Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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 »

Brain Fitness Update: Best of 2008

Dear reader and member of SharpBrains’ community,
We want to thank you for your attention and support in 2008, and wish you a Happy, brain fitness and health newsletterProsperous, Healthy and Positive 2009!

Below you have the December edition of our monthly newsletter. Enjoy:

Best of 2008

Announcing the SharpBrains Most Important Book of 2008: Neuroscientist Torkel Klingberg has written a very stimulating and accessible book on a crucial topic for our Information Age: The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory. We have named it The SharpBrains Most Important Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Klingberg to write a brief article to introduce his research and book to you. Enjoy it here.

Top 30 Brain Fitness Articles of 2008: We have compiled SharpBrains’ 30 most popular articles, written by thirteen Expert Contributors and staff members for you. Have you read them all?

November-December News: No month goes by without significant news in the field of cognitive fitness. Summarized here are 10 recent developments worthy of attention, including an upcoming brain training product for ice hockey players, my lecture at New York Public Library, and more.

Interviews: Videogames, Meditation

Are videogames good for your brain?: A landmark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and colleagues has shown that playing a strategy videogame can bring a variety of significant mental benefits to older brains. Another recent study, also by Kramer and colleagues, does not show similar benefits to younger brains (despite playing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kindly agreed to serve on SharpBrains’ Scientific Advisory Board, elaborates.

Meditation on the Brain: Dr. Andrew Newberg provides an excellent overview of the brain benefits of practices such as meditation. He recommends, “look for something simple, easy to try first, ensuring the practice is compatible with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match practice with need: understand the specific goals you have in mind, your schedule and lifestyle, and find something practical.”

The Need for Objective Assessments

Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America just released a thoughtful report advocating for widespread cognitive screenings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions). SharpBrains readers, probed by Dr. Joshua Steinerman, seem to agree.

Quantitative EEG for ADHD diagnosis: Dr. David Rabiner reports on the findings from a recent study that documents the utility of Quantitative EEG as an objective test to assist in the diagnosis of ADHD. If this procedure were to become more widely used, he suggests, the number of children and adolescents who are inappropriately diagnosed and treated for the disorder would diminish substantially.

Shall we question the brand new book of human troubles?: The fights over the new version of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, are starting to come to light. Dr. Vaughan Bell wonders why the public debate avoids the key question of whether diagnosis itself is useful for mental health and why psychometrics are simply ignored.

Resources for Lifelong Learning

Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection: Dr. Pascale Michelon reviews a recent study that supports the Cognitive Reserve hypothesis – mentally stimulating experiences throughout life, such as formal education, help build a reserve in our brains that contributes to a lower probability of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

5 Tips on Lifelong Learning & the Adult Brain: Laurie Bartels asks us to please please 1) challenge ourselves with new learning, 2) remember that neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are hallmarks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learning on an ongoing basis, 4) more visuals, less text, 5) move it, move it – start today!

Neuroscience Core Concepts: We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has just released a user-friendly publication titled Neuroscience Core Concepts, aimed at helping educators and the general public learn more about the brain.

Neuroscience Core Concepts: What is “It” in Use It or Lose It?

We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? how does “it” work? why is “it” our best (and too often unrecognized) friend?

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has just released a user-friendly publication titled Neuroscience Core Concepts, aimed at helping educators and the general public learn more about the brain.

Description: “Neuroscience Core Concepts offer fundamental principles that one should know about the brain and nervous system, the most complex living structure known in the universe. They are a practical resource about:

  • – How your brain works and how it is formed.
  • – How it guides you through the changes in life.
  • – Why it is important to increase understanding of the brain.”

You will enjoy reading the web page explaining in detail 8 Neuroscience Core Concepts:

1| The brain is the body’s most complex organ.

2| Neurons communicate using both electrical and chemical signals. Read the rest of this entry »

Resources for Brain Health Across the Lifespan

As promised in my previous post on Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains, I will now list some interviews, video, articles, and books that go hand-in-hand with these brain booksfascinating topics we are discussing. Please comment below if you have favorite additional resources!

NEUROGENESIS

MIT news – Picower researcher finds neuron growth in adult brain

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Adult Neurogenesis

BRAIN PLASTICITY

Neuroscience for Kids – Brain Plasticity: What Is It?

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Brain Plasticity, Language Processing and Reading

Brain Science Podcast – Ginger Campbell interview with Norman Doidge, MD, Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Resources and Websites

We recently prepared a Directory of Web Sites as part of our Resources section. You will find some gems here, in a variety of areas:

>> The Dana Foundation offers several excellent online resources:

Brainy Kids Online offers children, teens, parents and teachers links to games, labs, education resources and lesson plans.

BrainWeb: general information about the brain and current brain research, as well as links to validated sites related to more than 25 brain disorders.

Brain Resources for Seniors provides older adults and their caretakers with links to sites related to brain health, education and general information.

Read the rest of this entry »

Musical training as mental exercise for cognitive performance

We often hear (gladly!) how teachers use our blog articles and brain teasers in their classes. We also hear how many psychology and biology teachers are getting their students excited about brain research, and, to contribute to their efforts, we like to recognize some great initiatives.

Last year, Jeffrey Gonce, a Psychology teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School District, PA) asked his students to “complete a project describing a recent brain (or genetic) study that affects behavior.” The students could opt to post their articles online, and Jeffrey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results. We enjoyed reading them all, and published in our blog this beautiful essay, titled “Tis better to give than receive”, written by Alexandra, which Piano musical training was subsequently included in a number of neuroscience an psychology blogs.

This year, Jeffrey also sent us his students’ essays, and we are going to recognize and publish this great essay by high school student Megan. Enjoy!
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It has long been the source of scientific debate as to whether music can improve the cognitive processes in children. Referred to by some as “The Mozart Effect,” a strong Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness and other blog carnivals

(Blog carnivals are collections of blog articles around specific topics)

Jane hosts a great edition of the Brain Fitness blog carnival, titled Mind, Matter, Mind Over Matter with great articles on napping, exercise, multi-tasking, and more.

Two other carnivals we enjoyed much were: Tangled Bank and Entrepreneurs. Read the rest of this entry »

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2016 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Reinventing Brain Health in the Digital Age

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking applied brain science. Explore our most popular resources HERE.

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