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

——————–

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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