Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Neuroplasticity explains why humans adapt faster than (genetically-controlled) chimpanzees

chimpanzee_human_brainsNature and nur­ture: Human brains evolved to be more respon­sive to envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences (

Chim­panzees are our clos­est liv­ing rel­a­tives, but what is it about the human brain that makes us so dif­fer­ent? Researchers at the George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity may have unearthed another piece of the puz­zle. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Michael Posner on Developing Brain Networks and Self-Control

Dr. Pos­ner will pro­vide an update on lat­est research and appli­ca­tions to develop brain net­works and self-control, at the upcom­ing 2012 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit (June 7-14th, 2012).

Michael Pos­ner is Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus at the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon and Adjunct Pro­fes­sor at the Weill Med­ical Col­lege in New York (Sack­ler Insti­tute). He is cur­rently engaged in a project with Mary K. Roth­bart to under­stand the devel­op­ment Read the rest of this entry »

Transcript: Paul Nussbaum on Meditation, Neuropsychology and Thanksgiving

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion yes­ter­day on holis­tic brain health with clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Paul Nuss­baum, author of Save Your Brain. You can learn more about the full Brain Fit­ness Q&A Series Here.

Per­haps one of the best exchanges was: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health Research offered by the Alliance for Aging Research

We just noticed that the Alliance for Aging Research offers an excel­lent list of ref­er­ences on Brain Health Research, orga­nized in these 10 sec­tions below. Enjoy!

#1 Nour­ish Your Nog­gin: Eat a Brain Healthy Diet Read the rest of this entry »

Debunking 10 Cognitive Health and Fitness Myths

As part of the research behind the book The Sharp­Brains Guide for Brain Fit­ness we inter­viewed dozens of lead­ing cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and experts world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have a num­ber of take-aways to report.

What Santiago Ramon y Cajal can we clearly say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­ago Ramon y Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tury, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­ity in the XXI.

And trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process, since Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Public Libraries as Health Clubs for the Brain

Here you have the July 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.

Pub­lic libraries have long offered the pub­lic more than books. And now, recent demo­graphic and sci­en­tific trends are con­verg­ing to fun­da­men­tally trans­form the role of libraries in our cul­ture. You may enjoy read­ing this recent arti­cle I wrote for the May-June 2009 Issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly pub­li­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging: Pub­lic Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.

The Big Picture

Can You Out­smart Your Genes? An Inter­view with Author Richard Nis­bett: David DiS­alvo inter­views Richard Nis­bett, the author of Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count, who has emerged as a per­sua­sive voice mar­shalling evi­dence to dis­prove the heredity-is-destiny argument.

Yes, You Can Build Willpower: Daniel Gole­man dis­cusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to other brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­fully, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Bird’s Eye View of Cog­ni­tive Health Inno­va­tion: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez opened the Cog­ni­tive Health Track dur­ing the Games for Health Con­fer­ence (June 11-12th, Boston) with an overview of the seri­ous games, soft­ware and online appli­ca­tions that can help assess and train cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. The pre­sen­ta­tion is avail­able Here.

Brain Tests and Myths

The Best Mem­ory Tests, from the Alzheimer’s Action Plan: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy dis­cusses the Pros and Cons of the most com­mon assess­ments to iden­tify cog­ni­tive prob­lems, includ­ing what the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) does and doesn´t, and inno­v­a­tive com­put­er­ized neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to “pre­vent mem­ory prob­lems” right around the cor­ner? Does “aging” equal “decline”? Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths on brain health.


Free Webi­nar: On July 21st, 10am Pacific Time/ 1pm East­ern Time, Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, co-authors of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, will cover the main high­lights from this new book and address the ques­tions sub­mit­ted by read­ers. You can learn more and reg­is­ter HERE.

Research Ref­er­ences:  This is a par­tial list of the sci­en­tific stud­ies reviewed dur­ing the research phase of SharpBrains’s new book, orga­nized by rel­e­vant chap­ter, for those of you who like to explore top­ics in depth by read­ing orig­i­nal research (per­haps PubMed should pro­mote itself as a never end­ing source of men­tal stimulation?).

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers on Brain Fit­ness: Are you ready to test your knowl­edge of sev­eral key brain fit­ness met­rics? For exam­ple: How many sol­diers in the US Army have gone through com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive test­ing before being deployed, and why?
Finally, a request: if you have already read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, and could write a brief cus­tomer review at, we would surely appre­ci­ate! The book page is Here.

Best regards, and enjoy the month

Can You Outsmart Your Genes? An Interview with Author Richard Nisbett

(Editor’s Note: inter­view­ing Richard Nis­bett, author of the excel­lent Intelligence and How to Get Itrecent book Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count, was in our To Do list. We then found that fel­low blog­ger David DiS­alvo was faster than we were and did a great job, so here we bring you David’s inter­view and take.)

While the debate over intel­li­gence rages on many fronts, the bat­tle over the impor­tance of hered­ity rages loud­est. It’s easy to see why. If the camp that argues intel­li­gence is 75 to 85 per­cent genet­i­cally deter­mined is cor­rect, then we’re faced with some tough ques­tions about the role of edu­ca­tion. If intel­li­gence is improved very lit­tle by schools, and if the IQ of the major­ity of the pop­u­la­tion will remain rel­a­tively unchanged no mat­ter how well schools per­form, then should school reform really be a priority?

More to the point, if our genes largely deter­mine our IQ, which in turn under­lies our per­for­mance through­out our lives, then what is the role of school? For some in this debate the answer to that ques­tion is sim­ply, “to be the best you can be.” But that seems lit­tle com­fort for those who aspire to “be” more than what their IQ cat­e­gory pre­dicts they will.

Those on the other side of this debate ques­tion whether hered­ity plays as big a role as the strong hered­i­tar­i­ans claim. And for the role it does play, they ques­tion whether hered­itabil­ity implies immutabil­ity. Hered­ity of height, for exam­ple, is about 90 per­cent, and yet aver­age height in sev­eral pop­u­la­tions around the world has been steadily increas­ing due to non-genetic influ­ences, like nutri­tion. If such a strong hered­i­tary trait can be rad­i­cally altered by envi­ron­men­tal factors–and height is but one exam­ple of this–then why is intel­li­gence different?

It is not, argues the camp that might best be described as intel­li­gence opti­mists. For them, the pes­simism that col­ors the strong hered­i­tar­ian posi­tion isn’t only dis­cour­ag­ing, it’s dan­ger­ous. Too much is hang­ing in the bal­ance for pes­simism about the poten­tial of our chil­dren to prevail.

Richard NisbettRichard Nis­bett is a cham­pion of the intel­li­gence opti­mist camp, and with his lat­est book, Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count , he has emerged as the most per­sua­sive voice mar­shalling evi­dence to dis­prove the heredity-is-destiny argu­ment. Intel­lec­tual advance­ment, Nis­bett argues, is not the result of hard­wired genetic codes, but the province of con­trol­lable fac­tors like schools and social environments–and as such, improv­ing these fac­tors is cru­cially impor­tant. Read the rest of this entry »

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