Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness Program 2.0, MindFit, and much more on Brain Training

Let’s quick­ly review 4 recent arti­cles in both “Times” news­pa­pers: the New York Times and the UK-based Times, on brain fit­ness and a cou­ple of programs. 

1) Cal­is­then­ics for the Old­er Mind, on the Home Com­put­er: good overview of one of the grow­ing areas for cog­ni­tive train­ing, “healthy aging”.emWave for Stress Management

  • Quotes:
  • - “In the past year, some half-dozen pro­grams, with names like Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram 2.0, Mind­Fit and Brain Age2, have aimed at aging con­sumers eager to keep their men­tal edge.
  • - “The sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence for those com­mer­cial prod­ucts is still very weak,” said Tim­o­thy A. Salt­house, pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia…
  • - Recent research in neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty — the brain’s abil­i­ty to change in response to infor­ma­tion and new activ­i­ties — shows that brain cells and new path­ways con­tin­ue to devel­op through­out life…there is lit­tle evi­dence that such pro­grams offer tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits over learn­ing Span­ish or tak­ing up the tango… 
  • - The results per­suad­ed Marc Agronin, a geri­atric psy­chi­a­trist, to adopt Mind­Fit as part of the new “brain gym” at the Mia­mi Jew­ish Home and Hos­pi­tal for the Aged, where he is direc­tor of men­tal health ser­vices. “For an ear­ly study, the data is real­ly promis­ing for indi­vid­u­als with mild mem­o­ry changes,” he said. “I do want to see more data, but I’m not wait­ing for that.”
  • - Com­ments:  True, when some man­u­fac­tur­ers make claims that their pro­grams are “sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-proven” to do things such as “reju­ve­nate your brain” 10, 20, 30 years…they are stretch­ing sci­ence in ways that may harm not only their own rep­u­ta­tion but the over­all cred­i­bil­i­ty of the cog­ni­tive train­ing field. Hav­ing said that, some of the men­tioned pro­grams like Posit Sci­ence (focused on train­ing audi­to­ry processing) and Mind­Fit (focused on assess­ing and train­ing 14 dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive skills) have pre­lim­i­nary data that they train and help improve spe­cif­ic skills in ways that it is dif­fi­cult to believe that learn­ing Span­ish or tan­go will do (and can some­one please show me how learn­ing either can cost $149?). They are not the panacea, but a great com­ple­ment to a mix of “healthy brain” habits that include good nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment and life­long learning/ men­tal stimulation. And, from the data avail­able today, both of those pro­grams work bet­ter in their respec­tive areas than Nin­ten­do Brain Age or Dakim, which to the best of our knowl­edge have not con­duct­ed clin­i­cal tri­als.
  • - If you want to learn more: check out our pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion Check­list.

2) Top sci­en­tist backs work­out for the brain: announce­ment that a respect­ed UK neu­ro­sci­en­tist is endors­ing one of those pro­grams, MindFit. The MindFit™ Comprehensive Brain Workout

  • - Quotes: “Baroness Susan Green­field, the neu­ro­sci­en­tist, is to launch an exer­cise pro­gramme for the brain that she claims is proven to reverse the men­tal decline asso­ci­at­ed with ageing…Greenfield, who is also direc­tor of the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion, main­tains that Britain’s baby-boomers are dis­cov­er­ing that con­cen­trat­ing on phys­i­cal fit­ness is no longer suf­fi­cient prepa­ra­tion for old age…“What con­cerns me is pre­serv­ing the brain too,” she said. “There is now good sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence to show that exer­cis­ing the brain can slow, delay and pro­tect against age-relat­ed decline.”..Greenfield will launch Mind­Fit, a PC-based soft­ware pro­gram, at the House of Lords next month, for the “wor­ried but well” — peo­ple in their mid­dle years who are healthy and want to stay that way.
  • - Com­ments: Mind­Fit can be a great entry point for peo­ple who want a quite com­pre­hen­sive soft­ware-based brain fit­ness pro­gram. We are impressed to see that some­one of Greenfield’s rep­u­ta­tion is now endors­ing it. Now, remem­ber, what tool -if any- may be help­ful for each per­son depends on one’s con­text and priorities. 
  • - If you want to learn more: check some of Mind­Fit Demos

3) Mind Over Mat­ter, With a Machine’s Help: great arti­cle on a start-up called Omneu­ron that com­bines cog­ni­tive ther­a­py with fMRI (an advanced neu­roimag­ing tech­nique that enables movie-like visu­al feed­back on what areas of the brain are fmri.jpgget­ting acti­vat­ed-like the image on the right). 

  • - Quotes: “Omneu­ron… uses fMRI to teach peo­ple how to play with their own heads…Using a vari­ety of men­tal tech­niques — for instance, imag­in­ing that a painful area is being flood­ed with sooth­ing chem­i­cals — most peo­ple can, with a lit­tle con­cen­tra­tion, make the flame wax or wane…Doctors and drug-abuse experts are par­tic­u­lar­ly excit­ed about the idea of treat­ing addic­tion using fMRI”
  • - Com­ments: fMRI can be a great new source of feed­back to sup­port peo­ple learn­ing new skills, and aug­ment more mature tech­nolo­gies such as biofeed­back. Now, what “treats” peo­ple is not real­ly fMRI itself, but the cog­ni­tive “men­tal tech­nique” described as “for instance, imag­in­ing that a painful area is being flood­ed with sooth­ing chem­i­cals” that we all can use to over­come pain and chal­lenges in our dai­ly life and doesn’t require mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar machines (which may be help­ful for peo­ple with spe­cif­ic med­ical con­di­tions).
  • - If you want to learn more: an exam­ple of a men­tal tech­nique we can all use 

4) Stop Mak­ing Sense: David Brooks reviews a new polit­i­cal book and plugs-in very well Damasio’s research on deci­sion-mak­ing and emotions.  

  • - Quotes: “The core prob­lem with Westen’s book is that he doesn’t real­ly make use of what we know about emo­tion. He builds on the work of Anto­nio Dama­sio, with­out apply­ing Damasio’s con­cep­tion of how emo­tion emerges from and con­tributes to rea­son. In this more sophis­ti­cat­ed view, emo­tions are pro­duced by learn­ing. As we go through life, we learn what cause leads to what effect. When, lat­er on, we face sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, the emo­tions high­light pos­si­ble out­comes, draw­ing us toward some actions and steer­ing us away from oth­ers. In oth­er words, emo­tions part­ner with ratio­nal­i­ty. It’s not nec­es­sary to dumb things down to appeal to emo­tions. It’s not nec­es­sary to under­stand some secret lan­guage that will key cer­tain neu­ro-emo­tion­al fir­ings. The best way to win votes — and this will be a shock­er — is to offer peo­ple an accu­rate view of the world and a set of poli­cies that seem like­ly to pro­duce good results.”
  • - Com­ments: no com­ments.
  • - If you want to learn more: some high­lights on Damasio’s research.

Spe­cial Offer: For a lim­it­ed time, you can receive a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of our Brain Fit­ness 101 e-Guide: Answers to your Top 25 Ques­tions, writ­ten by Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, by sub­scrib­ing to our month­ly newslet­ter. You can sub­scribe Here.

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