Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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.


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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