Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.


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. 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

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 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:


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, 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
  • 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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