Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Report: Cognitive Testing Program Fails Soldiers, Leaving Brain Injuries Undetected

Test­ing Pro­gram Fails Sol­diers, Leav­ing Brain Injuries Unde­tected (ProPublica):

In 2007, with road­side bombs explod­ing across Iraq, Con­gress moved to improve care for sol­diers who had suf­fered one of the war’s sig­na­ture wounds, trau­matic brain injury.

Law­mak­ers passed a mea­sure requir­ing the mil­i­tary to test sol­diers’ brain func­tion before they deployed and again when they returned. The test was sup­posed to ensure that sol­diers received proper treatment.

Instead, an inves­ti­ga­tion by ProP­ub­lica and NPR has found, the test­ing pro­gram has failed to deliver on its promise, offer­ing sol­diers the appear­ance of help, but not the real­ity. Read the rest of this entry »

Education @ New York Times

If you are inter­ested in edu­ca­tion reform, social entre­pre­neur­ship and ven­ture phil­antropy, grab a nice cap of tea or cof­fee and enjoy today’s spec­tac­u­lar edi­tion of the New York Times Mag­a­zine.

Must read: insight­ful expert dis­cus­sion on How Many Bil­lion­aires Does It Take to Fix a School System?

Also: excel­lent pieces titled Self-Made Phil­an­thropists, on how ProP­ub­lica was con­veived and launched, and For Good, Mea­sure, on the impor­tance and challenges of mea­sur­ing the return on social investments.

Bonus: the newspaper’s Week in Review sec­tion brings a throught-provoking arti­cle on Brain Enhance­ment Is Wrong, Right?, on the use of drugs for boost­ing brain per­for­mance. Am happy to report that no one in the Edu­ca­tion arti­cles sug­gested giv­ing these drugs to mil­lions of kids…

Stress and Short Term Memory

We all know chronic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­ory? Inter­est­ingly, acute stress can help you focus and remem­ber things more vividly. Chronic stress, on the other hand, reduces your abil­ity to focus and can specif­i­cally dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term memory.

When is stress chronic? When you feel out of con­trol of your life. You may feel irri­ta­ble or anx­ious. While every indi­vid­ual varies in their response the type and quan­tity of stress, there are some things you can do to feel more in con­trol of your envi­ron­ment. This sense of empow­er­ment can lower your stress, and as a result, help your memory.

What are some ways to feel in con­trol and less stressed?

  1. Use a cal­en­dar to sched­ule impor­tant things. Give items a date and a priority.
  2. Make a list of things that need to be done. Even if it’s a long list, it can be reward­ing to cross off items as you com­plete them.
  3. Use a con­tem­pla­tive prac­tice like yoga or med­i­ta­tion to calm your mind and body or try using a heart rate vari­abil­ity sen­sor to learn to relax and focus your mind and body.
  4. Ask your­self how impor­tant some­thing truly is to you. Maybe you’re stress­ing over some­thing that you are bet­ter off just let­ting go.
  5. Del­e­gate what you can.
  6. Get reg­u­lar exer­cise to burn off those excess stress hormones.
  7. Get enough sleep so that you can recharge your batteries.
  8. Eat well and reduce your caf­feine and sugar intake which can add to your sense of jitteriness.
  9. Main­tain your social net­work. Shar­ing con­cerns with friends and fam­ily can help you feel less overwhelmed.
  10. Give your­self 10 min­utes just to relax every day.

Fur­ther Read­ing on Stress and Mem­ory
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapol­sky, Ph.D.
A Primer on Mul­ti­task­ing
Sim­ple Stress Test
Quick Stress Buster
Is there such thing as GOOD stress?
Brain Yoga: Stress — Killing You Softly


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