Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Transcript: Online Q&A on the Future of Brain Health with Alvaro Fernandez

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion today, Fri­day March 16th, on brain sus­tain­abil­ity, retool­ing brain health, and applied neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, with Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, Sharp­Brains’ Co-Founder who’s just been named a Young Global Leader by the World Eco­nomic Forum. You can learn more about the topic by read­ing this 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit Meet­ing Report and this Info­graphic.

10:04
Great, we are ready to start!  Read the rest of this entry »

Transcript: Paul Nussbaum on Meditation, Neuropsychology and Thanksgiving

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion yes­ter­day on holis­tic brain health with clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Paul Nuss­baum, author of Save Your Brain. You can learn more about the full Brain Fit­ness Q&A Series Here.

Per­haps one of the best exchanges was: Read the rest of this entry »

Transcript: Dr. Gary Small on Enhancing Memory and the Brain

Below you can find the full tran­script of our engag­ing Q&A ses­sion today on mem­ory, mem­ory tech­niques and brain-healthy lifestyles with Dr. Gary  Small, Direc­tor of UCLA’s Mem­ory Clinic and Cen­ter on Aging, and author of The Mem­ory Bible. You can learn more about his book  Here, and learn more about upcom­ing Brain Fit­ness Q&A Ses­sions Here.

Per­haps one of the best ques­tions and answers was:

2:55
Ques­tion: Gary, you’ve worked many years in this field. Let us in on the secret. What do YOU do you, per­son­ally, to pro­mote your own brain fit­ness?
2:57
Answer: I try to get at least 30 min­utes of aer­o­bic con­di­tion­ing each day; try to min­i­mize my stress by stay­ing con­nected with fam­ily and friends; gen­er­ally eat a brain healthy diet (fish, fruits, veg­eta­bles), and try to bal­ance my online time with my offline time. Which reminds me, I think it is almost time for me to sign off line. Read the rest of this entry »

A User’s Guide to Lifelong Brain Health: BrainFit for Life

As the Brain Fit­ness indus­try con­tin­ues to gain momen­tum, and peo­ple explore all the incred­i­ble brain-training tools being devel­oped, we hope that enthu­si­asts don’t take their eye off the impor­tance of the phys­i­cal health of the brain and all the sys­tems it com­mu­ni­cates with. The brain is unique in that it houses our cog­ni­tive and emo­tional capac­i­ties in the form of the mind. It is a ‘cog­ni­tive’ organ that hungers for stim­u­la­tion from new expe­ri­ences and chal­lenges. Many brain fit­ness pro­grams strive to sat­isfy this need. Yet the brain is also a phys­i­cal organ that plays by many of the same rules as the heart, lungs, liver and kid­neys. To stay healthy and per­form opti­mally it requires qual­ity nutri­tion, phys­i­cal activ­ity and opti­mal sleep. The brain, espe­cially, relies on a healthy vas­cu­lar sys­tem to effi­ciently deliver oxy­gen and key nutri­ents and remove waste. In fact, the brain uses approx­i­mately 20% of the oxy­gen we breathe to sat­isfy its high-energy demands. Given that the brain only weighs about 2% of the body, we can con­sider it an energy hog and we must cater to its needs very carefully.

Nutri­ents play key roles in brain func­tion. Sev­eral have shown effi­cacy in clin­i­cal tri­als treat­ing cases of mood dis­or­ders, cog­ni­tive decline and of course ben­e­fit­ing the phys­i­cal health of the brain. Nutri­ents are both the raw mate­ri­als employed in cre­at­ing new neural con­nec­tions and Read the rest of this entry »

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Brain Health

Larry McLeary

Try eat­ing food with one chop stick.

It is pos­si­ble, for cer­tain types of food. But prob­a­bly not the best approach.

Let’s now talk brain health.

Dr. Larry McCleary is a for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, and author of the The Brain Trust Pro­gram (Perigee Trade, 2007). He agreed to help us answer an impor­tant, yet often neglected, ques­tion: Given That We Are Our Brains, How do We Nour­ish Them?

Alvaro: Dr. McCleary, Why did a for­mer neu­ro­sur­geon such as your­self develop an inter­est in brain health pub­lic education?

Dr. McCleary: For two rea­sons … I am a Boomer and am try­ing to max­i­mize my own brain health. Also, there is much excit­ing research doc­u­ment­ing how we can be proac­tive in this regard. This infor­ma­tion needs to be dis­sem­i­nated and I would like to help in this process.

And what is the sin­gle most impor­tant brain-related idea or con­cept that you would like every per­son in the planet to fully understand?

The most impor­tant take home mes­sage about brain health is that we now know that no mat­ter what your brain sta­tus or age, there is much you can do to sig­nif­i­cantly improve brain func­tion and slow brain aging. Based on emerg­ing infor­ma­tion, what is espe­cially nice is the fact that unlike many things in life our brain health is largely under own control.

What are the most impor­tant ele­ments to nour­ish our brains as we age?

I approach this ques­tion much like an ath­lete pre­pares for com­pe­ti­tion. They uti­lize a holis­tic approach. Read the rest of this entry »

Preventing Memory Loss-CQ Researcher

Ever won­dered what explains the some­times sur­real, often mis­guided, health poli­cies by our gov­ern­ment? Well,  it is beyond our hum­ble brains to cap­ture and artic­u­late what may be going on…but we now see that lack of access to qual­ity infor­ma­tion is cer­tainly not the main prob­lem. Decision-making processes, and struc­tural incen­tives, would prob­a­bly merit more attention.…

I men­tion this because we are really impressed by the just-published 24-page spe­cial Preventing Memory Loss issue on Pre­vent­ing Mem­ory Loss by Con­gres­sional Quar­terly Researcher, one of the main pub­li­ca­tions in Capi­tol Hill.

The pub­li­ca­tion is not free, but worth the price for any­one active pro­fes­sion­ally in the health­care sec­tor, or inter­ested in learn­ing about lat­est research and pol­icy trends, from aca­d­e­mics to stu­dents. You can buy Buy the Elec­tronic PDF ($4.95) or Buy the Printed Copy ($15 — $5 dis­count using pro­mo­tion code “L8BRAIN” = $10).

Descrip­tion

As the nation’s baby boomers age, they are increas­ingly wor­ried that their mem­o­ries will dete­ri­o­rate — and with good rea­son. An esti­mated 10 mil­lion boomers will develop Alzheimer’s dis­ease or another memory-destroying neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tion in the com­ing years. Pol­icy mak­ers and health offi­cials worry that the result­ing bulge in the num­ber of suf­fer­ers will bur­den the nation’s already strained health-care sys­tem. In the wake of these con­cerns, a vibrant brain-fitness indus­try is offer­ing a vari­ety of ways to help peo­ple keep their brains healthy, includ­ing the use of cognition-enhancing drugs and exer­cise. But many experts say much of what the pub­lic is being told is of lim­ited value, at best. Inten­si­fied brain research begun years ago at the National Insti­tutes of Health is just now begin­ning to pro­duce data that sci­en­tists hope will advance efforts to pre­vent mem­ory loss, but they worry that flat fed­eral fund­ing since 2003 may com­pro­mise the drive for solutions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

Over the last months, thanks to the traf­fic growth of SharpBrains.com (over 100,000 unique vis­i­tors per month these days, THANK YOU for vis­it­ing today and please come back!), a num­ber of proac­tive book agents, pub­lish­ers and authors have con­tacted us to inform us of their lat­est brain-related books. We have taken a look at many books, wrote reviews of The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review‚ and Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can, and inter­viewed sci­en­tists such as Judith Beck, Robert Emmons and James Zull.

Brain Trust ProgramNow we are launch­ing a new Author Speaks Series to pro­vide a plat­form for lead­ing sci­en­tists and experts writ­ing high-quality brain-related books to reach a wide audi­ence. We are hon­ored to start the series with an arti­cle by Larry McCleary, M.D, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, and author of The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cally Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­ory, Ele­vate Mood, Enhance Atten­tion, Alle­vi­ate Migraine and Menopausal Symp­toms, and Boost Men­tal Energy (Perigee Trade, 2007).

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s enjoy Dr. McCleary’s article:

Brain Evo­lu­tion and Why it is Mean­ing­ful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

You may feel over­whelmed by the stream of seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory sug­ges­tions regard­ing the best way to main­tain men­tal clar­ity as you age. Based on an analy­sis of sem­i­nal fac­tors in the devel­op­ment of mod­ern brain anatomy, I believe it is pos­si­ble to make some very com­pelling rec­om­men­da­tions for grow­ing big brains, enhanc­ing their func­tion, and mak­ing them resis­tant to the aging process. These may be loosely cat­e­go­rized as fac­tors per­tain­ing to the men­tal or phys­i­cal attrib­utes of the brain. Although they are not truly inde­pen­dent enti­ties, such a con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion pro­vides a basis for the gen­er­a­tion of brain healthy pre­scrip­tions. Diet, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and stress reduc­tion enhance neu­ronal resilience. Sleep and men­tal stim­u­la­tion are vital for cog­ni­tive abil­ity, learn­ing, and memory.

Diet: Fol­low a mod­ern shore-based/marine diet includ­ing seafood in its most gen­eral sense, non-starchy veg­eta­bles of all col­ors, berries, and eggs. Other sources of lean pro­tein con­tain­ing long-chain omega 3 fatty acids such as free range beef, chicken, bison, or elk are nutri­tious alternatives.

Phys­i­cal exer­cise (Think fight or flight — activ­ity.): Include all types. Aer­o­bic activ­i­ties such as swim­ming, bicy­cling, walk­ing, or hik­ing for pro­mo­tion of vas­cu­lar health and weight con­trol; resis­tance train­ing for pro­mo­tion of neu­rotrophic fac­tors, nat­u­rally occur­ring com­pounds that make brain cells more resis­tant to aging, such as IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor-1) and BDNF (Brain-derived neu­rotrophic fac­tor); and bal­ance, coor­di­na­tion, and agility train­ing such as ping-pong, bal­ance beam, tram­po­line, and jump­ing rope to enhance cog­ni­tive speed and motor skills.

Stress Con­trol: From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, stres­sors (such as meet­ing a cave bear) and intense phys­i­cal activ­ity (run­ning or fight­ing) were brief in dura­tion and usu­ally occurred together. Mod­ern stres­sors (psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tional stress) tend to be unremit­ting and are gen­er­ally uncou­pled from the phys­i­cal (fight or flight) com­po­nent, mean­ing stress devel­ops with­out any asso­ci­ated phys­i­cal activ­ity. Such intense phys­i­cal pur­suits are now called exer­cise. Not sur­pris­ingly, exer­cise is a per­fect phys­i­o­logic anti­dote for stress due to its ben­e­fi­cial impact on cor­ti­sol (the stress hor­mone) and blood pres­sure and should be incor­po­rated into any pro­gram of stress reduction.

Ade­quate sleep: The body needs rest, but the brain requires sleep. Acute or chronic sleep depri­va­tion causes dev­as­tat­ing short and long-term con­se­quences to brain anatomy (synap­tic loss) and func­tion (mem­ory and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties). Off-line infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and mem­ory con­sol­i­da­tion are addi­tional sleep-related benefits.

Men­tal stim­u­la­tion: Brain-training, a cog­ni­tively chal­leng­ing lifestyle, nov­elty, and social­iza­tion are vital for the pro­mo­tion of neu­ronal plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the for­ma­tion of new nerve cells and neu­ronal con­nec­tions), the enhance­ment of spe­cific brain func­tions such as mem­ory, and the devel­op­ment of cog­ni­tive reserve — addi­tional men­tal pro­cess­ing poten­tial that may be brought online when needed.

The com­bi­na­tion of these rec­om­men­da­tions, each of which was instru­men­tal in the trans­for­ma­tion from prim­i­tive to mod­ern ner­vous sys­tems, pro­vides a tem­plate for the most log­i­cal approach for enhanc­ing men­tal func­tion and resist­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion as we travel through life.

The Evo­lu­tion­ary Rationale

The human brain clearly has the genetic poten­tial for dra­matic expan­sion. This was illus­trated about Read the rest of this entry »

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