Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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A Course Correction for Positive Psychology: A Review of Martin Seligman’s Latest Book

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Sci­ence Cen­ter).

A Course Cor­rec­tion for Pos­i­tive Psychology

A review of Mar­tin Seligman’s lat­est book, Flour­ish: A Vision­ary New Under­stand­ing of Hap­pi­ness and Well-Being.

- By Jill Suttie

As pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion in 1998, Mar­tin Selig­man chal­lenged the psy­cho­log­i­cal com­mu­nity to rad­i­cally change its approach. For too long, he charged, psy­chol­ogy had been pre­oc­cu­pied solely with reliev­ing symp­toms of men­tal ill­ness; instead, he believed it should explore how to thrive in life, not just sur­vive it. He called for a psy­chol­ogy that would uncover what makes peo­ple cre­ative, resilient, opti­mistic, and, ulti­mately, happy. The “pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy” move­ment was born.

Yet in his lat­est book, Flour­ish, Selig­man tries to pro­vide some­thing of a course cor­rec­tion for pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy. Read the rest of this entry »

March/ April Update: Brain Health Status Quo No Longer An Option

The 2011 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st) gath­ered more than 260 research and indus­try lead­ers from 16 coun­tries for 3 days to dis­cuss the chang­ing land­scape of Brain Health and Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness. It was a great suc­cess! Find the key lessons and take-home points from the Sum­mit in these 2 arti­cles by Drs. Jamie Wil­son and Luc Beau­doin, respec­tively: 10 Emerg­ing Themes:  Why Brain Health Sta­tus Quo is Not an Option and 7 Key Lessons from the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit.

Con­sider this: “Col­lab­o­ra­tion is emerg­ing in ways that were unthink­able only a few years ago. Researchers are open­ing up their data and method­olo­gies to gain insights from one another. Com­mer­cial orga­ni­za­tions are part­ner­ing via dig­i­tal chan­nels, con­tent syn­di­ca­tion and other areas of best prac­tice. Social entre­pre­neurs and local prac­ti­tion­ers are shar­ing  moti­va­tional tips and edu­ca­tional resources in their efforts to build pro­grams from the bot­tom up.  Open inno­va­tion is dri­ving a bet­ter mar­ket­place for con­sumers. All these col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts are the seeds of suc­cess­ful inno­va­tion, and despite still being in the foothills, it would seem bet­ter to go hand in hand, than tak­ing a lonely road.”

We hope the arti­cles of this free newslet­ter will help you think about the future and your own role in shap­ing it as a pro­fes­sional and/ or a life­long learner.

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Brain and Neu­ro­plas­ticity

Med­i­ta­tion and the Brain: This arti­cle by Greater Good Mag­a­zine dis­cusses how med­i­tat­ing can increase the den­sity of gray mat­ter in brain regions asso­ci­ated with mem­ory, stress, and empathy. 

The Ben­e­fits of a One-Time Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Pro­gram: They last but wane over time as shown in the 3-month follow-up results of the IMPACT study.

Can Direct Brain Stim­u­la­tion Boost Per­for­mance? The answer seems to be yes, accord­ing to three stud­ies using dif­fer­ent types of electrical/magnetic brain stimulation.

How the Brain of a Blind Per­son Rewires Itself: The brain areas devoted to vision in peo­ple with eye sight turn out to be respond­ing to speech in blind people.

How are Young Brains Affected by Stress? An inter­est­ing arti­cle from the Dana Foun­da­tion on the con­se­quences of early life stress.

Can weight loss boost mem­ory? The mem­ory of obese patients under­go­ing gastric-bypass surgery is shown to improve 12 weeks after surgery.

The Inner Savant In All of Us: Scott Kauf­man inter­views Dr. Tre­f­fert, expect on savan­tism and autism, tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant to the award-winning movie Rain Man, to dis­cuss the hid­den brain poten­tials that may lie dor­mant in all of us.

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Assess­ments and Remediation

Dri­ving Safely after a Stroke: Scores for 3 sim­ple cog­ni­tive tests were found to pre­dict the actual dri­ving eval­u­a­tion out­come of many peo­ple after a stroke.

Schiz­o­phre­nia Research is Lead­ing the Way: An inter­est­ing review of the dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion tech­niques used with peo­ple suf­fer­ing from schizophrenia.

Vir­tual Real­ity Games for Stroke Patients: Promis­ing results show that vir­tual real­ity and other video games involv­ing motion can enhance motor improve­ment after a stroke.

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Books

Children’s Self Con­trol and Cre­ativ­ity: Two Seeds of Intel­li­gence: An excerpt from the book Brain Rules for Baby, by John Med­ina, that pro­vides a good sum­mary of the cog­ni­tive sci­ence find­ings shed­ding light on how a baby’s brain grows from 0 to 5.

Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science, Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine: This book takes an in depth and hard look at the cur­rent sta­tus and future direc­tion of treat­ment pre­dic­tive mark­ers in Per­son­al­ized Med­i­cine for the brain.

The Longevity Project: UC-Riverside researchers Howard Fried­man and Leslie Mar­tin draw key lessons from an eight-decade-long Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Ter­man study of 1,500 people.

Exploit­ing Tech­nol­ogy and Col­lab­o­ra­tion to Enable Qual­ity Aging. In this essay, extracted from the book Longevity Rules, Joseph Cough­lin explores the role that tech­nol­ogy can play in aging well.

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Brain Teaser

Brain Games to Test Your Mem­ory: Dis­cover how well you can remem­ber ran­dom words and names.

We hope you enjoyed this edi­tion of the Sharp­Brains eNewslet­ter. Please do feel free to share this with friends and col­leagues. The more, the merrier!

Longevity, Conscientiousness and Work

There’s an excel­lent arti­cle in the New York Times (Eighty Years Along, a Longevity Study Still Has Ground to Cover) about a very wor­thy new book based on a fas­ci­nat­ing series of research stud­ies: The Longevity Project: Sur­pris­ing Dis­cov­er­ies for Health and Long Life from the Land­mark Eight-Decade Study is the book where UC-Riverside researchers Howard Fried­man and Leslie Mar­tin draw key lessons from an eight-decade-long Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Ter­man study of 1,500 people.

Quotes from the article:

- Many assume biol­ogy is the crit­i­cal fac­tor in longevity. If your par­ents lived to be 85, you prob­a­bly will, too. Not so, Dr. Fried­man said. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploiting Technology and Collaboration to Enable Quality Aging

Editor’s Note: This arti­cle is excerpted from Longevity Rules: How to Age Well Into the Future,  a com­pendium 0f 34 excel­lent essays where lead­ing longevity experts help pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the pub­lic bet­ter under­stand the aging expe­ri­ence. In the essay below, Joseph Cough­lin, the Direc­tor of MIT Age­Lab, explores the role that tech­nol­ogy can play in aging well. Copy­right 2010, Eska­ton.

Aging is not for wimps. While liv­ing longer has become remark­ably com­mon­place, liv­ing well takes a lot of work. Longevity is cre­at­ing new and expanded “jobs” for indi­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, for­mal care­givers and pub­lic agen­cies. Dur­ing the past decade many have argued that tech­nol­ogy is the answer to aging — with­out really ask­ing what the ques­tion is. This def­i­n­i­tion of the “aging and tech­nol­ogy oppor­tu­nity” is dri­ven by those who are wildly pas­sion­ate about inven­tion, but not flu­ent in the art of inno­va­tion — that is, putting ideas to prac­ti­cal use. The ques­tions that should be asked by pol­i­cy­mak­ers, busi­ness and the aging com­mu­nity are:

  • What are the jobs of aging ser­vices that we are try­ing to achieve?
  • How might tech­nol­ogy and col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ships accom­plish these tasks or pro­duce supe­rior outcomes?
  • Where should pol­i­cy­mak­ers and busi­ness direct their lim­ited resources to cre­atively exploit tech­nol­ogy to enable indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to live bet­ter — not just longer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Ever heard of the Longevity Dividend? Perhaps Gray is the New Gold

The Longevity Div­i­dend is a the­ory that says we hope to inter­vene sci­en­tif­i­cally to slow the aging process, which will also delay the onset of age-related dis­eases. Delay­ing aging just seven years would slash rates of con­di­tions like can­cer, dia­betes, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and heart dis­ease in half. That’s the longevity part.

The div­i­dend comes from the social, eco­nomic, and health bonuses that would then be avail­able to spend on schools, energy, jobs, infra­struc­ture tril­lions of dol­lars that today we spend on health­care ser­vices. In fact, at the rate we’re going, by the year 2020 one out of every $5 spent in this coun­try will be spent on health­care. Obvi­ously, some­thing has to change.

Enter the Longevity Div­i­dend. The Longevity Div­i­dend doesn’t sug­gest that we live longer; instead, it calls for liv­ing bet­ter. The idea is that if we use sci­ence to increase healthspan, not lifes­pan. In other words, tomor­rows 50-year-old would have the health pro­file of a 43-year-old.

It might sound like sci­ence fic­tion, but, in fact, it’s quite pos­si­ble. We’re already doing it in some ani­mal mod­els using genetic and dietary inter­ven­tions, tech­niques related to what sci­en­tists call “the biol­ogy of aging.”

Get­ting there in humans, how­ever, means embrac­ing an entirely new approach to our think­ing about dis­ease and aging, and how we con­duct sci­en­tific research into the two.

Get­ting Sci­en­tists’ Attention

A group of emi­nent researchers first pro­posed the Longevity Div­i­dend in a 2006 arti­cle pub­lished in The Sci­en­tist. The authors, S. Jay Olshan­sky, PhD, pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy and bio­sta­t­ics at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois in Chicago, Daniel P. Perry, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Alliance for Aging Research in Wash­ing­ton, DC, Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, pro­fes­sor of pathol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan in Ann Arbor, and Robert N. But­ler, MD, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Inter­na­tional Longevity Cen­ter in New York, intended their essay to be a “gen­eral state­ment to sci­en­tists about the need for a par­a­digm shift in the way we think about aging and disease.

The researchers also met with U.S. sen­a­tors who served on the Sen­ate com­mit­tee that over­saw the bud­get for the National Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). “We told them we believed Read the rest of this entry »

MetLife Mature Market Institute: Meaning, Purpose and Cognitive Health for a Lifelong Good Life

Increased longevity has gen­er­ated many ques­tions and much inter­est in healthy aging and retire­ment lifestyles over the recent decades. As Amer­i­cans become edu­cated regard­ing lifestyle choices that con­tribute to both phys­i­cal and men­tal health, the def­i­n­i­tion of healthy aging has expanded to include brain health.

The notion of retire­ment as a time of with­drawal from soci­ety, to be spent on rest and repose reflected the think­ing of a pre­vi­ous era when peo­ple expected shorter life spans. It is now known that the human brain ben­e­fits from envi­ron­ments rich in novel and com­plex stim­uli, and that by actively par­tic­i­pat­ing in soci­ety and tak­ing on per­son­ally rel­e­vant roles, peo­ple find mean­ing and pur­pose, which gives them a rea­son to get up in the morn­ing and pur­sue new challenges.

This year, the MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute pub­lished a research study titled Dis­cov­er­ing What Mat­ters: Bal­anc­ing Money, Med­i­cine and Mean­ing. The study explored how peo­ple rebal­ance their pri­or­i­ties over time and jug­gle var­i­ous com­pet­ing aspects of life includ­ing money, med­i­cine (a metaphor for health) and mean­ing, in order to live the Good Life.  Hav­ing pur­pose was found to Read the rest of this entry »

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!

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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