Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain teaser to test your multi-tasking skills and improve concentration


How often do you review and comment on a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a colleague about an unrelated matter? Or think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his homework? Read the rest of this entry »

Brain teaser to test your attentional focus and multi-tasking abilities


How often do you review and comment on a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a colleague about an unrelated matter? Or think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his homework? Read the rest of this entry »

How to improve memory skills and remember what you read: Beyond phonics and “whole language”

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite the increasing visual media we are increasingly exposed to, reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, online newspapers 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, Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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