Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Update: Let’s transform brain health from “suffer-in-silence” to “let-me-take-control”

Summit Interviews

Time for our September 2014 e-newsletter, fea­tur­ing a wealth of insights  and innovations reports…including four thought-provoking interviews with Sponsors of the 2014 SharpBrains Virtual Summit (October 28-30th). Enjoy!

New perspectives at the frontier of Brain, Health & Innovation:

New trends:

New studies:

2014_SharpBrains_Virtual_Summit_Shaping the Practice and the Future of Brain FitnessFinally, you may want to try this brain teaser to test your multi-tasking abilities…and, if you are interested in all these topics for professional reasons, please consider joining us at the 2014 SharpBrains Virtual Summit (October 28-30th) – you can register with a 10% discount using promotional code: sharp2014

Have a great month of October!

When early retirement equals mental retirement and memory decline

The New-York Times reports on the study published a few days ago in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, “Mental retirement”:

… Data from the United States, England and 11 other European countries suggest that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memories decline.

… what aspect of work is doing that, Dr. Suzman said. “Is it the social engagement and interaction or the cognitive component of work, or is it the aerobic component of work?” he asked. “Or is it the absence of what happens when you retire, which could be increased TV watching?”

Comments: This new study is another piece of evidence accumulating with more and more others suggesting that a brain healthy life-style requires constant cognitive challenge to help maintain high-level cognitive functions. Whether it is speaking multiple languages, physically exercising or staying mentally active, our everyday life can positively impact our brain health.  Something to keep in mind after retirement…and to even retire the word “retirement”!

The results are also intriguing because working combines multiple aspects of a brain-healthy lifestyle (social engagement, mental stimulation) with aspects not so good for the brain (stress, absence of physical exercise in some cases). However, it seems that, overall, the good aspects of working take over the bad ones as far as memory functions are concerned.

What is Brain Fitness, anyway?

Vijay, one of our readers, wrote yesterday a very thoughtful comment :

“What is brain fitness and how it is measured? Is it the same as mind fitness which seeks to achieve balance in life?”

I am curious to learn how you would answer that question. I will add my perspective over the weekend, since I don’t want to bias your thoughts now.

What is brain fitness and how it is measured?

Lifelong Learning and New Neurons in Adults

Very interesting new study, Critical Period Plasticity of Adult-Born Neurons, published in the journal Neuron by a team of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers. The press release New Adult Brain Cells May Be Central To Lifelong Learning contains a good summary (the bold format is mine):

  • “The steady formation of new brain cells in adults may represent more than merely a patching up of aging brains, a new study has shown.”
  • “The new adult brain cells may serve to give the adult brain the same kind of learning ability that young brains have while still allowing the existing, mature circuitry to maintain stability.”
  • “The researchers found that the new adult neurons showed a pattern of changing plasticity very similar to that seen in brain cells in newborn animals. That is, the new adult brain cells showed a “critical period” in which they were highly plastic before they settled into the less plastic properties of mature brain cells. In newborn animals, such a critical period enables an important, early burst of wiring of new brain circuitry with experience.”
  • “The researchers also observed in the new adult neurons anatomical evidence of the same kind of formation of new connections that take place in the brains of newborns as they wire new pathways in response to experience.”
  • “They concluded that “adult neurogenesis may represent not merely a replacement mechanism for lost neurons, but instead an ongoing developmental process that continuously rejuvenates the mature nervous system by offering expanded capacity of plasticity in response to experience throughout life.”

In short: not only do we know today that the adult brain is capable of creating new neurons, but this shows that our experience influences what happens to those neurons once created. Pretty revolutionary understanding, that still needs to permeate through society and influence our lifestyles and habits.

Some related posts:

Yoga and stress management

GABA Receptor
Steven Edwards at Wired Blog writes a post titled Yoga Boosts Brain’s GABA Levels, saying that “Participants in the yoga group had a 27% increase in GABA levels, while those in the reading group remained unchanged. Co-authors Chris Streeter from BUSM and Domenic Ciraulo pointed out that this research shows a method of treating low GABA states. Fairly obvious — yes — but this shows a nonpharmacological method for increasing GABA levels that people can act on now, without waiting for a drug to go through FDA approval.”

Having attended last week a conference where neuropharma executives presented all their future drugs against obesity, anxiety, depression…I couldn’t agree more. The rates of serious side effects of these drugs are astounding, yet as a society we seem to prefer to rely on taking drugs when are sick rather than proactively taking charge of our health and lifestyles and do our best (which not always is enough) to protect our fitness and wellness.

The press release Steven talks about: Yoga and Elevated Brain GABA Levels [PhysOrg]. Quotes: Read the rest of this entry »

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