Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


AARP’s Best Books Series: Brain Fitness

We are pleased to report that the AARP’s Best Books Series: Brain Fit­ness List (link opens PDF doc­u­ment you can view, down­load and print at AARP web­site) is finally offi­cially avail­able, described as “a list­ing for pub­lic libraries of well-prepared books on main­tain­ing a sharp and fit mind through­out the aging process.” Read the rest of this entry »

Update: 15 FAQs on Neuroplasticity / Brain Plasticity

Here you have the Octo­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness topics.

We recently run an online sur­vey among sub­scribers of our monthly eNewslet­ter, and over 500 peo­ple neuroplasticity faqssaid we have helped them make bet­ter per­sonal or pro­fes­sional deci­sions on how to main­tain and improve brain fit­ness. Respon­dents also had many good ques­tions to ask, so I have selected 15 com­mon ones, paraphrased/ syn­the­sized them below, and answered them by link­ing to our most rel­e­vant posts and resources. I hope you enjoy the FAQ session.

Q: I teach a brain fit­ness class at my library/ senior center/ school, using much of your info. Can you share some of your pre­sen­ta­tions?
A: Yes, we have just decided to share, using a Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion No Deriv­a­tives License, the full pre­sen­ta­tion of my recent book talk at New York Pub­lic Library (opens video in YouTube). As long as you give credit to Sharp­Brains and don’t mod­ify it, you are free to use the pre­sen­ta­tion you can view and down­load HERE.

Q: What exactly does neu­ro­plas­tic­ity neurons in actionmean, and why is it so impor­tant for edu­ca­tion and health?
A: Start by read­ing how learn­ing changes your brain.

Q. Is this only rel­e­vant for older adults? Can I also apply it in the work­place (I am 47)
A. I strongly sus­pect you do have a human brain, so you may ben­e­fit from these Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains. Fur­ther, HR depart­ments would do well to start pay­ing more atten­tion to Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and the Mature Work­force trends.

Q. I read so many con­flict­ing things I don’t know where to start.
A. You are not alone. We should all be aware that It is Not Only Cars That Deserve Good Main­te­nance: Brain Care 101.

Q. How can my orga­ni­za­tion deliver brain fit­ness activ­i­ties as a com­mu­nity ser­vice?
A. These arti­cles will pro­vide good guide­lines and ideas: Retool­ing Use It or Lose It , and Pub­lic Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.

Q. Every­one seems obsessed with brain games. What about med­i­ta­tion?
A. Check out Yes, You Can Build Willpower, and Mind­ful­ness Med­i­ta­tion in Schools.

Q. Are software-based cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions effec­tive?
A. As a cat­e­gory, it cer­tainly seems so, as long as we ask the right ques­tions, For Whom, For What?. For exam­ple, did you see this Sci­ence paper on how Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Can Influ­ence Dopamine Sys­tem?.

Q. What about the trade-off between time invested vs ben­e­fits real­ized.
A. Effi­ciency and replic­a­bil­ity of cog­ni­tive and brain-based out­comes seem to be, in fact, the strongest points of struc­tured cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions. They seem to max­i­mize the Cog­ni­tive Value of your Men­tal Work­out.

Q. It some­times looks like the whole field came out of nowhere, due to Nin­tendo Brain Age’s suc­cess, so we can’t be talk­ing about some­thing seri­ous.

A: Nin­tendo did indeed cre­ate con­sumer aware­ness (for a prod­uct with lit­tle evi­dence) but “brain train­ing” has solid roots in neu­ropsy­chol­ogy and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, as you can read in our inter­view with Elkhonon Gold­berg.

Q. What about neu­ro­feed­back?
A. After years of much clin­i­cal use and lit­tle solid evi­dence, sev­eral impor­tant tri­als have been pub­lished since 2009, show­ing how neu­ro­feed­back can help diag­nose and treat ADHD patients, for exam­ple.

Q. How can one improve mem­ory?

A. Well, the answer deserves a whole book, but we can offer some Tips to Improve Mem­ory includ­ing Sleep, Prac­tice and Test­ing.

Q. How can I brain fitness bookschoose one among the num­ber of prod­ucts mak­ing mem­ory and brain claims?
A. We sug­gest you use this Eval­u­a­tion check­list, and con­sider read­ing our con­sumer guide/ book.

Q. Any gen­eral tips for edu­ca­tors and life­long learn­ers?
A. Indeed, here you have these 10 Brain Tips to Teach and Learn.

Q. How can I keep track of all the new brain fitness market infographictrends, com­pa­nies and prod­ucts? Our health system/ insurer/ senior community/ ven­ture firm/ com­pany needs to make good deci­sions.
A. Well, that’s why we pub­lish mar­ket research, such as the one sum­ma­rized in this Info­graphic: State of the Mar­ket 2009 and also recently launched a pro­fes­sional Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion.

Q: Thank you for all the infor­ma­tion you provide…but what I want more of is… brain teasers!
A. Under­stood. We will make sure to offer more, but you can try, right now, these Top 50 Brain Teasers and con­tinue with more recent puz­zles and brain games.

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article!)

(Editor’s note: this arti­cle belongs to the excel­lent May 2009 spe­cial issue on Aug­ment­ing Frontiers in Neuroscience Augmenting CognitionCog­ni­tion of sci­en­tific jour­nal Fron­tiers in Neu­ro­science, Vol­ume 3, Issue 1. You can order this issue, for 50 euros, here. Highly rec­om­mended for sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cal read­ers inter­ested in the sci­ence. This arti­cle, an indus­try overview, is repro­duced here with autho­riza­tion by the Fron­tiers Research Foun­da­tion).

Prepar­ing Soci­ety for the Cog­ni­tive Age

- By Alvaro Fernandez

Ground­break­ing cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science research has occurred over the last 20 years — with­out par­al­lel growth of con­sumer aware­ness and appro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional dis­sem­i­na­tion. “Cog­ni­tion” remains an elu­sive con­cept with unclear impli­ca­tions out­side the research community.

Ear­lier this year, I pre­sented a talk to health care pro­fes­sion­als at the New York Acad­emy of Med­i­cine, titled “Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware: Help­ing Con­sumers Sep­a­rate Hope from Hype”. I explained what com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools can do (assess/enhance spe­cific cog­ni­tive func­tions), what they can­not do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the cur­rent uncer­tain­ties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms). At the same sym­po­sium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Direc­tor of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try at Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter, pro­vided guid­ance on why and how to screen for exec­u­tive func­tion deficits in the con­text of dementia.

I could per­ceive two emerg­ing trends at the event: 1) “Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion” research is most com­monly framed as a health­care, often phar­ma­co­log­i­cal topic, with the tra­di­tional cog­ni­tive bias in med­i­cine of focus­ing on detec­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, 2) In addi­tion, there is a grow­ing inter­est in non-invasive enhance­ment options and over­all lifestyle issues. Research find­ings in Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion are only just begin­ning to reach the main­stream mar­ket­place, mostly through health­care chan­nels. The oppor­tu­nity is immense, but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, both through health­care and non-healthcare channels.

In Jan­u­ary 2009, we polled the 21,000 sub­scribers of Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket research eNewslet­ter to iden­tify atti­tudes and behav­iors towards the “brain fit­ness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a num­ber of con­sumer sur­veys and focus groups to con­nect with a wider audi­ence). Over 2,000 decision-makers and early adopters responded to the survey.

One of the key ques­tions we asked was, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some exam­ples of the sur­vey free text answers are quoted here, together with my suggestions.

Most impor­tant prob­lems in the brain fit­ness field

Pub­lic aware­ness (39%): “To get peo­ple to under­stand that hered­ity alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing”. We need to ramp up efforts to build pub­lic aware­ness and enthu­si­asm about brain research, includ­ing estab­lish­ing clear links to daily liv­ing. We can col­lab­o­rate with ini­tia­tives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Aware­ness Week and use the recent “Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts” mate­ri­als devel­oped by the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science to give talks at schools, libraries and workplaces.

Claims (21%): “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Public Libraries as Health Clubs for the Brain

Here you have the July edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Pub­lic libraries have long offered the pub­lic more than books. And now, recent demo­graphic and sci­en­tific trends are con­verg­ing to fun­da­men­tally trans­form the role of libraries in our cul­ture. You may enjoy read­ing this recent arti­cle I wrote for the May-June 2009 Issue of Aging Today, the bimonthly pub­li­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging: Pub­lic Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.

The Big Picture

Can You Out­smart Your Genes? An Inter­view with Author Richard Nis­bett: David DiS­alvo inter­views Richard Nis­bett, the author of Intel­li­gence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cul­tures Count, who has emerged as a per­sua­sive voice mar­shalling evi­dence to dis­prove the heredity-is-destiny argument.

Yes, You Can Build Willpower: Daniel Gole­man dis­cusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to other brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­fully, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Bird’s Eye View of Cog­ni­tive Health Inno­va­tion: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez opened the Cog­ni­tive Health Track dur­ing the Games for Health Con­fer­ence (June 11-12th, Boston) with an overview of the seri­ous games, soft­ware and online appli­ca­tions that can help assess and train cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. The pre­sen­ta­tion is avail­able Here.

Brain Tests and Myths

The Best Mem­ory Tests, from the Alzheimer’s Action Plan: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy dis­cusses the Pros and Cons of the most com­mon assess­ments to iden­tify cog­ni­tive prob­lems, includ­ing what the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) does and doesn´t, and inno­v­a­tive com­put­er­ized neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to “pre­vent mem­ory prob­lems” right around the cor­ner? Does “aging” equal “decline”? Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths on brain health.


Free Webi­nar: On July 21st, 10am Pacific Time/ 1pm East­ern Time, Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, co-authors of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, will cover the main high­lights from this new book and address the ques­tions sub­mit­ted by read­ers. You can learn more and reg­is­ter HERE.

Research Ref­er­ences:  This is a par­tial list of the sci­en­tific stud­ies reviewed dur­ing the research phase of SharpBrains’s new book, orga­nized by rel­e­vant chap­ter, for those of you who like to explore top­ics in depth by read­ing orig­i­nal research (per­haps PubMed should pro­mote itself as a never end­ing source of men­tal stimulation?).

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers on Brain Fit­ness: Are you ready to test your knowl­edge of sev­eral key brain fit­ness met­rics? For exam­ple: How many sol­diers in the US Army have gone through com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive test­ing before being deployed, and why?
Finally, a request: if you have already read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, and could write a brief cus­tomer review at, we would surely appre­ci­ate! The book page is Here.

Best regards, and enjoy the month

Cognitive News November-December 2008

Here you have sev­eral recent arti­cles and devel­op­ments wor­thy of attention:Brain Health News

1) Boom times for brain train­ing games (CNN)
2) Nav­i­gat­ing the brain fit­ness land­scape: do’s and don’ts (McKnight’s Long Term Care News)
3) USA Hockey and Intel­li­gym (press release)
4) Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library (NYPL blog)
5) McDon­nell Foun­da­tion grant har­nesses cog­ni­tive sci­ence to improve stu­dent learn­ing (press release)
6) Health insur­ance firms offer­ing online cog­ni­tive ther­apy for insom­nia (Los Ange­les Times)
7) Head­Min­der Cog­ni­tive Sta­bil­ity Index: Com­put­er­ized Neu­rocog­ni­tive … (Press release)
8) THE AGE OF MASS INTELLIGENCE (Intel­li­gent Life)
9) Work­ing Later in Life May Facil­i­tate Neural Health (Cere­brum)
10) The Cool Fac­tor: Never Let Them See You Sweat (New York Times)

Links, selected quotes and com­men­tary: Read the rest of this entry »

Posit Science Program Classic and InSight: Alzheimer’s Australia

Brain-fitness plan can improve mem­ory (Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald), reports on the recent endorse­ment of Posit Science’s pro­grams (Posit Sci­ence Pro­gram Clas­sic, focused on audi­tory pro­cess­ing train­ing, and Posit Sci­ence Cor­tex with InSight, on visual pro­cess­ing). Quotes: Read the rest of this entry »


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