Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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 »

Brain Games: Spot the Difference

How many dif­fer­ences can you spot?

You have seen and maybe tried that exer­cise or game in the Sun­day paper many times: find 5 dif­fer­ences between the two images.

You may like it or not. You may think it is only for kids. But it is a GREAT brain exercise!

Let’s see what cog­ni­tive processes and which brain areas are involved in this exercise:

Read the rest of this entry »

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