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Top 10 Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness Books

Here you have The 10 Most Popular Brain Fitness & Cognitive Health Books, based on book purchases by SharpBrains’ readers during 2008.

Enjoy!

Brain Rules-John Medina
1. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)
– Dr. John Medina, Director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, writes an engaging and comprehensive introduction to the many daily implications of recent brain research. He wrote the article Brain Rules: science and practice for SharpBrains readers.
2. The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person (Oxmoor House, March 2007)
– Dr. Judith Beck, Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, connects the world of research-based cognitive therapy with a mainstream application: maintaining weight-loss. Interview notes here.
3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Viking, March 2007)
– Dr. Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of this New York Times bestseller, brings us “a compelling collection of tales about the amazing abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn”. Laurie Bartels reviews the book review here.
Spark John Ratey
4. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain(Little, Brown and Company, January 2008)
– Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, summarizes the growing research on the brain benefits of physical exercise. Laurie Bartels puts this research in perspective here.
5. The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning (Stylus Publishing, October 2002)
– Dr. James Zull, Director Emeritus of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University, writes a must-read for educators and lifelong learners. Interview notes here.
6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves (Ballantine Books, January 2007)
– Sharon Begley, Newsweek’ excellent science writer, provides an in-depth introduction to the research on neuroplasticity based on a Mind & Life Institute event.
7. Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, August 2007)
– Prof. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, writes a solid book that combines a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions. Interview notes here.
8. The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (Oxford University Press, January 2001)
– Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, provides a fascinating perspective on the role of the frontal roles and executive functions through the lifespan. Interview notes here.
Brain Trust Program 9. The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory (Perigee Trade, September 2007)
– Dr. Larry McCleary, former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, covers many lifestyle recommendations for brain health in this practical book. He wrote the article Brain Evolution and Health for SharpBrains.
10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain (Pantheon, January 2001)
– In this book (previous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey provides a stimulating description of how the brain works. An excellent Brain 101 book to anyone new to the field.

Brain Research Interview Series

We are working on improving several sections of our website, especially our Resources section. It will look much better in a few days. Our first step has been to re-organize our Neuroscience Interview Series, and below you have how it looks today.

During the last 18 months I have had the fortune to interview over 15 cutting-edge neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists on their research and thoughts. Here are some of our favorite quotes (you can read the full interview notes by clicking on the links):

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Plasticity, Health and Fitness Books

As you may have noticed, we just changed a few things in our site, including preparing a more solid Resources section. Please take a look at the navigation bar at the top.

One of the new pages, that we will update often, is an expanded Books page. Here are the books that we are recommending now.

Fascinating books on neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself through experience):

Sharon Begley: Train Your Mind, Change Your BrainTrain Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves – by Sharon Begley.

 

The Brain That Changes Itself - Norman DoidgeThe Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science – by Norman Doidge.

 

Great popular science books by Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

Over the last months, thanks to the traffic growth of SharpBrains.com (over 100,000 unique visitors per month these days, THANK YOU for visiting today and please come back!), a number of proactive book agents, publishers and authors have contacted us to inform us of their latest brain-related books. We have taken a look at many books, wrote reviews of The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review‚ and Best of the Brain from Scientific American, and interviewed scientists such as Judith Beck, Robert Emmons and James Zull.

Brain Trust ProgramNow we are launching a new Author Speaks Series to provide a platform for leading scientists and experts writing high-quality brain-related books to reach a wide audience. We are honored to start the series with an article by Larry McCleary, M.D, former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, and author of The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory, Elevate Mood, Enhance Attention, Alleviate Migraine and Menopausal Symptoms, and Boost Mental Energy (Perigee Trade, 2007).

Without further ado, let’s enjoy Dr. McCleary’s article:

Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

You may feel overwhelmed by the stream of seemingly contradictory suggestions regarding the best way to maintain mental clarity as you age. Based on an analysis of seminal factors in the development of modern brain anatomy, I believe it is possible to make some very compelling recommendations for growing big brains, enhancing their function, and making them resistant to the aging process. These may be loosely categorized as factors pertaining to the mental or physical attributes of the brain. Although they are not truly independent entities, such a conceptualization provides a basis for the generation of brain healthy prescriptions. Diet, physical exercise, and stress reduction enhance neuronal resilience. Sleep and mental stimulation are vital for cognitive ability, learning, and memory.

Diet: Follow a modern shore-based/marine diet including seafood in its most general sense, non-starchy vegetables of all colors, berries, and eggs. Other sources of lean protein containing long-chain omega 3 fatty acids such as free range beef, chicken, bison, or elk are nutritious alternatives.

Physical exercise (Think fight or flight – activity.): Include all types. Aerobic activities such as swimming, bicycling, walking, or hiking for promotion of vascular health and weight control; resistance training for promotion of neurotrophic factors, naturally occurring compounds that make brain cells more resistant to aging, such as IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1) and BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor); and balance, coordination, and agility training such as ping-pong, balance beam, trampoline, and jumping rope to enhance cognitive speed and motor skills.

Stress Control: From an evolutionary perspective, stressors (such as meeting a cave bear) and intense physical activity (running or fighting) were brief in duration and usually occurred together. Modern stressors (psychological or emotional stress) tend to be unremitting and are generally uncoupled from the physical (fight or flight) component, meaning stress develops without any associated physical activity. Such intense physical pursuits are now called exercise. Not surprisingly, exercise is a perfect physiologic antidote for stress due to its beneficial impact on cortisol (the stress hormone) and blood pressure and should be incorporated into any program of stress reduction.

Adequate sleep: The body needs rest, but the brain requires sleep. Acute or chronic sleep deprivation causes devastating short and long-term consequences to brain anatomy (synaptic loss) and function (memory and learning difficulties). Off-line information processing and memory consolidation are additional sleep-related benefits.

Mental stimulation: Brain-training, a cognitively challenging lifestyle, novelty, and socialization are vital for the promotion of neuronal plasticity and neurogenesis (the formation of new nerve cells and neuronal connections), the enhancement of specific brain functions such as memory, and the development of cognitive reserve – additional mental processing potential that may be brought online when needed.

The combination of these recommendations, each of which was instrumental in the transformation from primitive to modern nervous systems, provides a template for the most logical approach for enhancing mental function and resisting neurodegeneration as we travel through life.

The Evolutionary Rationale

The human brain clearly has the genetic potential for dramatic expansion. This was illustrated about Read the rest of this entry »

Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons

Robert Emmons Thanks(Dear reader: Here you have a little gift to continue the Thanksgiving spirit. Enjoy the interview, and thank you for visiting our site.)

Prof. Robert Emmons studies gratitude for a living as Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and is Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has just published Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, an interdisciplinary book that provides a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions.

Alvaro Fernandez: Welcome. Prof. Emmons, could you please provide us an overview of the Positive Psychology field so we understand the context for your research?

Robert Emmons: Sure. Martin Seligman and colleagues launched what was called “positive psychology in the late 90s as an antidote to the traditional nearly exclusive emphasis of “negative psychology” focused on fixing problems like trauma, addiction, and stress. We want to balance our focus and be able to help everyone, including high-functioning individuals. A number of researchers were investigating the field since the late 80s, but Seligman provided a new umbrella, a new category, with credibility, organized networks and funding opportunities for the whole field.

And where does your own research fit into this overall picture?

I have been researching gratitude for almost 10 years. Gratitude is a positive emotion that has traditionally been the realm of humanists and philosophers, and only recently the subject of a more scientific approach. We study gratitude not as a merely academic discipline, but as a practical framework to better functioning in life by taking control of happiness levels and practicing the skill of emotional self-regulation.

What are the 3 key messages that you would like readers to take away from your book?

First, the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Second, this is not hard to achieve – a few hours writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cultivating gratitude brings other health effects, such as longer and better quality sleep time.

What are some ways to practice gratitude, and what benefits could we expect? Please refer to your 2003 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, where I found fascinating quotes such as that “The ability to notice, appreciate, and savior the elements of one life has been viewed as a crucial element of well-being.

The most common method we use in our research is to ask people to keep a “Gratitude Journal”  where you write something you feel grateful for. Doing so 4 times a week, for as little as 3 weeks, is often enough to create a meaningful difference in one level of happiness. Another exercise is to write a “Gratitude Letter” to a person who has exerted a positive influence on one’s life but whom we have not properly thanked in the past, and then to meet that person and read the letter to them face to face.

The benefits seem to be very similar using both methods in terms of enhanced happiness, health and wellbeing. Most of the outcomes are self-reported, but there is an increasing emphasis on measuring objective data such as cortisol and stress levels, heart rate variability, and even brain activation patterns. The work of Richard Davidson is exemplary in that respect, showing how mindfulness practice can rewire some activation patterns in Read the rest of this entry »

Math Anxiety

Interesting commentary on Entrepreneurs and Math Anxiety

Based on a research report that included

  • “Math anxiety feelings of dread and fear and avoiding math  can sap the brain’s limited amount of working capacity, a resource needed to compute difficult math problems, said Mark Ashcroft, a psychologist at the University of Nevada Los Vegas who studies the problem.”
  • “It turns out that math anxiety occupies a person’s working memory, said Ashcroft, who spoke on a panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.”

You can learn more here about Brain Fitness Programs for Students to help them manage anxiety and also train working memory.

Register at special low fees before July 31st

2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking applied brain science. Explore our most popular resources HERE.

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