Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Update: Does Cognitive Training Work?

Here you have the Feb­ru­ary edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Brain FitnessNewslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Cog­ni­tive train­ing (or struc­tured men­tal exer­cise) def­i­nitely seems to work — as long as we define prop­erly what “work” means, don’t expect magic cures, and help nav­i­gate options. Please keep reading…

Inter­view: Bay­crest

Inter­view with Baycrest’s CEO Dr. William Reich­man: Dis­cussing the recent Cen­tre for Brain Fit­ness at Bay­crest, Dr. Reich­man sug­gests that “we have an oppor­tu­nity to make major progress in Brain Health in the XXI cen­tury, sim­i­lar to what hap­pened with Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Health in the XXth, and tech­nol­ogy will play a cru­cial role.” A major obsta­cle? We need a con­sen­sus on “widely accepted stan­dards for out­come measures”.

Does It Work?

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): The grow­ing field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (one of the tools for brain fit­ness) can appear very con­fus­ing as the media keeps report­ing con­tra­dic­tory claims. These claims are often based on press releases, with­out a deeper under­stand­ing of the sci­en­tific evi­dence. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, Sharp­Brains’ Research Man­ager for Edu­ca­tional Ini­tia­tives, ana­lyzes a cou­ple of recent stud­ies, clar­i­fy­ing what they mean — and what they don’t mean.

It Works, and It Doesn’t Work: the IMPACT study (a major, multi-site study on the Posit Sci­ence audi­tory pro­gram) will be pub­lished at the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety in April. Results sup­port that cog­ni­tive train­ing works — but doesn’t sup­port the grandiose “brain age” claims we see too often.

Cog­ni­tive Train­ing can Influ­ence Brain Bio­chem­istry: Dr. David Rabiner dis­cusses a recent sci­en­tific study that “shows that brain bio­chem­istry can be mod­i­fied by expe­ri­ence”, and that com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing (Cogmed work­ing mem­ory train­ing) can pro­vide that experience.

The Big Picture

Mak­ing Healthy Choices — Pri­mare Care and Pre­ven­tion: a panel at the recent World Eco­nomic Forum explored why “New mar­kets and indus­tries are aris­ing sil­ver indus­tries such as finan­cial ser­vices, health, hous­ing and hos­pi­tal­ity geared to senior cit­i­zens. Longevity needs to be linked to health includ­ing cog­ni­tive health and lifestyle choices play a major role in health.”

Enrich your envi­ron­ment now and ben­e­fit your future off­spring: Dr. Robert Syl­wester reports that “all sorts of long held-beliefs about our brain and cog­ni­tion are being re– exam­ined by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists” because of fas­ci­nat­ing stud­ies such as the one he reviews (with mice): “The study’s find­ings seemed to sug­gest that acquired char­ac­ter­is­tics can be genet­i­cally transmitted…long-term ben­e­fits accrue from a stim­u­lat­ing early envi­ron­ment that encour­ages curios­ity and exploration.”

Man­ag­ing Emotions

From Dis­tress to De-Stress: help­ing anx­ious, wor­ried kids: In a detailed 2-part arti­cle, (Part 1, Part 2), Dr. Jerome Schultz pro­vides great tips on how to help chil­dren learn to self-regulate emo­tions, adding that “Teach­ers, occu­pa­tional ther­a­pists, phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion teach­ers and par­ents need to actu­ally teach chil­dren (of all ages) how to get them­selves into a phys­i­cal state of being relaxed. This doesn’t hap­pen auto­mat­i­cally. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many adult yoga classes!”

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeed­back: You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman. The intro­duc­tion to the sec­ond episode shows why what are called “lie detec­tors” are noth­ing but biofeed­back sys­tems that mea­sure phys­i­o­log­i­cal anxiety.

News

Brain Games for Baby Boomers: round-up of other recent news, cov­er­ing the effects of gam­ing, cog­ni­tive train­ing for dri­ving skills, and brain fit­ness classes.

Neu­rocog­ni­tive assess­ments and sports con­cus­sions: a new study and a new resource to under­stand and address the 1.6 to 3.8 mil­lion cases of sports-related con­cus­sions that occur annu­ally in the United States.

Brain Teaser

How will you, your orga­ni­za­tion, your neigh­bors, par­tic­i­pate in Brain Aware­ness Week, March 16th-22nd, orga­nized by the Dana Foun­da­tion with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of thou­sands of out­reach part­ners, includ­ing Sharp­Brains? You can find event ideas, excel­lent resources (yes, includ­ing puz­zles), and a cal­en­dar of events, Here.

Have a great month of March!

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeedback

You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman.

The sec­ond episode, which you can watch for free via Hulu.com Here, is pretty inter­est­ing, but the best part hap­pens in the begin­ning, so you only need to watch a few min­utes to learn why what are called “lie detec­tors” are noth­ing but biofeed­back sys­tems that mea­sure phys­i­o­log­i­cal anxiety.

Biofeed­back can be a very effec­tive train­ing tool for emo­tional self-regulation and stress man­age­ment, pre­cisely because it enables a faster feedback-based learn­ing loop. Indeed, we are see­ing a grow­ing num­ber of appli­ca­tions in the mar­ket, with names such as EmWave, StressEraser, RES­PeR­ATE, Jour­ney to the Wild Divine, and others.

Sim­ply, don’t believe the tech­nol­ogy is an effec­tive lie detector.

Car­o­line and I wrote an arti­cle on Paul Ekman’s work a cou­ple of years ago — let me repub­lish it now, given his work has made it all the way to main­stream TV!

braintop Paul Ekman has con­ducted exten­sive research on iden­ti­fy­ing emo­tions through facial expres­sions. As part of that research, and as part of the power of dis­ci­pline and train­ing, he learned how to con­sciously manip­u­late 42 facial mus­cles, includ­ing many that in most of us are beyond our con­trol, and even awareness.

In the 60s and 70s when Ekman began look­ing into the uni­ver­sal­ity of facial expres­sions, all the major con­tem­po­rary social sci­en­tists, like Mar­garet Mead, believed that expres­sions were cul­tur­ally learned, not innate. He trav­eled all over the world with pic­tures of peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinct facial expres­sions and found peo­ple in cul­tures every­where, from mod­ern to stone age, agreed on the emo­tion behind the expres­sion. He then turned to Read the rest of this entry »

Learn about the 2014 SharpBrains Summit in 2 minutes

Watch Larry King’s interview

» Click HERE in the USA, or HERE else­where (opens 28-min program)

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