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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Debunking 10 Brain Training/ Cognitive Health Myths

Think about this: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise or is one of them enough? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

We tried to address these ques­tions, and many oth­ers, in our recent book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­nessSharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book (182 pages, $24.95), that we pre­sent­ed at Games for Health Con­fer­ence last week. The book is the result of over two years of exten­sive research includ­ing more than a hun­dred inter­views with sci­en­tists, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers, and a deep review of the sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture, led by neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Elkhonon Gold­berg and myself with the help of cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Pas­cale Mich­e­lon. As we wrote in the Intro­duc­tion, what we want­ed to do first of all was to debunks these 10 myths on brain health and brain train­ing:

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.
Facts: Life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty allows our lifestyles and actions to play a mean­ing­ful role in how our brains phys­i­cal­ly evolve, espe­cial­ly giv­en longer life expectan­cy.

Myth 2. Aging means auto­mat­ic decline.
Facts: There is noth­ing inher­ent­ly fixed in the pre­cise tra­jec­to­ry of how brain func­tions evolve as we age.

Myth 3. Med­ica­tion is the main hope for cog­ni­tive enhance­ment.
Facts: Non-inva­sive inter­ven­tions can have com­pa­ra­ble and more durable effects, side effect-free.

Myth 4. We will soon have a Mag­ic Pill or Gen­er­al Solu­tion to solve all our cog­ni­tive chal­lenges.
Facts: A mul­ti-pronged approach is rec­om­mend­ed, cen­tered around nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise.

Myth 5. There is only one “Use It or Lose it”.
Facts: The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of spe­cial­ized units. Our life and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty depend on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one.

Myth 6. All brain activ­i­ties or exer­cis­es are equal.
Facts: Var­ied and tar­get­ed exer­cis­es are the nec­es­sary ingre­di­ents in brain train­ing so that a wide range of brain func­tions can be stim­u­lat­ed.

Myth 7. There is only one way to train your brain.
Facts: Brain func­tions can be impact­ed in a num­ber of ways: through med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­a­py, cog­ni­tive train­ing.

Myth 8. We all have some­thing called “Brain Age”.
Facts: Brain age is a fic­tion. No two indi­vid­u­als have the same brain or expres­sion of brain func­tions.

Myth 9. That “brain age”‚ can be reversed by 10, 20, 30 years.
Facts: Brain train­ing can improve spe­cif­ic brain func­tions, but, with research avail­able today, can­not be said to roll back one “brain age”‚ by a num­ber of years.

Myth 10. All human brains need the same brain train­ing.
Facts: As in phys­i­cal fit­ness, users must ask them­selves: What func­tions do I need to improve on? In what time­frame? What is my bud­get?

Do you have oth­er myths in mind you would like  us to address?

We have start­ed to receive great feed­back from the health­care com­mu­ni­ty, such as this email from a neu­ro­sur­geon in Texas:

I real­ly like the book, it is com­pre­hen­sive with­out being too tech­ni­cal. I have rec­om­mend­ed it to sev­er­al patients. There are some oth­er books that I expect­ed would be greet­ed with enthu­si­asm, but were too com­plex for most of my patients. I think this book is right in the sweet spot”.

A short, sweet, enter­tain­ing read of a com­plex top­ic, with time­ly (writ­ten in 1/09) reviews of 21 top tech­nol­o­gy prod­ucts, as well as informed and expert pre­dic­tions of where this bur­geon­ing brain-fit­ness field is head­ed. More impor­tant­ly, after you read it, you’ll have a good, detailed sense of where you, per­son­al­ly, can act to improve your own couch-pota­to brain — and how to keep it fit and flex­i­ble your whole life. The Sharp­Brains Guide To Brain Fit­ness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a top­ic) can be well worth your time and mon­ey. Two Stetho­scopes Up — check it out. life.”

And this great book review by an Internist Physi­cian and Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion Fel­low, titled Is Your Brain A Couch Pota­to?:

Doc Gur­ley, book review for SFGate.com (06/08/09)

The bookThe Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (avail­able via Amazon.com Here, review copies avail­able upon request).

Descrip­tion: While most of us have heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” very few under­stand what it means, or how to prop­er­ly ‚“use it”‚¬ in order to main­tain brain func­tion and fit­ness. The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness is an invalu­able guide that helps read­ers nav­i­gate grow­ing brain research and iden­ti­fy the lifestyle fac­tors and prod­ucts that con­tribute to brain health and fit­ness. By gath­er­ing insights from eigh­teen of the world’s top sci­en­tists and offer­ing tools and detailed descrip­tions of over twen­ty prod­ucts, this book is an essen­tial guide to the field of brain fit­ness, neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and cog­ni­tive health. An acces­si­ble and thought-pro­vok­ing read, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness edu­cates life­long learn­ers and pro­fes­sion­als in health­care, edu­ca­tion, busi­ness, etc., on emerg­ing trends and fore­casts of what the future will hold.

Prod­ucts Reviewed (we reviewed sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies pub­lished before Jan­u­ary 2009, when the man­u­script text was closed):

- Over­all brain main­te­nance: Brain Age series (Nin­ten­do), Brain­Ware Safari (Learn­ing Enhance­ment Cor­po­ra­tion), FitBrains.com (Viv­i­ty Labs), Happy-Neuron.com (Sci­en­tif­ic Brain Train­ing), Lumosity.com (Lumos Labs), Mind­Fit (Cog­niFit), (m)Power (Dakim)

- Tar­get­ed brain work­out: Clas­sic and InSight (Posit Sci­ence), Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing JM and RM (Cogmed), Dri­ve­Fit (Cog­niFit), Earo­bics (Houghton Mif­flin), Fast For­Word (Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing), Intel­li­Gym (Applied Cog­ni­tive Engi­neer­ing), Vision Rest­pra­tion Ther­a­py (NovaV­i­sion)

- Emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion: emWave PC and Per­son­al Stress Reliev­er (Heart­Math), Jour­ney to the Wild Divine (Wild Divine), RES­PeR­ATE (Inter­Cure), StressEras­er (Helicor)

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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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