Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Fitter bodies = fitter brains. True at all ages?

The results of recently published studies suggest that fitter children also have fitter brains. It looks like exer­cis­ing your body pro­motes brain health. Is this true at all ages? How does it work? How much exercise should we do?

Physical activity and brain health in children

An emerging literature suggests that physical activity and high levels of aerobic fitness during childhood  may enhance cognition. In the 2 most recent studies by Kramer and colleagues (2010), the cognitive performance and the brains of higher-fit and lower-fit 9- and 10-year-old children were examined.

In one study, fitter children did better than less fit children in a task requiring to ignore irrelevant information and attend to relevant cues. Fitter children also had larger basal ganglia (more specifically dorsal striatum) than less fit children. The basal ganglia play a key role in cognitive control (e.g. preparing, initiating, inhibiting, switching responses).

In another study, fitter children did better than less fit children in a task requiring to memorize information. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Know Thyself, Know How Your Brain Works

What is working memory, and why it matters? Can we multi-task as good as we seem to assume? What should we all know about how our brains work, and why?

We hope you enjoy this August eNewsletter, featuring six distinguished contributors who answer those questions, and more. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this free Brain Fitness eNewsletter by email, using the box in the right column.

Know Thyself

Why working memory matters in the knowledge age: As Dr. Tracy Alloway points out, one way to visualize working memory is as the brain’s “Post-it Notes” — we make mental scribbles of bits of information we need to remember and work with. Without enough working memory we cannot function as a society or as individuals. Learn more by participating in this study launched by Dr. Alloway’s team in conjunction with the British Science Festival.

What should everyone learn about the brain?: Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman and Mary Koppel from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) discuss recent recommendations on what all students should know. Not just the basics of brain structure and function, but also a good understanding of mental health—such as the mind/body relationship, factors that shape behavior, ways of coping with mental distress, and the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

News

Pooling data to accelerate Alzheimer’s research: A good article in the New York Times presents the reasons behind growing research of how to detect Alzheimer’s Disease. A pilot study shows how computerized cognitive training may help reduce falls among elderly. Amazon.com recommends The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness in a thought-provoking mix.

Beyond News

Needed: funding for innovative research on slowing cognitive decline via cognitive training: SharpBrains reader and UK researcher Nick Almond shares a note debunking the so-called BBC brain training experiment  and outlining the type of research he and colleagues at Leeds University deem necessary.

Long-term effects of neurofeedback treatment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reviews the 6-month follow-up of a scientific study on whether neurofeedback can help kids with attention deficits, finding that benefits indeed remained 6 months after treatment had ended. Given, however, that only around 50% of children showed benefits, it is important to regard this tool as part of a multimodal treat­ment program.

Brain Teaser

Test your attentional focus and multi-tasking: How often do you read a document while talking on the phone with a client? Or think about your problems at work while helping your child with his homework? Human attention is limited, and we need to manage it well, as shown in this teaser prepared by Dr. Pascale Michelon.

Have a great September. And, should you happen to be in Barcelona, Spain, on September 14th, make sure to attend Alvaro Fernandez talk there titled “How and Why Digital Technology Will Transform Education, Training and Brain Health“.

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:
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »

Learning & The Brain Conference, February 15-17th in San Francisco

For information on the 2008 Conference, and the discount for SharpBrains readers, visit: Learning & The Brain Conference: discount for SharpBrains readers.

The post below refers to the 2007 Conference:

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The organizers of this amazing conference, whose registration is about to expire, just extended their very kind offer to SharpBrains readers: you can register at the reduced price of $475 (right now the normal price is $545) if you do so by February 9nd. You can register here http://www.edupr.com/reg.html, making sure to write SharpBrains1 in the comments section

This is what we wrote about the conference:

Talk about neuroscience applied to education: we will be reporting from a fascinating conference in San Francisco, February 15-17, titled Learning & the Brain: Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning And Student Performance, sponsored by leading universities and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

  • Speakers include a truly “Dream Team” of neuroscientists and educators such as Michael S. Gazzaniga, William C. Mobley, John D.E. Gabrieli, Robert M. Sapolsky, Robert Sylwester, and many many others. You can check the program here http://www.edupr.com/schedule2.htm.
  • The description of the event is: “Use this explosion of scientific knowledge to create new, powerful paradigms for teaching and healthcare. Cutting-edge discoveries in neuroscience may soon transform educational and clinical interventions by enhancing memory and cognition. Discover the influences of emotions, gender and the arts. Explore new ways to enhance cognition and to assess potential benefits and pitfalls of using pharmacology, technology and therapy to boost performance.”

Neuroplasticity and Lifelong Learning

What a month. We promised you with our blog title 7 months ago that we would be your “Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution”, but we couldn’t have predicted that CBS, Time Magazine, WSJ, NYT and other mainstream media would be such great allies in this neuroplasticity effort.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can receive a complimentary copy of our Brain Fitness 101 e-Guide: Answers to your Top 25 Questions, written by Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg and Alvaro Fernandez, by subscribing to our monthly newsletter. You can subscribe Here.

Brain Fitness for All

Let’s start with (Wall Street Journal Science Editor) Sharon Begley’s article titled How The Brain Rewires Itself, based on her Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain book. She provides a fascinating overview, summarized as

FOR DECADES, THE PREVAILING DOGMA IN neuroscience was that the adult human brain is essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reach adulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have. Yes, it can create (and lose) synapses, the connections between neurons that encode memories and learning… . The doctrine of the unchanging human brain has had profound ramifications. …But research in the past few years has overthrown the dogma. In its place has come the realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity” — the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience. These aren’t minor tweaks either.

In short, the brain is not that different from a muscle (better said, a group of muscles). It can be trained. At any age. Not with magical pills or cures, but with focus and disciplined training.
Read the rest of this entry »

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