Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The Ten Habits of a Sharp Brain

As our final arti­cle for 2011, let us repur­pose one of Sharp­Brains’ most pop­u­lar blog posts since 2006. It may give you a few point­ers to sharpen those New Years Res­o­lu­tions. Let’s sum­ma­rize some lifestyle guide­lines we can all fol­low to enhance and main­tain a sharp brain through life...

  1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beauty as a liv­ing and constantly-developing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synapses.
  2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but con­sumes over 20% of the oxy­gen and nutri­ents we intake? As a gen­eral rule, you don’t need expen­sive ultra-sophisticated nutri­tional sup­ple­ments, just make sure you don’t stuff your­self with the “bad stuff”.
  3. Remem­ber that the brain is part of the body. Things that exer­cise your body can also help sharpen your brain: phys­i­cal exer­cise enhances neurogenesis.
  4. Prac­tice pos­i­tive, future-oriented thoughts until they become your default mind­set and you Read the rest of this entry »

AARP’s Best Brain Fitness Books

We are hon­ored to announce that AARP has included our very own book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (182 pages; $14.95) in its new List of Best Books on Brain Fit­ness, which will be unveiled dur­ing AARP’s upcom­ing Life@50 National Event. We hope this list will help many more indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions learn about our resource: given that 80% of respon­dents to a recent AARP sur­vey selected “Stay­ing Men­tally Sharp” as their top pri­or­ity, we cer­tainly know there is a sig­nif­i­cant need for qual­ity information!

AARP’s Best Books Guide


Brain Fit­ness


The Dana Guide to Brain Health, by Floyd E. Bloom, M. Flint Beal, and David J. Kupfer (Dana Press, 2006).

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp, by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Elkhonon Gold­berg. (Sharp­Brains Inc., 2009).

Save Your Brain: The 5 Things You Must Do To Keep Your Mind Young and Sharp
, by Paul Nuss­baum. (McGraw-Hill, 2010).

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Sur­pris­ing Tal­ents of the Middle-Aged Mind, by Bar­bara Strauch (Viking, 2010).

The Mem­ory Bible: An Inno­v­a­tive Strat­egy for Keep­ing Your Brain Young
, by Gary Small (Hype­r­ion, 2003).

___________

Also Rec­om­mended:

The Mature Mind: The Pos­i­tive Power of the Aging Brain, by Gene Cohen (Basic Books, 2006).

The Brain That Changes Itself, by Nor­man Doidge (Pen­guin, 2007).

Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary New Sci­ence of Exer­cise and the Brain, by John Ratey and Eric Hager­man (Lit­tle, Brown and Co., 2008).

Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Pre­scrip­tion for Improv­ing Your Brain’s Per­for­mance, by Richard Restak (River­head, 2010).

Com­piled by:
Office of Aca­d­e­mic Affairs, AARP

Last 33 Hours to Register/ US Asst. Secretary of Adult Education to Open 2011 SharpBrains Summit

Reg­is­tra­tion to par­tic­i­pate in 2011 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit closes tomor­row Tues­day, March 29th, at 1pm US Pacific Time/ 4pm US East­ern Time. If you are plan­ning to attend, please Reg­is­ter Now.

We are hon­ored to announce that Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, US Depart­ment of Education’s Assis­tant Sec­re­tary for Voca­tional and Adult Edu­ca­tion, will open 2011 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit on Wednes­day, March 30th, shar­ing her Wel­come Remarks with 220+ reg­is­tered participants.

Brenda Dann-Messier was nom­i­nated by Pres­i­dent Obama as assis­tant sec­re­tary for voca­tional and adult edu­ca­tion on July 14, 2009. On Oct. 5, 2009 she was con­firmed by the U.S. Sen­ate and began her offi­cial duties on Oct. 13, 2009. More infor­ma­tion on Dr. Dann-Messier’s bio Here.

Sum­mit Agenda: 80% of the 38,000 adults over 50 sur­veyed in the 2010 AARP Mem­ber Opin­ion Sur­vey indi­cated “Stay­ing Men­tally Sharp” as their top ranked inter­est and con­cern. This consumer-fueled inter­est, com­bined with grow­ing research on life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and the cog­ni­tive reserve and with a grow­ing mar­ket­place of “brain fit­ness” prod­ucts and ser­vices, con­sti­tutes a call to action to expand the brain health toolkit to meet grow­ing needs across the lifes­pan. Intel CEO Paul Otellini is quoted as say­ing, “You have to start by think­ing about what peo­ple want to do…and work back­ward,” and the 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit: Retool­ing Brain Health for the 21st Cen­tury will do so by show­cas­ing the lat­est trends tak­ing place among con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als, in indus­try, research, tech­nol­ogy, and care, to iden­tify crit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to develop a valu­able inno­va­tion ecosys­tem which may exceed $2B world­wide in 2015.

To Learn More About Final Agenda and Speaker Ros­ter, click HERE. Please note all times in the agenda indi­cate US Pacific Time.

You can Learn More and Reg­is­ter HERE, and get a 15% dis­count by enter­ing dis­count code: sharp2011

Kindle version of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Given the fact I love Kin­dle, and some of our Twit­ter friends had been ask­ing for a Kin­dle ver­sion of our new book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fitness…well, here it is:
Amazon.com: The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99)

The book has also received two excel­lent new endorsements:

Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health arena.“
— Eliz­a­beth Edgerly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Association

The Sharp­Brains’ Guide to Brain Fit­ness helped answer many of my ques­tions on the impor­tance of both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to stay sharp as we age, as they act in syn­ergy on one another. The Guide also pro­vided guide­lines and spe­cific calls to action to expand what we tra­di­tion­ally do in our fit­ness clubs. This is an impor­tant book for any­one in the fit­ness indus­try, and, for that mat­ter, for any­one with a brain.“
— Robin Klaus, Chair­man, Club One Fit­ness Centers

More infor­ma­tion on the book: The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fitness

Also: Book Club Dis­cus­sion Guide

Maintain Your Brain and Stay Sharp: An Upcoming Guide and Resource

You may be read­ing all about brain fit­ness and brain train­ing. It seems every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which often con­tra­dict what you read the month before: Does Gingko Biloba help delay Alzheimer’s Dis­ease? Can phys­i­cal exer­cise help you stay sharp as you age? Which computer-based “brain fit­ness pro­grams”, if any, are worth your money?

All this cov­er­age reflects very excit­ing sci­en­tific find­ings but also poses a key dilemma: How to become an informed life­long learner and con­sumer when there are few and con­tra­dic­tory author­i­ta­tive guidelines?

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (to be pub­lished in May 2009; $24.95) aims to fill that void. This guide is the result of over a year of exten­sive research includ­ing more than a hun­dred inter­views with sci­en­tists, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers, and a deep lit­er­a­ture review. Below you have some of the main find­ings from our effort. The guide not only cov­ers these aspects in more depth and offers prac­ti­cal guid­ance, but also includes 18 inter­views with promi­nent sci­en­tists to help you under­stand the research better.

Can we intro­duce you to your Brain?

The Guide will start at the obvi­ous start­ing point: The Human Brain. In order to make informed deci­sions about brain health, one needs to first under­stand the basic orga­ni­za­tion of the human brain and how it tends to change as we get older.

* The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of regions serv­ing dis­tinct func­tions. For­get IQ: our life and pro­duc­tiv­ity depend on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one.

* There is noth­ing inher­ently fixed in the tra­jec­tory of how brain func­tions evolve as we age. Your lifestyle, actions, and even thoughts, do matter.

The 4 Pil­lars of Brain Maintenance

Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity is the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. The lat­est sci­en­tific research shows that spe­cific lifestyles and actions can, no mat­ter our age, improve the health and level of func­tion­ing of our brains.

What fac­tors seem to have the most influ­ence? Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health News: Top Articles and Resources in March

There’s such a flood of very sig­nif­i­cant research stud­ies, edu­ca­tional resources and arti­cles related to brain health, it’s hard to keep track — even for us!

Let me intro­duce and quote some of the top Brain Health Stud­ies, Arti­cles and Resources pub­lished in March:

1) Cog­ni­tive Decline Begins In Late 20s, Study Sug­gests (Sci­ence Daily)

- “These pat­terns sug­gest that some types of men­tal flex­i­bil­ity decrease rel­a­tively early in adult­hood, but that how much knowl­edge one has, and the effec­tive­ness of inte­grat­ing it with one’s abil­i­ties, may increase through­out all of adult­hood if there are no patho­log­i­cal dis­eases,” Salt­house said.

- How­ever, Salt­house points out that there is a great deal of vari­ance from per­son to person

2) Cere­brum 2009: Emerg­ing Ideas in Brain Sci­ence — new book by the Dana Foun­da­tion that “explores the cut­ting edge of brain research and its impli­ca­tions in our every­day lives, in lan­guage under­stand­able to the gen­eral reader.”

A cou­ple of excel­lent chap­ters of direct rel­e­vance to everyone’s brain health are:
– Chap­ter 4: A Road Paved by Rea­son, by Eliz­a­beth Nor­ton Lasley

- Chap­ter 10: Neural Health: Is It Facil­i­tated by Work Force Par­tic­i­pa­tion?, by Denise Park, Ph.D

3) Stay­ing Sharp DVD Pro­gram: “Dr. Jor­dan Graf­man, chief of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Sec­tion at the National Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke out­side of Wash­ing­ton, DC, and a mem­ber of the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives, is your guide as we cover what to expect from the aging brain and what we can do to ‘stay sharp.’

For a free DVD of this pro­gram you can con­tact stayingsharp@dana.org. (they say free in their web­site, I don’t know if that includes ship­ping & handling)

4) Dri­vers to be tested on cog­ni­tive abil­ity start­ing at age 75 (Japan Times)

The out­line of a cog­ni­tive test that dri­vers aged 75 or over will be required to take from June when renew­ing their licenses was released Thursday…The test is intended to reduce the num­ber of traf­fic acci­dents involv­ing elderly dri­vers by mea­sur­ing their cog­ni­tive level.

5) Phys­i­cal Fit­ness Improves Spa­tial Mem­ory, Increases Size Of Brain Struc­ture (Sci­ence Daily)

- “Now researchers have found that elderly adults who are more phys­i­cally fit tend to have big­ger hip­pocampi and bet­ter spa­tial mem­ory than those who are less fit.”

6) Brain Train­ers: A Work­out for the Mind (Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can Mind)

I recently tried out eight of the lat­est brain fit­ness pro­grams, train­ing with each for a week. The pro­grams ranged widely in focus, qual­ity and how fun they were to use. “Like phys­i­cal exer­cise equip­ment, a brain exer­cise pro­gram doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use it, says Andrew J. Carle, direc­tor of the Pro­gram in Assisted Living/Senior Hous­ing Admin­is­tra­tion at George Mason Uni­ver­sity. And peo­ple tend not to use bor­ing equip­ment. “I remem­ber when Nor­dic­Track was the biggest thing out there. Every­one ran out and bought one, and 90 per­cent of them ended up as a clothes rack in the back of your bedroom.

The reporter used: Posit Science’s Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram Clas­sic, Hap­pyNeu­ron, Nin­tendo BrainAge, CogniFit’s MindFit/ Cog­niFit Per­sonal Coach, Lumos­ity, MyBrain­Trainer, Brain­Twister, Cogmed Work­ing Mem­ory Training.

7) The Lat­est in Men­tal Health: Work­ing Out at the ‘Brain Gym’ (Wall Street Journal)

- “Mar­shall Kahn, an 82-year-old fam­ily doc­tor in Fuller­ton, Calif., says he got such a boost from brain exer­cises he started doing at a “Nifty after Fifty” club that he decided to start see­ing patients again part-time. “Doing all the men­tal exer­cise,” he says, “I real­ized I’ve still got it.”

8) Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites (Wash­ing­ton Post)

- “New data from a large fed­eral study have reignited a debate over the effec­tive­ness of long-term drug treat­ment of chil­dren with hyper­ac­tiv­ity or attention-deficit dis­or­der, and have drawn accu­sa­tions that some mem­bers of the research team have sought to play down evi­dence that med­ica­tions do lit­tle good beyond 24 months.”

- “The study also indi­cated that long-term use of the drugs can stunt children’s growth.”

8) Adap­tive train­ing leads to sus­tained enhance­ment of poor work­ing mem­ory in chil­dren (Devel­op­men­tal Science)

Abstract: Work­ing mem­ory plays a cru­cial role in sup­port­ing learn­ing, with poor progress in read­ing and math­e­mat­ics char­ac­ter­iz­ing chil­dren with low mem­ory skills. This study inves­ti­gated whether these prob­lems can be over­come by a train­ing pro­gram designed to boost work­ing mem­ory. Chil­dren with low work­ing mem­ory skills were assessed on mea­sures of work­ing mem­ory, IQ and aca­d­e­mic attain­ment before and after train­ing on either adap­tive or non-adaptive ver­sions of the pro­gram. Adap­tive train­ing that taxed work­ing mem­ory to its lim­its was asso­ci­ated with sub­stan­tial and sus­tained gains in work­ing mem­ory, with age-appropriate lev­els achieved by the major­ity of chil­dren. Math­e­mat­i­cal abil­ity also improved sig­nif­i­cantly 6 months fol­low­ing adap­tive train­ing. These find­ings indi­cate that com­mon impair­ments in work­ing mem­ory and asso­ci­ated learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties may be over­come with this behav­ioral treatment.

9) Brain cor­tex thin­ning linked to inher­ited depres­sion (Los Ange­les Times)

- “On aver­age, peo­ple with a fam­ily his­tory of depres­sion appear to have brains that are 28% thin­ner in the right cor­tex — the out­er­most layer of the brain — than those with no known fam­ily his­tory of the dis­ease. That cor­ti­cal thin­ning, said the researchers, is on a scale sim­i­lar to that seen in patients with Alzheimer’s dis­ease or schizophrenia.”

Michael Merzenich: Brain Plasticity offers Hope for Everyone

What­ever you strug­gle with in a sense as it stems from your neu­rol­ogy, the inher­ent plas­tic­ity of the brain gives you a basis for improve­ment. This is a way under­uti­lized and under-appreciated resource that well all have.” Dr. Michael Merzenich on the Brain Sci­ence Pod­cast #54, 2/13/09.

Recently there has been grow­ing con­tro­versy about the effec­tive­ness of computer-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams. As a co-founder of Posit Sci­ence, Inc. Dr. Michael Merzenich is a staunch defender of the meth­ods his com­pany uses to val­i­date the pro­grams that they have devel­oped. But for the pur­poses of this essay, I want to share some of the key ideas we dis­cussed dur­ing his recent inter­view on the Brain Sci­ence Podcast.

First of all, I asked him to dis­cuss some of the high­lights of his long career. Since he was one of the first neu­ro­sci­en­tists to embrace the con­cepts of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity I was curi­ous about how this came about. While he did have some expo­sure to the ani­mal evi­dence as a grad­u­ate stu­dent, it was actu­ally his expe­ri­ence with the inven­tion of the cochlear implant that con­vinced Dr. Merzenich of the real-world, prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions of brain plas­tic­ity. The qual­ity of the Read the rest of this entry »

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