Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Busy schedules linked to better memory and cognition among middle-aged and older adults



Being Super Busy May* Be Good For Your Brain (Smithsonian Magazine):

“There hasn’t been much scientific research on busyness itself, although it’s something that we talk about so often,” explains Sara Festini, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Vital Longevity, a co-author of the new research published this week Read the rest of this entry »

Must-read interview with George Rebok, PhD: Can cognitive training help aging brains?

george_rebokCan Training Help Aging Brains? (WebMD):

George Rebok, PhD, conducted one of the largest studies to date looking at how cognitive training affects older adults. Rebok, a professor at the Center on Aging and Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, talks about the study findings, commercially available brain training, and what he recommends for brain health.

“What we found was I think very encouraging and also somewhat surprising Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Shift work chronically impairs cognition

Long-Term Shift Work Linked To Impaired Brain Function (Forbes):

“According to results of a new study, long-term shift work may lead to impaired brain power which could involve cognitive skills such as thinking, reasoning and memory…The impact was much greater after a period of 10 or more years of such a work pattern — and seen to be much greater for those working a rotating shift pattern Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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