Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Carnival of Human Resources and Leadership

Wel­come to the Sep­tem­ber 17th edi­tion of the Car­ni­val of Human Resources, the vir­tual gath­er­ing, every other week, of blog­gers focused on Human Resources and Lead­er­ship topics.

Let’s imag­ine all par­tic­i­pants in a con­fer­ence room, con­duct­ing a lively Q&A brown-bag lunch discussion.

Q: Can you teach Lead­er­ship in a class­room?
- Wally: Not really. Nei­ther the per­son who aspires to become a leader nor HR depart­ments should see lead­er­ship devel­op­ment as an activ­ity to be out­sourced to a class­room set­ting. Lead­er­ship is a life­long appren­tice trade, led by the learner himself/ her­self. The most HR depart­ments can do is to archi­tect the right set of expe­ri­ences to enable/ accel­er­ate that development.

Q: Can you teach Social Intel­li­gence in a class­room?
- Jon: Accord­ing to a recent Har­vard Busi­ness Review arti­cle, not really. Daniel Gole­man and Richard Boy­atzis say that “our brains engage in an emo­tional tango, a dance of feel­ings”. And you learn Tango by, well, danc­ing Tango. Gole­man and Boy­atzis add that “Lead­ing effec­tively is about devel­op­ing a gen­uine inter­est in and tal­ent for fos­ter­ing pos­i­tive feel­ings in the peo­ple whose coop­er­a­tion and sup­port you need.”

Q: Can you pro­vide an exam­ple of apply­ing social intel­li­gence in the work­place, and train­ing on-the-job?
- Suzanne: Sure. Learn to appre­ci­ate your front line employ­ees. They are the ones who inter­act with cus­tomers every day — which some com­pa­nies seem to ignore at their peril.
- Denise: another oneWhat can you do when your team falls apart while you’re gone?.

Q: How can you gen­er­ate pos­i­tive feel­ings, when some­times we get stuck in bad news and con­stant quarter-by-quarter pres­sures?
- Anna: Adding much needed per­spec­tive. Please note: Read the rest of this entry »

Update: The Challenges of Gerontology

Here you have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brainremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

First, I am pleased to report that have been invited to par­tic­i­pate in a new ini­tia­tive by the World Eco­nomic Forum. Described as “In a global envi­ron­ment marked by short-term ori­en­ta­tion and silo-thinking, Global Agenda Coun­cils will fos­ter inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and long-range think­ing to address the pre­vail­ing chal­lenges on the global agenda”, my spe­cific Coun­cil will focus on the Chal­lenges of Geron­tol­ogy. More infor­ma­tion on the Global Agenda Coun­cils here. Will keep you updated via this blog.

In the News

Yes, It is Smart to Learn New Tricks: a recent Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle presents a good overview of brain health trends, but framed around a highly arti­fi­cial choice for con­sumers: either you a) do phys­i­cal exer­cise, or b) take part in social inter­ac­tions, or c) engage in men­tal exer­cise. What about switch­ing off those TVs and hav­ing time for all a, b, c, and more?

Mind Games: the August issue of Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Jour­nal brings a very good piece on the emerg­ing brain fit­ness soft­ware cat­e­gory (sub­scrip­tion required), which we enhance by pro­vid­ing a quick overview of the field.

Cog­niFit raises USD 5 mil­lion: if 2007 was the year of brain fit­ness media cov­er­age, 2008 seems to be the year of seri­ous invest­ments. This Cog­niFit round fol­lows other recent ven­ture invest­ments: Dakim ($10.6m), Lumos Labs ($3m). We hear all these com­pa­nies are devot­ing part of these resources to fund clin­i­cal trials…never too late.

Brain Sci­ence and Life­long Learning

Schools as Brain Train­ing Hubs?: in a recent post we asked for sug­ges­tions to refine our pre­dic­tions for the 2007–2015 period. A good num­ber of read­ers con­tributed, and the win­ner of this infor­mal con­test is… Scott Spears, retired pub­lic schools super­in­ten­dent, for his thoughts on the future impli­ca­tions of cog­ni­tive research on schooling.

Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and Brain Plas­tic­ity in Adult Brains: while “adults may have a ten­dency to get set in their ways I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change?”, change itself is an excel­lent prac­tice for healthy brain aging, as Lau­rie Bar­tels explains.

A Farewell to Demen­tia?: a fas­ci­nat­ing recent edi­to­r­ial in Archives of Neu­rol­ogy, titled Demen­tia: A Word to be For­got­ten, calls for more con­struc­tive ter­mi­nol­ogy. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man weighs in.

Other Thought-Provoking Articles

To Think or to Blink?: should Ham­let be liv­ing with us now and read­ing best­sellers, he might be won­der­ing: To Blink or not to Blink? To Think or not to Think? We are pleased to present an arti­cle by Madeleine Van Hecke, offer­ing the “on the other hand” to Mal­colm Gladwell’s Blink argument.

The impact of web 2.0 on health­care: we hosted Med­i­cine 2.0, a bi-weekly col­lec­tion of arti­cles that ana­lyze the cur­rent and poten­tial impact of web 2.0 tech­nolo­gies on med­i­cine and healthcare.

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers: Spot the Dif­fer­ence: how many dif­fer­ences can you spot (and how many cog­ni­tive func­tions can you engage with this sim­ple exercise?)

I hope you are hav­ing a great August!

To Think or to Blink?

(Editor’s Note: Should Ham­let be liv­ing with us now and read­ing best­sellers, he might be won­der­ing: To Blink or not to Blink? To Think or not to Think? We are pleased to present, as part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, an arti­cle by Blind SpotsMadeleine Van Hecke, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart Peo­ple Do Dumb Things. In it, she offers the “on the other hand” to Mal­colm Gladwell’s Blink argument.)

To Think or to Blink?

- By Madeleine Van Hecke, PhD

Is thought­ful reflec­tion nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter than hasty judgments?

Not accord­ing to Mal­colm Glad­well who argued in his best-selling book, Blink, that the deci­sions peo­ple make in a blink are often not only just as accu­rate, but MORE accu­rate, than the con­clu­sions they draw after painstak­ing analysis.

So, should we blink, or think?

When we make judg­ments based on a thin slice of time  a few min­utes talk­ing with some­one in a speed dat­ing sit­u­a­tion, for exam­ple are our judg­ments really as accu­rate as when we ana­lyze end­less reams of data?

Read the rest of this entry »

Jogging our Brains for Brain Vitality, Healthy Aging-and Intelligence!

Stroop Test

Quick: say the color in which each word in this graphic is dis­played (don’t just read the word!):

Here you have a round-up of some great recent arti­cles on mem­ory, aging, and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as self-control:

1) How to Boost Your Willpower (New York Times).

- “The video watch­ers were later given a con­cen­tra­tion test in which they were asked to iden­tify the color in which words were dis­played. (Note: now you see why we started with that brain exer­cise…) The word  for instance, might appear in blue ink. The video watch­ers who had sti­fled their responses did the worst on the test, sug­gest­ing that their self-control had already been depleted by the film challenge.”

- “Finally, some research sug­gests that peo­ple strug­gling with self-control should start small. A few stud­ies show that peo­ple who were instructed for two weeks to make small changes like improv­ing their pos­ture or brush­ing their teeth with their oppo­site hand improved their scores on lab­o­ra­tory tests of self-control. The data aren’t con­clu­sive, but they do sug­gest that the quest for self-improvement should start small. A vow to stop swear­ing, to make the bed every day or to give up just one food may be a way to strengthen your self-control, giv­ing you more willpower reserves for big­ger chal­lenges later.”

Com­ment: learn­ing, build­ing abil­i­ties, are processes that require prac­tice and grow­ing lev­els of dif­fi­culty. Like train­ing our mus­cles in the gym. So the advice to start small and pro­gres­sively do more makes sense. Many times the enemy of learn­ing is the stress and anx­i­ety we pro­voke by try­ing to do too many things at the same time…

2) Jog­ging Your Mem­ory (Newsweek) Thanks Chris for alert­ing us!

- “No one should expect mir­a­cles soon, if at all. But the deeper sci­en­tists peer into the work­ings of mem­ory, the bet­ter they under­stand Read the rest of this entry »

Stress Management Workshop for International Women’s Day

Today is Inter­na­tional Women’s Day 2007.

Global con­sult­ing com­pany Accen­ture orga­nized a series of events, and I was for­tu­nate to lead a fun work­shop on The Neu­ro­science of Stress and Stress Man­age­ment in their San Fran­cisco office, help­ing over 125 accom­plished women (and a few men) learn what stress is, its impli­ca­tions for our brain func­tion­ing, per­for­mance and health, and of course some tips and tech­niques to develop our “stress man­age­ment” mus­cles. It was an honor to be able to wrap up a great event that included Dis­trict Attor­ney Kamala D. Har­ris, two of the co-authors of This is Not the Life I Ordered, a video by Sen­a­tor Dianne Fein­stein, and some great Accen­ture women.

We dis­cussed how stress is the emo­tional and phys­i­o­log­i­cal reac­tion to a threat, whether real or imag­ined, that results in a series of adap­ta­tions by our bod­ies. And how stress man­age­ment can bring a vari­ety of ben­e­fits: sus­tained peak per­for­mance, cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­ity, mem­ory, deci­sion mak­ing, and even longevity.
You can see a very inter­est­ing exam­ple of the rela­tion­ship between atten­tion, mem­ory and stress with this exper­i­ment: Atten­tion and work­ing memory

Let me share some key take-aways from the work­shop, together with some exer­cises we used to illus­trate key points:

1) Stress can be a major road­block for peak per­for­mance and health
2) Some tips and tech­niques to bet­ter man­age stress:
a) Pick your bat­tles Read the rest of this entry »

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