Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Firing NeuronsMen­tally stim­u­lat­ing jobs keep your mind sharp post-retirement (Tech Times):

If you want to stay sharp in your golden years, it’s best to get the hard yards in early — a new study has found that peo­ple with men­tally demand­ing jobs fare bet­ter in the years after retirement.…Mental acu­ity and mem­ory reten­tion was found to be higher in retirees who had spent their careers in men­tally stim­u­lat­ing roles, such as Read the rest of this entry »

Augmenting lifelong performance with deliberate practice

Alums-danceWith Will­ing Spirit, a Reprise for Ailey Dancers (The New York Times):

  • The voice on the phone belonged to Masazumi Chaya, the asso­ciate artis­tic direc­tor of Alvin Ailey Amer­i­can Dance The­ater, and he had a star­tling propo­si­tion. Would she — Eliz­a­beth Roxas-Dobrish, 55 years old, Read the rest of this entry »

Promoting Healthy, Meaningful Aging Through Social Involvement: Building an Experience Corps

(Editor’s note: Path­ways respon­si­ble for higher-order think­ing in the pre­frontal cor­tex (PFC), or exec­u­tive cen­ter of the brain, remain vul­ner­a­ble through­out life—during crit­i­cal early-life devel­op­men­tal win­dows, when the PFC fully matures in the early 20s, and finally from declines asso­ci­ated with old age. At all ages, phys­i­cal activ­ity and PFC-navigated social con­nec­tions are essen­tial com­po­nents to main­tain­ing brain health. The Expe­ri­ence Corps, a community-based social-engagement pro­gram, part­ners seniors with local schools to pro­mote purpose-driven involve­ment. Par­tic­i­pat­ing seniors have exhib­ited imme­di­ate short-term gains in brain regions vul­ner­a­ble to aging, such as the PFC, indi­cat­ing that peo­ple with the most to lose have the most to gain from envi­ron­men­tal enrichment.)

Over the last decade, sci­en­tists made two key dis­cov­er­ies that reframed our under­stand­ing of the adult brain’s poten­tial to ben­e­fit from life­long envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment. First, they learned that the adult brain remains plas­tic; it can gen­er­ate new neu­rons in response to phys­i­cal activ­ity and new expe­ri­ences. Sec­ond, they con­firmed the impor­tance of social con­nect­ed­ness to late-life cog­ni­tive, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and phys­i­cal health. The inte­gra­tion of these find­ings with our under­stand­ing of indi­vid­u­als’ devel­op­men­tal needs through­out life under­scores the impor­tance of the “social brain.” The pre­frontal cor­tex (PFC) is par­tic­u­larly inte­gral to nav­i­gat­ing com­plex social behav­iors and hier­ar­chies over the life course. Read the rest of this entry »

Report: Boomers’ Ability to Make Financial Decisions Often Declines With Age

(Editor’s Note: this timely new report illus­trates the need for inno­v­a­tive brain fit­ness inter­ven­tions focused on main­tain­ing if not enhanc­ing tar­geted cog­ni­tive func­tion­al­ity, such as dri­ving safety or finan­cial decision-making, lever­ag­ing life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and cog­ni­tive reserve. What the report presents as inex­orable, some­what genet­i­cally pre-programmed decline, it is not.)

BMO Retire­ment Insti­tute Report: Boomers’ Abil­ity to Make Finan­cial Deci­sions Often Declines With Age (Mar­ket Watch):

- “The BMO Retire­ment Insti­tute released a report today which raises aware­ness of the poten­tial impact on aging Cana­di­ans of declin­ing cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties — often caused by Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other forms of demen­tia — and describes how this decline can affect their abil­ity to make finan­cial deci­sions.” Read the rest of this entry »

Longevity, Conscientiousness and Work

There’s an excel­lent arti­cle in the New York Times (Eighty Years Along, a Longevity Study Still Has Ground to Cover) about a very wor­thy new book based on a fas­ci­nat­ing series of research stud­ies: The Longevity Project: Sur­pris­ing Dis­cov­er­ies for Health and Long Life from the Land­mark Eight-Decade Study is the book where UC-Riverside researchers Howard Fried­man and Leslie Mar­tin draw key lessons from an eight-decade-long Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity Ter­man study of 1,500 people.

Quotes from the article:

- Many assume biol­ogy is the crit­i­cal fac­tor in longevity. If your par­ents lived to be 85, you prob­a­bly will, too. Not so, Dr. Fried­man said. Read the rest of this entry »

When early retirement equals mental retirement and memory decline

The New-York Times reports on the study pub­lished a few days ago in the Jour­nal of Eco­nomic Per­spec­tives, “Men­tal retirement”:

… Data from the United States, Eng­land and 11 other Euro­pean coun­tries sug­gest that the ear­lier peo­ple retire, the more quickly their mem­o­ries decline.

… what aspect of work is doing that, Dr. Suz­man said. “Is it the social engage­ment and inter­ac­tion or the cog­ni­tive com­po­nent of work, or is it the aer­o­bic com­po­nent of work?” he asked. “Or is it the absence of what hap­pens when you retire, which could be increased TV watching?”

Com­ments: This new study is another piece of evi­dence accu­mu­lat­ing with more and more oth­ers sug­gest­ing that a brain healthy life-style requires con­stant cog­ni­tive chal­lenge to help main­tain high-level cog­ni­tive func­tions. Whether it is speak­ing mul­ti­ple lan­guages, phys­i­cally exer­cis­ing or stay­ing men­tally active, our every­day life can pos­i­tively impact our brain health.  Some­thing to keep in mind after retirement…and to even retire the word “retirement”!

The results are also intrigu­ing because work­ing com­bines mul­ti­ple aspects of a brain-healthy lifestyle (social engage­ment, men­tal stim­u­la­tion) with aspects not so good for the brain (stress, absence of phys­i­cal exer­cise in some cases). How­ever, it seems that, over­all, the good aspects of work­ing take over the bad ones as far as mem­ory func­tions are concerned.

Brain News: Lifelong Learning for Cognitive Health

Here you have the March edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health Brain Fitnessand brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page. I know I am biased — but do believe this Newslet­ter issue might well be our best so far. I hope you find the time to enjoy it!

Bird’s Eye View

Top Arti­cles and Resources in March: High­lights — a) great arti­cles in SciAm Mind and the Wall Street Jour­nal, b) new resources (book and free DVD) by the Dana Foun­da­tion, c) research stud­ies on how our cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties tend to evolve as we age, the impact of phys­i­cal exer­cise on the brain, the lack of long-term effec­tive­ness of ADHD drugs, and how work­ing mem­ory train­ing may ben­e­fit math performance.

Brain Fit­ness Sur­vey: Over 2,000 thought­ful responses to our Jan­u­ary sur­vey (Thank You!) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­ity infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate lifestyle and prod­uct claims, as well as the need for more research, an expanded health­care cul­ture, as more. Given this con­text, we are pub­lish­ing The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness in May 2009, a book with 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, in addi­tion to our annual mar­ket report for pro­fes­sion­als and exec­u­tives (to be pub­lished in April). If you have ideas to help us pro­mote the book, please reply to this email and let us know!

Life­long Learning

Elderhostel’s Marty Knowl­ton dies at 88: He helped launch Elder­hos­tel, rein­vented “aging”, “retire­ment” and “learn­ing”, and con­tributed to the brain fit­ness of mil­lions of indi­vid­u­als as a result.

MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute Report: Geron­tol­o­gist Fay Radding presents the find­ings of a recent MetLife report, con­clud­ing that “As indi­vid­u­als age, mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tions and pur­pose­ful activ­ity become even more val­ued and cru­cial to cog­ni­tive health– and cog­ni­tive health itself becomes more of a priority.”

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barger explains in his recent book that, “The great­est enemy of change is rou­tine. When we lapse into rou­tine and oper­ate on autopi­lot, we are no longer fully and actively con­scious of what we’re doing and why. That is why some of the most fer­tile sit­u­a­tions for per­sonal growth those that occur within new envi­ron­ments are those that force us to exit our rou­tines and actively mas­ter unfa­mil­iar challenges.”

Food for Thought

Michael Merzenich: Brain Plas­tic­ity offers Hope for Every­one: Dr. Gin­ger Camp­bell recently inter­viewed Dr. Michael Merzenich. Pod­cast Quote: “What­ever you strug­gle with in a sense as it stems from your neu­rol­ogy, the inher­ent plas­tic­ity of the brain gives you a basis for improve­ment. This is a way under­uti­lized and under-appreciated resource that well all have.”

Ther­apy vs. Med­ica­tion, Con­flicts of Inter­est, and Intim­i­da­tion: What started as an aca­d­e­mic dis­pute regard­ing dis­clo­sure of con­flict of inter­est is now snow­balling. Dr. Jonathan Leo crit­i­cized two impor­tant aspects of a recent a study pub­lished in JAMA that com­pared the effi­cacy of ther­apy vs. med­ica­tion. JAMA edi­tors then tried to intim­i­date Dr. Leo and his uni­ver­sity. An inves­ti­ga­tion by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion is under way.

ETech09 on Life Hack­ing and Brain Train­ing: Here you have the pre­sen­ta­tion Alvaro Fer­nan­dez deliv­ered at O’Reilly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­ogy Con­fer­ence 2009, a gath­er­ing of tech­nol­ogy pio­neers with a grow­ing inter­est in sci­ence and biol­ogy topics.

Atten­tion!

Dis­tracted in the Work­place?: In a very-thoughtful 2-part inter­view (part 1 here, part 2 here), author Mag­gie Jack­son chal­lenges us to “First, ques­tion the val­ues that ven­er­ate McThink­ing and under­mine attention.”

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled trial on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Twit­ter

Finally, I wanted to let you know that you can fol­low quick Sharp­Brains updates and some of my thoughts via Twit­ter: http://twitter.com/AlvaroF

Have a great National Car Care Month in April! (now, wouldn’t you please pay at least equal atten­tion to Brain Care than to Car Care?)

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