Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Update: The Future of Preventive Brain Medicine

Time for Sharp­Brains’ Jan­u­ary 2012 eNewslet­ter, fea­tur­ing in this occa­sion mul­ti­ple thought-provoking per­spec­tives on how emerg­ing neu­ro­science can and should make us rethink pre­vail­ing prac­tices in edu­ca­tion, healthy aging and pre­ven­tive medicine.

 

Fea­tured Perspectives:

New Research: 

Resources:

 

Finally, you may want to read our answers to the many excel­lent ques­tions we received about the upcom­ing Online Course: How to Be Your Own Brain Fit­ness Coach in 2012. 80 indi­vid­u­als have reg­is­tered so far, rep­re­sent­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing diver­sity of back­grounds: health and med­ical pro­fes­sion­als, edu­ca­tors, busi­ness exec­u­tives, traders, con­sul­tants, coaches, soft­ware engi­neers, ther­a­pists,  and more. Please remem­ber that early-bird rates end on Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 31st!

Have a great month of February.

Research: Does Nintendo Brain Age work as a brain training game?

A new study tries to, but unfor­tu­nately doesn’t, answer that ques­tion. Study: Brain Train­ing Game Improves Exec­u­tive Func­tions and Pro­cess­ing Speed in the Elderly: A Ran­dom­ized Con­trolled Trial (PLoS ONE).

Con­clu­sions: Our results showed that play­ing Brain Age for 4 weeks could lead to improve cog­ni­tive func­tions (exec­u­tive func­tions and pro­cess­ing speed) in the elderly. This result indi­cated that there is a pos­si­bil­ity which the elderly could improve exec­u­tive func­tions and pro­cess­ing speed in short term train­ing. The results need repli­ca­tion in large sam­ples. Long-term effects and rel­e­vance for every-day func­tion­ing remain uncer­tain as yet.” Read the rest of this entry »

Update: 15 FAQs on Neuroplasticity / Brain Plasticity

Here you have the Octo­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness topics.

We recently run an online sur­vey among sub­scribers of our monthly eNewslet­ter, and over 500 peo­ple neuroplasticity faqssaid we have helped them make bet­ter per­sonal or pro­fes­sional deci­sions on how to main­tain and improve brain fit­ness. Respon­dents also had many good ques­tions to ask, so I have selected 15 com­mon ones, paraphrased/ syn­the­sized them below, and answered them by link­ing to our most rel­e­vant posts and resources. I hope you enjoy the FAQ session.

Q: I teach a brain fit­ness class at my library/ senior center/ school, using much of your info. Can you share some of your pre­sen­ta­tions?
A: Yes, we have just decided to share, using a Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion No Deriv­a­tives License, the full pre­sen­ta­tion of my recent book talk at New York Pub­lic Library (opens video in YouTube). As long as you give credit to Sharp­Brains and don’t mod­ify it, you are free to use the pre­sen­ta­tion you can view and down­load HERE.

Q: What exactly does neu­ro­plas­tic­ity neurons in actionmean, and why is it so impor­tant for edu­ca­tion and health?
A: Start by read­ing how learn­ing changes your brain.

Q. Is this only rel­e­vant for older adults? Can I also apply it in the work­place (I am 47)
A. I strongly sus­pect you do have a human brain, so you may ben­e­fit from these Ten Habits of Highly Effec­tive Brains. Fur­ther, HR depart­ments would do well to start pay­ing more atten­tion to Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and the Mature Work­force trends.

Q. I read so many con­flict­ing things I don’t know where to start.
A. You are not alone. We should all be aware that It is Not Only Cars That Deserve Good Main­te­nance: Brain Care 101.

Q. How can my orga­ni­za­tion deliver brain fit­ness activ­i­ties as a com­mu­nity ser­vice?
A. These arti­cles will pro­vide good guide­lines and ideas: Retool­ing Use It or Lose It , and Pub­lic Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain.

Q. Every­one seems obsessed with brain games. What about med­i­ta­tion?
A. Check out Yes, You Can Build Willpower, and Mind­ful­ness Med­i­ta­tion in Schools.

Q. Are software-based cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions effec­tive?
A. As a cat­e­gory, it cer­tainly seems so, as long as we ask the right ques­tions, For Whom, For What?. For exam­ple, did you see this Sci­ence paper on how Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Can Influ­ence Dopamine Sys­tem?.

Q. What about the trade-off between time invested vs ben­e­fits real­ized.
A. Effi­ciency and replic­a­bil­ity of cog­ni­tive and brain-based out­comes seem to be, in fact, the strongest points of struc­tured cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions. They seem to max­i­mize the Cog­ni­tive Value of your Men­tal Work­out.


Q. It some­times looks like the whole field came out of nowhere, due to Nin­tendo Brain Age’s suc­cess, so we can’t be talk­ing about some­thing seri­ous.

A: Nin­tendo did indeed cre­ate con­sumer aware­ness (for a prod­uct with lit­tle evi­dence) but “brain train­ing” has solid roots in neu­ropsy­chol­ogy and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, as you can read in our inter­view with Elkhonon Gold­berg.

Q. What about neu­ro­feed­back?
A. After years of much clin­i­cal use and lit­tle solid evi­dence, sev­eral impor­tant tri­als have been pub­lished since 2009, show­ing how neu­ro­feed­back can help diag­nose and treat ADHD patients, for exam­ple.

Q. How can one improve mem­ory?

A. Well, the answer deserves a whole book, but we can offer some Tips to Improve Mem­ory includ­ing Sleep, Prac­tice and Test­ing.

Q. How can I brain fitness bookschoose one among the num­ber of prod­ucts mak­ing mem­ory and brain claims?
A. We sug­gest you use this Eval­u­a­tion check­list, and con­sider read­ing our con­sumer guide/ book.

Q. Any gen­eral tips for edu­ca­tors and life­long learn­ers?
A. Indeed, here you have these 10 Brain Tips to Teach and Learn.

Q. How can I keep track of all the new brain fitness market infographictrends, com­pa­nies and prod­ucts? Our health system/ insurer/ senior community/ ven­ture firm/ com­pany needs to make good deci­sions.
A. Well, that’s why we pub­lish mar­ket research, such as the one sum­ma­rized in this Info­graphic: State of the Mar­ket 2009 and also recently launched a pro­fes­sional Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion.

Q: Thank you for all the infor­ma­tion you provide…but what I want more of is… brain teasers!
A. Under­stood. We will make sure to offer more, but you can try, right now, these Top 50 Brain Teasers and con­tinue with more recent puz­zles and brain games.

Brain Training Market Talk, at MIT/ BoomerTech Series

We’ll have an excit­ing ses­sion in Palo Alto on Octo­ber 6th, as part of the BoomerTech series orga­nized by the MIT Club and Smart­Sil­vers. Let me share the details now.

Fact or Fad: Who is Shap­ing the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket?
Descrip­tion: Lots of buzz … Per­haps you think that “Senior Moments” are an inevitable part of aging. MIT Club Northern CaliforniaBut research shows you may be able to keep your brain young and fit the same way you do your body, with exer­cise and train­ing. With the suc­cess of Nintendo’s Brain Age, Posit Sci­ence and dozens of new soft­ware pro­grams and games that promise “brain fit­ness”, the real ques­tion is: “Are we expe­ri­enc­ing a fad, or an emerg­ing new con­sumer market?”

Join our speaker, Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, author of the new book, The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness, and our expert panel to discuss:

* What are the top prod­ucts on the mar­ket today?
* Can the emerg­ing field of Brain fit­ness improve your job per­for­mance?
* How will con­sumers make informed deci­sions on what to buy and use?
* What are the emerg­ing trends to lever­age for entre­pre­neurs to jump into the marketplace?

Click Here to Register

Speaker, Pan­elist & Moderator

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, Sharp­Brains — Alvaro is co-founder and CEO of Sharp­Brains, a lead­ing mar­ket research firm that tracks the mar­ket and research for cog­ni­tive assess­ments, train­ing, and games. A mem­ber of the World Eco­nomic Forum’s Global Agenda Coun­cils, he has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, USA Today, and more, and recently co-authored the book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp. Alvaro received mas­ters’ degrees in edu­ca­tion and busi­ness from Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, and teaches at UC-Berkeley Osher Life­long Learn­ing Institute.

Pan­elists

Roger Quy, Gen­eral Part­ner, Tech­nol­ogy Part­ners — Roger has been respon­si­ble for the life sci­ence prac­tice of Tech­nol­ogy Part­ners since 1989. He spe­cial­izes in neu­rotech­nol­ogy, invest­ing in both bio­pharma and med­ical device com­pa­nies. Roger began his career at the Queen Square Insti­tute of Neu­rol­ogy, Lon­don where he was a Research Fel­low for the British Med­ical Research Coun­cil. He devel­oped and com­mer­cial­ized tech­niques for mon­i­tor­ing the brains of ambu­la­tory patients. He con­tributed to a text­book on epilepsy and holds eight patents. Roger earned a BA with hon­ors in psy­chol­ogy and law and a PhD in neu­ro­science from the Uni­ver­sity of Keele, Eng­land. He received an MBA from the Haas School of Busi­ness at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berkeley.

Jan Zivic, Founder, Vibrant Brains — Jan’s inter­est in Brain Fit­ness is very per­sonal. She suf­fered a trau­matic brain injury after an auto­mo­bile acci­dent sev­eral years ago, and expe­ri­enced the con­cept of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity first-hand as she reha­bil­i­tated from not being able to walk or think ratio­nally to restor­ing much of her pre­vi­ous function.

Jan has served in a vari­ety of lead­er­ship roles includ­ing: the Board of Direc­tors of the Yerba Buena Cen­ter for the Arts where she cur­rently serves as Pres­i­dent of the Board, the Library Com­mis­sion of SF, the Cal­i­for­nia Exec­u­tive Recruiters Asso­ci­a­tion (its first female Pres­i­dent), the Kather­ine Del­mar Burke Inde­pen­dent School, and The Fam­ily Ser­vices Agency of SF — Pres­i­dent of the Board. Jan was rec­og­nized as The SF Cable Car Awards “Woman of the Year,” and later as the recip­i­ent of the Maya Angelou Com­mu­nity Lead­er­ship Award, from the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco Med­ical School’s Cen­ter Of Excellence.

Date: Tues­day, Octo­ber 6, 2009

Time:

* 6:00PM Reg­is­tra­tion, Hors d’oeuvres and Net­work­ing
* 7:00PM Pre­sen­ta­tion and Panel Discussion

Cost:

* $20.00 in advance on the web­site
* $25.00 Walk-ins at the door (cash or check please, no credit cards accepted at door)

Con­tact:

Michael Sar­fatti
tel 415–885-2293
sarfatti@alum.mit.edu

Loca­tion:

Wil­son Son­sini
950 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94301

Click Here to Register

Brain Quiz: Do You Have a Brain?

Have you already read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness?

Let’s see…brain health and brain fitness

1. Pick the only part of your body that does not con­tain fat:

a. Arm
b. Thigh
c. Brain
d. None

Answer: d) Fats are also present in the brain: in neu­rons’ mem­branes to keep them flex­i­ble. These fats are the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids mol­e­cules. (Page 32 of the book)

2. Pick the only food prod­uct that doesn’t con­tain Omega-3 fatty acids

a. Tuna
b. Wal­nut
c. Kiwi
d. Jelly Beans

Answer: d) Fatty acids can be found in cold-water fish (such as mack­erel, her­ring, salmon, and tuna), kiwi, and wal­nuts. (Page 33)

3. Pick the only food prod­uct that doesn’t con­tain antioxidants

a. Olive oil
b. Milk
c. Nuts
d. Berries

Answer: b) Antiox­i­dants can be found in veg­etable oils, nuts, green leafy veg­eta­bles (e.g., spinach), cit­rus fruit, and berries. (Page 33)

4. Chronic Stress cannot:

a. Pre­vent you from being cre­ative
b. Kill brain cells
c. Pre­vent you from sleep­ing
d. Kill liver cells

Answer: d) Pro­longed expo­sure to adrenal steroid hor­mones like cor­ti­sol, which is released into the blood stream when we are stressed, can lead to cell death and block the for­ma­tion of new neu­rons. (Page 35)

5. What type of phys­i­cal exer­cise is the best for your brain health?

a. Weight lift­ing
b. Aer­o­bic exer­cises
c. Flex­i­bil­ity exer­cises Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers on Brain Training/ Games for Health Conference

Given the whole dis­tract­ing “con­tro­versy” of whether Nin­tendo Brain Age “works” or not, I have started to use the fol­low­ing “brain teasers” in my talks in order to help the audi­ence gain a more use­ful per­spec­tive of what is going on. They worked great both in the Medicare Read­mis­sions Sum­mit in DC a few weeks ago, and at the Games for Heath Con­fer­ence last week.

Q: How many sol­diers in the US Army have gone through com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive test­ing before being deployed, and why?
A: Over 150,000, in order to estab­lish an objec­tive start­ing base­line and iden­tify poten­tial Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der (PTSD) and Trau­matic Brain Injury (TBI) prob­lems upon their return.

Q: How big is the ongo­ing invest­ment by OptumHealth, a divi­sion of Unit­ed­Health Group (UNH), in devel­op­ing com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ments to inform clin­i­cal decision-making?
A: over $6m.

Q: How many All­state policy-holders over the age of 50 have received a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram to improve their dri­ving safety?
A: Over 8,000, in the state of Pennsylvania.

Q: How many res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties are offer­ing com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams to their res­i­dents?
A: Over 700, in the US alone, cov­er­ing inde­pen­dent and assisted living.

Q: How much money has the Gov­ern­ment of Ontario invested in set­ting up a new Cen­tre for Brain Fit­ness as part of Bay­crest research cen­ter in order to develop and com­mer­cial­ize tech­nolo­gies to assess and enhance cog­ni­tive func­tions?
A: $10m, matched with another 10m from local investors.

For more on our Cog­ni­tive Health Track at Games for Health Con­fer­ence last week, see this USA Today article:

More doctor’s pre­scrip­tions may include brain games to improve men­tal acuity

(pretty good over­all, but please note that Sharp­Brains didn’t orga­nize the whole con­fer­ence, “only” the cog­ni­tive health track, which was a lot of stim­u­lat­ing fun. Ben Sawyer and team did over­all conference).

Update: Learning about Learning/ more on Brain Age

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

Bird’s Eye View

Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When health insur­ance com­pa­nies and pub­lic pol­icy mak­ers launch sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives. Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore pro­vides a mar­ket overview, based on Sharp­Brains’ client webi­nar held last December.

Ten Reflec­tions on Cog­ni­tive Health and Assess­ments: Here are 10 high­lights from sev­eral stim­u­lat­ing Jan­u­ary events:  Sym­po­sium on Adap­tive Tech­nol­ogy for the Aging (by Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity), Health Blog­gers’ Sum­mit (by Con­sumer Reports), Trau­matic Brain Injury (by Vet­eran Affairs in Palo Alto), and a new Alzheimer’s/ Demen­tia Expert Panel orga­nized by the city of San Francisco.

News and Events

Nin­tendo Brain Age vs. Cross­word Puz­zles: we need much pub­lic edu­ca­tion in order to help con­sumers sep­a­rate real­ity from hope from hype. Nin­tendo is not help­ing, nei­ther is media reporting.

Col­lec­tion of recent news: includ­ing train­ing for senior fit­ness train­ers, reports on the impor­tance of pur­pose,  on older dri­ver safety, and more.

Upcom­ing events: I will be speak­ing soon at the New York Acad­emy of Med­i­cine, the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging/ NCOA con­fer­ence, and the Sil­ver­ing Work­force Sum­mit at the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina. Let me know if you are attend­ing any.

Edu­ca­tion and Learning

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Barry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodigy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learn­ing. Many fas­ci­nat­ing insights, includ­ing “I think los­ing my first National Chess Cham­pi­onship was the great­est thing that ever hap­pened to me, because it helped me avoid many of the psy­cho­log­i­cal traps…(associated with being called a “child prodigy”)”.

Resources to help stu­dents build emo­tional intel­li­gence: Daniel Gole­man intro­duces edu­ca­tors and par­ents to a new book that “adds an impor­tant tool to the emo­tional intel­li­gence kit: mind­ful­ness, a moment-by-moment aware­ness of one’s inter­nal state and exter­nal environment.”

Resources

Top 10 Cog­ni­tive Health and Brain Fit­ness Books: Here you have The 10 Most Pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness & Cog­ni­tive Health Books, based on book pur­chases by Sharp­Brains’ read­ers dur­ing 2008.

10-Question Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion Check­list: To help con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of pro­grams mak­ing “brain fit­ness” or “brain train­ing” claims, we pub­lished last year this Eval­u­a­tion Check­list. Now we are mak­ing the Check­list avail­able as a Book­mark given recent requests by uni­ver­si­ties and con­fer­ence organizers.

Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser to Exer­cise your Mem­ory and Rea­son­ing Skills: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon offers a stim­u­lat­ing teaser that not only helps exer­cise our brain but also edu­cates us on how and why the same activ­ity may exer­cise dif­fer­ent brains dif­fer­ently — depend­ing on where we are from.

Learn about the 2014 SharpBrains Summit in 2 minutes

Watch Larry King’s interview

» Click HERE in the USA, or HERE else­where (opens 28-min program)

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, CNN and more, Sharp­Brains is an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain science.
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