Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Alzheimer’s Disease: Treatment Directions

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  was sub­se­quently included in a num­ber of neu­ro­science an psy­chol­ogy blogs. Ear­lier this year we high­lighted this piece on Musi­cal train­ing as men­tal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, writ­ten by Megan.

This quar­ter, Jef­frey also sent us his stu­dents’ essays, and we are going to rec­og­nize and pub­lish this great essay by high school stu­dent Kristin H.


Alzheimer’s Dis­ease

– By Kristin H.

Alzheimer’s is a dis­ease which causes peo­ple, gen­er­ally of an older age, to lose mem­ory and for­get how to accom­plish sim­ple tasks. Demen­tia is the dis­ease which Alzheimer’s is a part and about four mil­lion Amer­i­cans were diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999, a num­ber which is expected to grow (Alt­man 8–9). Demen­tia is an unspe­cific brain dis­ease com­monly asso­ci­ated with mem­ory loss and another seri­ous brain dys­func­tion. Demen­tia is an incur­able dis­ease (“Demen­tia”). A new drug treat­ment that replaces the enzyme miss­ing in an Alzheimer’s brain may be able to cure Alzheimer’s dis­ease in it’s late stages (Coghlan).

Read the rest of this entry »

Report: The State of the Brain Fitness/ Training Software Market 2008

After many months of work (and we hope many new neu­rons and stronger synapses in our brains), we have just released our inau­gural report on the emerg­ing Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket, Brain Fitness Software the first to define the brain fit­ness and train­ing soft­ware mar­ket and ana­lyze the size and trends of its four cus­tomer seg­ments. We esti­mate the size of the US brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket at $225M in2007, up from $100m in 2005 (50% CAGR). The two seg­ments that fueled the mar­ket growth: con­sumers (grew from $5m to $80m, 300% CAGR) and health­care & insur­ance providers (grew from $36m to $65m, 35% CAGR).

High­lights from The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 report include:

1) 2007 was a sem­i­nal year for the US Brain Fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket, which reached $225 mil­lion in rev­enues – up from an esti­mated $100 mil­lion in 2005.

2) Over 20 com­pa­nies are offer­ing tools to assess and train cog­ni­tive skills to four cus­tomer seg­ments: con­sumers; health­care and insur­ance providers; K12 school sys­tems; and For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies, the mil­i­tary, and sports teams.

3) The Nin­tendo Brain Age/ Brain Train­ing phe­nom­e­non has dri­ven much of the growth. The con­sumer seg­ment grew from a few mil­lion in 2005 to an esti­mated $80 mil­lion in 2007.

4) There is major con­fu­sion in the mar­ket, so edu­ca­tion will be key. Users and buy­ers need help to nav­i­gate the maze of prod­ucts and claims.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carnival of Education #159: Briefing the Next US President on 35 Issues

Dear Mr or Mrs Next US President,

Thank you for stop­ping dur­ing recess for a quick study sessiMeditation School Studentson. 35 edu­ca­tors have col­lab­o­rated to present this Car­ni­val of Edu­ca­tion as a use­ful les­son plan for you and your edu­ca­tion pol­icy team on what our real con­cerns and sug­ges­tions are.

In case this is your first visit to our Sharp­Brains blog, let me first of all point out some use­ful resources to stay sane dur­ing the rest of the cam­paign: selected Brain Teasers, a list of 21 great Brain Books, over a dozen inter­views with lead­ing sci­en­tists on learn­ing and brain-based top­ics, and more.

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s pro­ceed to the issues raised. We hope they pro­vide, at the very least, good men­tal stim­u­la­tion for you and your advisors.

Edu­ca­tion as a System

The First Step Is Failure

Joanne Jacobs, edu­ca­tor, blog­ger and author of Our School: The Inspir­ing Story of Two Teach­ers, One Big Idea and the Char­ter School That Beat the Odds, par­tic­i­pates today in our Author Speaks Series with an excel­lent arti­cle on how “Schools won’t improve until admin­is­tra­tors and teach­ers can admit the prob­lems, ana­lyze what’s going wrong and try new strate­gies. Stu­dents won’t improve if they think they’re “spe­cial” just the way they are.” Enjoy, and feel free to add your com­ment to engage in a stim­u­lat­ing conversation.Our School: Joanne Jacobs

The First Step Is Failure
By Joanne Jacobs

When self-esteem became an edu­ca­tion watch­word in 1986, I thought it was a harm­less fad. I was wrong: It wasn’t harm­less. Many teach­ers were per­suaded that stu­dents should be pumped up with praise, regard­less of their per­for­mance. Schools low­ered expec­ta­tions so stu­dents couldn’t fail. Every­one got an “I Am Spe­cial” sticker. Till the stan­dards and account­abil­ity move­ment kicked in, stu­dents often were judged by how they felt about learn­ing not by whether they’d actu­ally learned something.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Schools (Cognitively) Nutritive for Children’s Complex Thinking?

Today we host a very stim­u­lat­ing essay on the impor­tance of problem-solving and encour­ag­ing com­plex game-playing for children’s com­plete “cog­ni­tive nutri­tion”. Enjoy!


Children’s Com­plex Thinking

– By Tom O’Brien and Chris­tine Wallach

Pop over to your neigh­bor­hood school and visit some class­rooms. Is what’s hap­pen­ing cog­ni­tively nutri­tive? That is, does it sat­isfy present needs and pro­vide nour­ish­ment for the future health and devel­op­ment of children’s thinking?

Or is it puni­tive, with lit­tle con­cern for present nour­ish­ment and future health and development?

The Genevan psy­chol­o­gist and researcher Her­mina Sin­clair said, Read the rest of this entry »

Cells that fire together wire together” and Stanford Media X

That is the goal of Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Media X: to fos­ter deep col­lab­o­ra­tions between indus­try and acad­e­mia, as high­lighted in Busi­ness Week’s recent arti­cle The Vir­tual Meet­ing Room. The 5th Annual Media X Con­fer­ence on Research, Col­lab­o­ra­tion, Inno­va­tion and Pro­duc­tiv­ity served its pur­pose well for the last cou­ple of days: very fun and insight­ful pre­sen­ta­tions by Stan­ford researchers (and a few exter­nal experts) and a great list of par­tic­i­pants to get to know.

No doubt, a great source of men­tal stim­u­la­tion for all of us. Charles House, Media X’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, framed the dia­logue as an effort to gen­er­ate the right ques­tions and then engage the best minds in answer­ing them.

Some of (my) main take-aways

  • The world does not come to us as neat dis­ci­pli­nary prob­lems, but as com­plex inter­dis­ci­pli­nary chal­lenges” (great quote by Dean John Hen­nessy)
  • Per­sonal Robot­ics is poised to explode soon-and soft­ware will be key (pre­dicted by Paul Saffo)
  • An incon­ve­nient truth: Al Gore had to be con­vinced to bring his pre­sen­ta­tion into a movie, since he was very attached to each and every of his X hun­dred slides. We are happy it happened!
  • Neu­ro­sci­en­tists know what pat­terns in the brain indi­cate cer­tain intentions-and are start­ing to use tech­nolo­gies to help immo­bi­lized patients com­mu­ni­cate with exter­nal devices based merely on their thoughts
  • We need to learn to embrace change– a lot of it is coming!

Now, some key points from sev­eral pre­sen­ta­tions (there were more than these, but I couldn’t attend all). I encour­age you to visit the web­site of each pre­sen­ter if you are inter­ested in learn­ing more about that topic.

a. Paul Saffo on Inno­va­tion

  • It usu­ally takes 20 years since basic sci­ence until appli­ca­tions reach inflec­tion point and take the world by storm
  • Next big thing: per­sonal robot­ics. Indi­ca­tors: Read the rest of this entry »


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