Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Busy schedules linked to better memory and cognition among middle-aged and older adults

busyness

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Being Super Busy May* Be Good For Your Brain (Smithsonian Magazine):

“There hasn’t been much scientific research on busyness itself, although it’s something that we talk about so often,” explains Sara Festini, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Vital Longevity, a co-author of the new research published this week Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Training & Brain Teasers Can Increase Openness Among Older Adults

Brain Teasers Make Seniors More Open to New Ventures (medpage today):

– ” A cognitive training program that included Sudoku and crossword puzzles made older adults more open to new experiences, according to a preliminary study.”

– “Older adults undergo changes in personality, including shifts in openness or willingness to seek out new and cognitively challenging experiences. A number of interventions have been designed to enrich cognitive functioning in older adults, but little has been done to develop openness, the authors explained.” Read the rest of this entry »

Technology Innovation to Enhance Wellbeing: New Model eHealth Community

Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing Receives Grant for the Model eHealth Community for Aging (press release):

– ” The Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing (Front Porch Center), a 501(C)(3) founded on the belief that technology innovation plays a vital role in enhancing wellbeing, was awarded eHealth equipment valued at approximately $207,000 through the Model eHealth Communities initiative at UC Davis Health System and the Read the rest of this entry »

New Summit Sponsor and Partners

We’re delighted to add Brain Resource to the roster of Sponsors of the upcoming 2011 SharpBrains Summit, and the Center for  Technology and Aging and the Brain Injury Association of Canada to the roster of Partners. Thank you for your support! Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Games for Physical, Cognitive and Behavioral Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) just announced more than 200px-Dance_Dance_Revolution_Extreme_arcade_machine_left_side_stage$1.85 million in grants for research teams to study how digital games can improve players’ health behaviors and outcomes (both brain-based and behavioral).

The press release: Nine Leading Research Teams Selected to Study How Digital Games Improve Players’ Health

  • “Digital games are interactive and experiential, and so they can engage people in powerful ways to enhance learning and health behavior change, especially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strategies,” said (UC Santa Barbara’s Dr. Debra) Lieberman.
  • “The pace of growth and innovation in digital games is incredible, and we see tremendous potential to design them to help people stay healthy or manage chronic conditions like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. However, we need to know more about what works and what does not — and why,” said Paul Tarini, team director for RWJF’s Pioneer Portfolio. “Health Games Research is a major investment to build a research base for this dynamic young field. Further, the insights and ideas that flow from this work will help us continue to expand our imagination of what is possible in this arena.”

All 9 studies sound interesting, 3 of them are closer to what we track:

  1. University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, CA) A Video Game to Enhance Cognitive Health in Older Adults. As people age, they lose some of their ability to sustain their attention and to focus their attention on their main task while ignoring distractions. This study aims to improve these and other related cognitive skills by using a driving game in which Read the rest of this entry »

Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?

A fewA_small_cup_of_coffee eternal questions:
– Is caffeine good for the brain?
– Does it boost cognitive functions?
– Does it protect against dementia?

There is little doubt that drinking that morning cup of coffee will likely increase alertness, but the main questions that research is trying to answer go beyond that. Basically: is there a sustained, lifetime, benefit or harm from drinking coffee regularly?

The answer, so far, contains good news and bad news. The good news for coffee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are directionally more positive than negative, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caffeine has beneficial effects on general brain functions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).

It is important to note that many of the studies showing an effect of coffee consumption on brain functions or risks of dementia report a correlation or association (they are not randomized clinical trials). As you know, correlation doesn’t prove causation: coffee drinkers may seem to do well in a number in these long-term studies, but there may be other reasons why coffee drinkers do better.

Q: How does caffeine affect my brain?
A: Caffeine is a stimulant.

It belongs to a chemical group called xanthine. Adenosine is a naturally occurring xanthine in the brain that slows down the activity of brain cells (neurons). To a neuron, caffeine looks like adenosine. It is therefore used by some neurons in place of adenosine. The result is that these neurons speed up instead of slowing down.

This increased neuronal activity triggers the release of the adrenaline hormone, which will affect your body Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness/ Training by the American Senior Fitness Association

Brain Fitness Coming to Senior Exercise Classes (press release):

– “The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has announced a new brain fitness training program designed for exercise professionals. Brain Fitness for Older Adults teaches senior fitness instructors and personal trainers how to incorporate effective cognitive fitness into physical activity programs, offering seniors the opportunity to boost both physical and mental fitness simultaneously.”

Comment: a very timely initiative, given the interest we see in brain fitness education and initiatives, and the benefits of both physical and mental exercise on brain health. It makes a lot of sense to enhance public awareness through train-the-trainer initiatives. What remains unclear in this SFA program is what is the direct evidence for something that is billed as a “brain fitness training program” and seems to advocate one particular set of exercises and movements for their trainers and trainers’ clients. It is one thing to claim a product provides good information & is educational (like a book, or this blog, or classes on the brain & brain health) and another one to claim that it is a “brain fitness training program”, for which we should ask the same questions we ask of any other intervention to enhance cognitive functions, technology-based or not, following our 10-Question Program Evaluation Checklist. What is the direct evidence that seniors trained by “senior fitness instructors and personal trainers” using the methodology that the SFA advocates will “boost both physical and mental fitness simultaneously”?

10 Questions to Choose the Right Brain Fitness Program – and a brief explanation of why each question is important: Read the rest of this entry »

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