Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Learning & Brain Conference in Boston

The next Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence edi­tion is April 26–29, 2008, in Cam­bridge, MA. We rec­om­mend it highly for edu­ca­tors inter­ested in learn­ing more about lat­est brain research find­ings and impli­ca­tions for teach­ing. See Detailed pro­gram.

Descrip­tion: Cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science has dis­cov­ered that the brain is not ‘hard­wired’ from birth, but holds a remark­able life­long power to change—a phe­nom­e­non called ‘plas­tic­ity.’ Pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive envi­ron­ments, exer­cise, nur­tu­rance, learn­ing, and other expe­ri­ences con­tinue to change the brain through­out life.

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The new Mental Game: sport psychology, coaches, get ready!

One of the many Sharp Brains around, who is up to date of every­thing related to brain health and fit­ness (yes, Jeanne, that’s you! thanks for being such a great bureau chief!) has sent us a very inter­est­ing press note on how brain fit­ness and train­ing can be applied in the sports per­for­mance world. I haven’t been able to track down the research behind the spe­cific pro­grams men­tioned in the arti­cle, but the the­o­ret­i­cal ratio­nale makes sense based on sim­i­lar pro­grams we are famil­iar with: you can see below a sum­mary of our inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher, sci­en­tific mind behind computer-based cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions for mil­i­tary pilots and for bas­ket­ball play­ers.

The note Sports Vision Train­ing Takes Ath­letes to New Fron­tiers explains how

  • Spe­cialty sports vision facil­i­ties are help­ing ath­letes train skills that many believed were “untrain­able”; skills like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tempo, reac­tion speed, focus and concentration.”
  • What has every­one all worked up is the knowl­edge that they can actu­ally train ath­letic skills that many believed were “untrain­able.” We’re talk­ing about intan­gi­bles like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tempo, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion. “One of the worst mis­takes an ath­lete can make is to believe that you’re either born with or with­out these kinds of skills, and that they’re con­se­quently not train­able, says Brian Stam­mer, edi­tor of SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine. “If you want to be the best ath­lete you can be, you must do exer­cises to con­di­tion and sharpen your sen­sory sys­tem, includ­ing visual, audi­tory and brain-processing speed.
  • This is the link to the mag­a­zine they men­tion: SportsVi­sion Magazine

And here is the sum­mary of my (AF) inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher (DG) on Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions and cog­ni­tive training:

  • AF: …Can you sum­ma­rize your research find­ings across all these exam­ples and fields, and how you see the field evolving?
  • DG: In short, I’d sum­ma­rize by say­ing that
  • - Cog­ni­tive per­for­mance can be sub­stan­tially improved with proper train­ing. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: the Art and the emerging Science

Tom alerts us (thanks!) of a fun book review in the New York Times today, by Abi­gail Zuger, titled The Brain: Mal­leable, Capa­ble, Vul­ner­a­ble, on the book The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, $24.95) by psy­chi­a­trist Nor­man Doidge. Some quotes:

  • In book­stores, the sci­ence aisle gen­er­ally lies well away from the self-help sec­tion, with hard real­ity on one set of shelves and wish­ful think­ing on the other. But Nor­man Doidge’s fas­ci­nat­ing syn­op­sis of the cur­rent rev­o­lu­tion in neu­ro­science strad­dles this gap: the age-old dis­tinc­tion between the brain and the mind is crum­bling fast as the power of pos­i­tive think­ing finally gains sci­en­tific credibility.”
  • So it is for­giv­able that Dr. Doidge, a Cana­dian psy­chi­a­trist and award-winning sci­ence writer, recounts the accom­plish­ments of the “neu­ro­plas­ti­cians,”  as he calls the neu­ro­sci­en­tists involved in these new stud­ies, with breath­less rev­er­ence. Their work is indeed mind-bending, miracle-making, reality-busting stuff, with impli­ca­tions, as Dr. Doidge notes, not only for indi­vid­ual patients with neu­ro­logic dis­ease but for all human beings, not to men­tion human cul­ture, human learn­ing and human history.”
  • Research into the mal­leabil­ity of the nor­mal brain has been no less amaz­ing. Sub­jects who learn to play a sequence of notes on the piano develop char­ac­ter­is­tic changes in the brain’s elec­tric activ­ity; when other sub­jects sit in front of a piano and just think about play­ing the same notes, the same changes occur. It is the vir­tual made real, a solid quan­tifi­ca­tion of the power of thought.”
  • The new sci­ence of the brain may still be in its infancy, but already, as Dr. Doidge makes quite clear, the sci­en­tific minds are leap­ing ahead.”

Here you have some of our inter­views with a few “sci­en­tific minds” that have, for years, been “leap­ing ahead” beyond “pos­i­tive think­ing” into “pos­i­tive training”:

And a cou­ple of related blog posts:

Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost?

You’re dri­ving through sub­ur­bia one evening look­ing for the street where you’re sup­posed to have din­ner at a friend’s new house. You slow down to a crawl, turn down the radio, stop talk­ing, and stare at every sign. Why is that? Nei­ther the radio nor talk­ing affects your vision.

Or do they?
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