Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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What Everyone Should Know About Stress, Brain Health, and Dance

-- Dancing to the clapping of bands. Egyptian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, about 3300 B.C. (British Museum.)

— Dancing to the clapping of bands. Egyptian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, 6th Dynasty, about 3300 B.C. (British Museum)

Everyone experiences stress at some point in our lives. It is important to know that stress can harm the brain, and also that dance can be a great avenue for a person resist, reduce, or escape it.

Stress can change the physical structure and function of the brain, affecting wiring and thus performance of one’s activities. Read the rest of this entry »

What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance

dance

— The Dance for Athletes class at Glen Burnie High School performs a swing piece

Dance. Is it merely art?  Is it just recreation?  Think again.

Dance is now being studied as a pathway to enhance learning.  And, scientists say, educators and parents should take note of the movement.

Recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, more than 6,800 attendees paid rapt attention to renowned choreographer Mark Morris as he answered questions about Read the rest of this entry »

To Harness Neuroplasticity, Start with Enthusiasm

We are the architects and builders of our own brains.

For millennia, however, we were oblivious to our enormous creative capabilities. We had no idea that our brains were changing in response to our actions and attitudes, every day of our lives. So we unconsciously and randomly shaped our brains and our latter years because we believed we had an immutable brain that was at the mercy of our genes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training for Babies: Hope, Hype, Both?

Training the brain is possible because of neuroplasticity. Our daily experiences can trigger neuroplastic changes in the brain, such as the growth of new brain cells (neurons) and new connections (synapses) between neurons. Plasticity is observed at all ages but is at its peak during brain development, as a baby and then a child learns basic knowledge and skills necessary to survive. We should thus expect that the brain of a baby could be easily trained. This is what Wass and his colleagues recently demonstrated in a new study with 11-month-old babies. Read the rest of this entry »

Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection

Given the growing media coverage mentioning the terms Cognitive Reserve and Brain Reserve, you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is my Cognitive (or Brain) Reserve?”

The cognitive reserve hypothesis, tested in multiple studies, states that individuals with more cognitive reserve can experience more Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain (more plaques and tangles) without developing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

How does that work? Scientists are not sure but two possibilities are considered.
1. One is that more cognitive reserve means more brain reserve, that is more neurons and connections (synapses) between neurons. Individuals with more synapses would then have more synapses to lose before the critical threshold for Alzheimer’s Disease is reached.
2. Another possibility is that more cognitive reserve means more compensatory processes. The brain of individuals with more cognitive reserve would use more alternative networks to compensate for the damages caused by the pathology in previously used networks.

In a newly published study, Roe and colleagues brain fitness event from Washington University in St. Louis, used the number of years of education as a measure of cognitive reserve. Why years of education? Because previous studies have shown that people who have more education also exhibit a greater resistance to Alzheimer’s symptoms, even while pathological changes are occurring in the brain (see Bennett el al., 2003 or Roe, Xiong, et al., 2008).

Roe and her colleagues studied 198 individuals whose mean age was 67. Out of these 198 individuals, 161 were nondemented and 37 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

All the participants in the study took a Read the rest of this entry »

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