Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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?

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


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


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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