Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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

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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

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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:

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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.

Enjoy!

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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