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!

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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