Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


What is Brain Fitness?

Many peo­ple ask us, “What is brain fit­ness?”

Our short answer:

In a way anal­o­gous to phys­i­cal fit­ness, Brain Fit­ness is the state of brain health and men­tal well-being that makes you “fit” for life and work demands.

It’s not about IQ (or EQ). It’s  more fun­da­men­tal mea­sure of the brain’s abil­i­ty to func­tion effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly dur­ing work and leisure activ­i­ties, to be healthy, to resist dis­ease.

Our longer answer:

Brain fit­ness grew out of the study of neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science, and relies on mul­ti­ple men­tal and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and process­es such as neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, neurogenesis–the cre­ation of new neu­rons–, and brain vas­cu­lar­iza­tion. Cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties include things like atten­tion, stress and emo­tion­al man­age­ment, mem­o­ry, visual/spatial pro­cess­ing, audi­to­ry process­es and lan­guage, motor coor­di­na­tion, and exec­u­tive func­tions like plan­ning and prob­lem solv­ing dimin­ish over time unless they are used reg­u­lar­ly. It is evi­dent in an abil­i­ty to assim­i­late infor­ma­tion, com­pre­hend rela­tion­ships, and devel­op rea­son­able con­clu­sions and plans.

Brain fit­ness can be pro­tect­ed and nur­tured by lifestyle, by for­mal edu­ca­tion, by being active­ly men­tal­ly engaged in life, and by tar­get­ed prac­tices designed to chal­lenge impor­tant men­tal skills. Healthy lifestyle habits includ­ing men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, good nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and sleep can improve brain fit­ness. On the oth­er hand, chron­ic stress, anx­i­ety, depres­sion, aging, decreas­ing estro­gen, excess oxy­tocin, and pro­longed cor­ti­sol can decrease brain fit­ness as well as gen­er­al health.

Brain fit­ness can be eval­u­at­ed by behav­ioral mea­sures such as mem­o­ry, atten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, exec­u­tive func­tions, deci­sion-mak­ing, men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty, and oth­er cog­ni­tive capa­bil­i­ties. Sci­en­tists are also begin­ning to learn how to mea­sure brain fit­ness phys­i­cal­ly, at the cel­lu­lar and cir­cuit lev­els, by study­ing neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and the func­tion­al con­nec­tions of synaps­es and den­drites between neu­rons.

Emerg­ing neu­rotech­nolo­gies, espe­cial­ly new brain imag­ing meth­ods, are start­ing to show that brain activ­i­ty results in an increase in blood flow to the areas of the brain involved in car­ry­ing out the tasks at hand, bring­ing with it oxy­gen and nutri­ents for the cells, and there­fore con­tribut­ing to the health and fit­ness of brain net­works involved. Addi­tion­al­ly, stem cells con­cen­trate in the areas where there is greater brain activ­i­ty and func­tion in the same capac­i­ty as the sur­round­ing cells — in essence, cells grow over time in the active areas of the brain.

The book that will guide you:

SharpBrainsGuide_3D_lowreMod­ern life places extra­or­di­nary demands on our brains. Not only do we live longer than ever before, but we must con­stant­ly adapt to com­plex and rapid­ly evolv­ing per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al real­i­ties. Yet, we often ignore our most pre­cious resource to do so: our brain.

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness cuts through the clut­ter of mis­con­cep­tions, super­fi­cial and con­flict­ing media cov­er­age, and aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims, to help read­ers dis­cov­er what real­ly works, and what doesn’t, to improve brain health and per­for­mance at any age, to delay or pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline, and become smarter con­sumers of both media cov­er­age and sci­en­tif­ic research in the process.

Whether your goal is to become more resilient, enhance mem­o­ry, ward off Alzheimer’s dis­ease, or sim­ply improve men­tal focus to per­form bet­ter at work, this how-to guide shows you exact­ly how to “use it or lose it.”

This new and much-expand­ed edi­tion com­bines a user-friend­ly tuto­r­i­al on how the brain works with advice on how to choose and inte­grate lifestyle changes and research-based brain train­ing. Fea­tur­ing an inde­pen­dent analy­sis of hun­dreds of sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies pub­lished in the last 10 years, the book also includes in-depth inter­views with 20 lead­ing sci­en­tists who often chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al wis­dom and pre­vail­ing brain health think­ing and care.


Further Reading:

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About SharpBrains

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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