Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

10% Students may have working memory problems: Why does it matter?

Work­ing mem­ory is our abil­ity to store and manip­u­late infor­ma­tion for a brief time. It is typ­i­cally mea­sured by dual-tasks, where the indi­vid­ual has to remem­ber an item while simul­ta­ne­ously pro­cess­ing a some­times unre­lated piece of infor­ma­tion. A widely used work­ing mem­ory task is the read­ing span task where the indi­vid­ual reads a sen­tence, ver­i­fies it, and then recalls the final word. Indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in work­ing mem­ory per­for­mance are closely related to a range of aca­d­e­mic skills such as read­ing, spelling, com­pre­hen­sion, and math­e­mat­ics. Cru­cially, there is emerg­ing research that work­ing mem­ory pre­dicts learn­ing out­comes inde­pen­dently of IQ. One expla­na­tion for the impor­tance of work­ing mem­ory in aca­d­e­mic attain­ment is that because it appears to be rel­a­tively unaf­fected by envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences, such as parental edu­ca­tional level and finan­cial back­ground, it mea­sures a student’s capac­ity to acquire knowl­edge rather than what they have already learned.

How­ever lit­tle is known about the con­se­quences of low work­ing mem­ory capac­ity per se, inde­pen­dent of other asso­ci­ated learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. In par­tic­u­lar, it is not known either what pro­por­tion of stu­dents with low work­ing mem­ory capac­i­ties has sig­nif­i­cant learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties or what their behav­ioral char­ac­ter­is­tics are. The aim of a recent study pub­lished in Child Devel­op­ment (ref­er­ence below) was to pro­vide the first sys­tem­atic large-scale exam­i­na­tion of the cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral char­ac­ter­is­tics of school-aged stu­dents who have been iden­ti­fied solely on the basis of very low work­ing mem­ory scores.

In screen­ing of over 3000 school-aged stu­dents in main­stream schools, 1 in 10 was iden­ti­fied as hav­ing work­ing mem­ory dif­fi­cul­ties. There were sev­eral key find­ings regard­ing their cog­ni­tive skills. The first is that the major­ity of them per­formed below age-expected lev­els in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics. This sug­gests that Read the rest of this entry »

Playing the Blame Game: Video Games Pros and Cons

Play­ing the Blame Game
– Video games stand accused of caus­ing obe­sity, vio­lence, and lousy grades. But new research paints a sur­pris­ingly com­pli­cated and pos­i­tive pic­ture, reports Greater Good Mag­a­zine’s Jeremy Adam Smith.

Cheryl Olson had seen her teenage son play video games. But like many par­ents, she didn’t know much about them.

Then in 2004 the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice asked Olson and her hus­band, Lawrence Kut­ner, to run a fed­er­ally funded study of how video games affect adolescents.

Olson and Kut­ner are the co-founders and direc­tors of the Har­vard Med­ical School’s Cen­ter for Men­tal Health and Media. Olson, a pub­lic health researcher, had stud­ied the effects of media on behav­ior but had never exam­ined video games, either in her research or in her per­sonal life.

And so the first thing she did was watch over the shoul­der of her son, Michael, as he played his video games. Then, two years into her research—which com­bined sur­veys and focus groups of junior high school students—Michael urged her to pick up a joy­stick. “I def­i­nitely felt they should be famil­iar with the games if they were doing the research,” says Michael, who was 16 at the time and is now 18.

Olson started with the PC game Read the rest of this entry »

Looking inside the Brain: is my Brain Fit?

MRI scanner neuroimaging

Today we have the plea­sure to have Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, one of our new Expert Con­trib­u­tors, write her first arti­cle here. Enjoy, and please com­ment so we hear your thoughts and engage in a nice conversation.

(Btw, if you notice some sim­i­lar­ity between the col­ors in the fMRI scan below and the look & feel of this site…well, the rea­son is that those orange-grey fMRI col­ors were our inspi­ra­tion! the orange color denotes the most brain activation).

- Alvaro

————————————–

You have prob­a­bly heard about CAT and MRI scans (pro­duced thanks to machines like the one to the top right). So you know that these are tech­niques that doc­tors and sci­en­tists use to look inside the brain.

You have prob­a­bly also heard about brain fit­ness and how impor­tant it is to keep a healthy brain to be pro­tected against age-related and disease-related brain damages.

The ques­tion we ask here is the fol­low­ing: Can we use brain scans to eval­u­ate how fit the brain is? Before we try to answer this ques­tion let’s start with the basics and try to under­stand how brain scans work.

Brain imag­ing, also called neu­roimag­ing, allows one to Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Fitness New Year’s Resolutions

Brain Fitness New Year's ResolutionsYou have sur­vived the 2007 shop­ping and eat­ing sea­son. Con­grat­u­la­tions! Now it’s time to shift gears and focus on 2008…whether you write down some New Year res­o­lu­tions or con­tem­plate some things that you want to let go of from last year and set inten­tions and goals for this year — as is a friend’s tra­di­tion on the win­ter solstice.

To sum­ma­rize the key find­ings of the last 20 years of neu­ro­science research on how to “exer­cise our brains”, there are three things that we can strive for: nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge. If we do these three things, we will build new con­nec­tions in our brains, be mind­ful and pay atten­tion to our envi­ron­ment, improve cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as pattern-recognition, and in gen­eral con­tribute to our life­long brain health.

With these three prin­ci­ples of brain health in mind — nov­elty, vari­ety and chal­lenge — let me sug­gest a few poten­tial New Years res­o­lu­tions, per­haps some unex­pected, that will help you make 2008 a year of Brain Fit­ness: Read the rest of this entry »

Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance

There has been an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about the issues related to the aging of the legal pro­fes­sion. Stephanie intro­duced us to the arti­cle “the Gray­ing Bar: let’s not for­get the ethics” by David Giacalone.

In short: sta­tis­tics about the increas­ing ratio of lawyers over 70 in active prac­tice, on the one hand, and the gen­eral inci­dence of Alzheimer’s and other demen­tias, on the other, lead David to point out an increas­ing like­li­hood that some lawyers may be prac­tic­ing in less than ideal con­di­tions for their clients, beyond a rea­son­able “brain age”. The ques­tion then becomes: who and how can solve this prob­lem, which is only going to grow given demo­graphic trends?.

We are not legal experts, but would like to inform the debate by offer­ing 10 con­sid­er­a­tions on healthy aging and job per­for­mance from a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, that apply to all occupations:

1– We should talk more about change than about decline, as Sharon Beg­ley wrote recently in her great arti­cle on The Upside of Aging — WSJ.com (sub­scrip­tion required).

We dis­cussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, who wrote his great book The Wis­dom Para­dox pre­cisely on this point, at The Exec­u­tive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

2– Some skills improve as we age: In our “Exer­cis­ing Our Brains” Classes, we typ­i­cally explain how some areas typ­i­cally improve as we age, such as self-regulation, emo­tional func­tion­ing and Wis­dom (which means mov­ing from Prob­lem solv­ing to Pat­tern recog­ni­tion). As a lawyer accu­mu­lates more cases under his/ her belt, he or she devel­ops an auto­matic “intu­ition” for solu­tions and strate­gies. As long as the envi­ron­ment doesn’t change too rapidly, this grow­ing wis­dom is very valuable.

3– …whereas, yes, oth­ers typ­i­cally decline: Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to SharpBrains.com

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, CNN and more, Sharp­Brains is an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain science.
FIRST-TIME VISITOR? Dis­cover HERE the most pop­u­lar resources at SharpBrains.com

Gold Sponsors @ 2014 SharpBrains Virtual Summit (October 28-30th)

Follow us via

twitter_logo_header