Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning – Learning & The Brain Conference

Alvaro and I had the good fortune to attend a great conference last week called Learning & The Brain: Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning. It was a fascinating mix of neuroscientists and educators talking with and listening to each other. Some topics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought – insight on where science and education are headed and how they influence each other.

Using dramatic new imaging techniques, such as fMRIs, PET, and SPECT, neuroscientists are gaining valuable information about learning. This pioneering knowledge is leading not only to new pedagogies, but also to new medications, brain enhancement technologies, and therapies…. The Conference creates an interdisciplinary forum — a meeting place for neuroscientists, educators, psychologists, clinicians, and parents — to examine these new research findings with respect to their applicability in the classroom and clinical practice.

Take-aways

  • Humans are a mixture of cognition and emotion, and both elements are essential to function and learn properly
  • Educators and public policy makers need to learn more about the brain, how it grows, and how to cultivate it
  • Students of all ages need to be both challenged and nurtured in order to succeed
  • People learn differently – try to teach and learn through as many different modalities as possible (engage language, motor skills, artistic creation, social interaction, sensory input, etc.)
  • While short-term stress can heighten your cognitive abilities, long term stress kills you — you need to find balance and release
  • Test anxiety and subsequent poor test results can be improved with behavioral training with feedback based on heart rate variability
  • Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a very very enlightening and fun speaker
  • Allow time for rest and consolidation of learned material
  • Emotional memories are easier to remember
  • Conferences like these perform a real service in fostering dialogues between scientists and educators

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Sharpen Your Wits With This Special Offer!

We are offering a limited-time deal for the rest of February 2007.

You will get Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 QuestionsBrain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions included for free! (an $11.95 savings!)

Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez answer in plain English the most common questions around why and how to exercise our brains.

…when you buy any of the following brain exercise programs:

Exercise Your Brain: New Brain Research and Implications

Exercise Your Brain: New Brain Research and Implications DVD

This one-hour and 20 minute class introduces you to the science of brain fitness and includes many engaging brain exercises you can do on your own or in a group setting. You will learn about basic neuroanatomy and physiology, as well as hear about the groundbreaking publications that launched this field. Then, get you will practice how to exercise your own brain and flex all your mental muscles. Perfect introduction to Brain Fitness!
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Is physical fitness important to your brain fitness?

Here is question 18 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.Trail Runner

Question:
Is physical fitness important to your brain fitness?

Key Points:

  • Exercise improves learning through increased blood supply and growth hormones.
  • Exercise is an anti-depressant by reducing stress and promoting neurogenesis.
  • Exercise protects the brain from damage and disease, as well as speeding the recovery.
  • Exercise benefits you the most when you start young.

Answer:
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Brain Training and SharpBrains in the news

Several recent stories on brain training and SharpBrains:

1) New brain games may improve mind fitness by Kevin Kosterman (U of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Advance-Titan)

“Anytime we learn, we are training, changing, our brain,” Fernandez said. “The three key core elements for effective brain exercise are novelty, variety and constant challenge, similar to increasing the level in machines we find in gyms.”

2) “Training the Brain as possible as Training the Body”, جريدة النهار by Hanadi El Diri (Annahar, one of the most prestigious papers in the Middle East. The text is in Arabic.)

3) “Train your brain” by Mark Muckenfuss (The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and San Bernardino)

“We cannot promise to people you will only keep getting better until you are 200 years old. But I think people still underestimate how flexible the brain really is.”

The SmartBrains [sic] program combines mental exercises with a stress reduction program. Too much stress, says Fernandez, has been shown to be damaging not only to performance, but to the brain itself.
With all of the available programs for stimulating the brain, he says, it is important to shop carefully. A critical element, he says, is how clients or participants are evaluated.

“Make sure they have a credible assessment that helps you find your strengths and weaknesses and that they have programs that address (those areas),” he says. “Assessments that give you 50 (as an age-equivalent grade) and a week later you’re 32, that’s not a valuable assessment.”

Brain Fitness Blog Carnival #2

Welcome to the February 19, 2007 edition of brain fitness.

Today we want to highlight an excellent Interview with Aaron Beck on the History of Cognitive Therapy submitted by the Beck Institute. Dr. Beck was 83 when he gave this interview. To the question “Do you have a view about ageing?”, he responds “I can only speak for myself. I know that practically all my colleagues from medical school days who are still around have retired. That is not something that I think about. It is no more on my horizon now than it was when we first met a quarter of a century ago. I keep looking ahead.” He also says “I have always liked to unify different fields. Given my background in neurology I do not see a conflict between neurology and psychology. But if you look at the training of contemporary psychiatrists, for example, the two domains are totally distinct. If psychiatry is to survive as a discipline, a merging of the concepts of neurology and psychology will need to occur.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Upside of Aging-WSJ

Sharon Begley writes another great article on The Upside of Aging – WSJ.com (subscription required)

  • “The aging brain is subject to a dreary litany of changes. It shrinks, Swiss cheese-like holes grow, connections between neurons become sparser, blood flow and oxygen supply fall. That leads to trouble with short-term memory and rapidly switching attention, among other problems. And that’s in a healthy brain.”
  • “But it’s not all doom and gloom. An emerging body of research shows that a surprising array of mental functions hold up well into old age, while others actually get better. Vocabulary improves, as do other verbal abilities such as facility with synonyms and antonyms. Older brains are packed with more so-called …”

We discussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, who wrote his great book The Wisdom Paradox precisely on this point, at The Executive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

In our “Exercising Our Brains” Classes, we typically explain how some areas typically improve as we age, such as self-regulation, emotional functioning and Wisdom (which means moving from Problem solving to Pattern recognition), whereas other typically decline: effortful problem-solving for novel situations, processing speed, memory, attention and mental imagery. 

But the key message is that our actions influence the rate of improvement and/ or decline. Our awareness that “it’s not all doom and gloom” and that there’s much we can do is important. You may want to learn more with our Exercise Your Brain DVD.

You can also learn more on the Successful Aging of the Healthy Brain: a beautiful essay by Marian Diamond on how to keep our brains and minds active and fit throughout our lives.

 

Brain Health Newsletter, February Edition, and Brain Awareness Week

We hope you are enjoying the growing coverage of Brain Fitness as much as we are. Below you have the Brain Fitness Newsletter we sent a few days ago-you can subscribe to this monthly email update in the box on the right hand side.

In this post, we will briefly cover:

I. Press: see what CBS and Time Magazine are talking about. SharpBrains was introduced in the Birmingham News, Chicago Tribune and in a quick note carried by the American Psychological Association news service.

II. Events: we are outreach partners for the Learning & the Brain conference, which will gather neuroscientists and educators, and for the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week.

III. Program Reviews: The Wall Street Journal reviewed six different programs for brain exercise and aging, and the one we offer is one of the two winners. A college-level counseling center starts offering our stress management one. And we interview a Notre Dame scientist who has conducted a replication study for the working memory training program for kids with ADD/ ADHD.

IV. New Offerings: we have started to offer two information packages that can be very useful for people who want to better understand this field before they commit to any particular program: learn more about our Brain Fitness 101 guide and Exercise Your Brain DVD.

V. Website and Blog Summary: we revamped our home page and have had a very busy month writing many good articles. We also hosted two “Blog Carnivals”- don’t you want to know what that means?
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