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Cognitive Health and Development: April Round-Up

Round-up of April arti­cles and news on neu­ro­science, brain devel­op­ment and cog­ni­tive health:

Games for Health Con­fer­ences to host new Cog­ni­tive Health Track:

For the first time, a new Cog­ni­tive Health track -Pow­ered by Sharp­Brains- will cov­er eleven brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health top­ics dur­ing the 5th Annu­al Games for Health Con­fer­ence. The cur­rent price is $379, with a 15% dis­count if you use code “sharp09” (with­out quo­ta­tion) when you reg­is­ter Here. Details: June 11–12th at the Hyatt Har­bor­side Hotel in Boston, MA.

Bilin­gual Babies Get Head Start — Before They Can Talk:

- “Unlike the mono­lin­gual group, the bilin­gual group was able to suc­cess­ful­ly learn a new sound type and use it to pre­dict where each char­ac­ter would pop up…The bilin­gual babies’ skill applies to more than just switch­ing between lan­guages. Mehler likened this appar­ent­ly enhanced cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty to a brain select­ing “the right tool for the right operation”—also called exec­u­tive func­tion.”

- “In this basic process, the brain, ever flex­i­ble, nim­bly switch­es from one learned response to anoth­er as sit­u­a­tions change…Monolingual babies hone this abil­i­ty lat­er in their young lives, Mehler sug­gests.”

Study shows how kids’ stress hurts mem­o­ry:

Now, research is pro­vid­ing what could be cru­cial clues to explain how child­hood pover­ty trans­lates into dim­mer chances of suc­cess: Chron­ic stress from grow­ing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leav­ing chil­dren with impair­ment in at least one key area — work­ing mem­o­ry.”

Dia­betes ‘impact on brain pow­er’:

- “Fail­ure to con­trol type 2 dia­betes may have a long-term impact on the brain, research has sug­gest­ed.

- Lead researcher Dr Jack­ie Price said: “Either hypos lead to cog­ni­tive decline, or cog­ni­tive decline makes it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to man­age their dia­betes, which in turn caus­es more hypos.

- “A third expla­na­tion could be that a third uniden­ti­fied fac­tor is caus­ing both the hypos and the cog­ni­tive decline.”

Brain Gain: the under­ground world of “neu­roen­hanc­ing” drugs:

- “Alex remains enthu­si­as­tic about Adder­all, but he also has a slight­ly jaun­diced cri­tique of it. “It only works as a cog­ni­tive enhancer inso­far as you are ded­i­cat­ed to accom­plish­ing the task at hand,” he said. “The num­ber of times I’ve tak­en Adder­all late at night and decid­ed that, rather than start­ing my paper, hey, I’ll orga­nize my entire music library! I’ve seen peo­ple obses­sive­ly clean­ing their rooms on it.” Alex thought that gen­er­al­ly the drug helped him to bear down on his work, but it also tend­ed to pro­duce writ­ing with a char­ac­ter­is­tic flaw. “Often, I’ve looked back at papers I’ve writ­ten on Adder­all, and they’re ver­bose. They’re bela­bor­ing a point, try­ing to cre­ate this air­tight argu­ment, when if you just got to your point in a more direct man­ner it would be stronger. But with Adder­all I’d pro­duce two pages on some­thing that could be said in a cou­ple of sen­tences.” Nev­er­the­less, his Adder­all-assist­ed papers usu­al­ly earned him at least a B. They got the job done. As Alex put it, “Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is a good thing.”

Eschew Enhance­ment: Mem­o­ry-boost­ing drugs should not be made avail­able to the gen­er­al pub­lic (Tech­nol­o­gy Review)

- “Who might use them? Stu­dents will be tempt­ed, as might play­ers of any game involv­ing count­ing or remem­ber­ing (chess, bridge, and even pok­er and black­jack). Cer­tain pro­fes­sion­als might desire a boost in atten­tion or mem­o­ry”

- “But these poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful med­i­cines should not be made avail­able to every­one, for two rea­sons. The first is safe­ty. The last sev­er­al years have pro­vid­ed many exam­ples of side effects, some life-threatening…The sec­ond rea­son is that we still know rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle about learn­ing and mem­o­ry and how they are inte­grat­ed to make judg­ments and deci­sions.”

Kel­logg Set­tles with FTC over Health Claims on Cere­al:

- “The FTC said that Kel­logg pro­mot­ed the cere­al as “clin­i­cal­ly shown to improve kids’ atten­tive­ness by near­ly 20%,” when in fact the study referred to in the ads showed dif­fer­ent results.”

- “The study found that only about half the chil­dren who ate Frost­ed Mini-Wheats for break­fast showed any improve­ment in atten­tive­ness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or more, the FTC said.”

Brain shock: The new Gulf War syn­drome:

- “The US army also screens for symp­toms of mTBI when sol­diers return from a tour of duty, and again three months lat­er. The army is also car­ry­ing out neu­rocog­ni­tive tests on recruits before they are sent into com­bat so that doc­tors can check for dete­ri­o­ra­tion in lat­er tests.”

- “When it comes to com­bat trau­ma, unpick­ing the phys­i­cal from the psy­cho­log­i­cal is bound to be high­ly com­plex. As Barth says, per­haps the great­est dan­ger could be in try­ing to sim­pli­fy the pic­ture too much. “I rec­om­mend that we get com­fort­able with the com­plex­i­ty,” he says, “and treat it as a chal­lenge.”

Return­ing troops get­ting test­ed for brain injuries:

- “More than 150,000 ser­vice mem­bers from the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy have under­gone the test­ing that became manda­to­ry last year.”

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