Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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To Harness Neuroplasticity, Start with Enthusiasm

We are the archi­tects and builders of our own brains.

For mil­len­nia, how­ever, we were obliv­i­ous to our enor­mous cre­ative capa­bil­i­ties. We had no idea that our brains were chang­ing in response to our actions and atti­tudes, every day of our lives. So we uncon­sciously and ran­domly shaped our brains and our lat­ter years because we believed we had an immutable brain that was at the mercy of our genes.

Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

The Business and Ethics of the Brain Fitness Boom — Part 2: The Ethics

The ter­mi­nol­ogy “fun­da­men­tal attri­bu­tion error” describes the ten­dency to over­value personality-based expla­na­tions for observed human behav­iors, while under­valu­ing sit­u­a­tional expla­na­tions for those behav­iors.  I believe that a pri­mary rea­son behind many per­ceived and real eth­i­cal chal­lenges in the brain fit­ness field is due not so much to cer­tain stake­hold­ers’ lack of per­sonal or pro­fes­sional ethics, but derives from the flawed soci­etal con­struct that under­pins cur­rent, rel­e­vant inno­va­tions. To improve the ethics of the brain fit­ness busi­ness and its appli­ca­tion (and empower con­sumers’ informed deci­sion mak­ing), there must first be agree­ment about a mean­ing­ful, appro­pri­ate way to ana­lyze and guide inno­va­tion. This is the crux of the prob­lem. The cur­rent med­ical model is not up to the task at hand, since it is heav­ily skewed toward inva­sive drugs and devices dri­ven by disease-based mod­els, and fails to lever­age Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Quotes on Lifelong Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis (and a Call to eBook Readers)

You may have  noticed that Amazon.com is shar­ing aggre­gated data on how ebook read­ers inter­act with the books they are read­ing. For exam­ple, the “Pop­u­lar High­lights” sec­tion (towards the bot­tom of our Kin­dle book page) ranks the Top 10 sen­tences that Kin­dle read­ers have high­lighted and shared while read­ing The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice and Prod­uct Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp (April 2009; 182 pages; ranked #1 in Kin­dle Store’s Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine section).

This infor­ma­tion is invalu­able to authors and pub­lish­ers - as you can imag­ine, we’ll make sure to not only main­tain but to elab­o­rate on these top­ics as we pre­pare future edi­tions of the book.

So, what are so far the Top Ten Quotes on Life­long Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise Improves the Cognition of Overweight Children

Chil­dren who exer­cise vig­or­ously tend to have bet­ter grades. In con­trast, over­weight chil­dren tend to under­achieve. With this in mind, Davis and her col­leagues from Med­ical Col­lege of Geor­gia tested whether par­tic­i­pat­ing in an exer­cise pro­gram would help over­weight chil­dren, not only phys­i­cally but also men­tally. Specif­i­cally, they hypoth­e­sized that the chil­dren exec­u­tive func­tions would ben­e­fit from exer­cis­ing. These func­tions are sup­ported by the frontal lobes of the brain and include plan­ning, goal set­ting, self-control, and inhibition.

171 chil­dren, aged 7 to 11, who were over­weight and inac­tive par­tic­i­pated in the study. They were ran­domly assigned to three groups: a low-dose group doing aer­o­bic exer­cise 20 min/day, a high-dose group (40 min/day) and a no exer­cise con­trol group. The exer­cise pro­gram lasted 13 weeks on aver­age. Read the rest of this entry »

Can weight loss boost memory?

In the past few days you may have come across head­lines claim­ing that weight loss can improve mem­ory. If so, you may be won­der­ing what to make of this.

Let’s take a brief look at the study at the ori­gin of these arti­cles. Par­tic­i­pants were 109 bariatric surgery patients and 41 obese peo­ple (con­trols) who had not under­gone surgery. Bariatric surgery refers mostly to gas­tric bypass surgery, which cre­ates a smaller stom­ach and bypasses part of the small intes­tine. The bariatric patients were enrolled in the Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Assess­ment of Bariatric Surgery project con­ducted, among oth­ers, by researchers at Kent State uni­ver­sity and Colum­bia University.

The mem­ory of the 150 par­tic­i­pants was assessed before the surgery as well as 12 weeks after. Results showed that the mem­ory of the surgery patients had improved whereas the mem­ory of the obese con­trols had declined. Read the rest of this entry »

What about an Adult Playground?

The pos­i­tive effects of exer­cise on brain health have been demon­strated in many stud­ies now. The next step may be to develop low-cost pro­grams in the com­mu­nity that pro­vide appro­pri­ate sup­port and struc­ture for adults (espe­cially older adults) to encour­age phys­i­cal activ­ity.
A great exam­ple of such pro­gram is The Adult Play­ground in Bei­jing, China (Dhand et al., 2010):

Half a foot­ball field large, this space con­sisted of all-weather stretch­ing and strength­en­ing equip­ment such as ellip­ti­cal machines, flat benches, mod­i­fied leg press machines, rail­ings at dif­fer­ent heights, mon­key bars, and arm and leg rota­tory devices. The area was teem­ing with adults, most older than 60 years, who were not only exer­cis­ing but also play­ing games such as Chi­nese hacky sack (a Chi­nese game from the 5th cen­tury BC) and tra­di­tional board games.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has erected sev­eral out­door adult play­ground of this type across urban areas. This seems to be a great exam­ple of a low-cost, eas­ily acces­si­ble, solu­tion com­bin­ing phys­i­cal exer­cise with social­iza­tion as well as cog­ni­tive exercise.

Walking increases brain volume and reduces risks of decline

In the lat­est issue of Neu­rol­ogy a study by Erick­son et al. (2010) sug­gests that walk­ing reg­u­larly can increase brain vol­ume and reduce the risks of devel­op­ing cog­ni­tive impairment.

The researchers stared with 2 mains facts:

They asked 2 questions:

  • Can phys­i­cal activ­ity assessed ear­lier pre­dict gray mat­ter vol­ume 9 years later?
  • Is greater gray mat­ter vol­ume asso­ci­ated with reduced risks of devel­op­ing cog­ni­tive impairment?

Read the rest of this entry »

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