Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain fitness is not about crossword puzzles and blueberries

brain_centerTop 15 Insights About Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, Emo­tions and Life­long Learn­ing (The Huff­in­g­ton Post):

  • A con­se­quence of the brain’s plas­tic­ity is that the brain may change with every expe­ri­ence, thought and emo­tion, from which it fol­lows that you your­self have the poten­tial power to change your brain with every­thing that you do, think, and feel. So brain fit­ness and opti­miza­tion are about much more than cross­word puz­zles and blue­ber­ries; they are about cul­ti­vat­ing a new mind­set and mas­ter­ing a new toolkit that allow us to appre­ci­ate and take full advan­tage of our brains’ incred­i­ble properties.”

Keep read­ing these  Top 15 Insights About Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, Emo­tions and Life­long Learning

Carol Dweck on Mindsets, Learning and Intelligence

Just came across an excel­lent Inter­view with Carol Dweck. Thank you Coert!

Carol Dweck is a pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity. Last year she pub­lished a great book called Mind­set: The New Psy­chol­ogy of Suc­cess, where she elab­o­rates on her (and ours) key mes­sage: the way you view your own intel­li­gence largely deter­mines how it will develop. And no mat­ter how you define “intel­li­gence”. In this inter­view Coert asks Carol Dweck about the book and about what the prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions of her work are for man­agers. See a cou­ple of quotes below:

- “In my book I iden­tify two mind­sets that play impor­tant roles in people’s suc­cess. In one, the fixed mind­set, peo­ple believe that their tal­ents and abil­i­ties are fixed traits. They have a cer­tain amount and that’s that; noth­ing can be done to change it. Many years of research have now shown that when peo­ple adopt the fixed mind­set, it can limit their suc­cess. They become over-concerned with prov­ing their tal­ents and abil­i­ties, hid­ing defi­cien­cies, and react­ing defen­sively to mis­takes or setbacks-because defi­cien­cies and mis­takes imply a (per­ma­nent) lack of tal­ent or abil­ity. Peo­ple in this mind­set will actu­ally pass up impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow if there is a risk of unmask­ing weak­nesses. This is not a recipe for suc­cess in busi­ness, as ulti­mately shown by the folks at Enron, who rarely admit­ted any mis­takes. What is the alter­na­tive?“
– “In the other mind­set, the growth mind­set, peo­ple believe that their tal­ents and abil­i­ties can be devel­oped through pas­sion, edu­ca­tion, and per­sis­tence. For them, it’s not about look­ing smart or groom­ing their image. It’s about a com­mit­ment to learning–taking informed risks and learn­ing from the results, sur­round­ing your­self with peo­ple who will chal­lenge you to grow, look­ing frankly at your defi­cien­cies and seek­ing to rem­edy them. Most great busi­ness lead­ers have had this mind­set, because build­ing and main­tain­ing excel­lent orga­ni­za­tions in the face of con­stant change requires it.”

Enjoy the whole Inter­view with Carol Dweck

And this related blog post, where we posited that “In short: there is much that each of us can do to improve our brain fit­ness, no mat­ter our age, occu­pa­tion or start­ing point. There are some fun­da­men­tal capac­i­ties that we can train. And we have to care for good phys­i­cal exer­cise and stress man­age­ment on top of men­tal exercise.”

Darwin’s adult neuroplasticity

Charles Darwin 1880Charles Dar­win (1809–1882)‘s auto­bi­og­ra­phy (full text free online) includes some very insight­ful refec­tions on the evo­lu­tion of his own mind dur­ing his middle-age, show­cas­ing the power of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence (neu­ro­plas­tic­ity) dur­ing our whole lifetimes-not just when we are youngest.

He wrote these paragraphs at the age of 72 (I have bolded some key sen­tences for empha­sis, the whole text makes great reading):

I have said that in one respect my mind has changed dur­ing the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Mil­ton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shel­ley, gave me great plea­sure, and even as a school­boy I took intense delight in Shake­speare, espe­cially in the his­tor­i­cal plays. I have also said that for­merly pic­tures gave me con­sid­er­able, and music very great delight. But now for many years I can­not endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shake­speare, and found it so intol­er­a­bly dull that it nau­se­ated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pic­tures or music. Music gen­er­ally sets me think­ing too ener­get­i­cally on what I have been at work on, instead of giv­ing me plea­sure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquis­ite delight which it for­merly did. On the other hand, nov­els which are works of the imag­i­na­tion, though not of a very high order, have been for years a won­der­ful relief and plea­sure to me, and I often bless all nov­el­ists. A sur­pris­ing num­ber have been read aloud to me, and I like all if mod­er­ately good, and if they do not end unhap­pily– against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, accord­ing to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it con­tains some per­son whom one can thor­oughly love, and if a pretty woman all the better.

This curi­ous and lam­en­ta­ble loss of the higher aes­thetic tastes is all the odder, as books on his­tory, biogra­phies, and trav­els (inde­pen­dently of any sci­en­tific facts which they may con­tain), and essays on all sorts of sub­jects inter­est me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grind­ing gen­eral laws out of large col­lec­tions of facts, but why this should have caused the atro­phy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I can­not con­ceive. A man with Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training from a pediatrician perspective, focused on attention deficits

Arthur Lavin Today we inter­view Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice, and one of the first providers of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing in the US (the pro­gram whose research we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and Dr. Bradley Gib­son). Dr. Lavin has a long stand­ing inter­est in technology-as evi­denced by Microsoft’s recog­ni­tion of his paper­less office– and in brain research and applications-he trained with esteemed Mel Levine from All Kinds of Minds-.


Key take-aways:

- Schools today are not yet in a posi­tion to effec­tively help kids with cog­ni­tive issues deal with increas­ing cog­ni­tive demands.

- Work­ing Mem­ory is a cog­ni­tive skill fun­da­men­tal to plan­ning, sequenc­ing, and exe­cut­ing school-related work.

- Work­ing Mem­ory can be trained, as evi­denced by Dr. Lavin’s work, based on Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing, with kids who have atten­tion deficits.


Con­text on cog­ni­tive fit­ness and schools

AF (Alvaro Fer­nan­dez): Dr. Lavin, thanks for being with us. It is not very com­mon for a pedi­a­tri­cian to have such an active inter­est in brain research and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Can you explain the source of your interest?

AL (Arthur Lavin): Through­out my life I have been fas­ci­nated by how the mind works. Both from the research point of view and the prac­ti­cal one: how can sci­en­tists’ increas­ing knowl­edge improve kids’ lives? We now live in an truly excit­ing era in which solid sci­en­tific progress in neu­ro­science is at last cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve people’s actual cog­ni­tive func­tion. The progress Cogmed has achieved in cre­at­ing a pro­gram that can make great dif­fer­ences in the lives of chil­dren with atten­tion deficits is one of the most excit­ing recent devel­op­ments. My col­league Ms. Susan Glaser and I recently pub­lished two books: Who’s Boss: Mov­ing Fam­i­lies from Con­flict to Col­lab­o­ra­tion (Col­lab­o­ra­tion Press, 2006) and Baby & Tod­dler Sleep Solu­tions for Dum­mies (Wiley, 2007), so I not only see myself as a pedi­a­tri­cian but also an edu­ca­tor. I see par­ents in real need of guid­ance and sup­port. They usu­ally are both very skep­ti­cal, since 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 »

Memory training and attention deficits: interview with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gibson

Bradley S. Gibson, Ph.D.Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy at Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame, and Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab there. He is a cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist with research inter­ests in per­cep­tion, atten­tion, and visual cog­ni­tion. Gibson’s research has been pub­lished in a vari­ety of jour­nals, includ­ing Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­ogy, Human Per­cep­tion and Per­for­mance, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, and Per­cep­tion & Psychophysics.

In 2006 he con­ducted the first inde­pen­dent repli­ca­tion study based on the Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing pro­gram we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg.

A local news­pa­per intro­duced some pre­lim­i­nary results of the study Atten­tion, please: Mem­ory exer­cises reduce symp­toms of ADHD. Some quotes from the articles:

- “The com­puter game has been shown to reduce ADHD symp­toms in chil­dren in exper­i­ments con­ducted in Swe­den, where it was devel­oped, and more recently in a Granger school, where it was tested by psy­chol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­sity of Notre Dame.

- Fif­teen stu­dents at Dis­cov­ery Mid­dle School tried RoboMemo dur­ing a five-week period in Feb­ru­ary and March, said lead researcher Brad Gibson

- As a result of that expe­ri­ence, symp­toms of inat­ten­tion and hyper­ac­tiv­ity were both reduced, accord­ing to reports by teach­ers and par­ents, Gib­son said.

- Other tests found sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in “work­ing mem­ory”, a short-term mem­ory func­tion that’s con­sid­ered key to focus­ing atten­tion and con­trol­ling impulses.

- RoboMemo’s effec­tive­ness is not as well estab­lished as med­ica­tions, and it’s a lot more work than pop­ping a pill.

- Gib­son said Notre Dame’s study is con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary because it involved a small num­ber of stu­dents. Another lim­i­ta­tion is that the study did not have a con­trol group of stu­dents receiv­ing a placebo treatment.

We feel for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Gib­son today.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Dr. Gib­son, thanks for being with us. Could you first tell us about your over­all research interests?

Dr. Bradley Gib­son (BG): Thanks for giv­ing me this oppor­tu­nity. My pri­mary research Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training

Reminder: 60 or so sci­ence blog­gers are cel­e­brat­ing the Week of Sci­ence pre­sented at Just Sci­ence, from Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 5, through Sun­day, Feb­ru­ary 11. We will be writ­ing about “just sci­ence” this week, by dis­cussing peer-reviewed research papers in the field of brain fitness.

Yes­ter­day we talked about Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Lifestyle, a paper and research area that helps build the case for men­tal stimulation/ brain exer­cise if we care about long-term healthy aging.

Today we will approach the sub­ject of cog­ni­tive train­ing from the oppo­site cor­ner: we will dis­cuss imme­di­ate ben­e­fits of train­ing for qual­ity of life and per­for­mance in chil­dren with ADD/ ADHD. Some of the most promis­ing effects seen are those that show how work­ing mem­ory train­ing can gen­er­al­ize into bet­ter com­plex rea­son­ing (mea­sured by Ravens), inhi­bi­tion (Stroop) and ADD/ ADHD symp­toms rat­ings, beyond WM improvements.

Our main char­ac­ter: Dr. Torkel Kling­berg, whom we had the for­tune to inter­view last Sep­tem­ber (full notes at Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing and RoboMemo: Inter­view with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg), and who has since received the preti­gious Philip’s Nordic Prize.

We high­light some of the inter­view notes: Read the rest of this entry »




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