Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


A Brain Game to Tease your Frontal Skills

The frontal lobes of the brain (in gray here) have been com­pared to an orches­tra con­duc­tor, ­influ­enc­ing, direct­ing, and mod­er­at­ing many other brain func­tions. Indeed, the frontal lobes sup­port the so-called exec­u­tive func­tions: decision-making, problem-solving, plan­ning, inhibit­ing, as well as other high-level func­tions (social behav­ior, emo­tional con­trol, work­ing mem­ory, etc.). Ready for an exec­u­tive work­out? Read the rest of this entry »

Why we need to Retool Use it or lose it

The July/ August 2009 issue of The Jour­nal on Active Aging includes my arti­cle Why We Need to RetoolUse It Or Lose It

An excerpt:

By now you have prob­a­bly heard about brain plas­tic­ity, the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. The lat­est sci­en­tific research shows that spe­cific lifestyles and actions can improve the health and level of func­tion­ing of our brains, no mat­ter our age.

Of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance to main­tain­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing through life are the hip­pocam­pus (deep inside the brain, part of what is called the lim­bic sys­tem), which plays a role in learn­ing and mem­ory; and the frontal lobes (behind your fore­head), which are key to main­tain­ing decision-making and auton­omy. Is there a way to phys­i­cally pro­tect these parts of the aging brain? Yes. But the right answer is far from “do one more cross­word puz­zle” or “do more X” (what­ever X is). The key is to add sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties to ensure a flow of nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge, com­bin­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise while not ignor­ing fac­tors such as stress man­age­ment and bal­anced nutrition.

We need, in other words, to retool our under­stand­ing and prac­tice of “Use it or lose it.” We must focus on the impor­tance of get­ting out of our phys­i­cal and men­tal rou­tines and activ­i­ties to get the ben­e­fits of real exercise—physical and mental.”

Con­tinue read­ing Why We Need to RetoolUse It Or Lose It

ETech09: on Life Hacking and Brain Training

Here you have the pre­sen­ta­tion I deliv­ered on Tues­day at ETech 2009 (this year’s O’Reilly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­ogy Conference):

Emerg­ing Research and Tech­nol­ogy for Life Hacking/ Brain Training

(click to open pre­sen­ta­tion in new window)

Descrip­tion: Life hack­ing. Brain train­ing. They are one and the same. The brain’s frontal lobes enable our goal-oriented behav­ior, sup­port­ing exec­u­tive func­tions, such as decision-making, atten­tion, emo­tional self-regulation, goal-setting, and work­ing mem­ory. These func­tions can be enhanced with tar­geted prac­tice  such as life hack­ing. This ses­sion will pro­vide an overview of the cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science under­pin­ning life hack­ing, and review the state-of-the-art of non-invasive tools for brain train­ing: neu­ro­feed­back, biofeed­back, soft­ware appli­ca­tions, cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions, Tran­scra­nial Mag­netic Stim­u­la­tion, and plain-old meditation.

It was great to meet fel­low blog­gers and pre­sen­ters, such as Shel­ley Batts of Of Two Minds and Chris Patil of Ouroboros, and very inquisite and through­ful audi­ence mem­bers. Get­ting ready to speak at ASA/ NCOA and IHRSA next week!

Top 7 Brainteasers for Job Interviews and Brain Challenge

A recent CNN arti­cle explains well why a grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies use brain­teasers and logic puz­zles of a type called “guessti­ma­tions” dur­ing job interviews:

- “Seem­ingly ran­dom ques­tions like these have become com­mon­place in Sil­i­con Val­ley and other tech out­posts, where com­pa­nies aren’t as inter­ested in the cor­rect answer to a tough ques­tion as they are in how a prospec­tive employee might try to solve it. Since busi­nesses today have to be able to react quickly to shift­ing mar­ket dynam­ics, they want more than engi­neers with high IQs and good col­lege tran­scripts. They want peo­ple who can think on their feet.”

What are tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies (Google, Microsoft, Ama­zon) and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies (McK­in­sey, Boston Con­sult­ing Group, Accen­ture…) look­ing for? They want employ­ees withbrain teasers job interview good so-called Exec­u­tive Func­tions: problem-solving, cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity, plan­ning, work­ing mem­ory, decision-making, even emo­tional self-regulation (don’t try to solve one of these puz­zles while being angry, or stressed out).

Want to try a few? Below you have our Top 7 Guesstimations/ Logic Puz­zles for Brain Challenge:

Please try to GUESS the answers to the ques­tions below based on your own log­i­cal approach. The goal is not to find out (or Google) the right answer, but to Read the rest of this entry »

Mind Teaser: Consider Linda

Con­sider Linda, a 31-year-old woman, sin­gle and bright. As a stu­dent, she was deeply con­cerned with dis­crim­i­na­tion and social jus­tice and also par­tic­i­pated in anti-nuclear protests.

Which is more prob­a­ble? (a) Linda is today a bank teller; (b) Linda is a bank teller and active in the fem­i­nist movement.

Quick, what’s your answer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Smart Brains Make Stupid Decisions

It hap­pens. Often.


We just secured an inter­view with Ori Braf­man, co-author of Sway: The Irre­sistible Pull of Irra­tional Behav­ior (Dou­ble­day Busi­ness, 2008), to dis­cuss our Dark Side (well, he calls it “dif­fer­ent hid­den forces” and “psy­cho­log­i­cal undercurrents”).

While read­ing some reviews about his book, I par­tic­u­larly enjoyed find­ing, after the usual impres­sive long col­lec­tion of endorse­ments, this “disclaimer”:

*DISCLAIMER: If you decide to buy this book because of these endorse­ments, you just got swayed. One of the psy­cho­log­i­cal forces you’ll read about in Sway is our ten­dency to place a higher value on opin­ions from peo­ple in posi­tions of promi­nence, power, or author­ity. (But you should still buy the book.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Try Thinking and Learning Without Working Memory

Cog­ni­tive train­ing is show­ing a tremen­dous poten­tial to expand work­ing mem­ory, a Thinking, Working Memorycapac­ity once thought lim­ited and untrainable.

If you have enough work­ing mem­ory to both be pro­cess­ing this infor­ma­tion and devel­op­ing your own thoughts, you may be think­ing now, a) what exactly is Work­ing Mem­ory?, and b) why do we even care?. Well, Dr. Bill Klemm answers those ques­tions, and more, below. Please enjoy one of the most insight­ful arti­cles on the sub­ject we have seen in a long while, which we are proud to bring to Sharp­Brains readers.

- Alvaro

How Well Peo­ple Think Depends On Work­ing Memory

- By  Dr. Bill Klemm

Imag­ine dial­ing a phone num­ber by hav­ing to look up each digit one at a time in the phone book. Nor­mally, you look up the num­ber and remem­ber all seven dig­its long enough to get it dialed. Even with one digit at a time, you would have to remem­ber each digit long enough to get it dialed. What if your brain could not even do that! We call this kind of remem­ber­ing, “work­ing mem­ory,” because that is what the brain works with. Work­ing mem­ory is crit­i­cal to every­day living.

Read the rest of this entry »

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