Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Update: Does Cognitive Training Work?

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

Cog­ni­tive train­ing (or struc­tured men­tal exer­cise) def­i­nitely seems to work — as long as we define prop­erly what “work” means, don’t expect magic cures, and help nav­i­gate options. Please keep reading…

Inter­view: Bay­crest

Inter­view with Baycrest’s CEO Dr. William Reich­man: Dis­cussing the recent Cen­tre for Brain Fit­ness at Bay­crest, Dr. Reich­man sug­gests that “we have an oppor­tu­nity to make major progress in Brain Health in the XXI cen­tury, sim­i­lar to what hap­pened with Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Health in the XXth, and tech­nol­ogy will play a cru­cial role.” A major obsta­cle? We need a con­sen­sus on “widely accepted stan­dards for out­come measures”.

Does It Work?

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): The grow­ing field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (one of the tools for brain fit­ness) can appear very con­fus­ing as the media keeps report­ing con­tra­dic­tory claims. These claims are often based on press releases, with­out a deeper under­stand­ing of the sci­en­tific evi­dence. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, Sharp­Brains’ Research Man­ager for Edu­ca­tional Ini­tia­tives, ana­lyzes a cou­ple of recent stud­ies, clar­i­fy­ing what they mean — and what they don’t mean.

It Works, and It Doesn’t Work: the IMPACT study (a major, multi-site study on the Posit Sci­ence audi­tory pro­gram) will be pub­lished at the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety in April. Results sup­port that cog­ni­tive train­ing works — but doesn’t sup­port the grandiose “brain age” claims we see too often.

Cog­ni­tive Train­ing can Influ­ence Brain Bio­chem­istry: Dr. David Rabiner dis­cusses a recent sci­en­tific study that “shows that brain bio­chem­istry can be mod­i­fied by expe­ri­ence”, and that com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing (Cogmed work­ing mem­ory train­ing) can pro­vide that experience.

The Big Picture

Mak­ing Healthy Choices — Pri­mare Care and Pre­ven­tion: a panel at the recent World Eco­nomic Forum explored why “New mar­kets and indus­tries are aris­ing sil­ver indus­tries such as finan­cial ser­vices, health, hous­ing and hos­pi­tal­ity geared to senior cit­i­zens. Longevity needs to be linked to health includ­ing cog­ni­tive health and lifestyle choices play a major role in health.”

Enrich your envi­ron­ment now and ben­e­fit your future off­spring: Dr. Robert Syl­wester reports that “all sorts of long held-beliefs about our brain and cog­ni­tion are being re– exam­ined by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists” because of fas­ci­nat­ing stud­ies such as the one he reviews (with mice): “The study’s find­ings seemed to sug­gest that acquired char­ac­ter­is­tics can be genet­i­cally transmitted…long-term ben­e­fits accrue from a stim­u­lat­ing early envi­ron­ment that encour­ages curios­ity and exploration.”

Man­ag­ing Emotions

From Dis­tress to De-Stress: help­ing anx­ious, wor­ried kids: In a detailed 2-part arti­cle, (Part 1, Part 2), Dr. Jerome Schultz pro­vides great tips on how to help chil­dren learn to self-regulate emo­tions, adding that “Teach­ers, occu­pa­tional ther­a­pists, phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion teach­ers and par­ents need to actu­ally teach chil­dren (of all ages) how to get them­selves into a phys­i­cal state of being relaxed. This doesn’t hap­pen auto­mat­i­cally. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many adult yoga classes!”

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeed­back: You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman. The intro­duc­tion to the sec­ond episode shows why what are called “lie detec­tors” are noth­ing but biofeed­back sys­tems that mea­sure phys­i­o­log­i­cal anxiety.

News

Brain Games for Baby Boomers: round-up of other recent news, cov­er­ing the effects of gam­ing, cog­ni­tive train­ing for dri­ving skills, and brain fit­ness classes.

Neu­rocog­ni­tive assess­ments and sports con­cus­sions: a new study and a new resource to under­stand and address the 1.6 to 3.8 mil­lion cases of sports-related con­cus­sions that occur annu­ally in the United States.

Brain Teaser

How will you, your orga­ni­za­tion, your neigh­bors, par­tic­i­pate in Brain Aware­ness Week, March 16th-22nd, orga­nized by the Dana Foun­da­tion with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of thou­sands of out­reach part­ners, includ­ing Sharp­Brains? You can find event ideas, excel­lent resources (yes, includ­ing puz­zles), and a cal­en­dar of events, Here.

Have a great month of March!

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeedback

You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman.

The sec­ond episode, which you can watch for free via Hulu.com Here, is pretty inter­est­ing, but the best part hap­pens in the begin­ning, so you only need to watch a few min­utes to learn why what are called “lie detec­tors” are noth­ing but biofeed­back sys­tems that mea­sure phys­i­o­log­i­cal anxiety.

Biofeed­back can be a very effec­tive train­ing tool for emo­tional self-regulation and stress man­age­ment, pre­cisely because it enables a faster feedback-based learn­ing loop. Indeed, we are see­ing a grow­ing num­ber of appli­ca­tions in the mar­ket, with names such as EmWave, StressEraser, RES­PeR­ATE, Jour­ney to the Wild Divine, and others.

Sim­ply, don’t believe the tech­nol­ogy is an effec­tive lie detector.

Car­o­line and I wrote an arti­cle on Paul Ekman’s work a cou­ple of years ago — let me repub­lish it now, given his work has made it all the way to main­stream TV!

braintop Paul Ekman has con­ducted exten­sive research on iden­ti­fy­ing emo­tions through facial expres­sions. As part of that research, and as part of the power of dis­ci­pline and train­ing, he learned how to con­sciously manip­u­late 42 facial mus­cles, includ­ing many that in most of us are beyond our con­trol, and even awareness.

In the 60s and 70s when Ekman began look­ing into the uni­ver­sal­ity of facial expres­sions, all the major con­tem­po­rary social sci­en­tists, like Mar­garet Mead, believed that expres­sions were cul­tur­ally learned, not innate. He trav­eled all over the world with pic­tures of peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinct facial expres­sions and found peo­ple in cul­tures every­where, from mod­ern to stone age, agreed on the emo­tion behind the expres­sion. He then turned to Read the rest of this entry »

When Empathy moves us to Action-By Daniel Goleman

Daniel Gole­man requires no intro­duc­tion. Per­son­ally, of all his books I have read, the one I found most stim­u­lat­ing was Destruc­tive Emo­tions: A Sci­en­tific Dia­logue With the Dalai Lama, a superb overview of what emo­tions are and how we can put them to good use. He is now con­duct­ing a great series of audio inter­views includ­ing one with George Lucas on Edu­cat­ing Hearts and Minds: Rethink­ing Education.

We are hon­ored to bring you a guest post by Daniel Gole­man, thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine, a UC-Berkeley-based quar­terly mag­a­zine that high­lights ground break­ing sci­en­tific research into the roots of com­pas­sion and altru­ism. Enjoy!

- Alvaro

——————–

Hot To Help: When can empa­thy move us to action?

By Daniel Goleman

We often empha­size the impor­tance of keep­ing cool in a cri­sis. But some­times cool­ness can give way to detach­ment and apathy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Emotional Intelligence and Faces

braintop Paul Ekman has con­ducted exten­sive research on iden­ti­fy­ing emo­tions through facial expres­sions. As part of that research, and as part of the power of dis­ci­pline and train­ing, he learned how to con­sciously manip­u­late 42 facial mus­cles, includ­ing many that in most of us are beyond our con­trol, and even awareness.

In the 60s and 70s when Ekman began look­ing into the uni­ver­sal­ity of facial expres­sions, all the major con­tem­po­rary social sci­en­tists, like Mar­garet Mead, believed that expres­sions were cul­tur­ally learned, not innate. He pro­ceeded trav­eled all over the world with pic­tures of peo­ple mak­ing dis­tinct facial expres­sions and found peo­ple in cul­tures every­where, from mod­ern to stone age, agreed on the emo­tion behind the expres­sion. He then turned to study­ing the pro­duc­tion of these expres­sions and the 43 facial mus­cles that can cre­ate 10,000 expres­sions, which form the basis of his training.

He found seven uni­ver­sal emo­tions with unique facial expres­sion. The emo­tions are: anger, fear, sad­ness, dis­gust, hap­pi­ness, sur­prise, and con­tempt. At least five of these are shared with non-human pri­mates as well. Inter­est­ingly, the smile is the eas­i­est expres­sion to rec­og­nize, and the eas­i­est to iden­tify from afar. These emo­tions have a spe­cific Read the rest of this entry »

Neurotechnology, Health and Brain Fitness News

Today we have a num­ber of indus­try announcements:

1) New edi­tions of these Blog Car­ni­vals (col­lec­tions of blog posts around spe­cific topics)

2) The Neu­rotech­nol­ogy Indus­try Orga­ni­za­tion has launched a Neu­rotech Job Board ded­i­cated to com­mer­cial neu­ro­science (mostly focused on clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions, like drugs and devices, not so much on pre­ven­tion, health & well­ness). And the Kaiser Foun­da­tion Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter is look­ing for a Research Project Man­ager.

3) The Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Sci­ence has finally released a report of the human enhance­ment work­shop that took place in June 2006. Read more about it at Zack’s blog.

4) Stephanie West Allen and Dr. Jef­frey Schwartz announce the Sched­ule of Events for their Brains On Pur­pose™ Sem­i­nars (“look­ing at con­flict and the process of con­flict res­o­lu­tion through the lens of neu­ro­science”): Col­orado in Octo­ber and Port­land in November.

5) Reg­is­tra­tion is now open for my class on The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness (more here), Octo­ber 9 30, at UC Berke­ley Osher Life­long Learn­ing Insti­tute (OLLI).

6) A cou­ple of great Read the rest of this entry »

Daniel Goleman and Social Intelligence

The Finan­cial Times has a fun inter­view today as part of their “Lunch with the FT” series.

Daniel Gole­man is the author of best­seller Emo­tional Intel­li­gence and is now pro­mot­ing his recent book Social Intel­li­gence.

An quote from the interview:

- The jour­nal­ist asks, “So how do the rest of us get better?”.

- The answer, he says, is very sim­ple: by listening.

Lis­ten­ing poorly is the com­mon cold of social intel­li­gence. And it’s being made worse by tech­nol­ogy. To have a human moment, you need to be fully present. You have to be away from your lap­top, you put down your Black­Berry, you end your day­dream and you pay full atten­tion to the per­son you’re with. It may sound rudi­men­tary, but think about how often we just keep mul­ti­task­ing and half pay atten­tion. You can over­come that by becom­ing mind­ful of what is happening.

Keep read­ing the FT arti­cle Poetry in emo­tion.

And Social Intel­li­gence and Mir­ror Neurons

Learn about the 2014 SharpBrains Summit in 2 minutes

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