful.

Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams For Seniors Hous­ing, Health­care and Insur­ance Providers: Eval­u­a­tion Checklist

Over the next sev­eral years, it is likely that many seniors hous­ing oper­a­tors will begin to care­fully eval­u­ate a grow­ing num­ber of options to include “brain fit­ness cen­ters” in their communities.

Some options will require pur­chas­ing a device, such as Nin­tendo prod­ucts, or the Dakim touch-screen sys­tem. Oth­ers will require installing soft­ware in PCs in exist­ing or new com­puter labs, such as Posit Sci­ence, Cogmed or CogniFit’s pro­grams. Oth­ers will be fully avail­able online, such as those offered by Lumos Labs, Happy Neu­ron and My Vig­or­ous Mind. And still oth­ers may be technology-free, promis­ing engag­ing com­bi­na­tions of inter­ac­tive, group-based, activ­i­ties with pen-and-paper exercises.

Cre­at­ing a solid busi­ness case will help com­mu­ni­ties nav­i­gate through this grow­ing array of options. We sug­gest com­mu­ni­ties con­sider this Sharp­Brains Check­list for Brain Fit­ness Centers:

1. Early Users: Who among our res­i­dents is ready and will­ing to do the pro­gram? How are they react­ing to the pilot test­ing of the program?

2. Cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits: What are the spe­cific ben­e­fits claimed for using this pro­gram? Under what sce­nario of use (how many hours/week, how many weeks)? What spe­cific cog­ni­tive skill(s) does the pro­gram train? How will we mea­sure progress? Read the rest of this entry »

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