Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Top 10 Quotes on Lifelong Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis (and a Call to eBook Readers)

You may have  noticed that is sharing aggregated data on how ebook readers interact with the books they are reading. For example, the “Popular Highlights” section (towards the bottom of our Kindle book page) ranks the Top 10 sentences that Kindle readers have highlighted and shared while reading The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp (April 2009; 182 pages; ranked #1 in Kindle Store’s Preventive Medicine section).

This information is invaluable to authors and publishers – as you can imagine, we’ll make sure to not only maintain but to elaborate on these topics as we prepare future editions of the book.

So, what are so far the Top Ten Quotes on Lifelong Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis, Read the rest of this entry »

Our Brain on Music: We need to do more than listen

.What’s The Size Of The Mozart Effect? The Jury Is In.

In a now well-known 1993 paper in Nature called “Music and spatial task performance”, Frances H. Rauscher and her colleagues report that participants who were exposed to the first movement “allegro con spirito” of the Mozart Sonata KV 448 for Two Pianos in D major scored significantly higher on standardized tests of abstract/spatial reasoning ability than those who were instructed to relax or those who just sat there in silence.

Even though the participants in Rauscher et al.’s study were college students, and they didn’t administer a full battery of cognitive tests to properly assess general intelligence, their findings translated into “play Mozart to your children and they will grow up smart.” A cottage industry was born. Read the rest of this entry »

Take that Nap! It May Boost Your Learning Capacity Among Other Good Things.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite pastime is napping. In College, I would come back to my dorm room, and like clockwork, would take a nap. My best friend in England, who got quite a kick out of my passion for napping, once tried to persuade me to drink a cup of tea after lunch instead of taking my customary nap. I really tried, but I soon gave in to my nap cravings. Sometimes I feel like I really need to re-charge my brain batteries.

Well, now science is on my side. I just love this new study, which was presented by Matthew Walker, assistant professor at UC Berkeley, at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in San Diego this past Sunday (Feb. 2010).

Walker and his colleagues Bryce A. Mander and Sangeetha Santhanam split up a batch of 39 healthy young adults into two groups. One group napped, the other did not.

At noon, both groups took a learning task thought to recruit the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain known to play an important role in the formation of new memories. Over the past few years, various researchers have found that fact-based memories are temporarily stored in the hippocampus before other regions of the brain can operate on the content, especially the regions of the brain responsible for higher-order reasoning and thinking.  At this point in the experiment, both groups showed similar levels of performance.

Then, at 2pm, the nap group took a 90-minute nap while the no-nap group stayed awake, presumably watching the nap group enjoying their nap. After nap-time both groups then took more learning tests. The nappers did better on the tasks than those who stayed awake, demonstrating their higher capacity to learn. Read the rest of this entry »

Do You Mind?

Ask yourself the tough questions: Do you mind your brain? Do you know your noggin’? Can you claim cerebral ownership or is your mental a rental?

Although these questions are relevant at virtually all lifespan stages, firm answers can sometimes appear inconceivable.  Unfortunately with advancing age, attention to mental performance is often either abandoned or framed in terms of perceived impairment and decline.  Now, I have previously shared my message on minding the aging brain with SharpBrains readers.  As a cognitive neuropsychiatrist primarily interested in later-life phenomena, I tend to stick to my area of expertise.  Nevertheless, whether you are elder or not, I implore you to take these ideas to heart…do you mind?

Just as brain fitness is for all, aging is similarly universal.  Every thoughtful individual recognizes the unavoidable answer to “are you aging?”  However, the answer to “how are you aging?” is less obvious to most, and is even more obscure when considering lifespan cognitive trajectories.  In fact, no consensus lexicon yet exists to describe the ways in which cognition can be modulated to achieve desired lifestyle or clinical goals.

In my latest publication on technology-enabled cognitive training for healthy elders, I outline a proposed lexicon for positive cognition interventions, as well as a framework for classifying putative benefits of cognitive training.  Here, I will present these concepts without regard to age, as they apply equally well to all sapient sapiens:

?      Cognitive stimulation refers to nontargeted engagement that generally enhances mental functioning.  Examples might include educational endeavors or life review.

?      Cognitive training refers to theory-driven intervention, Read the rest of this entry »

Learning habits, learning styles: The most recent findings

For an excellent review of the most recent findings on learning habits, check out The New York Times recent article: Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits. Tons of unexpected and fascinating results!

The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on. For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention.

Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas.

Comment: The way we learn matters for two reasons: a) we need to efficiently retain some information for the various tasks we have to perform every day, but also b) learning induces neuroplastic changes in the brain, which  in turn may increase our brain reserve and brain health (see our prior article on Brain Plas­tic­ity: How learn­ing changes your brain).

Agenda: ASA Brain Health Day, Powered by SharpBrains

The American Society on Aging and SharpBrains have partnered to co-produce a American Society on Agingprofessional development day for professionals in the field of aging. The day is themed “New Tools, New Partnerships”, and will take place on Friday, September 11th, 2009, during ASA’s West Coast Conference on Aging, in the Oakland Marriot City Center, Oakland, CA.

“Given aging population trends, it is clear that we need more and better trained aging professionals, and that brain health needs to be a major component in that training. We are pleased to partner with SharpBrains to offer the latest thinking, best practices, and resources, to our members,” said Carole Anderson, Vice President of Education.

“The growing interest in brain health and fitness among consumers and professionals alike needs to be accompanied by high-quality educational initiatives to help separate reality from hope from hype. We are honored to partner with the American Society on Aging in this important endeavor,” said Alvaro Fernandez, CEO & co-founder of SharpBrains and co-author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness.

Description and How to Register
Since 2006, healthy aging pioneers have been actively evaluating and implementing an expanding menu of stimulating brain health programs. The American Society on Aging and SharpBrains have partnered to introduce aging professionals to the best practices in a variety of community-based and residential settings, discuss emerging trends that will affect your work in years to come, and offer you resources to understand and navigate through the growing array of options.

Participants will receive a complimentary and signed copy of the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (May 2009, $24.95).

Learning objectives are:

– Understand the complementary value the four main lifestyle pillars for lifelong brain health and why “mental exercise”, beyond simple “mental activity”, is one of them.
– Identify the best mix of brain health practices and technologies by discussing real world case studies in a variety of settings: adult education, independent living, assisted living.
– Discuss the opportunities and challenges of building innovative partnerships between a non-profit organizations and a for-profit companies.
– Explore emerging trends in research, public health, lifelong learning, and technology, to ensure that health and aging professionals are well equipped for years to come.

When and where: Friday, September 11th, 2009, at the Oakland Marriott City Center.

Registration fees for SharpBrains clients and readers are $150 (official fees are $180) . Fee is for the full day session and includes up to six hours of CEU credits plus book and materials.

You can Register HERE, using Partner Organization Code: WCSB.

The Program
9:00 – 10:30 am Keynote- The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

This session will provide an overview of the most recent research, guidelines and resources to “Use It and Improve It”, summarizing the main findings and topics from the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. It will debunk 10 brain fitness myths; discuss how the brain works and the 4 pillars of brain maintenance; explain the difference between mental exercise and mental activity and identify research-based ways to exercise our brains; and review what 21 brain fitness software packages do and what they don’t do. Finally, the session will discuss emerging trends to ensure that health and aging professionals are well equipped for years to come.

– Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

11:00 to 12:00 noon Bringing Brain Fitness to the Community Center

Science continues to highlight the importance of staying active mentally as well as physically; people of all ages and situations face the challenge of learning what brain exercise is, how it can help them, and how to incorporate it into their busy lives. The Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) has formed a unique partnership with vibrantBrains, a pioneering gym for brain exercise, to explore new ways to bring brain fitness into the community on top of its existing fitness and educational activities.

– Jane Post, Peninsula Jewish Community Center; Lisa Schoonerman, vibrantBrains

1:30 to 2:30 pm Latest Technologies and Brain Health: Value and Limitations

Four innovative practitioners will share their first-hand experience implementing computerized cognitive training programs in different settings: adult education classes, independent living, and assisted living. They will discuss the Pros and Cons of technology programs provided by Dakim, Posit Science and CogniFit, helping the audience explore how technology can enhance existing brain health and wellness programs and how this trend will affect their work in the future.

– James Arp, Belmont Village; Kari Olsen, Front Porch; Shellie Sullivan, Lakeview Village; Teri Barr, Oakland Unified School District

2:30 to 3:15 pm Engaging the Community to Integrate Brain Health Research into Lifelong Learning

OLLI @Berkeley has developed a membership team to investigate how to integrate neuroscience discoveries into their lifelong learning curriculum and ongoing community activities. If older adults are told that, in addition to exercise, nutrition, among other things, mental stimulation is required that is novel, challenging and varied—how can lifelong learning centers and adults themselves judge what that is and how to integrate those understandings our activities and lives?. Susan Hoffman will share the methodology and insights of working with the community as well as with a wide range of experts and scientists, and discuss what might be possible in a variety of institutional settings such as yours.

– Susah Hoffman, OLLI@Berkeley

3:30 to 4.30 pm San Francisco Alzheimer’s Education & Prevention Taskforce: Getting Ready for the Future

The San Francisco Mayor’s office, in partnership with the Department of Aging & Adult Services recently convened an expert panel and committees to create a strategic plan for addressing the needs of San Franciscans with memory loss and dementia through the year 2020. Learn about the process, findings and recommendations on how the city of San Francisco plans to address education and prevention of dementia now and in the future.

– Elizabeth Edgerly, Alzheimer’s Association; Bill Haskells, Department of Aging & Adult Services

4:30 pm What We Have Learned, What is Next

What are some of the priorities and challenges for the next 12 months for the field at large, and for everyone involved? This interactive session will help us summarize the key highlights from the whole day, identify emerging assumptions, themes, and priorities, and discuss collaborative next steps.

– Carole Anderson, American Society on Aging; Alvaro Fernandez, SharpBrains

Speaker Bios
Alvaro Fernandez SharpBrainsAlvaro Fernandez is co-founder and CEO of SharpBrains, a leading market research firm that tracks the market and research for cognitive assessments, training, and games. A member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils, he has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and more, and recently co-authored the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp. Alvaro received masters’ degrees in education and business from Stanford University, and teaches at UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.Jane Post PJCCJane Post is the Associate Executive Director at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center. With a background that started in summer youth camping and transitioned into Community Center group work, the Illinois native moved to the Bay Area in 1979 to begin her thriving career with the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) in Foster City. Serving in positions ranging from Youth Director to Senior Adult Director, Ms. Post has enjoyed over 30 successful years with the PJCC and today is the Center’s Associate Executive Director. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Lisa Schoonerman vibrantBrainsLisa Schoonerman is a co-founder at vibrantBrains. Lisa held a variety of technical and editorial positions with the Thomson Corporation in the Legal Publishing division (now ThomsonReuters), beginning in Rochester, NY and then coming to San Francisco to work for what was then Bancroft Whitney. Lisa’s work for Thomson included a 3-year assignment in the UK, where she was Editorial Director of the group providing content for Westlaw UK, the first international application of the Westlaw database.

James Arp Belmont VillageJames Arp works as the West Regional Director for Activity and Memory Programs for Belmont Village, where he was involved in a pilot program using computerized cognitive training. James has also worked as an Administrator for several Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled and in Guardianship, and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Communication Disorders.

Kari Olson Front PorchKari Olson, Chief Information Officer of Front Porch, leads all technology initiatives for Front Porch and its partners. Kari is also the President of the Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing whose mission is to explore innovative uses of technology to empower individuals to live well, especially in their later years. Kari is actively involved in the Center for Aging Services Technologies where she serves as a commissioner, steering committee member and task group chair for Boomer Technology Needs Research and co-chair of the Provider Needs Research Workgroup. Kari speaks regularly around the country on technology for aging services. Kari holds a BA in economics from University of California, Los Angeles and has completed graduate course work in education at California State University, Los Angeles.

Teri Barr Oakland UnifiedTeri Barr administers the brain fitness classes for older adults at Oakland Unified School District. She has a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and a MSPE from the University of Illinois. In Illinois, she designed and implemented wellness classes in Community College, University and Hospital settings. Since moving to California, she has worked for OACE (Oakland Adult and Career Education) in the Older Adult Program. She started research for brain health classes in 2006 and began the program at OACE in 2007.

Shellie Sullivan Lakeview VillageShellie Sullivan is the Volunteer Coordinator at Lakeview Village, a faith-based, nonprofit retirement community in Lenexa for 800 seniors offering active living and supported options. Ms. Sullivan coordinated and supported the cognitive training portion of the Physical & Cognitive Training Study in which Lakeview participated under the supervision of Dr. Art Kramer, from the University of Illinois. She administered all of the cognitive pre- and post-assessments to Lakeview Village residents and community volunteers and guided participants using cognitive training software throughout the entire study. Ms. Sullivan is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a degree in Communications.

Susan Hoffman OLLI@BerkeleySusan E. Hoffman is the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute within the Vice Provost’s Office for Teaching and Learning at UC Berkeley. For the past fifteen years she has worked at UC and CSU campuses launching new interdisciplinary and international programs. Before then, she served as the Executive Director of the California Confederation of the Arts, representing California artists, art educators and arts organizations in Sacramento and Washington for a decade. Her creative work includes being a writer and filmmaker. Her faculty appointments have been in creative writing, theatre and political philosophy.

Elizabeth Edgerly Alzheimer's AssociationElizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., is the Chief Program Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association and national spokesperson for the Association’s Maintain Your Brain program. She oversees the many programs of the Association for patients, families and health care professionals. In addition, she staffs the Medical Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association – Northern California. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the State University of New York and specialized in geropsychology and neuropsychology. Dr. Edgerly joined the Alzheimer’s Association after completing a fellowship in clinical geropsychology at the Palo Alto VA Hospital.

How to Register

Registration fees for SharpBrains clients and readers are $150 (official fees are $180) . Fee is for the full day session and includes up to six hours of CEU credits plus book and materials.

You can Register HERE, using Partner Organization Code: WCSB. 

About the American Society on Aging

Founded in 1954, the American Society on Aging is an association of diverse individuals bound by a common goal: to support the commitment and enhance the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families. The membership of ASA is a multidisciplinary array of professionals who are concerned with the physical, emotional, social, economic and spiritual aspects of aging. They range from practitioners, educators, administrators, policymakers, business people, researchers, students, and more. For more information, visit

About SharpBrains

SharpBrains is a market research & publishing firm devoted to helping organizations, professionals and consumers navigate the brain fitness and cognitive health field. The company was co-founded by executive Alvaro Fernandez, member of the Global Agenda Councils initiative run by the World Economic Forum, and neuroscientist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, internationally renowned for his clinical work, research, and writing. SharpBrains recently released the The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp (May 2009; $24.95). For more information, visit

News: ASA Brain Health Day, powered by SharpBrains

I  am very excited to pre-announce a collaboration with the American Society on Aging (ASA) to co-produce a Brain Health event, themed “New Tools, New Partnerships”, to take place in Oakland, CA, on September 11th. Read the rest of this entry »

Learn more & Register today at early-bird rates

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking applied brain science. Explore our most popular resources HERE.

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