Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Protect Your Asset by Being Your Own Brain Fitness Coach

Last week I had the good fortune of spending four days in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, with over 300 amazing individuals from 40+ countries who had been named Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum. The summit agenda was insightful and inspiring, conversations with other participants always proved to be eye-opening and stimulating, and the overall atmosphere was constructive. You can read more about some of those conversations here.

What I’d like to highlight in this article is the remarkable (and optional) activity that started off every day at 7 in the morning. Called “Protect Your Asset” Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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