Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Gaming and Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges

A cou­ple weeks ago I attended the Enter­tain­ment Soft­ware and Cog­ni­tive Neu­rother­a­peu­tics Con­fer­ence, ESCoNS, at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco. The speak­ers’ talks were insight­ful, sur­pris­ing, and inspir­ing in many regards. The pur­pose of this meet­ing was to bring together great minds in a vari­ety of fields from neu­ro­science to game design and to come up with some ideas how to make game based cog­ni­tive train­ing a real­ity as an effec­tive ther­apy for many of today’s most chal­leng­ing dis­or­ders and deficits. Many of the sci­en­tists also thought that game based ther­a­pies for cog­ni­tive deficits could be used as enhance­ment tools for healthy indi­vid­u­als as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Working memory training can improve fluid intelligence

Very inter­est­ing new study on com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing (or brain train­ing), well sum­ma­rized in LA Times arti­cle Mem­ory train­ing improves intel­li­gence in some chil­dren, report says. Quote:

The train­ing pro­gram used by Jaeggi and co-workers focused on ramp­ing up work­ing mem­ory: the abil­ity to hold in mind a hand­ful of infor­ma­tion bits briefly, and to update them as needed. Cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists con­sider work­ing mem­ory a key com­po­nent of intel­li­gence. But they have Read the rest of this entry »

Invitation to SharpBrains Summit — Technology for Cognitive Health and Performance

We are excited to invite you to the first vir­tual, global Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (Jan­u­ary 18-20th, 2010). The Sharp­Brains Sum­mit will fea­ture a sharpbrains_summit_logo_webdream team of over 25 speak­ers who are lead­ers in indus­try and research from 7 coun­tries, to dis­cuss emerg­ing research, tools and best prac­tices for cog­ni­tive health and per­for­mance. This inau­gural event will expose health and insur­ance providers, devel­op­ers, inno­va­tors at For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, investors and researchers, to the oppor­tu­ni­ties, part­ner­ships, trends, and stan­dards of the rapidly evolv­ing cog­ni­tive fit­ness field.

Reg­is­ter Today

Learn more and reg­is­ter Here today, at dis­counted early-bird rates, to receive these benefits:

  • Learn: Full access to all Con­fer­ence live ses­sions, and Down­load­able Record­ings and Handouts
  • See: lat­est tech­nolo­gies and prod­ucts dur­ing Expo Day
  • Con­nect and Dis­cuss: become a mem­ber of the Sharp­Brains Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion (members-only LinkedIn Group) through the end of 2010, access online chats dur­ing the sum­mit, meet other reg­is­trants in your city
  • Under­stand the Big Pic­ture: access 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs pre­pared by lead­ing scientists

On top of those early-bird dis­counts, we offer an addi­tional 15% dis­count for Sharp­Brains read­ers who want Reg­u­lar Admis­sion. Dis­count code: sharp2010. You can reg­is­ter Here.

Agenda/ Speak­ers

Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 18th, 2010:

(Pre­lim­i­nary sched­ule, US Pacific Time)

8–9.15am. Cog­ni­tion & Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: The New Health­care Frontier

  • Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, SharpBrains
  • David White­house, OptumHealth Behav­ioral Solutions
  • William Reich­man, Baycrest
  • P Murali Doraiswamy, Duke University

9.30-11am. Tools for Safer Dri­ving: The Oppor­tu­nity with Teenagers and Adults

  • Steven Aldrich, Posit Science
  • Shlomo Breznitz, CogniFit
  • Jerri Edwards, Uni­ver­sity of South Florida
  • Peter Chris­tian­son, Young Dri­vers of Canada

Noon-1.30pm. Baby Boomers and Beyond: Main­tain­ing Cog­ni­tive Vitality

Save the Date: SharpBrains Summit, Technology for Cognitive Health and Performance

We are very excited to announce the first Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, a vir­tual con­fer­ence to take place Jan­u­ary 18-20th, 2010.  Over 30 lead­ing speak­ers and a pro­fes­sional audi­ence will dis­cuss emerg­ing inno­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy for life­long cog­ni­tive health and per­for­mance. The Sum­mit will high­light the con­ver­gence of neu­rocog­ni­tive research, non-invasive tech­nol­ogy and health­care, dis­cuss emerg­ing best prac­tices, and help pre­dict how a grow­ing range of tools may pro­vide solu­tions to cog­ni­tive health and performance-related issues.

sharpbrains_summit_logo_webYou can see speak­ers and agenda by click­ing on Sharp­Brains Sum­mit. Please reg­is­ter if you are inter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing: Jan­u­ary 18-20th 2010 (Pacific Time).

  • Con­fer­ence: Jan­u­ary 18-19th. 9–10 pan­els to dis­cuss Mar­ket and Research Insights,  together with online discussions.
  • Expo Day: Jan­u­ary 20th. Prod­uct demos by Sponsors.

Con­firmed speak­ers and themes:

Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 18th, 2010:

Cog­ni­tion and Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity: The New Health­care Frontier

  • Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, CEO, SharpBrains
  • David White­house, Chief Med­ical Offi­cer, OptumHealth Behav­ioral Solutions
  • William Reich­man, Pres­i­dent, Baycrest
  • P Murali Doraiswamy, Bio­log­i­cal Psy­chi­a­try Divi­sion Head, Duke University

Tools for Safer Dri­ving: Teenagers and Older Adults

  • Steven Aldrich, CEO, Posit Science
  • Peter Chris­tian­son, Pres­i­dent of Young Dri­vers of Canada
  • Jerri Edwards, Assoc. Pro­fes­sor Uni­ver­sity of South Florida

Clin­i­cal Appli­ca­tions: Research­ing, Iden­ti­fy­ing, Treat­ing Cog­ni­tive Deficits

  • Keith Wesnes, Prac­tice Leader, United BioSource Corporation
  • Jonas Jendi, CEO, Cogmed
  • Michel Noir, Pres­i­dent, Sci­en­tific Brain Training
  • Elkhonon Gold­berg, Chief Sci­en­tific Advi­sor, SharpBrains

Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article!)

(Editor’s note: this arti­cle belongs to the excel­lent May 2009 spe­cial issue on Aug­ment­ing Frontiers in Neuroscience Augmenting CognitionCog­ni­tion of sci­en­tific jour­nal Fron­tiers in Neu­ro­science, Vol­ume 3, Issue 1. You can order this issue, for 50 euros, here. Highly rec­om­mended for sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cal read­ers inter­ested in the sci­ence. This arti­cle, an indus­try overview, is repro­duced here with autho­riza­tion by the Fron­tiers Research Foun­da­tion).

Prepar­ing Soci­ety for the Cog­ni­tive Age

- By Alvaro Fernandez

Ground­break­ing cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science research has occurred over the last 20 years — with­out par­al­lel growth of con­sumer aware­ness and appro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional dis­sem­i­na­tion. “Cog­ni­tion” remains an elu­sive con­cept with unclear impli­ca­tions out­side the research community.

Ear­lier this year, I pre­sented a talk to health care pro­fes­sion­als at the New York Acad­emy of Med­i­cine, titled “Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware: Help­ing Con­sumers Sep­a­rate Hope from Hype”. I explained what com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ment and train­ing tools can do (assess/enhance spe­cific cog­ni­tive func­tions), what they can­not do (reduce one’s “brain age”) and the cur­rent uncer­tain­ties about what they can do (i.e., delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms). At the same sym­po­sium, Dr. Gary Kennedy, Direc­tor of Geri­atric Psy­chi­a­try at Mon­te­fiore Med­ical Cen­ter, pro­vided guid­ance on why and how to screen for exec­u­tive func­tion deficits in the con­text of dementia.

I could per­ceive two emerg­ing trends at the event: 1) “Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion” research is most com­monly framed as a health­care, often phar­ma­co­log­i­cal topic, with the tra­di­tional cog­ni­tive bias in med­i­cine of focus­ing on detec­tion and treat­ment of dis­ease, 2) In addi­tion, there is a grow­ing inter­est in non-invasive enhance­ment options and over­all lifestyle issues. Research find­ings in Aug­ment­ing Cog­ni­tion are only just begin­ning to reach the main­stream mar­ket­place, mostly through health­care chan­nels. The oppor­tu­nity is immense, but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, both through health­care and non-healthcare channels.

In Jan­u­ary 2009, we polled the 21,000 sub­scribers of Sharp­Brains’ mar­ket research eNewslet­ter to iden­tify atti­tudes and behav­iors towards the “brain fit­ness” field (a term we chose in 2006 based on a num­ber of con­sumer sur­veys and focus groups to con­nect with a wider audi­ence). Over 2,000 decision-makers and early adopters responded to the survey.

One of the key ques­tions we asked was, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?”. Some exam­ples of the sur­vey free text answers are quoted here, together with my suggestions.

Most impor­tant prob­lems in the brain fit­ness field

Pub­lic aware­ness (39%): “To get peo­ple to under­stand that hered­ity alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing”. We need to ramp up efforts to build pub­lic aware­ness and enthu­si­asm about brain research, includ­ing estab­lish­ing clear links to daily liv­ing. We can col­lab­o­rate with ini­tia­tives such as the Dana Foundation’s Brain Aware­ness Week and use the recent “Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts” mate­ri­als devel­oped by the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science to give talks at schools, libraries and workplaces.

Claims (21%): “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and Read the rest of this entry »

Distracted in the Workplace? Meet Maggie Jackson’s Book (Part 2 of 2)

Today we con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion with Mag­gie Jack­son, author of Dis­tracted: The Ero­sion of Atten­tion and the Com­ing Dark Age.

You can read part 1 here.

Q — In your Har­vard Man­age­ment Update inter­view, you said that “When what we pay atten­tion to is dri­ven by the last email we received, the triv­ial and the cru­cial occupy the same plane.” As well, it seems to be that a prob­lem is our culture’s over-idealization of “always on” and “road war­rior” habits, which dis­tract from the impor­tance of exec­u­tive func­tions such as pay­ing atten­tion to one’s envi­ron­ment, set­ting up goals and plans, exe­cut­ing on them, mea­sur­ing results, and inter­nal­iz­ing learn­ing. How can com­pa­nies bet­ter equip their employ­ees for future suc­cess? Can you offer some exam­ples of com­pa­nies who have pos­i­tive cul­tures that encour­age and reward employ­ees fully put their frontal lobes into good use?

A.  As I men­tioned above, we are work­ing and liv­ing in ways that under­mine our abil­ity to strate­gize, focus, reflect, inno­vate. Skim­ming, mul­ti­task­ing and speed all have a place in 21st-century life. But we can’t let go of deeper skills of focus and think­ing and relat­ing, or we’ll cre­ate a soci­ety of mis­un­der­stand­ing and shal­low thinking.

To cre­ate work­places that fos­ter strate­gic think­ing, deep social con­nec­tion and inno­va­tion, we need to take three steps:

First, ques­tion the val­ues that ven­er­ate McThink­ing and under­mine atten­tion. Recently, my morn­ing paper car­ried a front-page story about efforts in an age of impa­tience to cre­ate a quick-boot com­puter. It’s ridicu­lous to ask peo­ple to wait a cou­ple of min­utes to start up their com­puter, explained one tech exec­u­tive. The first hand up in the class­room, the hyper business-man or woman who can’t sit still, much less lis­ten  these are icons of suc­cess in Amer­i­can soci­ety. Still, many of us are begin­ning to ques­tion our ado­ra­tion of instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion and hyper-mobility.

Sec­ond, we need to set the stage for focus indi­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively by rewrit­ing our cli­mate of dis­trac­tion and inat­ten­tion. To help, some com­pa­nies and busi­ness lead­ers are exper­i­ment­ing with white space the cre­ation of phys­i­cal spaces or times on the cal­en­dar for unin­ter­rupted, unwired think­ing and Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training can Influence Brain Biochemistry

I wanted to alert you to a very inter­est­ing find­ing pub­lished in a recent issue of Sci­ence, one of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tific journals.

The study was led by Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and his col­leagues from the Karolin­ska Insti­tute Torkel Klingbergin Swe­den. The goal was to learn whether Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing is asso­ci­ated with changes in brain bio­chem­istry, thus sug­gest­ing a mech­a­nism by which train­ing may lead to enhanced work­ing mem­ory capac­ity and a reduc­tion in atten­tion prob­lems. Thus, although Work­ing Mem­ory Train­ing has pre­vi­ously shown promis­ing results as a treat­ment for work­ing mem­ory and atten­tion dif­fi­cul­ties, this was a basic sci­ence study rather than a treat­ment study.

The major find­ing was that increased work­ing mem­ory capac­ity fol­low­ing train­ing was asso­ci­ated with changes in brain bio­chem­istry. Specif­i­cally, the researchers found changes in the den­sity and bind­ing poten­tial of cor­ti­cal D1 dopamine recep­tors in brain regions that are acti­vated dur­ing work­ing mem­ory tasks.

Results from this study sug­gest a bio­log­i­cal basis for the improve­ment in work­ing mem­ory capac­ity and reduc­tions i Read the rest of this entry »


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