Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


ADHD @ high schools: Clear mismatch between the Evidence and the Practice

Study: High Schoolers with ADHD Receiving Few Evidence-Based Supports (Education Week):

“A little over half of high school students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are receiving some kind of services from their schools, such as additional time on tests or extended time to complete homework assignments, a recent study finds. But those particular supports have no reported effectiveness in improving the academic performance of students with ADHD, according to the study published Read the rest of this entry »

“Our culture seems obsessed with violent sports…Don’t mess with a brain!”

Question by Janet:
Given the growing concern about sports-related concussions, what do you think schools should be doing? abolish or severely reduce varsity teams? sponsor only “safe” sports? Is there research on how concussions may interfere with learning and academic results?


Answer by Dr. Robert Sylwester:
I don’t know how to respond responsibly to your question, except that I share what I think are your concerns. Our culture seems obsessed with violent sports (and perhaps making sports that aren’t necessarily violent into becoming violent). To be frank, as much as I enjoy watching sports, I’m pleased that none of our grandchildren have gotten into any of the more violent school-level sports.

I expect that changes will occur, and they’e overdue. Don’t mess with a brain!

> Read full transcript of Q&A with Prof. Sylwester
> Read full Q&A series
> Read The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Brain Study Links Emotional Self-Regulation and Math Performance

Brain Study Points to Potential Treatments for Math Anxiety (Education Week):

  • “The study, published this morning in the journal Cerebral Cortex, is a continuation of work on highly math-anxious people being conducted by Sian L. Beilock, associate psychology professor at the University of Chicago, and doctoral candidate Ian M. Lyons. In prior research, Beilock has found that just the thought of doing math problems can trigger stress responses in people with math anxiety, and adult teachers can pass their trepidation about math on to their students.” Read the rest of this entry »

SharpBrains Council Monthly Insights: How will we assess, enhance and repair cognition across the lifespan?

When you think of how the PC has altered the fabric of society, permitting instant access to information and automating processes beyond our wildest dreams, it is instructive to consider that much of this progress was driven by Moore’s law. Halving the size of semiconductor every 18 months catalysed an exponential acceleration in performance.

Why is this story relevant to modern neuroscience and the workings of the brain? Because transformative technological progress arises out of choice and the actions of individuals who see potential for change, and we may well be on the verge of such progress. Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article)

Frontiers in Neuroscience Augmenting Cognition(Editor’s note: this article belongs to the excellent May 2009 special issue on Augmenting Cognition at scientific journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. The article, an industry overview, is reproduced here with authorization by the Frontiers Research Foundation)

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age

By Alvaro Fernandez

Groundbreaking cognitive neuroscience research has occurred over the last 20 years – without parallel growth of consumer awareness and appropriate professional dissemination. “Cognition” remains an elusive concept with unclear implications outside the research community.

Earlier this year, I presented a talk to health care professionals at the New York Academy of Medicine, titled “Brain Fitness Software: Helping Consumers Separate Hope from Hype”. I explained what computerized cognitive assessment and training tools can do (assess/enhance specific cognitive functions), what they cannot do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the current uncertainties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symptoms). At the same symposium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center, provided guidance on why and how to screen for executive function deficits in the context of dementia.

I could perceive two emerging trends at the event: 1) “Augmenting Cognition” research is most commonly framed as a healthcare, often pharmacological topic, with the traditional cognitive bias in medicine of focusing on detection and treatment of disease, 2) In addition, there is a growing interest in non-invasive enhancement options and overall lifestyle issues. Research findings in Augmenting Cognition are only just beginning to reach the mainstream marketplace, mostly through healthcare channels. The opportunity is immense, but we will need to ensure the marketplace matures in a rational and sustainable manner, both through healthcare and non-healthcare channels.

In January 2009, we polled the 21,000 subscribers of SharpBrains’ market research eNewsletter to identify attitudes and behaviors towards the “brain fitness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a number of consumer surveys and focus groups to connect with a wider audience). Over 2,000 decision-makers and early adopters responded to the survey.

One of the key questions we asked was, “What is the most important problem you see in the brain fitness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some examples of the survey free text answers are quoted here, together with my suggestions.

Most important problems in the brain fitness field

Public awareness (39%): “To get people to understand that heredity alone does not decide brain functioning”. We need to ramp up efforts to build public awareness and enthusiasm about brain research, including establishing clear links to daily living. We can collaborate with initiatives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week and use the recent “Neuroscience Core Concepts” materials developed by the Society for Neuroscience to give talks at schools, libraries and workplaces.

Claims (21%): “The lack of standards and clear definitions is very confusing, and Read the rest of this entry »

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