Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


European neuroscientists challenge the Human Brain Project as is

pyramidalcellsNeuroscientists attack ‘off-course’ human brain project (BBC News):

“Senior neuroscientists have attacked the Human Brain Project, a billion-pound European Commission initiative aiming to simulate the human brain. An open letter to the EC from over 200 scientists says the project is “not on course”, Read the rest of this entry »

The Science of Optimism: a Conversation on ‘The Optimism Bias’ with neuroscientist Tali Sharot

I like to think of myself as a positive and optimistic person. It seems to me to make for an easier and more enjoyable journey through life. So I was intrigued when I read of neuroscientist Tali Sharot’s research into the Optimism Bias, which has shown that despite all the bad news stories we are bombarded with on a daily basis: war, violence, wrong-doing and financial meltdown, the majority of us are optimistic by nature; our brains are hardwired to be so. It’s a fascinating concept and one I had to find out more about, so I bought the book and met with Tali in her office at University College London for an enthralling discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates (Part 3)

A few days ago we published the first and second installments of this Peace Among Primates series, by neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky. Today we publish the third and final one.

Peace Among Primates (Part 3)

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

Natural born killers?

Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates (Part 2)

(Editor’s Note: A few days ago we published the first installment of this Peace Among Primates series, by neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky. Today we publish the second installment. Next Saturday, April 19th, you can come back and read the third and final part in the series.)

Peace Among Primates (Part 2)

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

Left behind

In the early 1980s, “Forest Troop,” a group of savanna baboons I had been studying—virtually living with—for years, was going about its business in a national park in Kenya when a neighboring baboon group had a stroke of luck: Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates- by Robert Sapolsky

(Editor’s Note: One of the most original minds we have ever encountered is that of Robert Sapolsky, the Stanford-based neuroscientist, primatologist, author of A Primate’s Memoir, and more. We highly recommend most of his books. Above all, for anyone interested in brain health, this is a must read and very fun: Why Zebras Don't Have Ulcers- Robert SapolskyWhy Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide To Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping. We are honored to bring you a guest article series by Robert Sapolsky, thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.)


Peace Among Primates

Anyone who says peace is not part of human nature knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

–By Robert M. Sapolsky

It used to be thought that humans were the only savagely violent primate.  “We are the only species that kills its own, narrators intoned portentously in nature films several decades ago. That view fell by the wayside in the 1960s as it became clear that some other primates kill their fellows aplenty. Males kill; females kill. Some use their toolmaking skills to fashion bigger and better cudgels. Other primates even engage in what can only be called warfare, organized, proactive group violence directed at other populations.

Yet as field studies of primates expanded, what became most striking was the variation in social practices across species. Yes, some primate species have lives filled with violence, frequent and varied. But life among others is filled with communitarianism, egalitarianism, and cooperative child rearing. Read the rest of this entry »

Physical and Mental Exercise: Why Pitch One Against the other?

Reader Theresa Cerulli just forwarded this Letter to the Editor that she had sent to the New York Times and went unpublished. The letter addresses the OpEd mentioned here (pitching physical vs. mental exercise), and refers to the Cogmed working memory training program, whose results have been studied in multiple papers published in top medical and scientific journals.


Dear Editor:

I applaud Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang for throwing some cold water on the current brain fitness craze in their recent New York Times Magazine Opinion Editorial “Exercise on the Brain.”  They are correct in labeling the host of “mental fitness” products that target aging baby boomers as “inspired by science ”  not to be confused with actually proven by science. For the last 30 years, terms like “brain plasticity” have been widely and casually used, creating hype that risks drowning out the real breakthroughs that brain researchers are making in this area.

However, I would like to distinguish the “mental fitness” trend that Aamodt and Wang rightly criticize from actual researched-based cognitive training such as the Cogmed program developed in Sweden. Unlike “mental fitness” programs, cognitive training programs focus very narrowly on specific cognitive functions that research has shown to be plastic. This is in stark contrast to compiling a smattering of exercises or activities that are generally thought to be Read the rest of this entry »

Marian Diamond on the brain

Quotes from a great article, Professor, 81, proves brain stays young:

– In 1960, Diamond became the first female faculty member in Cal’s science department, achieving full professorship in 1974. She still teaches anatomy with her 81st birthday two weeks away.

– Diamond, a professor of anatomy at UC Berkeley, determined that the brain can stay young through stimulation, which can be achieved through her five-point plan: diet, exercise, challenge, newness and tender loving care.

– Using her plan, how is she challenged?

– “Every student who sits in that chair,” she said, pointing across the desk in her fifth-floor office in the Life Sciences Building on campus. “They come in here asking questions, and you better have the answers.”

– What newness, then, is in her life?

– “I have grandchildren,” she said. “What could be better, deciding new things for them, to stimulate their brains.”

– She has four children, four grandchildren and a husband, Arnold Scheidel, who teaches anatomy at UCLA. They see each other on school weekends,

– Diamond feels her own brain growing.

Keep reading here.

Related resources

A previous post listing a number of her essays: Marian Diamond and the Brain Revolution

Her great book Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child’s Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence, by Berkeley’s Marian Diamond and Janet L. Hopson.

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