Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Math Brain Teaser for Kids and Adults: Archimedes Grave

(Editor’s Note: every other Fri­day, start­ing today, we’ll pub­lish a brain teaser to exer­cise our brains a bit. Here you have one sub­mit­ted by new con­trib­u­tor Maria Lando. Enjoy!).
Archimedes made a plen­i­tude of sig­nif­i­cant sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies through­out his life. He designed machines capa­ble of lift­ing attack­ing ships out of the water as well as mir­ror arrays capa­ble of focus­ing sun rays and set­ting enemy ships on fire. He explained why and how bod­ies float in the water, help­ing the king ver­ify that his crown is indeed made out of pure gold. He was fas­ci­nated with infin­ity and found the way of approx­i­mat­ing the num­ber Pi as well as count­ing the num­ber of grains of sand that will fit inside the uni­verse. He died telling a Roman sol­dier that he is too busy to meet a gen­eral as he was con­tem­plat­ing yet another math­e­mat­i­cal dia­gram.  His tomb was dec­o­rated with his favorite dis­cov­ery .… What do you think it is?

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Bird’s Eye View of Cognitive Health Innovation

My pre­sen­ta­tion to open our Games for Health Con­fer­ence track is now avail­able via SlideShare:

See Bird’s Eye View of Cog­ni­tive Health Innovation

Descrip­tion: Sci­en­tific, tech­no­log­i­cal and demo­graphic trends have con­verged to cre­ate a new $265m mar­ket in the US alone: seri­ous games, soft­ware and online appli­ca­tions that can help peo­ple of all ages assess and train cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez will pro­vide a Bird’s Eye View of the sci­ence, mar­ket seg­ments and trends, com­pet­i­tive land­scape, and main chal­lenges ahead, based on The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 report released in May, which included Research Exec­u­tive Briefs pre­pared by 12 lead­ing sci­en­tists and a sur­vey of 2,000+ decision-makers and early adopters.

61% of respon­dents to the sur­vey Strongly Agreed with the state­ment “Address­ing cog­ni­tive and brain health should be a health­care pri­or­ity.”  But, 65% Agreed/Strongly Agreed with “I don’t really know what to expect from prod­ucts mak­ing brain claims.” In this ses­sion, Alvaro will pub­licly unveil the new book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, To Keep Your Brain Sharp, co-authored by neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and him­self, aimed at help­ing con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als under­stand and nav­i­gate this grow­ing field.

To see slides, check out Bird’s Eye View of Cog­ni­tive Health Innovation

Enjoy the 4th of July!

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 »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: October Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesFol­low­ing our Sep­tem­ber edi­tion, here you are have our Monthly Digest of the Most Pop­u­lar Blog Posts. You can con­sider it your monthly Brain Exer­cise Magazine.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our RSS feed, check our Top­ics sec­tion, and sub­scribe to our monthly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this Digest by email).

Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket News

Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness as a New Fron­tier of Fit­ness: excel­lent Los Ange­les Times arti­cle, cov­er­ing the cog­ni­tive exer­cise angle of healthy aging and lead­ing science-based players.

A Brain Fit­ness Vaca­tion: what does this mean? Well, read this fun arti­cle to discover.

Rethink­ing the Brain Fit­ness Busi­ness: thought-provoking arti­cle on the future of the sec­tor from a busi­ness point of view.

Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness @ Har­vard Busi­ness Review: HBR makes a first attempt to bring neu­ro­science research into help­ing lead­ers per­form at peak lev­els and main­tain sharp brains.

News You Can Use

Train Your Brain to Be Hap­pier: impli­ca­tions of neu­ro­science and pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy research for our daily lives-and our hap­pi­ness. Please keep tuned if you are inter­ested in this topic: we will pub­lish soon a great inter­view with Dr. Robert Emmons, lead­ing researcher in the field of gratitude.

Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness: 10 Debunked Myths: what are some mis­con­cep­tions that pre­vent many peo­ple from see­ing the tremen­dous poten­tial from this emerg­ing research?. Read this post to dis­cover and discuss.

10 (Sur­pris­ing) Mem­ory Improve­ment Tips: and why stress man­age­ment is impor­tant for mem­ory and our brain.


Top 50 Brain Teasers and Games with a neu­ro­science angle: a list of the most pop­u­lar mind games in our blog.


10 High­lights from the 2007 Aspen Health Forum: a sum­mary of impres­sions from this great event, includ­ing what can hap­pen when you have sci­en­tists and politi­cians in the same room.

Brain Fit­ness @ Edu­ca­tion, Train­ing, Health events: an overview of a num­ber of con­fer­ences and uni­ver­sity classes with a brain fit­ness angle.

Thought-provoking posts

Darwin’s adult neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: reflec­tions of a beau­ti­ful mind that –as self-reported at the age of 72– could have been even more beau­ti­ful.The Gene Delu­sion: IQ and the envi­ron­ment: do genes deter­mine our fates? They don’t. They why do we seem to believe so so often?.

Dis­counts for Sharp­Brains readers

Learn­ing & The Brain Con­fer­ence: the best con­fer­ence bring­ing neu­ro­science research to edu­ca­tors’ minds, Feb­ru­ary 7-9th in San Fran­cisco. Reg­is­ter before Jan­u­ary 25th, 2008, for a dis­counted price and to make sure you can attend and see our workshop!

Mind­Fit 10% spe­cial dis­count: a 10% dis­count on one of the most pop­u­lar brain fit­ness pro­grams, that com­bines both an in-depth assess­ment of cog­ni­tive skills with per­son­al­ized training.

Books and Resources

Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can: a superb col­lec­tion of essays for the curi­ous among us.

Selected Resources: Arti­cles, Books, Papers: numer­ous links to media arti­cles, sci­en­tific papers, and rec­om­mended books.


Cognitive Reserve and Lifestyle

Update: we now have an in-depth inter­view with Yaakov Stern, lead­ing advo­cate of the cog­ni­tive reserve the­ory, and one of the authors of the paper we review below: click on Build Your Cog­ni­tive Reserve-Yaakov Stern. 


In honor of the Week of Sci­ence pre­sented at Just Sci­ence from Mon­day, Feb­ru­ary 5, through Sun­day, Feb­ru­ary 11, we will be writ­ing about “just sci­ence” this week. We thought we would take this time to dis­cuss more deeply some of the key sci­en­tific pub­li­ca­tions in brain fitness.

Today, we will high­light the key points in an excel­lent review of cog­ni­tive reserve: Scarmeas, Niko­laos and Stern, Yaakov. Cog­ni­tive reserve and lifestyle. Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal and Exper­i­men­tal Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy. 2003;25:625–33.

What is Cog­ni­tive Reserve?
The con­cept of a cog­ni­tive reserve has been around since 1998 when a post mortem analy­sis of 137 peo­ple with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease showed that the patients exhib­ited fewer clin­i­cal symp­toms than their actual pathol­ogy sug­gested. (Katz­man et al. 1988) They also showed higher brain weights and greater num­ber of neu­rons when com­pared to age-matched con­trols. The inves­ti­ga­tors hypoth­e­sized that the patients had a larger “reserve” of neu­rons and abil­i­ties that off­set the losses caused by Alzheimer’s. Since then the con­cept of cog­ni­tive reserve has been defined as the abil­ity of an indi­vid­ual to tol­er­ate pro­gres­sive brain pathol­ogy with­out demon­strat­ing clin­i­cal cog­ni­tive symp­toms.
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