Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


The (Tailored) Future of New Driver Training

New dri­ver train­ing study high­lights impor­tance of post-licence skills (Sci­ence Network):

Crash rates are high­est imme­di­ately after licensing…so there is poten­tial for improv­ing safety dur­ing the first six months,” Dr Bean­land says…“Driving involves a highly com­plex skill set, so dri­vers need some kind of train­ing and prac­tice to acquire those skills…The paper found cog­ni­tive skills train­ing (par­tic­u­larly haz­ard per­cep­tion) had the poten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly reduce crash risk, and Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Music Training Can Enhance Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function

Very inter­est­ing new study pub­lished in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence: Short-Term Music Train­ing Enhances Ver­bal Intel­li­gence and Exec­u­tive Func­tion.

Abstract: Researchers have designed train­ing meth­ods that can be used to improve men­tal health and to test the effi­cacy of edu­ca­tion pro­grams. How­ever, few stud­ies have demon­strated broad trans­fer from such train­ing to per­for­mance on untrained cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties. Here we report the effects of two inter­ac­tive com­put­er­ized train­ing pro­grams devel­oped for preschool chil­dren: one for music and one for visual art. After only 20 days of train­ing, Read the rest of this entry »

Debunking 10 Cognitive Health and Fitness Myths

As part of the research behind the book The Sharp­Brains Guide for Brain Fit­ness we inter­viewed dozens of lead­ing cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and experts world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have a num­ber of take-aways to report.

What Santiago Ramon y Cajal can we clearly say today that we couldn’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­ago Ramon y Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tury, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­ity in the XXI.

And trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process, since Read the rest of this entry »

Barcelona talk: How Digital Tech will Transform Education, Training and Brain Health

If you hap­pen to be in Barcelona, Spain, on Sep­tem­ber 14th, make sure to attend Alvaro Fer­nan­dez talk there titled “How and Why Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Will Trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Train­ing and Brain Health”.

  • Date: 14/09/2010
  • Time: 19:00
  • Place: ESADEFORUM. Av. Pedralbes 60–62.

Descrip­tion: You have a brain. Make it reflect on this provoca­tive vision of how the con­ver­gence of demo­graphic and polit­i­cal trends with the dis­cov­er­ies of neu­ro­science and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy can give rise to a global mar­ket capa­ble of trans­form­ing the way in which we develop and main­tain our brains, in order to attain the high­est pos­si­ble level of brain health and per­for­mance through­out our lives. The neu­ro­sci­en­tist Ramón y Cajal once said: “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor of his own brain”. This has become a pre­vail­ing desire, pro­moted by baby boomers who, as they approach their 60th birth­day, embark on a search for life­long “brain fitness”.

Learn more and Reg­is­ter Here.

References on Cognitive Health/ Brain Fitness

This is a par­tial list of the lit­er­a­ture we reviewed dur­ing the research phase of our new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness.  We know many friends of Sharp­Brains are researchers, health­care pro­fes­sion­als, graduate/ Ph.D. stu­dents, who want have direct access to the ref­er­ences (per­haps PubMed should pro­mote itself as a never end­ing source of men­tal stim­u­la­tion?), so here you have this list, orga­nized by rel­e­vant chap­ter. Please note that the list below appears in the book — whose man­u­script we had to close in Jan­u­ary 2009.


Basak, C. et al. (2008). Can train­ing in a real-time strat­egy video game atten­u­ate cog­ni­tive decline in older adults? Psy­chol­ogy and Aging.
Beg­ley, S. (2007). Train your mind, change your brain: How a new sci­ence reveals our extra­or­di­nary poten­tial to trans­form our­selves. Bal­lan­tine Books.
DeKosky, S. T., et al. (2008). Ginkgo biloba for pre­ven­tion of demen­tia: a ran­dom­ized con­trolled trial. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, 300, 2253–2262.
Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain that changes itself: Sto­ries of per­sonal tri­umph from the fron­tiers of brain sci­ence. Viking Adult.

Chap­ter 1. The Brain and Brain Fit­ness 101

Bunge, S. A., & Wright, S. B. (2007). Neu­rode­vel­op­men­tal changes in work­ing mem­ory and cog­ni­tive con­trol. Cur­rent Opin­ion In Neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy, 17(2), 243–50.
Dama­sio, A. (1995). Descartes error: Emo­tion, rea­son, and the human brain. Pen­guin Press.
David Kolb, D. (1983). Expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing: Expe­ri­ence as the source of learn­ing and devel­op­ment. FT Press.
Dra­gan­ski, B., Gaser, C., Kem­per­mann, G., Kuhn, H. G., Win­kler, J., Buchel, C., & May A. (2006). Tem­po­ral and spa­tial dynam­ics of brain struc­ture changes dur­ing exten­sive learn­ing. The Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science, 261231, 6314–6317.
Gage, F. H., Kem­per­mann, G., & Song, H. (2007). Adult Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Cold Spring Har­bor Lab­o­ra­tory Press, NY.
Gard­ner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The the­ory of mul­ti­ple intel­li­gences. New York: Basic Books.
Gaser, C. & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain struc­tures dif­fer between musi­cians and non-musicians. The Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science, 23, 9240–9245. Read the rest of this entry »

Games for Brain Health — Novelty, Variety and Challenge

Land­mark study just pub­lished: Basak C, et al “Can train­ing in a real-time strat­egy video game atten­u­ate cog­ni­tive decline in older adults?” Psy­chol Aging 2008; DOI: 10.1037/a0013494.

Play­ing com­puter games improves brain power of older adults, claim sci­en­tists (Telegraph)

- The team at the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois recruited 40 adults over 60 years old, half of whom were asked to play a com­puter game called Rise of Nations, a role-playing game in which you have to build your own empire.

- Game play­ers have to build cities, feed and employ their peo­ple, main­tain an ade­quate mil­i­tary and expand their territory.

- Both groups were assessed before, dur­ing and after the video game train­ing on a vari­ety of tests.

- As a group, the “gamers” became sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter – and faster – at switch­ing between tasks as com­pared to the com­par­i­son group. Their work­ing mem­ory, as reflected in the tests, was also sig­nif­i­cantly improved and their rea­son­ing abil­ity was enhanced.

- (Pro­fes­sor Art Kramer, an author of the study pub­lished in the jour­nal Psy­chol­ogy & Aging) “This is one mode in which older peo­ple can stay men­tally fit, cog­ni­tively fit. I’m not sug­gest­ing, how­ever, that it’s the only thing they should do.”

Pro­fes­sor Kramer and I dis­cussed this study last June dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion on Why We Need Walk­ing Book Clubs:

Ques­tion (me): Tell us more about your work with cog­ni­tive train­ing for older adults.

Answer (Prof Kramer): We have now a study in press where we eval­u­ate the effect of a com­mer­cially avail­able strat­egy videogame on older adults’ cognition.

Let me first give some con­text. It seems clear that, as we age, our Read the rest of this entry »

Grand Rounds 5:12 — Healthcare Reform Q&A

If Dr. Rob can inter­view Santa, why can’t I inter­view a select group of health & med­ical blog­gers? They will have some good ideas to share”.

So did President-elect Obama came to real­ize a few days ago. After his peo­ple kindly con­tacted our peo­ple, we felt com­pelled to grant him open access to our col­lec­tive wis­dom. With­out fur­ther ado, below you have Grand Rounds 5:12 — a Q&A ses­sion led by the incom­ing Pres­i­dent on how to reform (for the bet­ter, we hope) healthcare.

On Health Insurance

Q:  How does the blo­gos­phere per­ceive the prob­lem of hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant group of peo­ple uninsured?

Health Insur­ance Col­orado: a grow­ing eco­nomic bur­den, which may lead to emer­gency rooms turn­ing peo­ple away if they are unable to pro­vide proof of health insurance.

Dr Rich: well, a recent arti­cle in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion showed how over­crowd­ing in Amer­i­can emer­gency rooms is NOT due to the unin­sured. Rather, it is due to insured Amer­i­cans who can­not get in to see their pri­mary care physi­cians. We may need improved care both for the insured and unin­sured groups.

Insure­Blog: I’d sec­ond that. Lack of health insur­ance is a major prob­lem but is it really our Biggest Problem?

It’s All about Attitude

Q: You may have heard my cam­paign mantra, “Yes We Can”. Can I count on your support?

ButY­ouDont­Look­Sick: Yes. If Leslie Hunt can talk so openly about her chronic ill­ness (Lupus) yet ful­fill her Amer­i­can Idol dreams, we can ful­fill our dreams too.

Notes of an Anes­the­sioboist: you are talk­ing to the group of pro­fes­sion­als will­ing to self-experiment with our own body for the ben­e­fit of sci­ence and our patients.

Med­views: My wife, son, and I signed up to work as med­ical vol­un­teers for your upcom­ing inauguration.

Emergi­Blog: I am on board too. But, please, remem­ber that car­ing is the essence of nurs­ing. And that is why my patients will always be my patients and never my  clients.

Neu­roan­thro­pol­ogy: Mr. President-elect, it seems to me that, despite all our good inten­tions, bal­anc­ing the bud­get and mul­ti­ple com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties will be a chal­lenge. May I sug­gest you start prac­tic­ing some capoeira for equi­lib­rium training?

Shrink Rap: Happy to help. Now, we will need to pro­tect some time for qual­ity sleep time.


Q: I am encour­aged by your words. How can my team and I bet­ter sup­port you in your daily activities?

Aequa­nim­i­tas: we need more role mod­els for us to “learn to think, observe, and com­pare” and that the patient is our “first, last, and only teacher”.

Mud­phud­der: Couldn’t agree more. We need Read the rest of this entry »


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