Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Update: Live Well to 100 by Using Your Brain

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our monthly newslet­ter cov­er­ing 107px-gray1197thumbnailcog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Liv­ing Well to 100

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Mag­a­zine. They are dis­cov­er­ing that genetic fac­tors may account for only 20 to 30 per­cent of a person’s lifes­pan, while envi­ron­men­tal and behav­ioral fac­tors can dic­tate the other 70 to 80 percent.

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon weighs the evi­dence and reports good and bad news. The good news: long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm. The bad news: there are no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­eral brain func­tions (impli­ca­tion for pro­po­nents of “smart pills”: don’t use cof­fee as the analogy).

10 Inno­va­tions for the Aging Soci­ety: In the Thanksgiving’s spirit, we want to thank 10 pio­neers for emerg­ing inno­va­tions that may help mil­lions of peo­ple alive today to keep our brains in top shape per­haps till we are 100 or more. Many of those pio­neers will par­tic­i­pate in the inau­gural Sharp­Brains Sum­mit.

In Autopi­lot?

Train your autopilot.…and how to turn it off: Madeleine Van Hecke, Ph.D shares an excerpt from The Brain Advan­tage, in which she encour­ages main­tain­ing men­tal “autopi­lot” when it’s work­ing well, yet shift­ing to more con­scious delib­er­a­tions when needed.

Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica:  A good way to turn off autopi­lot is to enjoy some great sci­ence and nature blog­ging, cour­tesy of Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica blog car­ni­val. Addi­tion­ally, you can enjoy read­ing some of the best neu­ro­science, psy­chol­ogy and med­ical blog­ging at the first ever com­bined Grand Rounds/ Encephalon edi­tion.

Games for Health

Games for Health Research: The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion announced more than $1.85 mil­lion in grants for research teams to study how dig­i­tal games can improve play­ers health. One of the grantees is UCSF’s Adam Gaz­za­ley (who will be speak­ing at the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit) to develop a dri­ving game for cog­ni­tive fit­ness among younger and older adults.

Smart industry-research col­lab­o­ra­tion: Lumos Labs and researchers Susanne Jaeggi and Mar­tin Buschkuehl announce a col­lab­o­ra­tion to make the orig­i­nal Dual N-Back work­ing mem­ory train­ing pro­gram avail­able online and use it for ongo­ing research.


Mar­ian C. Dia­mond to open Sharp­Brains Sum­mit: Kick­ing off our Jan­u­ary 2010 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit is Mar­ian C. Dia­mond, one of the pio­neers of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity research since the 1960s. She will intro­duce us to the human brain, its anatomy and func­tion, and impli­ca­tions of  neu­ro­plas­tic­ity for brain health and per­for­mance at any age.

The Sharp­Brains Guide’s reviews and inter­views: a col­lec­tion of links to inter­views and reviews of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fitness.

Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion (members-only): Dis­cus­sion on the future of com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­apy; United BioSource acquires Cog­ni­tive Drug Research; inno­v­a­tive part­ner­ship between Nav­i­gen­ics and Posit Sci­ence; new research on brain impact of Tetris; how a drop in visual skills may pre­cede Alzheimer’s Dis­ease;  excel­lent report by the National Acad­e­mies for the US Army avail­able for free now.

Brain Teaser

Who will you believe, me or your own eyes? dis­cover the 3 Win­ners of the 2009 Best Visual Illu­sion of the Year Con­test. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Mack­nik, who help orga­nize the con­test, will give a fun demo on Magic and the Brain at Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, to dis­cuss the lim­its of human per­cep­tion and cognition.

Enjoy the final month of 2009!

Digital Games for Physical, Cognitive and Behavioral Health

The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion (RWJF) just announced more than 200px-Dance_Dance_Revolution_Extreme_arcade_machine_left_side_stage$1.85 mil­lion in grants for research teams to study how dig­i­tal games can improve play­ers’ health behav­iors and out­comes (both brain-based and behavioral).

The press release: Nine Lead­ing Research Teams Selected to Study How Dig­i­tal Games Improve Play­ers’ Health

  • Dig­i­tal games are inter­ac­tive and expe­ri­en­tial, and so they can engage peo­ple in pow­er­ful ways to enhance learn­ing and health behav­ior change, espe­cially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strate­gies,” said (UC Santa Barbara’s Dr. Debra) Lieberman.
  • The pace of growth and inno­va­tion in dig­i­tal games is incred­i­ble, and we see tremen­dous poten­tial to design them to help peo­ple stay healthy or man­age chronic con­di­tions like dia­betes or Parkinson’s dis­ease. How­ever, we need to know more about what works and what does not — and why,” said Paul Tarini, team direc­tor for RWJF’s Pio­neer Port­fo­lio. “Health Games Research is a major invest­ment to build a research base for this dynamic young field. Fur­ther, the insights and ideas that flow from this work will help us con­tinue to expand our imag­i­na­tion of what is pos­si­ble in this arena.”

All 9 stud­ies sound inter­est­ing, 3 of them are closer to what we track:

  1. Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco (San Fran­cisco, CA) A Video Game to Enhance Cog­ni­tive Health in Older Adults. As peo­ple age, they lose some of their abil­ity to sus­tain their atten­tion and to focus their atten­tion on their main task while ignor­ing dis­trac­tions. This study aims to improve these and other related cog­ni­tive skills by using a dri­ving game in which Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forum on the Future Impact of Neuroscience and Behavior Change

The Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion just announced a new ini­tia­tive of their Pio­neer port­fo­lio:

On Novem­ber 11–12, the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion (RWJF), work­ing with the Mon­i­tor Insti­tute, will wel­come a small group of researchers, aca­d­e­mics, physi­cians and indus­try lead­ers in the fields of neu­rotech­nol­ogy, neu­rode­vel­op­ment and behav­ior change for a Forum on the Future Impact of Neu­ro­science and Behav­ior Change.

The ques­tion: what could neu­ro­science inno­va­tion mean for the future of health and health care?

This blog post con­tains the list of  par­tic­i­pants (hon­ored to be one) and an excel­lent con­tex­tual overview.

Foun­da­tion staff will blog and tweet the event (haven’t seen the hash­tag yet); I will link to good mate­ri­als and offer my own per­spec­tive focused on that “neu­rode­vel­op­ment” aspect and, over­all, where/ how research and the real-world can “dance” with each other.

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