Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Can mental training in compassion lead to altruistic behavior and better health?

The first time I ever tried a loving-kindness meditation, I was overcome by a feeling of complete… futility. Mentally extending compassion to others and wishing them free from suffering seemed nice enough, but I had a hard time believing that my idle thoughts could increase kindness in the real world.

Turns out I was wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing the Blame Game: Video Games Pros and Cons

Playing the Blame Game
— Video games stand accused of causing obesity, violence, and lousy grades. But new research paints a surprisingly complicated and positive picture, reports Greater Good Magazine‘s Jeremy Adam Smith.

Cheryl Olson had seen her teenage son play video games. But like many parents, she didn’t know much about them.

Then in 2004 the U.S. Department of Justice asked Olson and her husband, Lawrence Kutner, to run a federally funded study of how video games affect adolescents.

Olson and Kutner are the co-founders and directors of the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Mental Health and Media. Olson, a public health researcher, had studied the effects of media on behavior but had never examined video games, either in her research or in her personal life.

And so the first thing she did was watch over the shoulder of her son, Michael, as he played his video games. Then, two years into her research—which combined surveys and focus groups of junior high school students—Michael urged her to pick up a joystick. “I definitely felt they should be familiar with the games if they were doing the research,” says Michael, who was 16 at the time and is now 18.

Olson started with the PC game Read the rest of this entry »

When Empathy moves us to Action-By Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman requires no introduction. Personally, of all his books I have read, the one I found most stimulating was Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue With the Dalai Lama, a superb overview of what emotions are and how we can put them to good use. He is now conducting a great series of audio interviews including one with George Lucas on Educating Hearts and Minds: Rethinking Education.

We are honored to bring you a guest post by Daniel Goleman, thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine, a UC-Berkeley-based quarterly magazine that highlights ground breaking scientific research into the roots of compassion and altruism. Enjoy!

– Alvaro

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Hot To Help: When can empathy move us to action?

By Daniel Goleman

We often emphasize the importance of keeping cool in a crisis. But sometimes coolness can give way to detachment and apathy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates (Part 3)

A few days ago we published the first and second installments of this Peace Among Primates series, by neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky. Today we publish the third and final one.

Peace Among Primates (Part 3)

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

Natural born killers?

Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates (Part 2)

(Editor’s Note: A few days ago we published the first installment of this Peace Among Primates series, by neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky. Today we publish the second installment. Next Saturday, April 19th, you can come back and read the third and final part in the series.)

Peace Among Primates (Part 2)

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

Left behind

In the early 1980s, “Forest Troop,” a group of savanna baboons I had been studying—virtually living with—for years, was going about its business in a national park in Kenya when a neighboring baboon group had a stroke of luck: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health and Fitness Workshops

Today I have an announcement to make. You probably are seeing all the articles about Brain Fitness in the press and wondering, “What is this all about?”, “Can someone help me navigate through all the programs out there?”, “How is Brain Fitness relevant to me in my personal life or at work?”. Well…we are delivering a series of workshops to companies and organizations combining modules -including scientific overview, the industry trends and key players, fun team-building exercises- that can be tailored to each organization’s specific needs. Sessions last from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the group’s composition and agenda and are delivered either in person or via web conference.

We want to be able to reach more organizations, so please let us know of any ideas!

Some recent examples

1. Managing Stress for Peak Performance (we mentioned some notes on an Accenture session)

New and challenging situations – such as taking on new responsibilities– can trigger reactions in our brain and body that limit or even block our decision-making abilities. These reactions may also harm our long-term brain power and health. Although we cannot avoid change and stressful situations, we can learn how to manage our stress levels to ensure peak performance-even in tough moments. The latest neuroscience research proves that stress management is a trainable “mental muscle.” This is true for any high pressure profession, be it trading, sports, or simply modern life.

2. The Science of Brain Health and Brain Fitness (similar to what I will teach at UC Berkeley OLLI)

Neuroscientists have shown how the human brain retains neuroplasticity (the ability to rewire itself) and neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) during its full lifetime, leading to a new understanding of Read the rest of this entry »

Brain class at UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

If you are based in North California, you may be interested in the classes just announced by the UC Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. “Berkeley OLLI is an inquiring and stimulating community of adults, age 50 and above, exploring new areas of knowledge and traditional disciplines, challenging and fascinating subjects.” If you are not in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can check the closest Lifelong Learning Center to you in either the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute network or the Elderhostel one.

You can see a listing of their classes for the Fall 2007 session, on a fascinating variety of topics. Keeping our educational activities since 2005 (first delivered in SFSU), I will be teaching the following class

The Science of Brain Health and Brain Fitness (more here)

October 9-30th, 4 classes, 6.30-8.30pm

Location: University Hall, UC Berkeley

Description: Neuroscientists have shown how the human brain retains neuroplasticity (the ability to rewire itself) and neurogenesis (creation of new neurons) during its full lifetime, leading to a new understanding of what aging means. In this class, we will review the science behind some of key concepts in this field and explore their implications on our lifestyles: neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, the Cognitive Reserve theory for healthy aging, computer-based cognitive training programs, emotional self-regulation, and the 4 pillars for lifelong Brain Health. We have all heard “Use it or lose it”. Latest research suggests, “Use it and improve it”.

If you are interested in learning more about the classes, you can attend the open House on Tuesday, September 18, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley. I can only say that the SFSU classes were a lot of fun and I am sure the Berkeley ones will be as compelling.

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