Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain Fitness Programs, “Brain Gyms”…Explained

SharpBrains Vision
Thanks to Mind­Hacks for the link to a good Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle, “Pump­ing Neu­rons”.

A cou­ple of quotes:

Recent research shows that the brain remains plas­tic, or basi­cal­ly train­able, through­out life. In a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion in 2002, sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­ages of the 2,802 par­tic­i­pants age 65 and old­er who trained for five weeks for about 2 1/2 hours per week improved their mem­o­ry, rea­son­ing and infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing speed.

When we learn, we cre­ate phys­i­cal changes inside our heads. By prac­tic­ing a skill, we repeat­ed­ly stim­u­late the same area of the brain, which strength­ens exist­ing neur­al con­nec­tions and cre­ates new ones. Over time, we can become more cog­ni­tive­ly effi­cient, using few­er neu­rons to do the same job. And the more often we fire up cer­tain men­tal cir­cuits, the eas­i­er it is to get them going again.

The reporter then goes on to review a num­ber of web­sites that offer pure­ly online exer­cis­es, i. e., she does­n’t review any of the soft­ware-based pro­grams such as Posit Sci­ence for improv­ing audi­to­ry speed, RoboMemo for work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, Mind­Fit for 14 brain fit­ness areas/ cog­ni­tive skills , Intel­li­gym for bas­ket­ball game-intel­li­gence, Freeze­Framer for stress man­age­ment, and oth­ers.

We will be read­ing more and more arti­cles like that-which is good news for a nascent field. Now, I would rec­om­mend any­one con­sid­er­ing such pro­grams to always ask the ques­tions:

  1. What does the spe­cif­ic pro­gram look like: how many hours a week, how many weeks, and to accom­plish what out­comes? Some pro­grams we have seen leave it so open that it is unclear for us how users are sup­posed to get what ben­e­fits. When we go to the gym, and we tell the coach what our objec­tives are, we typ­i­cal­ly get a good struc­ture and pro­gram to fol­low.
  2. What research has been pub­lished, or has been sub­mit­ted to pub­li­ca­tion, that sup­ports that if a per­son fol­lows that pre­cise pro­gram he or she will like­ly obtain those promised ben­e­fit?
  3. How do any ben­e­fits trans­fer to real life and to our cog­ni­tive abilities/ skills? by def­i­n­i­tion, by play­ing a game we get bet­ter at a game. Which is great in itself, because we learn some­thing new, and it builds self-con­fi­dence. Now, how do I know that trans­fers into an expand­ed “men­tal mus­cle” or cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty, that will also help me in domains out­side the game itself?

Over­all, the arti­cle is a good intro­duc­tion to the con­cept of Brain Fit­ness, or brain gym­na­si­ums, or men­tal gym­nas­tics, or men­tal cal­is­then­ics ‑as you wish.

Here you also have some recent posts that can enrich this con­ver­sa­tion:

On the Sci­ence
Overview of the Sci­ence Behind Brain and Mind Fit­ness
Brain Fit­ness Glos­sary
Why we need more than cross­words and sudoku to protect/ improve our Brain Fit­ness
Use It or Lose It: what is “It”?

On Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams
Sharp­Brains’ vision for Brain Fit­ness: assess­ments, pro­grams, coach­es, com­mu­ni­ties
Overview of Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams: The Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion is here with us
Fun 10-minute sur­vey on Brain and Mind Fit­ness
Sta­tis­tics on why peo­ple play casu­al games online-includ­ing per­cep­tions of cog­ni­tive and mem­o­ry improve­ments, and stress relief

Inter­views with neu­ro­sci­en­tists
Inter­view with the Torkel Kling­berg, Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing
-Inter­view with Dr. James Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­o­gy and Bio­chem­istry at Case West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty , on why Learn­ing is crit­i­cal, and how we Learn

Good press arti­cles
Good pop­u­lar press arti­cles on brain change, brain plas­tic­i­ty, suc­cess­ful aging, stay­ing sharp
More Good pop­u­lar press arti­cles: on men­tal stim­u­la­tion, Brain and Cog­ni­tive Reserve, stress, phys­i­cal exer­cise and humor

Inter­faces with oth­er pil­lars for Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness, apart from men­tal stim­u­la­tion
Phys­i­cal fit­ness and Brain Fit­ness
Why Man­ag­ing Stress is as impor­tant as Stim­u­lat­ing our Minds


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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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