Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Teasers and Games, for Kids and Adults

In case you missed them, here you have a few recent brain teasers and games. t is always good to stim­u­late our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work.

You can find many more brain teasers and games, for kids and adults, by vis­it­ing the Top 50 Brain Teasers and Games that our read­ers have enjoyed the most. Enjoy!

Did You See the Gorilla? An Interview with Psychologist Daniel Simons

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube over the last few years (and you know you have), you’ve likely seen the video of the invis­i­ble gorilla exper­i­ment (if you’ve some­how missed it, catch your­self up here). The researchers who con­ducted that study, Dan Simons and Chris Chabris, didn’t real­ize that they were about to cre­ate an instant classic—a psy­chol­ogy study men­tioned along­side the greats, and known well out­side the slim con­fines of psych wonks. Mil­gram taught us about our sheep­ish obe­di­ence to author­ity; Mis­chel used marsh­mal­lows to teach us about delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion; and Simons and Chabris used a faux gorilla to teach us that we are not the mas­ters of atten­tion we think we are.

The duo’s new book 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”.

Test your attentional focus: is multi-tasking a good thing?

aaHow often do you lis­ten to the office gos­sip while fill­ing in forms? Or 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?

We are con­stantly assaulted by lots of infor­ma­tion and often required to per­form sev­eral tasks at once. It is not easy to stay focused. How­ever being able to stay focused is cru­cial to achieve suc­cess. Indeed, if you are lis­ten­ing to the office gos­sip while fill­ing in forms, you will prob­a­bly make mis­takes. If you try to read a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a client, you will prob­a­bly sound dis­tant and unin­ter­ested to your client and may not get the con­tract you expected to get. If you think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his home­work, you will prob­a­bly miss oppor­tu­ni­ties to teach her something.

As you may notice all the sit­u­a­tions above involve doing more than one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is enemy num­ber one when it comes to accu­rate and speedy performance.

Human atten­tion is lim­ited. Think about your atten­tional focus as the beam of a light. If the light is on an object it can­not be on other objects at the same time with the same inten­sity. Only dim light will be avail­able to light up the objects in the periph­ery. The same hap­pens in your atten­tional sys­tem. Divid­ing atten­tion results in less atten­tional power devoted to all the dif­fer­ent tasks that you are try­ing to do at the same time. The more tasks, the less atten­tion can be devoted to each. The result is more errors and waste of time. Although we all have the feel­ing that mul­ti­task­ing saves us time, it is often not the case.

Try the exer­cise below to test your atten­tional focus. Three words have been com­bined to make this grid of let­ters. How many times does each of these words appear…? Can you com­pare your per­for­mance while search­ing for just one word vs. two of them at the same time?

How many times is the word SUN shown?
How many times is the word BUS shown?
How many times is the word NONE shown?

Solu­tions: Read the rest of this entry »

Stimulating Minds, Stimulating Links

Just a quick note to announce a new Sil­ver Spon­sor of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, and link to a cou­ple stim­u­lat­ing online conversations.

iftf-logoThe Insti­tute For the Future is an inde­pen­dent, non­profit strate­gic research group with more than 40 years of fore­cast­ing expe­ri­ence. The core of our work is iden­ti­fy­ing emerg­ing trends and dis­con­ti­nu­ities that will trans­form global soci­ety and the global mar­ket­place. We pro­vide our mem­bers with insights into busi­ness strat­egy, design process, inno­va­tion, and social dilem­mas. Our research spans a broad ter­ri­tory of deeply trans­for­ma­tive trends, from health and health care to tech­nol­ogy, the work­place, and human iden­tity. The Insti­tute for the Future is located in Palo Alto, California.

I have been col­lab­o­rat­ing infor­mally with IFTF projects for a few years, and it is excit­ing to col­lab­o­rate on the upcom­ing Sum­mit and related work.

Now, two stim­u­lat­ing links:

1) Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­nica Blog is host­ing an online con­ver­sa­tion on Multi-tasking:

Mul­ti­task­ing” remem­ber when that was some­thing com­put­ers did? They were sup­posed to do it for our ben­e­fit, to make our lives eas­ier, but some­how it hasn’t quite worked out that way. With fast com­put­ers, the Inter­net, and smart phones in our pock­ets, today we’re always teth­ered to The Net­work, and some­times it seems we’re doing its bid­ding instead of it doing ours. There’s so much to do, it comes at us so fast, and it all has to be done now. The solu­tion: for­get what you were taught about doing one thing at a time and start doing sev­eral things at once. Call your office from the express­way. Bring that Black­berry to the meet­ing. Answer e-mails over din­ner. Multitask.

Of course, whether mul­ti­task­ing really is effi­cient is a mat­ter both of pub­lic debate and clin­i­cal research, and it’s just one of the ques­tions we plan to get into next week in a new forum on the sub­ject here at the Bri­tan­nica Blog.”

You can par­tic­i­pate Here.

2) For extra brain & mind read­ing, you can visit  yesterday’s Encephalon edi­tion at The Mouse Trap. Enjoy!

8 Tips To Remember What You Read

booksDespite tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and Web “twit­ter,” tra­di­tional read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is school text­books, tech man­u­als at work, or reg­u­lar books, peo­ple still read, though not as much as they used to. One rea­son that many peo­ple don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. Stu­dents, for example,may have to read some­thing sev­eral times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teach­ers (see http://peer.tamu.edu) and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade level in read­ing pro­fi­ciency. No doubt, tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and the Web are major con­trib­u­tors to this prob­lem, which will appar­ently get worse if we don’t empha­size and improve read­ing instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in read­ing teach­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­moted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor read­ing skills can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

1. Read with a pur­pose.
2. Skim first.
3. Get the read­ing mechan­ics right.
4. Be judi­cious in high­light­ing and note tak­ing.
5. Think in pic­tures.
6. Rehearse as you go along.
7. Stay within your atten­tion span and work to increase that span.
8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Every­one should have a pur­pose for their read­ing and think about how that pur­pose is being ful­filled dur­ing the actual read­ing. The advan­tage for remem­ber­ing is that check­ing con­tin­u­ously for how the pur­pose is being ful­filled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more rel­e­vant parts of the text, and to rehearse con­tin­u­ously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because rel­e­vant items are most attended.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the pur­pose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask your­self, “Why am I read­ing this?” If it is to be enter­tained or pass the time, then there is not much prob­lem. But myr­iad other rea­sons could apply, such as:

o to under­stand a cer­tain group of peo­ple, such as Mus­lims, Jews, Hin­dus, etc.
o to crys­tal­lize your polit­i­cal posi­tion, such as why a given gov­ern­ment pol­icy should be opposed.
o to develop an informed plan or pro­posal.
o to sat­isfy a require­ment of an aca­d­e­mic course or other assigned reading.

Many of us have read­ings assigned to us, as in a school envi­ron­ment. Or the boss may hand us a man­ual and say Read the rest of this entry »

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Thank you for your inter­est, atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Sharp­Brains com­mu­nity. As always, we appre­ci­ate your com­ments and suggestions.

Sum­mit of the Global Agenda

How can we per­suade busi­ness lead­ers, policy-makers and researchers of the urgency to develop and pro­mote an inte­grated “Healthy Liv­ing” agenda focused on main­tain­ing life­long phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health, vs. the usual mind­set focused on deal­ing with spe­cific dis­eases and prob­lems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Cap­i­tal?, I sum­ma­rize some of the key themes dis­cussed at the World Eco­nomic Forum event in Dubai on Novem­ber 7-9th. The world is aging — and in health­ier ways. But our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on track to go bank­rupt — their premises are out­dated. The cur­rent disease-based research agenda com­pounds the prob­lem. Solu­tions? 1) Pro­mote Healthy Lifestyles that help Main­tain Phys­i­cal and Cog­ni­tive Func­tional Abil­i­ties, 2) Redesign Envi­ron­ments to Fos­ter Health, Engage­ment and Finan­cial Secu­rity, 3) Develop an Inte­grated Healthy Liv­ing & Aging Research Agenda. Specif­i­cally, we could work with the UN and Global 2000 com­pa­nies to move for­ward a new agenda.

Planet Earth 2.0: A New Oper­at­ing Sys­tem: Imag­ine see­ing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in tra­di­tional Arab cloth­ing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Obama) in front of the 800 global experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the atten­dants of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Sum­mit of the Global Agenda urged us to “reboot” the sys­tem. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new global “Yes We Can” oper­at­ing system.

Brain Fit­ness Research

Train­ing Atten­tion and Emo­tional Self-Regulation: Dr. Michael Pos­ner, a promi­nent  cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on what atten­tion, self-regulation, and effort­ful con­trol are, and how to improve them using soft­ware, med­i­ta­tion, and par­ent­ing. In his words, “we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing (…) the higher the results.”

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and the Brain That Changes Itself: Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the excel­lent book by Nor­man Doidge, explain­ing that “the neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, which is the brain’s abil­ity to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intel­li­gence,  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing entity.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments?: In our view, a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the matu­rity of the brain fit­ness mar­ket will be the avail­abil­ity of inex­pen­sive, valid and reli­able objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments,  to help mea­sure how our brain func­tions change over time and iden­tify pri­or­i­ties for tar­geted improve­ments. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Prop­erly) or Lose It

Mem­ory Prob­lems? Per­haps you are Multi-tasking: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Multi-tasking vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­ory works.” He explains that “(multi-tasking) prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clearly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effective.”

Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline: The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a weekly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle on the impor­tance of phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise. We are very happy to see efforts like these to train physi­cians and health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­eral,  given that most of them were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recently announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, to start air­ing soon.

MetaCar­ni­val #1: a con­ver­sa­tion across the blo­gos­phere: We often insist on “Nov­elty, Vari­ety and Chal­lenge” as key ingre­di­ents for good “brain exer­cise”. There are many ways to mix those ingre­di­ents — you may enjoy this one, the first inter­dis­ci­pli­nary gath­er­ing of blogs and blog car­ni­vals cov­er­ing health, sci­ence, anthro­pol­ogy, gen­eral advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Men­tal Exer­cise: Over the last 2 years we have pub­lished close to 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, and every kind of men­tal exer­cise (with­out count­ing our in-depth inter­views with top neu­ro­sci­en­tists). Which ones have proven most stim­u­lat­ing for you. Let us know. Here is a selec­tion of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offer­ing another great selec­tion of arti­cles: Dr. Andrew New­berg will dis­cuss the brain value of med­i­ta­tion,  Dr. David Rabiner will review a recent study on how neu­ro­feed­back may assist in the diag­nos­tic of atten­tion deficits, and much more.

Please share this newslet­ter with your friends and col­leagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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