Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Research: Brain function can start declining as early as age 45

Brain func­tion can start declin­ing ‘as early as age 45′ (BBC Health):

The brain’s abil­ity to func­tion can start to dete­ri­o­rate as early as 45, sug­gests a study in the British Med­ical Jour­nal.  Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Lon­don researchers found a 3.6% decline in men­tal rea­son­ing in women and men aged 45–49. They assessed the mem­ory, vocab­u­lary and com­pre­hen­sion skills of 7,000 men and women aged 45 to 70 over 10 years.

The Alzheimer’s Soci­ety said research was needed into how changes in the brain could help demen­tia diag­noses.  Read the rest of this entry »

New Interview Series (Part 1 of 10): Why Care About Brain Fitness Innovation?

Every Mon­day dur­ing the next 10 weeks we’ll dis­cuss here what lead­ing indus­try, sci­ence and pol­icy experts –all of whom will speak at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011)– have to say about emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to address, over the next 10 years, the grow­ing brain-related soci­etal demands.

With­out fur­ther ado, here you have what four Sum­mit Speak­ers say…

Alvaro Pascual-Leone is the Direc­tor of the Berenson-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Invasive Brain Stim­u­la­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

Phys­i­cal fit­ness can refer to an over­all or gen­eral state of health and well-being. How­ever, it is also often used more specif­i­cally to refer to the abil­ity to per­form a given activ­ity, occu­pa­tion, or sport.

Sim­i­larly brain fit­ness might be used to refer to a gen­eral state of healthy, opti­mized brain func­tion, or a more spe­cific brain-based abil­ity to process cer­tain, spe­cific infor­ma­tion, enable cer­tain motor actions, or sup­port cer­tain cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Impor­tantly though, I would argue Read the rest of this entry »

Alzheimer’s Early and Accurate Diagnosis: Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

(Editor’s Note: I recently came across an excel­lent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diag­no­sis and Treat­ment for Mem­ory Prob­lems, just released in paper­back. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and lead­ing Alzheimer’s expert, kindly helped us cre­ate a 2-part arti­cle series to share with Sharp­Brains read­ers advice on a very impor­tant ques­tion, “How can we help the pub­lic at large to dis­tin­guish Alzheimer’s Dis­ease from nor­mal aging — so that an inter­est in early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn’t trans­late into unneeded wor­ries?” What fol­lows is an excerpt from the book, pages 3–8).

Jane, fifty-seven, man­aged a large sales force. She prided her­self on being good at names, and intro­duc­tions were easy for her—until last spring when she referred to Bar­bara as Betty at a meet­ing and had to cor­rect her­self. She started notic­ing that her mem­ory wasn’t as depend­able as it once was—she had to really try to remem­ber names and dates. Her mother had devel­oped Alzheimer’s in her late sev­en­ties, so Jane enter­tained a wide array of wor­ries: Is this just aging? Is it because of menopause? Is it early Alzheimer’s? Did her cowork­ers or fam­ily notice her slips? Should she ask them? Should she see a doc­tor, and if so, which doc­tor? Would she really want to know if she was get­ting Alzheimer’s? Would she lose her job, health insur­ance, or friends if she did have Alzheimer’s?

As it turns out, Jane did not have Alzheimer’s. She con­sulted a doc­tor, who, in doc­s­peak, told her that the pas­sage of time (get­ting older) had taken a slight toll on her once-superquick mem­ory. She was slow­ing down a lit­tle, and if she relaxed, the name or date or other bit of infor­ma­tion she needed would come to her soon enough. She was still good at her job and home life. She had sim­ply joined the ranks of the wor­ried well.

Nor­mal brain aging, begin­ning as early as the for­ties in some peo­ple, may include:

  • Tak­ing longer to learn or remem­ber information
  • Hav­ing dif­fi­culty pay­ing atten­tion or con­cen­trat­ing in the midst of distractions
  • For­get­ting such basics as an anniver­sary or the names of friends
  • Need­ing more reminders or mem­ory cues, such as promi­nent appoint­ment cal­en­dars, reminder notes, a phone with a well­stocked speed dial

Although they may need some assis­tance, older peo­ple with­out a men­tal dis­or­der retain their abil­ity to do their errands, han­dle money, find their way to famil­iar areas, and behave appropriately.

How does this com­pare to a per­son with Alzheimer’s? When Alzheimer’s slows the brain’s machin­ery, peo­ple begin to lose their abil­ity to Read the rest of this entry »

To Think or to Blink?

(Editor’s Note: Should Ham­let be liv­ing with us now and read­ing best­sellers, he might be won­der­ing: To Blink or not to Blink? To Think or not to Think? We are pleased to present, as part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, an arti­cle by Blind SpotsMadeleine Van Hecke, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart Peo­ple Do Dumb Things. In it, she offers the “on the other hand” to Mal­colm Gladwell’s Blink argument.)

To Think or to Blink?

- By Madeleine Van Hecke, PhD

Is thought­ful reflec­tion nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter than hasty judgments?

Not accord­ing to Mal­colm Glad­well who argued in his best-selling book, Blink, that the deci­sions peo­ple make in a blink are often not only just as accu­rate, but MORE accu­rate, than the con­clu­sions they draw after painstak­ing analysis.

So, should we blink, or think?

When we make judg­ments based on a thin slice of time  a few min­utes talk­ing with some­one in a speed dat­ing sit­u­a­tion, for exam­ple are our judg­ments really as accu­rate as when we ana­lyze end­less reams of data?

Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Health and Baby Boomers: 6 Points to Keep in Mind

BrainVery inter­est­ing col­lec­tion of recent news…let’s con­nect some dots

1) Great arti­cle titled Boom time for retirees (Finan­cial Times)

- “By 2015, boomers will have a net worth of some $26,000bn (£12,750bn, ¬17,670bn)  equiv­a­lent to a year’s gross domes­tic prod­uct for the US and euro­zone com­bined. They will con­trol a larger pro­por­tion of wealth, income and con­sump­tion than any other gen­er­a­tion in the coun­try  the first time that con­sumers over 50 have held such sway over the world’s largest economy.”

- “But as the boomers aged by 2015 they will all be out­side the fabled under-49 cohort  cor­po­rate Amer­ica failed to grow old with them. Mar­ket­ing experts argue that the con­tin­ued focus of large com­pa­nies such as P&G and Gap on the youth of  “gen­er­a­tion and “gen­er­a­tion” over­looks a sim­ple sta­tis­tic: the 18–49 age group will grow by only 1m peo­ple in the next 10 years, com­pared with the 22.5m Amer­i­cans set to enter the 50-plus bracket.”

- “The last thing the [boomer] gen­er­a­tion needs is a com­pany that tells them they need tools to address their lack of dex­ter­ity, he says. “They don’t want geri­atric tools, they want cool stuff.

Main take-way: baby boomers are always “awake” and rein­vent­ing things…companies, adver­tis­ers, time to wake-up!

Full arti­cle: Boom time for retirees

2) The arti­cle is based upon this excel­lent McK­in­sey report Read the rest of this entry »

TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Iraq and neuropsychology

You prob­a­bly have seen the news about Bob Woodruff’s own recov­ery and his arti­cles now to raise aware­ness about the plight of Iraq veterans.

In the arti­cle “A First­hand Report on the Wounds of War”, we learn how

  • Woodruff, 45, is launch­ing a mul­ti­me­dia cam­paign that includes appear­ances Tues­day with Oprah Win­frey and on “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica,” and the release of a book (In an Instant) writ­ten with his wife, Lee, about their ordeal.”
  • Woodruff’s report­ing packs an emo­tional punch because he is, quite sim­ply, a man who cheated death. Never before had an anchor for an Amer­i­can broad­cast net­work been injured in war. Woodruff instantly became a sym­bol of the dan­gers that jour­nal­ists face in Iraq, and is try­ing to use his higher pro­file to illu­mi­nate the plight of sol­diers who strug­gle with these injuries far from the spotlight.”

This is not an iso­lated exam­ple but part of a larger, and grow­ing, prob­lem. The Dis­cover Mag­a­zine arti­cle Read the rest of this entry »

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