Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Why our brains weigh 1.3 kilograms, have ~100 billion neurons, consume 20% of the oxygen we breathe

Teamwork Builds Big Brains (Science Now):
– “The average adult human’s brain weighs about 1.3 kilograms, has 100 billion or so neurons, and sucks up 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s much bigger than an animal our size needs. According to a new computer model, the brains of humans and related primates are so large because we evolved to be social creatures.”
– “The idea behind the so-called social intelligence hypothesis is that we need Read the rest of this entry »

Newsletter: Navigating Games for Health and Education

Here you have the twice-a-month newsletter with our most popular blog posts. Please brain fitness and health newsletterremember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, simply by submitting your email at the top of this page.

Quick, Are videogames good or bad?

That’s an impossible question. Good or bad for what? What  specific games are we talking about? More importantly, what are they substituting for, given time is a limited resource?  Contributor Jeremy Adam Smith, managing director of Greater Good magazine, offers an in-depth review on the trade-offs videogames present in: Playing the Blame Game.

News Round-Up

Math Innovation in UK Schools: a recent (and unpublished) study seems to support the potential role for “Serious Games” in education. Learning and Teaching Scotland reports significant improvements in pupils’ concentration and behavior, on top of math skills, after using Nintendo Brain Training game.

Alzheimer’s Australia endorses Posit Science programs: this announcement brings to surface a genuine public health dilemma – do you, as an association, promote programs before they have been shown to have long-term effects on Alzheimer’s progression and prevalence, or do you wait until you have “perfect” research, and then perhaps lose 10-20-30 years or useful contribution to thousands/ millions of brain’s Cognitive Reserves? In our judgment, it may well be worth offering options today, as long as they are accompanied by independent measurement of the cognitive benefits.

More September News: September has brought a wealth of additional worldwide media coverage on cognitive health and brain fitness topics, including the role of schools in nurturing student’s executive functions, the importance of baseline neuropsychological testing in sports, the need for gerontology as a discipline to incorporate brain research, how walking can enhance brain function, and the value of brain fitness programs for long-term care operators.

Resources for Brain Fitness Navigation

Wellness Coaching for Brain Health and Fitness: will Wellness Coaches expand their role and become “Brain coaches”? We have partnered with Sutter Health Partners, the pioneering coaching group of a major health system, to train their wellness coaches on the implications of emerging brain research for their work: focus on the 4 pillars of brain health -balanced nutrition, physical exercise, stress management and mental exercise.

Evaluation Checklist for Organizations: many healthcare and education organizations are already making purchase decisions which involve evaluating different programs that make “brain training” or “cognitive health” claims. Here we present our 10-Question SharpBrains Checklist to help organizations make informed decisions.

Evaluation Checklist for Consumers: if you are an individual interested in programs for yourself and/ or a loved one, you can use this checklist. The starting point is to recognize that no program is a “magic pill” or “general solution”, but a tool to be used in the appropriate context.

Learning to Lead, and To Think

Roundtable on Human Resources and Leadership: several bloggers discuss latest news around leadership, social intelligence, applications of brain research, and more.

Helping Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think: David Foster Wallace gave a masterful commencement speech on Life and Work to the 2005 graduating  class at Kenyon College.  Worth reading, with full attention.

Brain Teasers

Seven Brain teasers for Job Interviews: A recent CNN article explains why a growing number of technology and consulting companies use brain teasers and logic puzzles of a type called “guesstimations” during job interviews. What are they looking for? Good executive functions. Here you have a few typical questions.

Enjoy!

Carnival of Human Resources and Leadership

Welcome to the September 17th edition of the Carnival of Human Resources, the virtual gathering, every other week, of bloggers focused on Human Resources and Leadership topics.

Let’s imagine all participants in a conference room, conducting a lively Q&A brown-bag lunch discussion.

Q: Can you teach Leadership in a classroom?
– Wally: Not really. Neither the person who aspires to become a leader nor HR departments should see leadership development as an activity to be outsourced to a classroom setting. Leadership is a lifelong apprentice trade, led by the learner himself/ herself. The most HR departments can do is to architect the right set of experiences to enable/ accelerate that development.

Q: Can you teach Social Intelligence in a classroom?
– Jon: According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, not really. Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis say that “our brains engage in an emotional tango, a dance of feelings”. And you learn Tango by, well, dancing Tango. Goleman and Boyatzis add that “Leading effectively is about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.”

Q: Can you provide an example of applying social intelligence in the workplace, and training on-the-job?
– Suzanne: Sure. Learn to appreciate your front line employees. They are the ones who interact with customers every day – which some companies seem to ignore at their peril.
– Denise: another oneWhat can you do when your team falls apart while you’re gone?.

Q: How can you generate positive feelings, when sometimes we get stuck in bad news and constant quarter-by-quarter pressures?
– Anna: Adding much needed perspective. Please note: Read the rest of this entry »

Should Social-Emotional Learning Be Part of Academic Curriculum?

The Secret to Success
New research says social-emotional learning helps students in every way.
— by Daniel Goleman

Schools are beginning to offer an increasing number of courses in social and emotional intelligence, teaching students how to better understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.

It sounds warm and fuzzy, but it’s a trend backed up by hard data. Today, new studies reveal that teaching kids to be emotionally and socially competent boosts their academic achievement. More precisely, when schools offer students programs in social and emotional learning, their achievement scores gain around 11 percentage points.

That’s what I heard at a forum held last December by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (Disclosure: I’m a co-founder of CASEL.) Roger Weissberg, the organization’s director, gave a preview of a massive study run by researchers at Loyola University and the University of Illinois, which analyzed evaluations of more than 233,000 students across the country.

Social-emotional learning, they discovered, helps students Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Mindsight-by Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman requires no introduction. Personally, of all his books I have read, the one I found most stimulating was Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue With the Dalai Lama, a superb overview of what emotions are and how we can put them to good use. He is now conducting a great series of audio interviews including one with George Lucas on Educating Hearts and Minds: Rethinking Education.

We are honored to bring you a guest post by Daniel Goleman, thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine, a UC-Berkeley-based quarterly magazine that highlights ground breaking scientific research into the roots of compassion and altruism. Enjoy!

– Alvaro

—————-

The Power of Mindsight

How can we free ourselves from prisons of the past?

— By Daniel Goleman

When you were young, which of these did you feel more often?

a) No matter what I do, my parents love me;

b) I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do;

c) My parents don’t really notice me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Exercising Your Lexical Recall and Pattern Recognition

Crossword Puzzle
I was sent these links to a free online crossword puzzle game and sudoko. While we often talk about the excellent computer-based brain fitness programs available, puzzles can still be good mental exercise … they are just not a complete workout for your whole brain.

Word games like crossword puzzles and SCRABBLE® exercise your lexical recall (memory for words that name things), attention, memory, and pattern recognition. They can help maintain your vocabulary and avoid the frustrating tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon that all of us experience from time to time. Sudoko is not a mathematics game in that you don’t actually manipulate the numbers as mathematical entities, but it is a pattern recognition game using symbols (numbers). A very legitimate reason to play casual games is that they can be social and fun – which is good for reducing stress.

The drawbacks to puzzles and games is that they are hard to calibrate to ensure increasing challenge, and they generally only exercise a limited number of brain functions.

So by all means, do puzzles if you enjoy them! But be sure to push yourself to keep finding harder ones that fall just short of frustrating you. Also, just as you cross train your voluntary muscles, be sure to cross train your mental muscles by balancing your workout with other types of mental work (motor coordination, auditory, working memory, planning, etc.). The computerized programs make it easier for you in the sense that they are individually calibrated for you to employ novelty, variety, challenge, and practice to exercise your brain more thoroughly in each session.

Further reading on language production, comprehension, and goofs:

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