Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Research series: How, when and why does targeted cognitive training work to promote behavioral and emotional health?



Exploring Targeted Cognitive Training for Clinical Disorders (Association for Psychological Science):

“Research on the treatment of mental disorders often centers on understanding which treatments work. But knowing that a treatment is effective doesn’t necessarily tell us why the treatment works. A better understanding of the precise mechanisms that Read the rest of this entry »

News: The SharpBrains Guide, Bestseller in Amazon Kindle Store

We just noticed that The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp has become #1 book in Amazon Kindle store’s Preventive Medicine section, #1 in Neuropsychology section, and #2 in Cognitive Psychology section.

To learn more and order book in several stores (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) & countries (USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy), please click Here.

Average is Beautiful: A test of Attractiveness

Think we all have dif­fer­ent tastes where beauty is con­cerned? Well, cog­ni­tive psy­chol­ogy shows us that an aver­age face (made from sev­eral other faces) is almost always judged as more attrac­tive than its con­stituent faces… Why? It may be for the sim­ple rea­son that an aver­age face is closer to the men­tal idea we have of a pro­to­typ­i­cal face and thus eas­ier for the brain to process.

Want to expe­ri­ence it? Fol­low this link to the the Face Research Lab and cre­ate your own aver­age faces. Enjoy.

Happy stim­u­lat­ing New Year to you!

References on Cognitive Health/ Brain Fitness

This is a partial list of the literature we reviewed during the research phase of our new book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness.  We know many friends of SharpBrains are researchers, healthcare professionals, graduate/ Ph.D. students, who want have direct access to the references (perhaps PubMed should promote itself as a never ending source of mental stimulation?), so here you have this list, organized by relevant chapter. Please note that the list below appears in the book – whose manuscript we had to close in January 2009.


Basak, C. et al. (2008). Can training in a real-time strategy video game attenuate cognitive decline in older adults? Psychology and Aging.
Begley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain: How a new science reveals our extraordinary potential to transform ourselves. Ballantine Books.
DeKosky, S. T., et al. (2008). Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300, 2253-2262.
Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. Viking Adult.

Chapter 1. The Brain and Brain Fitness 101

Bunge, S. A., & Wright, S. B. (2007). Neurodevelopmental changes in working memory and cognitive control. Current Opinion In Neurobiology, 17(2), 243-50.
Damasio, A. (1995). Descartes error: Emotion, reason, and the human brain. Penguin Press.
David Kolb, D. (1983). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT Press.
Draganski, B., Gaser, C., Kempermann, G., Kuhn, H. G., Winkler, J., Buchel, C., & May A. (2006). Temporal and spatial dynamics of brain structure changes during extensive learning. The Journal of Neuroscience, 261231, 6314-6317.
Gage, F. H., Kempermann, G., & Song, H. (2007). Adult Neurogenesis. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, NY.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gaser, C. & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 9240-9245. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teaser to Stimulate your Concentration Skills

Learning can be incidental. We all memorize facts without paying much attention to these facts or without willing to memorize them. However, when one really wants to memorize a fact, it is crucial to pay attention. Many studies have shown that compared to full attention conditions, dividing attention during study time leads to poor memory performance.

This exercise will help you practice focusing your attention.

It may seem easy but make sure you count twice!

Count the number of “Y” in this text:

Yesterday, Lucy went all the way to Boston. She wanted to buy new shoes. She had to go in many shops before she found the shoes she wanted. She was happy to stop at a restaurant to have some tea and cookies before she took the train back home.

Count the number of “F” in this text:

Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.

Count the number of “E” in this text:

Last summer, Jean and Harriet spent their vacation in Michigan. They rented a cabin on the lake. The cabin had two bedrooms and a nice deck. They used to spend a lot of time on the deck, just looking at how the light would change on the water. Several times, they borrowed bikes from their neighbors and spent a few hours exploring the villages not far from their cabin.


There are 7 “Y” in the first text.

There are 6 “F” in the second text (got them?)

There are 38 “E” in the third text.

For many other Brain Teasers, click Here.
For many other teasers and articles by Dr. Michelon, click Here.

Pascale MichelonPascale Michelon, Ph. D., is SharpBrains’ Research Manager for Educational Projects. Dr. Michelon has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology and has worked as a Research Scientist at Washington University in Saint Louis, in the Psychology Department. She conducted several research projects to understand how the brain makes use of visual information and memorizes facts. She is now an Adjunct Faculty at Washington University.

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 »

Can We Pick Your Brain re. Cognitive Assessments?

If you could, you would. You can, but prefer not to know it?

More than any other organ, your brain is up to you. You are what you think, not just what you eat. Here’s some food for thought:

Design your Mind

Setting cognitive and behavioral goals raises challenging and worthy questions: What do you want from your brain? Will you know it when you achieve it?

To attain the brain of our choosing, we must understand our selves and current abilities. Introspection and curiosity are helpful if they trigger and sustain the effort to enrich the mind. However, objective information which leads to informed assessment of brain function is often lacking.

Mind your Brain

Honesty. Openness. Self-awareness.

Irrefutable virtues, but in practice most people fall short. Few regularly appraise their brain skills; even so, the ability to accurately judge one’s own mental performance is not guaranteed. I believe the first step to minding the brain is shedding hang-ups while offering and soliciting frank feedback from family and close confidants. In the clinical setting, routine cognitive screening and “mental check ups” are not currently practiced, in part due to time constraints and limited utility of traditional paper-and-pencil tests. From a public health perspective, the U.S. Preventative Task Force reviewed Read the rest of this entry »

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