Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Top 10 Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness Books

Here you have The 10 Most Pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness & Cog­ni­tive Health Books, based on book pur­chases by Sharp­Brains’ read­ers dur­ing 2008.


Brain Rules-John Medina
1. Brain Rules: 12 Prin­ci­ples for Sur­viv­ing and Thriv­ing at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)
- Dr. John Med­ina, Direc­tor of the Brain Cen­ter for Applied Learn­ing Research at Seat­tle Pacific Uni­ver­sity, writes an engag­ing and com­pre­hen­sive intro­duc­tion to the many daily impli­ca­tions of recent brain research. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Rules: sci­ence and prac­tice for Sharp­Brains readers.
2. The Beck Diet Solu­tion: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Per­son (Oxmoor House, March 2007)
- Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­apy and Research, con­nects the world of research-based cog­ni­tive ther­apy with a main­stream appli­ca­tion: main­tain­ing weight-loss. Inter­view notes here.
3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­sonal Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence (Viking, March 2007)
- Dr. Nor­man Doidge, psy­chi­a­trist and author of this New York Times best­seller, brings us “a com­pelling col­lec­tion of tales about the amaz­ing abil­i­ties of the brain to rewire, read­just and relearn”. Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the book review here.
Spark John Ratey
4. Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary New Sci­ence of Exer­cise and the Brain(Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pany, Jan­u­ary 2008)
- Dr. John Ratey, an asso­ciate clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­ical School, sum­ma­rizes the grow­ing research on the brain ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exer­cise. Lau­rie Bar­tels puts this research in per­spec­tive here.
5. The Art of Chang­ing the Brain: Enrich­ing the Prac­tice of Teach­ing by Explor­ing the Biol­ogy of Learn­ing (Sty­lus Pub­lish­ing, Octo­ber 2002)
- Dr. James Zull, Direc­tor Emer­i­tus of the Uni­ver­sity Cen­ter for Inno­va­tion in Teach­ing and Edu­ca­tion at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­sity, writes a must-read for edu­ca­tors and life­long learn­ers. Inter­view notes here.
6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves (Bal­lan­tine Books, Jan­u­ary 2007)
- Sharon Beg­ley, Newsweek’ excel­lent sci­ence writer, pro­vides an in-depth intro­duc­tion to the research on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity based on a Mind & Life Insti­tute event.
7. Thanks: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pier (Houghton Mif­flin, August 2007)
- Prof. Robert Emmons, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­ogy, writes a solid book that com­bines a research-based syn­the­sis of the topic as well as prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions. Inter­view notes here.
8. The Exec­u­tive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civ­i­lized Mind (Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press, Jan­u­ary 2001)
- Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at New York Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine, pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing per­spec­tive on the role of the frontal roles and exec­u­tive func­tions through the lifes­pan. Inter­view notes here.
Brain Trust Program 9. The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cally Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­ory (Perigee Trade, Sep­tem­ber 2007)
- Dr. Larry McCleary, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, cov­ers many lifestyle rec­om­men­da­tions for brain health in this prac­ti­cal book. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Evo­lu­tion and Health for SharpBrains.
10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Per­cep­tion, Atten­tion, and the Four The­aters of the Brain (Pan­theon, Jan­u­ary 2001)
– In this book (pre­vi­ous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing descrip­tion of how the brain works. An excel­lent Brain 101 book to any­one new to the field.

5 Tips on Lifelong Learning and Neuroplasticity for the Adult Brain


Learn­ing & the Brain is a con­fer­ence that gets marked on my cal­en­dar annu­ally because I always return home hav­ing either been exposed to new infor­ma­tion, or with a new per­spec­tive on an old topic. Last month’s con­fer­ence in Cam­bridge, MA, themed Using Emo­tions Research to Enhance Learn­ing & Achieve­ment, was no excep­tion. As with pre­vi­ous con­fer­ences, in addi­tion to the many keynote ses­sions, I focused on the adult learn­ing strand, since so much of my time is spent pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment for, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with adults. Here are five con­fer­ence cues as they relate to education.


Aaron Nel­son stated that our mem­ory starts to decline between ages twenty-five and thirty, or to phrase it a bit more pos­i­tively, Sam Wang says our mem­ory peaks around age thirty. On the other end of the age spec­trum, accord­ing to Ken Kosik, there is unequiv­o­cal evi­dence that edu­ca­tion pro­tects against Alzheimer’s. Both Nel­son and Kosik men­tioned the the­ory of cog­ni­tive reserve, which trans­lates roughly to the more we learn, the more con­nec­tions we cre­ate, and there­fore the greater the neu­ronal buffer we have to draw upon as we age.

Elkhonon Gold­berg of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness stated at last April’s con­fer­ence that “as one ages, the domain of the novel shrinks, and the domain of what is known grows”. He cau­tioned the audi­ence to beware of being on men­tal autopi­lot. Thus, the goal is not to sim­ply get bet­ter at doing more of the same. The type of learn­ing that makes a dif­fer­ence con­sists specif­i­cally of new, novel chal­lenges. The result of such engage­ment is that Read the rest of this entry »

Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

Back in July, I wrote a post enti­tled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to stu­dents of any age, includ­ing adults, for ide­ally adults are still learn­ers. Why is adult learn­ing rel­e­vant in a brain-focused blog, you may wonder:

The short of it

As we age, our brain:

still forms new brain cells
can change its struc­ture & func­tion
finds pos­i­tive stress can be ben­e­fi­cial; neg­a­tive stress can be detri­men­tal
can thrive on novel chal­lenges
needs to be exer­cised, just like our bodies

The long of it

Adults may have a ten­dency to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence, the theme of which was neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, I attended sev­eral ses­sions on adult learn­ing. Here’s what the experts are saying.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learning & the Brain: Resources for Educators

As promised in my pre­vi­ous post (10 Brain Train­ing Tips To Teach and Learn), here are some of the resources that inform my under­stand­ing of the brain: books, con­fer­ences, and websites.


There are a mul­ti­tude of books about the brain. For edu­ca­tors, the best of these are books that demys­tify the lan­guage of neu­ro­science while pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion applic­a­ble to the teaching/learning process.

Among the more pro­lific or well-known authors of this type include Jeb Schenck, Robert Syl­wester, Bar­bara Givens, Robert Marzano, Mar­ilee Sprenger, and Eric Jensen.

I have found books Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: mid-February Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesOur Jan­u­ary Newslet­ter received a good deal of feed­back from many read­ers. Based on it, our new approach is to select the top 10 most impor­tant arti­cles every other week. Please take a look at this first exper­i­ment, and let us know you feedback.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our blog RSS feed, or to our monthly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this newslet­ter by email).

Top 10 Arti­cles Feb­ru­ary 1st-15th:

News and Events

Stress Man­age­ment is Key Fac­tor For Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness: a great cover story in US News & World Report, and an excel­lent arti­cle in Pre­ven­tion Mag­a­zine that was high­lighted on the Today Show this week, both fea­ture the impor­tance of Read the rest of this entry »

Musical training as mental exercise for cognitive performance

We often hear (gladly!) how teach­ers use our blog arti­cles and brain teasers in their classes. We also hear how many psy­chol­ogy and biol­ogy teach­ers are get­ting their stu­dents excited about brain research, and, to con­tribute to their efforts, we like to rec­og­nize some great initiatives.

Last year, Jef­frey Gonce, a Psy­chol­ogy teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School Dis­trict, PA) asked his stu­dents to “com­plete a project describ­ing a recent brain (or genetic) study that affects behav­ior.” The stu­dents could opt to post their arti­cles online, and Jef­frey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results. We enjoyed read­ing them all, and pub­lished in our blog this beau­ti­ful essay, titled “Tis bet­ter to give than receive”, writ­ten by Alexan­dra, which Piano musical training was sub­se­quently included in a num­ber of neu­ro­science an psy­chol­ogy blogs.

This year, Jef­frey also sent us his stu­dents’ essays, and we are going to rec­og­nize and pub­lish this great essay by high school stu­dent Megan. Enjoy!

It has long been the source of sci­en­tific debate as to whether music can improve the cog­ni­tive processes in chil­dren. Referred to by some as “The Mozart Effect,” a strong Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Plasticity, Health and Fitness Books

As you may have noticed, we just changed a few things in our site, includ­ing prepar­ing a more solid Resources sec­tion. Please take a look at the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top.

One of the new pages, that we will update often, is an expanded Books page. Here are the books that we are rec­om­mend­ing now.

Fas­ci­nat­ing books on neu­ro­plas­tic­ity (the abil­ity of the brain to rewire itself through experience):

Sharon Begley: Train Your Mind, Change Your BrainTrain Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves — by Sharon Begley.


The Brain That Changes Itself - Norman DoidgeThe Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­sonal Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence — by Nor­man Doidge.


Great pop­u­lar sci­ence books by Read the rest of this entry »

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