Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Learning with Video Games: A Revolution in Education and Training?

In recent years, we have wit­nessed the begin­nings of a rev­o­lu­tion in edu­ca­tion.  Tech­nol­ogy has fun­da­men­tally altered the way we do many things in daily life, but it is just start­ing to make head­way in chang­ing the way we teach.  Just as tele­vi­sion shows like Sesame Street enhanced the pas­sive learn­ing of infor­ma­tion for kids by teach­ing in a fun for­mat, elec­tronic games offer to greatly enhance the way kids and adults are taught by actively engag­ing them in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs

Dr. Arthur Kramer is a Pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy, the Cam­pus Neu­ro­science Pro­gram, the Beck­man Insti­tute, and the Direc­tor of the Art KramerBio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Illinois.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by try­ing to clar­ify some exist­ing mis­con­cep­tions and con­tro­ver­sies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (Note: ref­er­enced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you sug­gest to a per­son who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms and improve over­all brain health?

First, Be Active. Do phys­i­cal exer­cise. Aer­o­bic exer­cise, 30 to 60 min­utes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments. And you don’t need to do some­thing stren­u­ous: even walk­ing has shown that effect. There are many open ques­tions in terms of spe­cific types of exer­cise, dura­tion, mag­ni­tude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science arti­cle, there is lit­tle doubt that lead­ing a seden­tary life is bad for our cog­ni­tive health. Car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to have a pos­i­tive effect.

Sec­ond, Main­tain Life­long Intel­lec­tual Engage­ment. There is abun­dant prospec­tive obser­va­tional research show­ing that doing more men­tally stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties reduces the risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Let me add, given all media hype, that no “brain game” in par­tic­u­lar has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the main­te­nance of cog­ni­tion across extended peri­ods of time. It is too early for that-and con­sumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some com­pa­nies are being more science-based than oth­ers but, in my view, the consumer-oriented field is grow­ing faster than the research is.

Ide­ally, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grated and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more likely we will do them.

Read the rest of this entry »

carnival of the capitalists with a brain– September 17, 2007


Wel­come to the Sep­tem­ber 17, 2007 edi­tion of car­ni­val of the capitalists.

First, a puzzle. Why do we have the brains we have? specif­i­cally, why do humans have pro­por­tion­ally big­ger and bet­ter con­nected frontal lobes (the blue area behind our foreheads) than any other species? The answer: to be able to learn and adapt to chang­ing envi­ron­ments dur­ing our life­time. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists say that the frontal lobes are the “CEO of the brain”, and that we need that type of frontal lobes to exer­cise our so-called “Exec­u­tive Func­tions” that enable us to 1) Under­stand our envi­ron­ments, 2) Set goals and define strate­gies to accom­plish our goals, 3) Exe­cute those strate­gies well.Frontal Lobes

Now, let’s see how all these car­ni­val con­trib­u­tors are putting their frontal lobes to good use. Given the vol­ume of sub­mis­sions received, we had to be really selec­tive. Enjoy!


1) Under­stand­ing our envi­ron­ment: macro­econ­omy, real estate slow­down, and lobbying.

James won­ders, “Can the Fed begin as it must to cut the tar­get rate and still avoid Tim’s slip­pery slope? I think so, and here’s how.”

Ian presents a force­ful case that No, Greenspan Doesn’t Get To Reha­bil­i­tate His Rep­u­ta­tion, at Fire­doglake. Very timely post, given that Greenspan is releas­ing his book today. 

The recent sub-prime mort­gage fiasco and its effect on our invest­ments prompted us to recon­sider our portfolio’s risk tol­er­ance capa­bil­ity”, says FIRE Finance, out­lin­ing these Invest­ment Risks at a Glance. Along sim­i­lar lines, we can read that “I am not hop­ing for the mar­ket to get worse. I just know it will, because that is the nature of mar­ket cycles” at Is The Hous­ing Cri­sis and Stock Mar­ket Decline Bad Enough Yet?, by My Wealth Builder.

If you won­der what may have con­tributed to the real estate mess grow­ing so big, you may enjoy read­ing Pork: Wha’ss On The Bar­beque In Con­gress Is Your Future. The Ago­nist says: “In the United States today, the sim­plest, eas­i­est and safest way to make money is to Read the rest of this entry »


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