Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain teaser to exercise your mental rotation cognitive abilities

Men­tal self-rotation is the cog­ni­tive abil­ity to imag­ine your­self in dif­fer­ent loca­tions in space, and to imag­ine your body mov­ing in space. We need it for every­day activ­i­ties such as find­ing a place or read­ing a map. The abil­ity involved is tech­ni­cally called ego­cen­tric spa­tial trans­for­ma­tions (yes, that is the sci­en­tific expres­sion) or men­tal self rota­tion, and the brain areas pri­mar­ily involved are the pari­etal lobes.

Here’s an example.

mental rotation brain teaser

— Fig­ures above: Read the rest of this entry »

Test your cognitive skills with visual brain teasers

rotatednumbersVisu­ospa­tial skills are used every­day in many ways, rang­ing from going from one room to another in your house to solv­ing a jig­saw puz­zle and nav­i­gat­ing in a new city.

Let’s take an exam­ple. Can you pic­ture in your head an arrow point­ing to the right? Now, turn this arrow so it points to the left. Done? Read the rest of this entry »

Max Your Working Memory with Brain Games and Teasers

Draw the let­ter J on your men­tal sketch­pad. Now draw the let­ter D. Turn it 90 degrees to the left and put it in top of the J. What does this shape resemble?

An umbrella, of course! You’ve just used your work­ing mem­ory. Our work­ing mem­ory is a cru­cial part of the mem­ory sys­tem, not least because it helps us to fig­ure things out mentally.

Tem­po­rary work­space
Not only can we store infor­ma­tion in our short-term mem­ory, but we can also manip­u­late it. This is why short-term mem­ory is some­times also called work­ing mem­ory. Work­ing mem­ory is our tem­po­rary work­space. We use it in every­day tasks rang­ing from dri­ving (where you need to keep in mind the loca­tion of the cars around you as you nav­i­gate through traf­fic), to prepar­ing a bud­get (where you need to keep in mind one spend­ing cat­e­gory while work­ing on another), to writ­ing a let­ter (where you need to keep in mind all you want to say while devel­op­ing each point a sen­tence at a time). Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Brain Teasers and Games for Kids and Adults alike

Over the last Hourglass four years we have posted over 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, illu­sions, and every form of men­tal exer­cise that both chal­lenges and enlight­ens our minds.

Below you have a selec­tion of the ten most pop­u­lar ones among Sharp­Brains read­ers. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Mind. Learn. Eat. Shape. Play

You may find that too much media cov­er­age on how to take good care of our brains is con­fus­ing, if not poten­tially mis­lead­ing. In The True Story — is men­tal exer­cise good, bad, or irrel­e­vantDr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon dis­sects for you a recent large study which was largely reported as bad news when in fact it brings good news (no mir­a­cles, but good news).  We hope you enjoy her insight­ful analy­sis — and all the excel­lent arti­cles that fol­low in the Sep­tem­ber edi­tion of our monthly eNewslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can use the box in the right col­umn to sub­scribe and receive this newslet­ter via email.

Do you Mind

Dear sapi­ens sapi­ens, do you mind: Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man encour­ages you to 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? Plus, why we need a new lex­i­con for pos­i­tive cog­ni­tion interventions.

Time for a Cog­ni­tive Reserve Day: with 36 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide with demen­tia today and related care costs around 1 per­cent of the world’s gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP), and grow­ing fast, may it be time to com­ple­ment World Alzheimer’s Day with Word Cog­ni­tive Reserve’s Day?

Food for Thought

Debunk­ing learn­ing styles: a recent arti­cle in The New York Times debunks many old myths about learn­ing and learn­ing styles, sum­ma­riz­ing emerg­ing cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science findings.

Sci­ence for the Peo­ple: quick now — think of a ques­tion, any ques­tion, that comes to mind. Chances are some one in the excel­lent ros­ter of 28 sci­ence blog­gers who took part in Sharp­Brains’ edi­tion of Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica blog car­ni­val answered it.

Food for Thought — II

‘West­ern’ Style Diet Increases Risk of ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports how, on the one hand, a recent large study track­ing 1172 Aus­tralian ado­les­cents and their par­ents found that dietary fac­tors can play an impor­tant role in the devel­op­ment of atten­tion deficits, at least for some children.

A Con­trolled Trial of Herbal Treat­ment for ADHD: on the other hand, Dr. Rabiner adds, a recent randomized-controlled trial sup­ports the idea that appro­pri­ately pre­pared and tar­geted herbal com­pounds have the poten­tial to be ther­a­peu­tic and reduce atten­tion deficit symptoms.

Shap­ing the Future

Q&A about the new Sharp­Brains Coun­cil for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion: we have received many good ques­tions about the new Sharp­Brains Coun­cil … here you are our answers.

Meet the Experts: since 2006 we have inter­viewed dozens of experts on the future of cog­ni­tive enhance­ment and men­tal health, build­ing up the foun­da­tion for the type of inno­va­tion the Sharp­Brains Coun­cil wants to fos­ter. Here you can find what 26 leading-edge sci­en­tists and experts believe and why.

Get­ting ther­apy through your iPhone: The Daily Beast (a great new media out­let) just pub­lished this excel­lent arti­cle on an emerg­ing “small rev­o­lu­tion” in men­tal health care.

Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser: are you ready to test your men­tal rota­tion skills?

Please feel free to share this monthly eNewslet­ter to friends and col­leagues. Have a great month of October!

Brain Teaser: Test your mental rotation skills

Are you famil­iar with men­tal rota­tion? It refers to mov­ing things around in your head. It is one of the numer­ous visu­ospa­tial skills that we all have.

Let’s take an exam­ple. Can you pic­ture in your head an arrow point­ing to the right? Now, turn this arrow so it points to the left. Done? You have just per­formed a men­tal rota­tion. Although it is rare to con­sciously imag­ine objects mov­ing, peo­ple auto­mat­i­cally use this abil­ity when they read maps, use tools, play chess, arrange fur­ni­ture, drive in traf­fic, etc.

Men­tal rota­tion relies mostly on the pari­etal areas of your brain (yel­low sec­tion in the brain image above).

Here is a brain exer­cise to stim­u­late your men­tal rota­tion skills.

  • The top shape is your model.
  • Among the 3 shapes below the model, only one matches the model. To fig­ure out which one does you will prob­a­bly have to move the shapes around in your head.
  • Move the shapes from left to right or right to left but DO NOT FLIP them around.

First set

Sec­ond set

Third Set

To see the cor­rect answers click here: Read the rest of this entry »

Are videogames good for YOU? Depends on who YOU are

Two recent sci­en­tific stud­ies pub­lished by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues present Rise of Nations Arthur Kramerfas­ci­nat­ing results. The two stud­ies are:

1) Basak C, et al “Can train­ing in a real-time strat­egy video game atten­u­ate cog­ni­tive decline in older adults?” Psy­chol Aging 2008; DOI: 10.1037/a0013494.

2) Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabi­ani, M. & Grat­ton, G. (2008) The effects of video game play­ing on atten­tion, mem­ory, and exec­u­tive con­trol. Acta Psy­cho­log­ica, 129, 387–398.

Let’s first review the first study, a sig­nif­i­cant exper­i­ment in that it showed wide cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits in adults over 60 years old who played a strat­egy videogame (Rise of Nations) for 23 hours.

Play­ing com­puter games improves brain power of older adults, claim sci­en­tists (Telegraph)

- The team at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois recruited 40 adults over 60 years old, half of whom were asked to play a com­puter game called Rise of Nations, a role-playing game in which you have to build your own empire.

- Game play­ers have to build cities, feed and employ their peo­ple, main­tain an ade­quate mil­i­tary and expand their territory.

- Both groups were assessed before, dur­ing and after the video game train­ing on a vari­ety of tests.

- As a group, the “gamers” became sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter and faster at Read the rest of this entry »

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