Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


From crosswords and sudoku to individualized brain training

brainsMind Games? Gyms For The Brain Avail­able Online (Investor’s Busi­ness Daily):

  • If your New Year’s res­o­lu­tion is exer­cise — exer­cise your brain, that is — then cyber­space might be just the place for you… Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Training & Brain Teasers Can Increase Openness Among Older Adults

Brain Teasers Make Seniors More Open to New Ven­tures (med­page today):

- ” A cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram that included Sudoku and cross­word puz­zles made older adults more open to new expe­ri­ences, accord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary study.”

- “Older adults undergo changes in per­son­al­ity, includ­ing shifts in open­ness or will­ing­ness to seek out new and cog­ni­tively chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ences. A num­ber of inter­ven­tions have been designed to enrich cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing in older adults, but lit­tle has been done to develop open­ness, the authors explained.” Read the rest of this entry »

Cars don’t work because they don’t fly

Study Ques­tions Effec­tive­ness Of $80 Mil­lion Per Year ‘Brain Exer­cise Prod­ucts Indus­try for Elderly (Sci­ence Daily)

- “There is much research on the ben­e­fits of cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion strate­gies among elderly who already expe­ri­ence mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dis­ease, as well as on the pos­i­tive impact of phys­i­cal exer­cise. The researchers, how­ever, wanted to eval­u­ate cur­rent research that would focus on the impact of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions in the healthy elderly population.”

- “…they con­cluded that there was no evi­dence indi­cat­ing that struc­tured cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion pro­grams had an impact on the pro­gres­sion of demen­tia in the healthy elderly population”

Com­ment:  we have not reviewed the analy­sis yet, so can­not com­ment in depth. How­ever, just from the press release, we see a few poten­tial prob­lems in how the study was framed, reduc­ing its prac­ti­cal value: Read the rest of this entry »

Wellness Coaching for Brain Health and Fitness

We just received this quote of how a major health sys­tem is using our Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket Report:

At Sut­ter Health Part­ners we rec­og­nize the impor­tance of brain health and how much the health of the brain and the body are inter­de­pen­dent.  The mar­ket report helped us fur­ther tar­get our coach­ing efforts to inte­grate brain fit­ness and upgrade our entire coach­ing plat­form.  It is easy to read and gives you the indus­try per­spec­tive in a thor­ough yet con­cise man­ner.  I highly rec­om­mend it!”

– Mar­garet Sabin, CEO of Sut­ter Health Part­ners and VP, New Prod­uct Devel­op­ment, at Sut­ter Health.

You may won­der, “what is the link between  well­ness coach­ing and brain fitness”?

In prac­tice, good health and well­ness coaches pro­vide excel­lent brain health advice, given that the areas they focus on (nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment) do play an impor­tant role in main­tain­ing our brains in top shape.

Addi­tion­ally, pio­neers  such as Sut­ter Health Part­ners are adding a Brain “lens” to their work. How?

First, by bet­ter under­stand­ing and explain­ing the brain ben­e­fits of what they already do, in order to pro­vide addi­tional moti­va­tion to stick with healthy behav­iors. For exam­ple, most peo­ple will be able to recite mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits of mod­er­ate car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise. But how many know  that it can also con­tribute to neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis –the cre­ation of new neu­rons — in adult brains?

Sec­ond, by start­ing to offer brain fit­ness guide­lines to clients who want too go beyond cross­word puz­zles and sudoku.

I had a great train­ing ses­sion with a num­ber of Sut­ter Health coaches last week — let me sum­ma­rize some of the main points we cov­ered. Read the rest of this entry »

Lee Woodruff: the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and You, can help Traumatic Brain Injury survivors

You have may have seen a few weeks ago the inter­view between for­mer US pres­i­den­tial con­tender John Edwards and reporter Bob Woodruff. All the result­ing media cov­er­age cen­tered on Edwards’ dec­la­ra­tions. How­ever, there is some­thing much more remark­able that sur­faced at that inter­view: Bob Woodruff’s spec­tac­u­lar recovery.

This is the same reporter who suf­fered a severe trau­matic brain injury when a road­side In an Instant - Bob and Lee Woodruffbomb det­o­nated next to his vehi­cle in Jan­u­ary 29th 2006 as he was cov­er­ing news devel­op­ments in Iraq.

Today we are for­tu­nate to inter­view Lee Woodruff, Bob’s wife and pil­lar through­out his recov­ery. Lee and Bob co-wrote the fan­tas­tic book In an Instant: A Family’s Jour­ney of Love and Heal­ing.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Lee, many thanks for your time. I was amazed read­ing your book, where you share your jour­ney, and then watch­ing Bob inter­view John Edwards, the best dis­play I can imag­ine of his recov­ery. Can you please sum­ma­rize for us what Bob –and you– went through since Jan­u­ary 2006?

Lee Woodruff: As you know, Bob suf­fered a life-threatening trau­matic brain injury in Iraq. He was promptly taken under mil­i­tary care and under­went a series of surg­eries for head injuries, with a joint Army & Air Force neu­ro­sur­gi­cal team in Iraq, in a US Army Med­ical Com­mand hos­pi­tal in Ger­many, and at Bethesda Naval Hos­pi­tal, back here in the US.

Dur­ing this time, span­ning around 4 months, he spent 37 days in coma, and his skull had to be sur­gi­cally rebuilt. The cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion process started then, at a med­ical facil­ity closer home.

Can you please explain what kind of cog­ni­tive rehab Bob has gone though-both in a for­mal way, with a ther­a­pist, and infor­mally, on his own?

The first thing I’d like to say is that rehab is a long process. Doc­tors told me that Bob, despite the sever­ity of his injuries, had bet­ter chances to recover than other vic­tims, because of the reserve of neu­rons and con­nec­tions he had built thanks to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Games for Kids, Adults…and Chimps

examples of working memoryDid you read about the recent exper­i­ment where young chimps dis­played amaz­ing visual work­ing mem­ory capa­bil­ity, beat­ing humans? You can watch a short video about it 


And, you can now test your own skills with the Chimp Game!


PS: Enjoy these 50 brain teasers to test your cog­ni­tive abil­ity.


Working Memory Training and ADD/ADHD

Mark Katz, a San Diego clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist with decades of expe­ri­ence help­ing ADD/ ADHD kids and adults, and for­mer Board Mem­ber of CHADD, and I had a very good meet­ing with a few school super­in­ten­dents on Saturday.

We dis­cussed the research state-of-the-art, cur­rent ADD/ ADHD inter­ven­tions and the future of prevention-driven interventions.

Some high­lights from our talk:

- More and more researchers are com­ing to see that the label “Atten­tion deficit” was prob­a­bly not the most for­tu­nate one. Kids and adults with ADD/ ADHD can pay atten­tion, when they are engaged in cer­tain tasks, so the under­ly­ing prob­lem is not a deficit of attention.

- ADD/ ADHD is not a prob­lem of know­ing, but a prob­lem of doing. The bot­tle­neck may reside in exec­u­tive func­tions such as so-called work­ing mem­ory. The prob­lem is exe­cu­tion, inter­nal­ized behav­ior, not con­cep­tual knowledge.

- For more infor­ma­tion on Exec­u­tive func­tions, you can check the excel­lent review in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try, of Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg’s book The Exec­u­tive Brain

- Work­ing mem­ory is the abil­ity to hold dif­fer­ent things on line and manip­u­late them in real time in order to solve a prob­lem, com­plete a task…

- When asked if “work­ing mem­ory” and “short-term mem­ory” are the same, Mark explained that they refer to sim­i­lar con­cepts, if not the same, but that researchers stopped using the term “short-term” mem­ory many years ago, to make it clear that it is an active, not pas­sive, skill. In fact, he added, maybe it should be called “work­ing atten­tion” rather than “work­ing memory”.

- We dis­cussed the for­tu­nate trend that many schools are migrat­ing towards a pub­lic health model in help­ing kids with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and ADD/ ADHD, focus­ing on more pre­ven­tion at early ages than on reac­tive inter­ven­tions to major problems.

- Work­ing mem­ory can be trained by inten­sive and tar­geted Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams sup­ported by the use of computer-based pro­grams, like RoboMemo, the pro­gram that I came to know last year after a great Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can arti­cle that men­tioned their clin­i­cal study with kids with ADD/ ADHD, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Child and Ado­les­cent Psy­chi­a­try (See research here).

You can read more infor­ma­tion on the sci­ence of Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams.


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