Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Study: Families’ Perspectives on ADHD and its Treatment

In 2005 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began an initiative to promote an approach to care among its members in which “…the pediatric team works in partnership with a child and a child’s family to assure that all of the medical and non-medical needs of the patient are met.” A critically important focus of this approach is the role of the family and child – as developmentally appropriate – in the development of an overall plan of care.

This shared decision-making approach is especially important for conditions like ADHD where there is not a single treatment that is the most appropriate and preferred option for all patients. However, Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America just released a thoughtful report advocating for widespread cognitive screenings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions).

According to the press release,

– “The report shatters unsubstantiated criticism and instead emphasizes the safety and cost-effectiveness of these tools and calls on Congress to develop a national dementia screening policy.”

– “Lifting the barriers to early detection is long overdue, Hall said. “Conversations about brain health are not taking place. We must educate and empower consumers to talk openly about memory concerns, particularly with primary care providers, so they get the attention and quality of life they deserve.

– “Demand for screenings is evidenced by the success of AFA’s recent sixth annual National Memory Screening Day held on November 18, during which an estimated 50,000 people were given free confidential memory screenings at nearly 2,200 community sites nationwide. During last year’s event, approximately 16 percent of individuals who had a face-to-face screening scored positive and were referred to their primary care providers for follow-up. An AFA survey of participants revealed that fewer than one in four with self-reported memory complaints had previously discussed them with their physicians despite recent visits.”

Excellent report available: here

Please note that the Alzheimer’s Association recently argued in the opposite direction (no screenings) – which probably triggered this response.

We see emerging trends that suggest the position in favor of cognitive assessments may in fact gather momentum over the next few years: widespread computerized cognitive screenings in the US Army, insurance companies like OptumHealth adding such tools to its clinical decision-making systems, polls such as the American Society of Aging’s a couple of years ago indicating a very strong demand for an “annual mental check-up”, the availability of useful assessment tools and research-based preventive advice.

The starting point is to understand what those assessments are NOT: they are not diagnostic tools. When used properly, they can be used as a baseline to track performance in a variety of cognitive domains over time, so that both the individual AND the physician are not blinded by a one-time assessment, comparing an individual with his or her peers (instead of his or her past performance) when serious symptoms have frequently already been going on for a while.

Our contributor  Dr. Joshua Silverman, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, recently generated a nice debate on the topic by asking our readers their reaction to these 3 questions: Read the rest of this entry »

Grand Rounds 5:12 – Healthcare Reform Q&A

“If Dr. Rob can interview Santa, why can’t I interview a select group of health & medical bloggers? They will have some good ideas to share”.

So did President-elect Obama came to realize a few days ago. After his people kindly contacted our people, we felt compelled to grant him open access to our collective wisdom. Without further ado, below you have Grand Rounds 5:12 – a Q&A session led by the incoming President on how to reform (for the better, we hope) healthcare.

On Health Insurance

Q:  How does the blogosphere perceive the problem of having a significant group of people uninsured?

Health Insurance Colorado: a growing economic burden, which may lead to emergency rooms turning people away if they are unable to provide proof of health insurance.

Dr Rich: well, a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed how overcrowding in American emergency rooms is NOT due to the uninsured. Rather, it is due to insured Americans who cannot get in to see their primary care physicians. We may need improved care both for the insured and uninsured groups.

InsureBlog: I’d second that. Lack of health insurance is a major problem but is it really our Biggest Problem?

It’s All about Attitude

Q: You may have heard my campaign mantra, “Yes We Can”. Can I count on your support?

ButYouDontLookSick: Yes. If Leslie Hunt can talk so openly about her chronic illness (Lupus) yet fulfill her American Idol dreams, we can fulfill our dreams too.

Notes of an Anesthesioboist: you are talking to the group of professionals willing to self-experiment with our own body for the benefit of science and our patients.

Medviews: My wife, son, and I signed up to work as medical volunteers for your upcoming inauguration.

EmergiBlog: I am on board too. But, please, remember that caring is the essence of nursing. And that is why my patients will always be my patients and never my  clients.

Neuroanthropology: Mr. President-elect, it seems to me that, despite all our good intentions, balancing the budget and multiple competing priorities will be a challenge. May I suggest you start practicing some capoeira for equilibrium training?

Shrink Rap: Happy to help. Now, we will need to protect some time for quality sleep time.

Training

Q: I am encouraged by your words. How can my team and I better support you in your daily activities?

Aequanimitas: we need more role models for us to “learn to think, observe, and compare” and that the patient is our “first, last, and only teacher”.

Mudphudder: Couldn’t agree more. We need Read the rest of this entry »

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

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

Thank you for your interest, attention and participation in our SharpBrains community. As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Summit of the Global Agenda

How can we persuade business leaders, policy-makers and researchers of the urgency to develop and promote an integrated “Healthy Living” agenda focused on maintaining lifelong physical and cognitive health, vs. the usual mindset focused on dealing with specific diseases and problems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Society: Burden or Human Capital?, I summarize some of the key themes discussed at the World Economic Forum event in Dubai on November 7-9th. The world is aging – and in healthier ways. But our healthcare and retirement systems are on track to go bankrupt – their premises are outdated. The current disease-based research agenda compounds the problem. Solutions? 1) Promote Healthy Lifestyles that help Maintain Physical and Cognitive Functional Abilities, 2) Redesign Environments to Foster Health, Engagement and Financial Security, 3) Develop an Integrated Healthy Living & Aging Research Agenda. Specifically, we could work with the UN and Global 2000 companies to move forward a new agenda.

Planet Earth 2.0: A New Operating System: Imagine seeing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in traditional Arab clothing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Obama) in front of the 800 global experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the attendants of the World Economic Forum’s Summit of the Global Agenda urged us to “reboot” the system. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new global “Yes We Can” operating system.

Brain Fitness Research

Training Attention and Emotional Self-Regulation: Dr. Michael Posner, a prominent  cognitive neuroscientist and first recipient of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fascinating interview on what attention, self-regulation, and effortful control are, and how to improve them using software, meditation, and parenting. In his words, “we have found no ceiling for abilities such as attention, including among adults. The more training (…) the higher the results.”

Neuroplasticity and the Brain That Changes Itself: Laurie Bartels reviews the excellent book by Norman Doidge, explaining that “the neuroscience behind Doidge’s book involves neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intelligence,  is not something fixed in concrete but rather a changing, learning entity.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cognitive Assessments?: In our view, a critical component in the maturity of the brain fitness market will be the availability of inexpensive, valid and reliable objective cognitive assessments,  to help measure how our brain functions change over time and identify priorities for targeted improvements. Dr. Joshua Steinerman asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Properly) or Lose It

Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Multi-tasking violates everything we know about how memory works.” He explains that “(multi-tasking) probably does make learning less tedious, but it clearly makes learning less efficient and less effective.”

Physical and mental exercise to prevent cognitive decline: The American Medical News, a weekly newspaper for physicians published by the American Medical Association, just published an excellent article on the importance of physical and mental exercise. We are very happy to see efforts like these to train physicians and health professionals in general,  given that most of them were trained under a very different understanding of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fitness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recently announced the second installment of their popular Brain Fitness Program show, to start airing soon.

MetaCarnival #1: a conversation across the blogosphere: We often insist on “Novelty, Variety and Challenge” as key ingredients for good “brain exercise”. There are many ways to mix those ingredients – you may enjoy this one, the first interdisciplinary gathering of blogs and blog carnivals covering health, science, anthropology, general advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Mental Exercise: Over the last 2 years we have published close to 100 puzzles, teasers, riddles, and every kind of mental exercise (without counting our in-depth interviews with top neuroscientists). Which ones have proven most stimulating for you. Let us know. Here is a selection of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offering another great selection of articles: Dr. Andrew Newberg will discuss the brain value of meditation,  Dr. David Rabiner will review a recent study on how neurofeedback may assist in the diagnostic of attention deficits, and much more.

Please share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Physical and mental exercise to prevent cognitive decline

We offered some Brain Fitness Predictions in our Market Report , including…

“7. Doctors and pharmacists will help patients navigate through the overwhelming range of available products and interpret the results of cognitive assessments. This will require significant professional development efforts, given that most doctors today were trained under a very different understanding of the brain than the one we have today.”

The American Medical News, a weekly newspaper for physicians published by the American Medical Association, just published an excellent article along those lines:

Steps to a nimble mind: Physical and mental exercise help keep the brain fit
— Neuroscience is uncovering techniques to prevent cognitive decline.

A few quotes:

– It’s an example that highlights a wave of new thinking about the importance of brain fitness.

– Until recently, conventional wisdom held that our brains were intractable, hard-wired computers. What we were born with was all we got. Age wore down memory and the ability to understand, and few interventions could reverse this process. But increasingly, evidence suggests that physical and mental exercise can alter specific brain regions, making radical improvements in cognitive function.

– With nearly 72 million Americans turning 65 over the next two decades, physicians need the tools to handle growing patient concerns about how to best maintain brain health. Armed with this new brand of science, frontline physicians will be better equipped to address the needs of aging baby boomers, already in the throes of the brain fitness revolution.

– “Encourage them to exercise the brain in novel and complex ways,” he says.

Full article: here

One of the physicians quoted in the article is Gary J. Kennedy, MD, Director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in NYC and a professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

To put the AMA article in better perspective for SharpBrains readers, we asked Dr. Kennedy a few follow-up questions. Below you have his questions.

Alvaro Fernandez (AF): Can you summarize how cognitive functions tend to evolve as we age?

Gary Kennedy (GK): As we age cognitive functions that rely on Read the rest of this entry »

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