Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Neuroeducation: Top findings to update education and learning

neuroeducationNeu­roe­d­u­ca­tion: 25 Find­ings Over 25 Years (Inno­va­tion Excellence):

To cel­e­brate the progress of this mon­u­men­tal dis­ci­pline, we have com­piled a list of the 25 most sig­nif­i­cant find­ings in neu­ro­science edu­ca­tion over the past 25 years..” Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Harness Neuroplasticity with Enthusiasm, Exercise & Personalized Medicine

Time for Sharp­Brains’ Feb­ru­ary 2012 eNewslet­ter, fea­tur­ing in this occa­sion mul­ti­ple and com­ple­men­tary per­spec­tives on how to har­ness neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: with enthu­si­asm, BOTH phys­i­cal AND cog­ni­tive exer­cise, and (once tools become bet­ter stan­dard­ized and widely avail­able) brain-based per­son­al­ized medicine.

Fea­tured Per­spec­tives:

What’s New and Mean­ing­ful:

Sharp­Brains News:

Finally, let us men­tion that Brain Aware­ness Week is approach­ing (March 12-18th, 2012), and that you can now add com­ments to Sharp­Brains arti­cles via Face­book (see below). Look­ing for­ward to a great month of March!

Enhance Metacognition and Problem-Solving by Talking Out Loud to Yourself

The MC at the Uni­ver­sity of Michigan’s reunion din­ner encour­aged audi­ence mem­bers to reveal the most sig­nif­i­cant take-away from their under­grad­u­ate nurs­ing edu­ca­tion. The great­est ben­e­fit was quickly clear to me — problem-solving think­ing. Mem­ory pro­duced a mind video: a short, dark-haired, nurs­ing instruc­tor lec­tur­ing a small group of first year stu­dents in an empty patient room. “Don’t mem­o­rize the steps of ster­ile tech­nique. Use a problem-solving think­ing process.” She described the sequen­tial, cycli­cal process: define the prob­lem, gather infor­ma­tion, develop a solu­tion strat­egy, allo­cate resources, mon­i­tor progress, and eval­u­ate the solu­tion. Read the rest of this entry »

Do Crossword Puzzles Help to Counteract the Aging Process? If so, Which Ones and How?

Recently there has been an ongo­ing debate as to whether attempt­ing cross­words reg­u­larly can stave off cog­ni­tive decline, which is the hall­mark of healthy aging and demen­tia. As with many areas of psy­chol­ogy the answer to this ques­tion may not be as clear-cut as one would hope. Before con­sid­er­ing the evi­dence for whether cross­word par­tic­i­pa­tion can reduce cog­ni­tive decline in later life, it is nec­es­sary to con­sider the dif­fer­ent types of cross­words avail­able and under­stand whether one or another type may be more cog­ni­tively stim­u­lat­ing than the other. Gen­er­ally, when we think of cross­words two kinds spring to mind, either gen­eral knowl­edge or cryp­tic crosswords.

A gen­eral knowl­edge cross­word typ­i­cally has clues which are sim­i­lar to answer­ing gen­eral knowl­edge quizzes, but the solver has the ben­e­fit of know­ing how many let­ters make up the solution.

For exam­ple: “the cap­i­tal of Peru (4)”… Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn — Ideas for New Year Resolutions

My inter­est in the brain stems from want­ing to bet­ter under­stand both how to make school more palat­able for stu­dents, and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment more mean­ing­ful for fac­ulty. To that end, I began my Neu­rons Fir­ing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of read­ing, and been attend­ing work­shops and con­fer­ences, includ­ing Learn­ing & the Brain.

If you agree that our brains are designed for learn­ing, then as edu­ca­tors it is incum­bent upon us to be look­ing for ways to max­i­mize the learn­ing process for each of our stu­dents, as well as for our­selves. Some of what fol­lows is sim­ply com­mon sense, but I’ve learned that all of it has a sci­en­tific basis in our brains. Read the rest of this entry »

Needed: funding for innovative research on slowing cognitive decline via cognitive training

I was really inter­ested in the recent cri­tique of the BBC brain train­ing exper­i­ment by Dr. Eliz­a­beth Zelin­ski. I think Owens et al (2010) was a crit­i­cal piece of research which was not con­ducted in the right way and was focus­ing on the wrong sam­ple pop­u­la­tion.  I totally agree with the com­ments by Dr. Zelin­ski regard­ing the poten­tial for sam­ple bias and the use of some ques­tion­able cog­ni­tive mea­sures. How­ever, I would like to take this cri­tique fur­ther and ques­tion whether the study was value for money when there are other stud­ies which can­not achieve fund­ing but would, in my opin­ion, show the criticism/scepticism of the use-it-or-lose-it theory.

I think there is not enough crit­i­cism about the age of the sam­ple pop­u­la­tion used in Owens et al. (2010). We have con­clu­sive cog­ni­tive and neu­ro­log­i­cal evi­dence that cognitive/neurological plas­tic­ity exists in young adults. There is also ade­quate evi­dence that neu­ro­plas­tic­ity is evi­dent in older adults. The crit­i­cal point which I want to make about the sam­ple pop­u­la­tion in Owens et al. study is that it did not tar­get the cor­rect sam­ple pop­u­la­tion, that is, older adults who are at risk of cognitive/neuronal atro­phy. It does not mat­ter if younger adults improve on brain train­ing tasks, or if skills picked up by younger adults from brain train­ing are not trans­ferred to other cog­ni­tive domains, sim­ply because younger adults are good at these skills/cognitive func­tions. There­fore there is a pos­si­bil­ity that ceil­ing or scal­ing effects mask the true find­ings in Owens et al. (2010), as indi­cated by Zelinski.

The recruit­ment of the sam­ple pop­u­la­tion is also very con­cern­ing and I do not feel that their con­trol group was appro­pri­ate. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Learning about Learning/ more on Brain Age

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

Bird’s Eye View

Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When health insur­ance com­pa­nies and pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers launch sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives. Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore pro­vides a mar­ket overview, based on Sharp­Brains’ client webi­nar held last December.

Ten Reflec­tions on Cog­ni­tive Health and Assess­ments: Here are 10 high­lights from sev­eral stim­u­lat­ing Jan­u­ary events:  Sym­po­sium on Adap­tive Tech­nol­ogy for the Aging (by Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity), Health Blog­gers’ Sum­mit (by Con­sumer Reports), Trau­matic Brain Injury (by Vet­eran Affairs in Palo Alto), and a new Alzheimer’s/ Demen­tia Expert Panel orga­nized by the city of San Francisco.

News and Events

Nin­tendo Brain Age vs. Cross­word Puz­zles: we need much pub­lic edu­ca­tion in order to help con­sumers sep­a­rate real­ity from hope from hype. Nin­tendo is not help­ing, nei­ther is media reporting.

Col­lec­tion of recent news: includ­ing train­ing for senior fit­ness train­ers, reports on the impor­tance of pur­pose,  on older dri­ver safety, and more.

Upcom­ing events: I will be speak­ing soon at the New York Acad­emy of Med­i­cine, the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging/ NCOA con­fer­ence, and the Sil­ver­ing Work­force Sum­mit at the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina. Let me know if you are attend­ing any.

Edu­ca­tion and Learning

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Barry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodigy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learn­ing. Many fas­ci­nat­ing insights, includ­ing “I think los­ing my first National Chess Cham­pi­onship was the great­est thing that ever hap­pened to me, because it helped me avoid many of the psy­cho­log­i­cal traps…(associated with being called a “child prodigy”)”.

Resources to help stu­dents build emo­tional intel­li­gence: Daniel Gole­man intro­duces edu­ca­tors and par­ents to a new book that “adds an impor­tant tool to the emo­tional intel­li­gence kit: mind­ful­ness, a moment-by-moment aware­ness of one’s inter­nal state and exter­nal environment.”


Top 10 Cog­ni­tive Health and Brain Fit­ness Books: Here you have The 10 Most Pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness & Cog­ni­tive Health Books, based on book pur­chases by Sharp­Brains’ read­ers dur­ing 2008.

10-Question Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion Check­list: To help con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of pro­grams mak­ing “brain fit­ness” or “brain train­ing” claims, we pub­lished last year this Eval­u­a­tion Check­list. Now we are mak­ing the Check­list avail­able as a Book­mark given recent requests by uni­ver­si­ties and con­fer­ence organizers.

Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser to Exer­cise your Mem­ory and Rea­son­ing Skills: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon offers a stim­u­lat­ing teaser that not only helps exer­cise our brain but also edu­cates us on how and why the same activ­ity may exer­cise dif­fer­ent brains dif­fer­ently — depend­ing on where we are from.

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