Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Why investment in brain research is an intelligent investment

human-brainHealthy Brain: Healthy Europe Conference (speech by the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science):

“…Brain research and innovation contribute to Europe 2020‘s, aims not just by improving quality of life and helping integrate patients back into their social and working lives, but also Read the rest of this entry »

Promoting Mental Agility through Cognitive Control and Mental Representation

The words, The Agile Mind captured my attention immediately. The title conveyed energy, innovation, change, bouncing on a trampoline in my head. I knew that investigating the book would be an adventure.

As soon as the book The Agile Mind by Wilma Koutstaal was in my hands, I explored the 24-page index, looking for my favorite topic, problem-solving thinking. On page 29 I accessed a brand new take on the intuitive versus rational problem solving challenge. A central aspect of mental agility Read the rest of this entry »

MetLife Mature Market Institute: Meaning, Purpose and Cognitive Health for a Lifelong Good Life

Increased longevity has generated many questions and much interest in healthy aging and retirement lifestyles over the recent decades. As Americans become educated regarding lifestyle choices that contribute to both physical and mental health, the definition of healthy aging has expanded to include brain health.

The notion of retirement as a time of withdrawal from society, to be spent on rest and repose reflected the thinking of a previous era when people expected shorter life spans. It is now known that the human brain benefits from environments rich in novel and complex stimuli, and that by actively participating in society and taking on personally relevant roles, people find meaning and purpose, which gives them a reason to get up in the morning and pursue new challenges.

This year, the MetLife Mature Market Institute published a research study titled Discovering What Matters: Balancing Money, Medicine and Meaning. The study explored how people rebalance their priorities over time and juggle various competing aspects of life including money, medicine (a metaphor for health) and meaning, in order to live the Good Life.  Having purpose was found to Read the rest of this entry »

The brain virtues of physical exercise

Dr. Adrian Preda, our newest Expert Contributor, writes today the first in a series of thought-provoking articles,physical exercise for the brain challenging us to think about physical exercise as the best and most unappreciated form of “brain exercise”. A superb article.

And one thing is clear, he points out: “the brain really likes it when it’s asked to be “active”. Passive audiences, which are spoon fed information, score less well when tested on retention and understanding of the presented material than audiences that were kept engaged through the process.”

So, will you write a comment below and contribute to an engaging conversation? Thoughts? reactions? questions?
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Don’t ignore plain old common sense.

Brain Lessons Part 1

— By Adrian Preda, M.D.

Let me start with a list of common biases: expensive is better than cheap, free is of dubious value (why would then be free?), rare is likely to be valuable, and while new is better than old, ancient is always best. Which explains a common scenario that is reenacted about twice a week in my office. It starts like this: a patient shows me a fancy looking bottle of the brain supplement of the week: ancient roots with obscure names mixed together in another novel combination which you can exclusively find in that one and only store (rarity oblige!). And not to forget: it ain’t cheap either! Of course, there it is, the perfect the recipe for success: ancient yet new, rare and expensive. It got to be good! But is it, really?

Read the rest of this entry »

Looking inside the Brain: is my Brain Fit?

MRI scanner neuroimaging

Today we have the pleasure to have Dr. Pascale Michelon, one of our new Expert Contributors, write her first article here. Enjoy, and please comment so we hear your thoughts and engage in a nice conversation.

(Btw, if you notice some similarity between the colors in the fMRI scan below and the look & feel of this site…well, the reason is that those orange-grey fMRI colors were our inspiration! the orange color denotes the most brain activation).

– Alvaro

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You have probably heard about CAT and MRI scans (produced thanks to machines like the one to the top right). So you know that these are techniques that doctors and scientists use to look inside the brain.

You have probably also heard about brain fitness and how important it is to keep a healthy brain to be protected against age-related and disease-related brain damages.

The question we ask here is the following: Can we use brain scans to evaluate how fit the brain is? Before we try to answer this question let’s start with the basics and try to understand how brain scans work.

Brain imaging, also called neuroimaging, allows one to Read the rest of this entry »

On The Brain

neuronsVery intense week, and very fun. I will be writing more about this week’s 3 speaking events, but let me say now that our key messages

1) our brains remain flexible during our lifetimes,

2) we can refine our brains with targeted practice,

3) good brain exercise, or “mental cross-training”, requires novelty, variety, and increasing level of challenge (but without creating too much stress),

are being very well accepted from both healthy aging and workplace productivity points of view. We have ONE brain: health and productivity are 2 sides of the same coin.

If you want to make sure we learn more about our brains, you can help fellow blogger Shelley Batts get a college scholarship by voting here. She has a great neuroscience blog, is now finalist in a competition to win a nice scholarship, and needs out help.

Have some more time? You can watch this excellent 90-second video of cognitive neuroscientist Dr Lisa Saksida doing yoga in front of the fire while explaining the nature of Brain and Mind (via MindHacks). Quotes:

“I wish people understood that there is no mind/brain duality. Specifically, I wish people understood that there is no such thing as a purely psychological disorder. Every event in your psychological life, and therefore every psychological change, is reducible in theory to events and changes in your brain. We should therefore not judge people differently, according to whether they are considered to have a ‘psychological’ as opposed to a ‘neurological’ problem.”

“Of course, a lack of mind/brain split does not mean that we should abandon all talk of psychology. Psychology and neuroscience are two ways of studying the same thing, and both are essential for understanding the human condition.”

For more, check the posts in these always great blog carnivals (selected collections of blog posts by a number of bloggers around specific topics)

Tangled Bank (science in general)

Encephalon (neuroscience)

Credit: Photo of Neurons by symphanee via flickr

Brain Fitness @ Education, Training, Health events

Brain Fitness eventsIn what category does Brain Fitness fit? Education, Productivity and Training, Health? Most of the interest so far has come from a Healthy Aging angle, but we are starting to see broader interest, as in the events below. After all, isn’t working on our brains relevant to all those markets?.

2 busy weeks: I am attending/ speaking at a variety of events. I will make sure to blog at least the take-aways from the main events daily, and Caroline will also add her perspective as much as possible.

A) October 3-6th: The Aspen Health Forum at the Aspen Institute

B) October 9th: First session of my class The Science of Brain Health and Brain Fitness at the UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)

C) October 10th: Teaching Brain Fitness in Your Community, workshop at an American Society on Aging (ASA) conference for health professionals

D) October 10th: Science at Work, Interview at the event The Future of Work: Amplified Individuals, Amplified Organizations, organized by the Institute for the Future

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A) October 3-6th: The Aspen Health Forum at the Aspen Institute. This promises to be a fascinating event. See below the panels I am attending-I will make sure to write some notes every day to keep you in the discussion.

Wednesday October 3rd:

Great Expectations: American Attitudes toward Personal Responsibility and Medicine

Healthcare Re-Imagined: Learning from Olympic Athletes

Thursday 4th:

The Damaged Brain: The Fight Against Neurodegeneration

The Human Element: A Candid Conversation about Pioneers of Modern Medicine

The Last Frontier: The Mind

Global Scientific Investment

Science Versus the Biological Clock Read the rest of this entry »

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