Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Calling high school students/ teachers to design creative experiments on the human brain

Design a Brain Exper­i­ment Com­pe­ti­tion, by the Dana Foundation:

The Dana Foun­da­tion is devoted to pro­mot­ing an inter­est in brain research in schools across the coun­try. Encour­ag­ing stu­dents to take an inter­est in sci­en­tific research, espe­cially related to the brain, is cru­cial, not only for stu­dents, but also for the future devel­op­ment of neu­ro­science. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mental Game: How High-Level Athletes Remain Calm and Focused

The Men­tal Prepa­ra­tion of High-Level Ath­letes (brief­ing paper by the Dana Foundation):

Base­ball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra is cred­ited with say­ing that “90 per­cent of the game is half men­tal.” Over the years, the line has been appro­pri­ated beyond the world of base­ball to explain the impor­tance of fac­tors like focus and moti­va­tion Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Awareness Week is Approaching: March 12-18th, 2012

Brain Aware­ness Week (BAW) is the global cam­paign, orga­nized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives, to increase pub­lic aware­ness of the progress and ben­e­fits of brain research. Every March, BAW unites the efforts of part­ner orga­ni­za­tions world­wide in a cel­e­bra­tion of the brain for peo­ple of all ages. Events are Read the rest of this entry »

Experience Corps: Promoting Healthy, Meaningful Aging Through Social Involvement

The cur­rent issue of Cere­brum –a great pub­li­ca­tion of the Dana Foun­da­tion– includes the excel­lent in-depth arti­cle Pro­mot­ing Healthy, Mean­ing­ful Aging Through Social Involve­ment: Build­ing an Expe­ri­ence Corps, writ­ten by researcher Michelle Carlson:

Over the last decade, sci­en­tists made two key dis­cov­er­ies that reframed our under­stand­ing of the adult brain’s poten­tial to ben­e­fit from life­long envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment. First, they learned that the adult brain remains plas­tic; it can gen­er­ate new neu­rons in response to phys­i­cal activ­ity and new expe­ri­ences. Sec­ond, they con­firmed the impor­tance of Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Awareness Week Starts Today

Got a Brain?

If so, please join us in cel­e­brat­ing Brain Aware­ness Week (March 14-20th), the annual global cam­paign orga­nized by the Dana Foun­da­tion to increase pub­lic aware­ness about the progress and ben­e­fits of brain research.

Want to learn about activ­i­ties in your area? Please visit BAW’s Inter­na­tional Cal­en­dar of events.

Want to dis­cuss pro­fes­sional impli­ca­tions from this research, cross-sector part­ner­ships and indus­try oppor­tu­ni­ties? Con­sider reg­is­ter­ing for our very own BAW Part­ner event, the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st).

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article!)

(Editor’s note: this arti­cle belongs to the excel­lent May 2009 spe­cial issue on Aug­ment­ing Frontiers in Neuroscience Augmenting CognitionCog­ni­tion of sci­en­tific jour­nal Fron­tiers in Neu­ro­science, Vol­ume 3, Issue 1. You can order this issue, for 50 euros, here. Highly rec­om­mended for sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cal read­ers inter­ested in the sci­ence. This arti­cle, an indus­try overview, is repro­duced here with autho­riza­tion by the Fron­tiers Research Foun­da­tion).

Prepar­ing Soci­ety for the Cog­ni­tive Age

- By Alvaro Fernandez

Ground­break­ing cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science research has occurred over the last 20 years — with­out par­al­lel growth of con­sumer aware­ness and appro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional dis­sem­i­na­tion. “Cog­ni­tion” remains an elu­sive con­cept with unclear impli­ca­tions out­side the research community.

Ear­lier this year, I pre­sented a talk to health care pro­fes­sion­als at the New York Acad­emy of Med­i­cine, titled “Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware: Help­ing Con­sumers Sep­a­rate Hope from Hype”. I explained what com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools can do (assess/enhance spe­cific cog­ni­tive func­tions), what they can­not do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the cur­rent uncer­tain­ties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms). At the same sym­po­sium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Direc­tor of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try at Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter, pro­vided guid­ance on why and how to screen for exec­u­tive func­tion deficits in the con­text of dementia.

I could per­ceive two emerg­ing trends at the event: 1) “Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion” research is most com­monly framed as a health­care, often phar­ma­co­log­i­cal topic, with the tra­di­tional cog­ni­tive bias in med­i­cine of focus­ing on detec­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, 2) In addi­tion, there is a grow­ing inter­est in non-invasive enhance­ment options and over­all lifestyle issues. Research find­ings in Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion are only just begin­ning to reach the main­stream mar­ket­place, mostly through health­care chan­nels. The oppor­tu­nity is immense, but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, both through health­care and non-healthcare channels.

In Jan­u­ary 2009, we polled the 21,000 sub­scribers of Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket research eNewslet­ter to iden­tify atti­tudes and behav­iors towards the “brain fit­ness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a num­ber of con­sumer sur­veys and focus groups to con­nect with a wider audi­ence). Over 2,000 decision-makers and early adopters responded to the survey.

One of the key ques­tions we asked was, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some exam­ples of the sur­vey free text answers are quoted here, together with my suggestions.

Most impor­tant prob­lems in the brain fit­ness field

Pub­lic aware­ness (39%): “To get peo­ple to under­stand that hered­ity alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing”. We need to ramp up efforts to build pub­lic aware­ness and enthu­si­asm about brain research, includ­ing estab­lish­ing clear links to daily liv­ing. We can col­lab­o­rate with ini­tia­tives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Aware­ness Week and use the recent “Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts” mate­ri­als devel­oped by the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science to give talks at schools, libraries and workplaces.

Claims (21%): “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Is Grey the New Gold?

Here you have the June edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

The full sched­ule of the Sharp­Brains’ pow­ered Cog­ni­tive Health Track at the Games for Health Con­fer­ence, June 11-12th in Boston, is now avail­able online. 13 ses­sions will fea­ture 18 inno­va­tors and thought-leaders rep­re­sent­ing devel­op­ers, uni­ver­si­ties, clin­i­cians, con­sumers, insur­ance com­pa­nies, and more. You can learn more and reg­is­ter.

Longevity Div­i­dend

Ever heard of the Longevity Div­i­dend? Per­haps Grey is the New Gold: The Kro­nos Longevity Research Insti­tute has released a new report sum­ma­riz­ing the state of aging research that includes an excel­lent intro­duc­tion into the Longevity Div­i­dend, a “the­ory that says we hope to inter­vene sci­en­tif­i­cally to slow the aging process, which will also delay the onset of age-related dis­eases. Delay­ing aging just seven years would slash rates of con­di­tions like can­cer, dia­betes, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and heart dis­ease in half.” With that con­text in mind, is the National Insti­tute on Aging get­ting its fair bud­get share?

Resources

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

Book Club Dis­cus­sion Guide: The goal of our just pub­lished book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, is to inform you, but also to open a much needed debate to con­tribute to our col­lec­tive brain fit­ness. We encour­age book clubs to read and dis­cuss the book, and sug­gest 10 ques­tions to kick­start the con­ver­sa­tion. Please do send us your answers and impressions!

Edu­ca­tion & Learning

10% Stu­dents may have work­ing mem­ory prob­lems: Why does this mat­ter?: A recent study screened over 3,000 school-aged stu­dents in schools in the UK and found that 1 in 10 was iden­ti­fied as hav­ing work­ing mem­ory dif­fi­cul­ties. Work­ing mem­ory is our abil­ity to store and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion for a brief time, and dif­fi­cul­ties in this brain func­tion may lead into dif­fi­cul­ties in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics. Dr. Tracy Alloway reviews the study and elaborates.

Brain Sci­en­tists Iden­tify Links between Arts & Learn­ing: Nicky Pen­tilla com­ments on a recent report spon­sored by the Dana Foun­da­tion and a related Learn­ing, Arts, and the Brain Sum­mit. “Arts edu­ca­tion influ­ences learn­ing and other areas of cog­ni­tion and may deserve a more promi­nent place in schools.” Of par­tic­u­lar note is the find­ing that showed sig­nif­i­cant brain plas­tic­ity as a result of instru­men­tal music instruc­tion are repeated practice.

8 Tips To Remem­ber What You Read: Despite tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and  twit­ter, tra­di­tional read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Dr. Bill Klemm offers some tips to read with good speed and com­pre­hen­sion: Read with a pur­pose, Skim first, Get the read­ing mechan­ics right, Be judi­cious in high­light­ing and note tak­ing, Think in pic­tures, Rehearse as you go along, Stay within your atten­tion span and work to increase your atten­tion span, Practice.

News

Cor­po­rate Well­ness, Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments and Mem­ory Fit­ness Pro­grams: a great Mar­ket­Watch arti­cle pro­vides an overview of how major insur­ers and large employ­ers are start­ing to add brain health to their cor­po­rate well­ness activ­i­ties.  The Stan­ford Longevity Cen­ter released a state­ment urg­ing con­sumers who buy a range of mem­ory prod­ucts to make informed deci­sions (we released the book above pre­cisely with that goal in mind).

Have a stim­u­lat­ing month of June!

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