Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Training and Cognitive Health: September News

A round-up of inter­est­ed news dur­ing the month:Brain Health News

1) Train­ing Young Brains to Behave (New York Times)

2) Head Games (OpEd in New York Times)

3) Will Geron­tol­ogy rec­og­nize the Brain? (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging event)

4) Brain func­tion gets a boost from walk­ing (Los Ange­les Times)

5) An idea whose time has (final­ly) come (McK­night’s Long Term Care News)

6) Train your brain (Finan­cial Times Ger­many)

7) Toman auge ejer­ci­cios que adies­tran la mente (Mile­nio, Mex­i­co)

8) Trois nou­vellestudes IDATE : Seri­ous Games (Pub­li-News, France)

Links and com­men­tary below.

1) Train­ing Young Brains to Behave (New York Times)

- “But just as biol­o­gy shapes behav­ior, so behav­ior can accel­er­ate biol­o­gy. And a small group of edu­ca­tion­al and cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists now say that men­tal exer­cis­es of a cer­tain kind can teach chil­dren to become more self-pos­sessed at ear­li­er ages, reduc­ing stress lev­els at home and improv­ing their expe­ri­ence in school. Researchers can test this abil­i­ty, which they call exec­u­tive func­tion, and they say it is more strong­ly asso­ci­at­ed with school suc­cess than I.Q.”

Com­ment: we are hap­py to see the grow­ing num­ber of arti­cles on the impor­tance of exec­u­tive func­tions and the role of schools in help­ing chil­dren “accel­er­ate biol­o­gy”. In the next cou­ple of weeks we will be pub­lish­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view with researcher Mike Pos­ner pre­cise­ly on this top­ic.

2) Head Games (OpEd in New York Times)

- “CHILDREN aged 5 to 18 suf­fer at least 96,000 sports-relat­ed con­cus­sions every year in the Unit­ed States, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion esti­mates. Even more trou­bling, as many as 20 per­cent of all high school foot­ball play­ers sus­tain con­cus­sions annu­al­ly, stud­ies show.”

- “The only way to know for sure whether a con­cus­sion victim’s brain has returned to nor­mal is to com­pare the results of neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests con­duct­ed before and after the injury. That requires prepar­ing ath­letes for the sea­son by putting them through base­line test­ing.”

Com­ment: Great OpEd, rais­ing aware­ness of a prob­lem with grow­ing impor­tance — not only in terms of sports con­cus­sions, but also car acci­dents, strokes, and a vari­ety of life-events that may pro­voke brain dam­age — and intro­duc­ing read­ers to the need for cog­ni­tive base­lines for spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als.

Now, we will prob­a­bly need to go fur­ther than the author of the OpEd sug­gests. There are sim­ply not enough neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists in the whole plan­et to test one-per­son at a time for 4‑hours each, and the cost of try­ing so would be astro­nom­i­cal.

The more real­is­tic route is to com­bine a) ful­ly-auto­mat­ed com­put­er-based assess­ments as a base­line, b) the involve­ment of a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist when need­ed, prob­a­bly both to super­vise the whole assess­ment pro­gram for a sports team, for exam­ple, and then to super­vise the post-dam­age reha­bil­i­ta­tion process.

3) Will Geron­tol­ogy rec­og­nize the Brain? (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging event)

A few weeks ago, dur­ing the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging’s Brain Health day, a par­tic­i­pant made a com­ment along the lines, “I just com­plet­ed my Mas­ters in Geron­tol­ogy at Uni­ver­si­ty XYZ. Despite my best efforts, I could not find a sin­gle brain-relat­ed class to attend as part of my stud­ies. Which is why I decid­ed to come to a con­fer­ence like this”.

Com­ment: Incred­i­ble that this hap­pens in 2008, a decade after the “Decade of the Brain”. Health­care and cog­ni­tive sci­ence seem to have inhab­it­ed dif­fer­ent uni­vers­es for too long. I hope we start to see more active cross-pol­li­na­tion between both fields. Geron­tol­ogy would be a great place to start, giv­en the grow­ing demand for pre­ven­tive pro­grams to con­tribute to the cog­ni­tive health of an aging pop­u­la­tion.

4) Brain func­tion gets a boost from walk­ing (Los Ange­les Times):

Com­ment: A cou­ple of recent stud­ies have rein­forced the life­long poten­tial for brain plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence) and the impor­tance of phys­i­cal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive vital­i­ty. One study focused on 1) adults over 50 with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, the oth­er one on 2) stroke sur­vivors. The press release for the sec­ond study con­tains this quote:“This is great news for stroke sur­vivors because results clear­ly demon­strate that long-term stroke dam­age is not immutable and that with exer­cise it’s nev­er too late for the brain and body to recov­er,” says Daniel Han­ley, M.D., pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine

Indeed, there is no rea­son why the process of phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion (or “enhance­ment”) should ever stop, either as part of for­mal ther­a­py or as a lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tion.

5) An idea whose time has (final­ly) come (McK­night’s Long Term Care News):

Like many rev­o­lu­tions, long-term care’s recent embrace of tech­nol­o­gy-based brain fit­ness tools began qui­et­ly. Then it explod­ed.”

Com­ment: Indeed. We see more and more seniors hous­ing and long-term care oper­a­tors eval­u­ate options to help main­tain res­i­dents’ cog­ni­tive health.

And, now, in case you want to use your lan­guage skills, you may also enjoy these recent arti­cles:

6) Train your brain (Finan­cial Times Ger­many):

Ob Gehirn­train­ing etwas ntzt ist nicht bewiesen. Aber in den USA boomt der Markt, Her­steller kooperieren mit Krankenkassen und Senioren­heimen. In Deutsch­land fassen die Spiele ger­ade erst Fuf.”

7) Toman auge ejer­ci­cios que adies­tran la mente (Mile­nio, Mex­i­co):

La clave est en encon­trar activi­dades que estim­ulen ms nues­tra memo­ria.”

8) Trois nou­velles studes IDATE : Seri­ous Games (Pub­li-News, France):

A tra­vers une analyse dtaille des car­ac­tris­tiques, des usages et des diffrentes familles de seri­ous games, cette tude met en vidence les enjeux asso­cis aux phas­es de con­cep­tion, de devel­oppe­ment et de dif­fu­sion des diffrents types de seri­ous games.”


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2 Responses

  1. Dr. Donald Thibeault says:

    #3 above as it relates to geron­tol­ogy. Come vis­it MENTAL GYMNASTIC class­es in Oxnard, Camar­il­lo, and Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­for­nia. With more than 220 “stu­dents’ there is wide­spread inter­est.

  2. Don­ald, please see my answer to your com­ment here:
    http://tinyurl.com/3t5wjd

    Thank you

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