Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.


  • 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

Read the rest of this entry »

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!
Read the rest of this entry »

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

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 — (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?
Read the rest of this entry »

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