Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Sleep, Tetris, Memory and the Brain

As part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, we are hon­ored to present today this excel­lent arti­cle by Dr. Shan­non Mof­fett, based on her illu­mi­nat­ing and engag­ing book. Enjoy!

(and please go to sleep soon if you are read­ing this late Mon­day night).

Two years ago I fin­ished a book on the mind/brain, called The Three Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock its Mys­ter­iesShannon Moffett-Three Pound Enigma . Each chap­ter pro­files a leader in a dif­fer­ent aspect of mind/brain research, from neu­ro­surgery to zen Bud­dhism, from cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science to phi­los­o­phy of mind. One of my sub­jects was Dr. Robert Stick­gold, a zany, hyper-intelligent men­sch of a Har­vard sleep researcher. When I met him, I was in med­ical school and hav­ing a grand old time—I’d exacted an exten­sion of my tenure beyond the cus­tom­ary four years, so I had enough time to write the book, do my course­work, and have a life. I was busy, but still got enough sleep, had time to exer­cise daily, and even went for din­ner and a movie some­times. Although I found Stickgold’s work inter­est­ing, there was a part of me that just didn’t get it.

Fast-forward to the present, when I am a res­i­dent in emer­gency med­i­cine at a busy inner-city trauma cen­ter; I have two-year-old twins and a hus­band with a 60-hour-a-week job of his own. I do not exer­cise. I do not eat unless I can do some­thing else pro­duc­tive at the same time, and even when I do get to sleep in my own bed, my slum­ber is frac­tured by the awak­en­ings of two cir­ca­di­anly dis­parate tod­dlers. It seems to take me twice as long to “get” new con­cepts as it used to, and I never feel like I’m func­tion­ing at top speed. In short, I am a mess. And NOW I get what Stickgold’s work is all about, and under­stand that he is both quan­ti­fy­ing and explain­ing exactly what I’m feeling.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Also, please visit us tomor­row Mon­day to read a superb arti­cle on Sleep and the Brain by Shan­non Mof­fett, author of the superb book The Three Pound Enigma: The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock its Mys­ter­ies. Mof­fett recently appeared on the PBS spe­cial The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, which aired nation­wide on PBS.

Have a nice Sunday!

Brain Fitness and in the Press

Fitness TrainerGrow­ing media atten­tion on the brain fit­ness field. At least on the “Healthy Aging” seg­ment (I pre­dict the media with catch up soon with devel­op­ments in other areas, from cog­ni­tive train­ing for kids and adults with ADD/ ADHD to stroke and TBI reha­bil­i­ta­tion, to peak per­for­mance for cor­po­rate training).

First, a superb arti­cle by Leslie Walker at the Wash­ing­ton Post: Cross-Training Your Brain to Main­tain Its Strength

Quotes:  “A grow­ing body of research sug­gests that men­tal activ­ity in mid­dle age and ear­lier can help later in life. As a result, Web sites such as are spring­ing up to offer online games to peo­ple of all ages, while blogs like pro­vide com­men­tary on the fledg­ling indus­try.” (Note: we can also pro­vide com­men­tary on the commentary!)

Peo­ple who engage in very chal­leng­ing tasks — not just in work but dur­ing leisure activ­i­ties such as read­ing, cross­word puz­zles, bridge, chess and travel — tend to slow down their men­tal aging process very sig­nif­i­cantly,” says Breznitz, who is also a mem­ber of Israel’s leg­is­la­ture and has devel­oped a brain-training pro­gram called MindFit.”

Also con­tribut­ing to the brain work­out boom are state-of-the-art imag­ing tech­niques that have allowed sci­en­tists to val­i­date a the­ory devel­oped decades ago. By tak­ing detailed pic­tures of brain neu­rons, sci­en­tists watch parts of the brain that had seemed dor­mant light up and assume new respon­si­bil­i­ties in response to stim­uli. The­o­ret­i­cally, this means brain decay can be halted or even reversed.”

The brain is con­stantly rewiring and recal­i­brat­ing itself in response to what you do,” says Henry Mah­ncke, whComputer Classroomo holds a PhD in neu­ro­science and is vice pres­i­dent of Posit Sci­ence, the San Fran­cisco devel­oper of the Brain Fit­ness soft­ware. “It remakes itself into a more effi­cient oper­a­tion to do the things you ask it to do.”

Com­ments: the arti­cle touches many key points. I espe­cially enjoy the quote “To be effec­tive, sci­en­tists say men­tal activ­ity must become pro­gres­sively more chal­leng­ing. Oth­er­wise, the brain adjusts and learns to per­form repet­i­tive tasks with less effort”, a key mes­sage I make often in my lec­tures to explain why well-designed pro­grams can be more effec­tive than doing cross­word puz­zle num­ber 512,789. The arti­cle also relates how many retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties and senior cen­ters and indi­vid­u­als are try­ing out the new brain fit­ness pro­grams com­ing to mar­ket, and shows some healthy skep­ti­cism on the state of the research. Now, this is an invi­ta­tion to the reporter to inter­view neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg to get the full pic­ture of the sci­ence behind the field, since these pro­grams haven’t appeared in a vac­uum. Our 10-Question Eval­u­a­tion Check­list can pro­vide use­ful guid­ance to any­one con­sid­er­ing a program.

Boomers use online brain games to stave off demen­tia (AccountingWeb)

Quotes: “The Inter­net offers a plethora of brain games for those who don’t sub­scribe to a daily news­pa­per or don’t want to pur­chase games. AARP, for exam­ple, offers plenty of free games on its site. More games appear at, includ­ing a page that con­tains the Top Ten Neu­ro­science Brain­teasers, and you can sign up to have the Col­lege Board e-mail you the SAT ques­tion of the day.”

The gen­er­a­tion that refuses to age is not going to sit back and wait for Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and other signs of demen­tia to take hold. Instead, savvy Baby Boomers are expand­ing their minds (no, not the way they did in the 60s) with the aid of the com­puter, puz­zles, and games. A brain health move­ment is sweep­ing Read the rest of this entry »

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