Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain Fitness Update: Man is a Tool-Making Animal

Here you have the Feb­ru­ary107px-gray1197thumbnail edi­tion of our month­lye­Newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box in the right col­umn.

The recent Sharp­Brains Sum­mit wit­nessed the con­ver­gence of Ben­jamin Franklin’s words (“Man is a Tool-Mak­ing Ani­mal”)  with neu­ro­sci­en­tist San­ti­a­go Ramon y Cajal’s  (“Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor of his own brain.”) The neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty rev­o­lu­tion that may well trans­form edu­ca­tion, train­ing, health­care, aging, is under way.

New Tools

Will the Apple iPad Be Good for your Brain: Prof. Luc Beau­doin lays out key cri­te­ria to assess Apple iPad’s poten­tial val­ue for our cog­ni­tive fit­ness, and judges the iPad against a com­pre­hen­sive check­list.  His ver­dict? Thumbs-up.

Is Work­ing Mem­o­ry a bet­ter pre­dic­tor of aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess than IQ?: Dr. Tra­cy Alloway sum­ma­rizes  a recent land­mark study, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Child Psy­chol­o­gy, which tracked chil­dren over a six-year peri­od. Key find­ing: Work­ing mem­o­ry can be a more pow­er­ful pre­dic­tor of aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess than IQ scores.

Old Tools

Build­ing Fit Minds Under Stress: Accord­ing to Sci­ence Dai­ly’s take on a just pub­lished study, “a high-stress U.S. mil­i­tary group prepar­ing for deploy­ment to Iraq has demon­strat­ed a pos­i­tive link between mind­ful­ness train­ing, or MT, and improve­ments in mood and work­ing mem­o­ry”.

The Evo­lu­tion of Empa­thy: Empa­thy is not a unique­ly human trait, explains pri­ma­tol­o­gist Frans de Waal in this Greater Good Mag­a­zine arti­cle. Apes and oth­er ani­mals feel it as well, sug­gest­ing that empa­thy is tru­ly an essen­tial part of who we are.


Reflec­tions on Cre­ativ­i­ty — Inter­view with Daniel Tam­metScott Bar­ry Kauf­man recent­ly inter­viewed Daniel Tam­met, known for vivid­ly describ­ing autis­tic savan­tism from the inside. Their in-depth con­ver­sa­tion made Scott reflect that “Daniel Tammet’s feel­ing of a great lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion grow­ing up spoke to me, for sure. But I’m sure it also spoke to a great many peo­ple read­ing the inter­view.”

Sum­mit Reac­tions

The Sharp­Brains Sum­mit took place Jan­u­ary 18–20th, help­ing engage over 250 par­tic­i­pants in 15 coun­tries. Here are a cou­ple of reac­tions from par­tic­i­pants:

5 Key Reflec­tions on “Neu­ro­cen­tric Health”: Insti­tute For The Future researcher Jake Duna­gan sum­ma­rizes his main take-aways, includ­ing this over­all assess­ment — “Although the con­fer­ence was vir­tu­al, aside from the rig­ors of trav­el and a bas­ket of bagels on the hall­way table, my lev­el of intel­lec­tu­al stim­u­la­tion (and fatigue) mir­rored most of my face-to-face con­fer­ence expe­ri­ences. It was a tech­ni­cal suc­cess and the con­tent was first-rate.” (Thanks, Jake!)

The Future of Cog­ni­tive Enhance­ment: Neu­roethics researcher Peter Rein­er pon­ders,  “Will brain fit­ness soft­ware dom­i­nate the world of cog­ni­tive enhance­ment?”.  His take: “Pri­or to this con­fer­ence I was quite skep­ti­cal, but the over­all impres­sion that I was left with was that brain fit­ness soft­ware may turn out to have some dis­tinct advan­tages over phar­ma­co­log­i­cal approach­es.” Read his arti­cle to dis­cov­er why.


Net­work for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion (pri­vate LinkedIn group):  Mem­bers are engag­ing in many good dis­cus­sions, includ­ing most sur­pris­ing things learned dur­ing the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, how to deal with con­flicts of inter­est in indus­try and acad­e­mia, resources and con­fer­ences rel­e­vant to edu­ca­tion and chil­dren, and ways to elic­it a wider inter­est in brain health.

Look­ing for Speak­ers: We are always look­ing for best prac­tices and research-based inno­va­tion. If you are inter­est­ed in speak­ing at future Sharp­Brains events (includ­ing Games for Health brain tracks), please Con­tact Us and tell us about 1) your inno­va­tion or research, 2) its mea­sured and/ or poten­tial impact, 3) recent cov­er­age in gen­er­al, trade, or sci­en­tif­ic media, 4) the typ­i­cal audi­ence you talk to, and a cou­ple of descrip­tions of recent talks, 5) what you pro­pose talk­ing about.


Brain Fit­ness Infor­ma­tion Pack­age for Libraries:  libraries of all kinds can now  order a copy of our main report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009, at 50% off price.  Using dis­count code sharpli­brary leaves this pre­mi­um report at $645 (offer valid until March 31st, 2010). Offer is  valid for indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions who com­mit to donat­ing their copy to a library, in good shape, after con­sult­ing it.

Final­ly, a reminder that Brain Aware­ness Week (March 15–21, 2010) is approach­ing soon!

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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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