Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Virtual “Brain Games” roundtable: Why we can, and SHOULD, train our brains

brainGames_new seasonIn preparation for the new season of National Geographic’s Brain Games, starting this Sunday February 14th, their producers asked us to participate in a virtual roundtable around this thought-provoking question:

Do you think individuals can train their brain to respond in a particular way to certain situations, or do you think our brain’s innate “startle response” is too hardwired to alter?

Short answer: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Study Links Emotional Self-Regulation and Math Performance

Brain Study Points to Potential Treatments for Math Anxiety (Education Week):

  • “The study, published this morning in the journal Cerebral Cortex, is a continuation of work on highly math-anxious people being conducted by Sian L. Beilock, associate psychology professor at the University of Chicago, and doctoral candidate Ian M. Lyons. In prior research, Beilock has found that just the thought of doing math problems can trigger stress responses in people with math anxiety, and adult teachers can pass their trepidation about math on to their students.” Read the rest of this entry »

Who Says This is The Classroom of the Future?

The New York Times has recently published several very good and seemingly unrelated articles…let’s try and connect some dots. What if we questioned the very premise behind naming some classrooms the “classrooms of the future” simply because they have been adding technology in literally mindless ways? What if the Education of the Future (sometimes also referred to as “21st Century Skills”) wasn’t so much about the How we educate but about the What we want students to learn and develop, applying what we know about mind and brain to the needs they are likely to face during the next 50-70 years of their lives? Read the rest of this entry »

Debunking 10 Brain Training/ Cognitive Health Myths

Think about this: How can anyone take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which seem to contradict each other?

Do supplements improve memory? Do you need both physical and mental exercise or is one of them enough? Which brain training approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

We tried to address these questions, and many others, in our recent book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain FitnessSharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book (182 pages, $24.95), that we presented at Games for Health Conference last week. The book is the result of over two years of extensive research including more than a hundred interviews with scientists, professionals and consumers, and a deep review of the scientific literature, led by neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg and myself with the help of cognitive scientist Pascale Michelon. As we wrote in the Introduction, what we wanted to do first of all was to debunks these 10 myths on brain health and brain training:

Myth 1. Genes determine the fate of our brains.
Facts: Lifelong neuroplasticity allows our lifestyles and actions to play a meaningful role in how our brains physically evolve, especially given longer life expectancy.

Myth 2. Aging means automatic decline.
Facts: There is nothing inherently fixed in the precise trajectory of how brain functions evolve as we age.

Myth 3. Medication is the main hope for cognitive enhancement.
Facts: Non-invasive interventions can have comparable and more durable effects, side effect-free.

Myth 4. We will soon have a Magic Pill or General Solution to solve all our cognitive challenges.
Facts: A multi-pronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.

Myth 5. There is only one “Use It or Lose it”.
Facts: The brain is composed of a number of specialized units. Our life and productivity depend on a variety of brain functions, not just one.

Myth 6. All brain activities or exercises are equal.
Facts: Varied and targeted exercises are the necessary ingredients in brain training so that a wide range of brain functions can be stimulated.

Myth 7. There is only one way to train your brain.
Facts: Brain functions can be impacted in a number of ways: through meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training.

Myth 8. We all have something called “Brain Age”.
Facts: Brain age is a fiction. No two individuals have the same brain or expression of brain functions.

Myth 9. That “brain age”‚ can be reversed by 10, 20, 30 years.
Facts: Brain training can improve specific brain functions, but, with research available today, cannot be said to roll back one “brain age”‚ by a number of years.

Myth 10. All human brains need the same brain training.
Facts: As in physical fitness, users must ask themselves: What functions do I need to improve on? In what timeframe? What is my budget?

Do you have other myths in mind you would like  us to address?

We have started to receive great feedback from the healthcare community, such as this email from a neurosurgeon in Texas:

“I really like the book, it is comprehensive without being too technical. I have recommended it to several patients. There are some other books that I expected would be greeted with enthusiasm, but were too complex for most of my patients. I think this book is right in the sweet spot”.

A short, sweet, entertaining read of a complex topic, with timely (written in 1/09) reviews of 21 top technology products, as well as informed and expert predictions of where this burgeoning brain-fitness field is headed. More importantly, after you read it, you’ll have a good, detailed sense of where you, personally, can act to improve your own couch-potato brain – and how to keep it fit and flexible your whole life. The SharpBrains Guide To Brain Fitness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a topic) can be well worth your time and money. Two Stethoscopes Up – check it out. life.”

And this great book review by an Internist Physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, titled Is Your Brain A Couch Potato?:

Doc Gurley, book review for (06/08/09)

The bookThe SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (available via Here, review copies available upon request).

Description: While most of us have heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” very few understand what it means, or how to properly ‚“use it”‚¬ in order to maintain brain function and fitness. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is an invaluable guide that helps readers navigate growing brain research and identify the lifestyle factors and products that contribute to brain health and fitness. By gathering insights from eighteen of the world’s top scientists and offering tools and detailed descriptions of over twenty products, this book is an essential guide to the field of brain fitness, neuroplasticity and cognitive health. An accessible and thought-provoking read, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness educates lifelong learners and professionals in healthcare, education, business, etc., on emerging trends and forecasts of what the future will hold.

Products Reviewed (we reviewed scientific studies published before January 2009, when the manuscript text was closed):

– Overall brain maintenance: Brain Age series (Nintendo), BrainWare Safari (Learning Enhancement Corporation), (Vivity Labs), (Scientific Brain Training), (Lumos Labs), MindFit (CogniFit), (m)Power (Dakim)

– Targeted brain workout: Classic and InSight (Posit Science), Working Memory Training JM and RM (Cogmed), DriveFit (CogniFit), Earobics (Houghton Mifflin), Fast ForWord (Scientific Learning), IntelliGym (Applied Cognitive Engineering), Vision Restpration Therapy (NovaVision)

– Emotional self-regulation: emWave PC and Personal Stress Reliever (HeartMath), Journey to the Wild Divine (Wild Divine), RESPeRATE (InterCure), StressEraser (Helicor)

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!

Learn more & Register

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

About SharpBrains

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