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

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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 more & Register today at early-bird rates

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