Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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©(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 »

Are videogames good for YOU? Depends on who YOU are

Two recent sci­en­tific stud­ies pub­lished by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues present Rise of Nations Arthur Kramerfas­ci­nat­ing results. The two stud­ies are:

1) Basak C, et al “Can train­ing in a real-time strat­egy video game atten­u­ate cog­ni­tive decline in older adults?” Psy­chol Aging 2008; DOI: 10.1037/a0013494.

2) Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabi­ani, M. & Grat­ton, G. (2008) The effects of video game play­ing on atten­tion, mem­ory, and exec­u­tive con­trol. Acta Psy­cho­log­ica, 129, 387–398.

Let’s first review the first study, a sig­nif­i­cant exper­i­ment in that it showed wide cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits in adults over 60 years old who played a strat­egy videogame (Rise of Nations) for 23 hours.

Play­ing com­puter games improves brain power of older adults, claim sci­en­tists (Telegraph)

- The team at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois recruited 40 adults over 60 years old, half of whom were asked to play a com­puter game called Rise of Nations, a role-playing game in which you have to build your own empire.

- Game play­ers have to build cities, feed and employ their peo­ple, main­tain an ade­quate mil­i­tary and expand their territory.

- Both groups were assessed before, dur­ing and after the video game train­ing on a vari­ety of tests.

- As a group, the “gamers” became sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter and faster at Read the rest of this entry »




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