Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Announcing The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age

Writ­ing a fore­word to this book against a tight dead­line is a some­what chal­leng­ing task. As you will learn later in the book though, there is rea­son to believe that such men­tally stim­u­lat­ing, novel activ­i­ties are ben­e­fi­cial for keep­ing my brain sharp as I gain in wis­dom — and in years. Like many peo­ple, I have noticed changes with aging since my younger adult years. And while we all wish for a magic pill, at least for the time being it is our behav­iors, per­haps aided by tech­nol­ogy, which can help us to age well phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally, and cognitively.

Indeed, novel infor­ma­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, net­work­ing, and inter­face tech­nolo­gies are poised to trans­form the way we approach our life­long health and well-being, includ­ing our very under­stand­ing of what it means to be healthy and well. As a pro­gram offi­cer at the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion, I have been wit­ness­ing mul­ti­ple dis­cov­er­ies and advances stim­u­lated by the NSF Smart Health and Well­be­ing pro­gram that may bring sub­stan­tial improve­ments to how we enhance health. With rapid progress in sen­sor, online and mobile tech­nol­ogy, advances in the domain of Smart Health open a new world of pos­si­bil­ity for the sys­tem­atic mon­i­tor­ing and man­ag­ing of long-term health out­comes, going far beyond the spo­radic treat­ment of acute con­di­tions. The notion of Smart Health places greater empha­sis on the man­age­ment of well­ness, rather than heal­ing ill­ness; it acknowl­edges the role of home, fam­ily, and com­mu­nity as sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to indi­vid­ual health and well­be­ing; and it rec­og­nizes the cen­tral role of an individual’s cog­ni­tion in dri­ving and main­tain­ing healthy habits over time.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and I first met at a 2009 sci­en­tific sym­po­sium hosted by Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity. I was there to give a talk about the promis­ing poten­tial in using com­puter games as a way to mon­i­tor and per­haps main­tain cog­ni­tion over time. Alvaro gave an insight­ful overview of the state of the sci­ence and mar­ket­place for cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Mutual inter­ests nat­u­rally led to a dis­cus­sion after the talks and many exchanges there­after. Since then, it has been my plea­sure to par­tic­i­pate in all three annual Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mits held so far – they pro­vide a unique oppor­tu­nity to engage with col­leagues at the fore­front of the sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, and mar­ket­place to sup­port brain health and fit­ness across the lifes­pan. Our inter­ac­tions included a Sep­tem­ber 2012 work­shop on com­puter games, atten­tion and well-being hosted by the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Pol­icy and the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion that brought together neu­ro­sci­en­tists, cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists and game designers.

The need for such trans­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion has long been rec­og­nized by Sharp­Brains, the pio­neer­ing orga­ni­za­tion bring­ing you this book, which has for a num­ber years been bring­ing together a com­mu­nity of neu­ro­sci­en­tists and cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists work­ing towards a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the human brain, tech­nol­o­gists devis­ing ways to scale plat­forms and solu­tions, as well prac­ti­tion­ers and con­sumers look­ing for prac­ti­cal ways to make real changes in behav­ior and lifestyle to improve brain health and health over­all. This book reflects this diver­sity, cov­er­ing top­ics rang­ing from the com­plex­ity of the brain and its mech­a­nisms to the sig­nif­i­cance of dif­fer­ent types of sci­en­tific stud­ies to prac­ti­cal aspects of exer­cis­ing, nutri­tion, and training.

A resource like this book in your hands pro­vides a great start­ing point: although there is no “final word” on this still nascent topic, an impor­tant trans­for­ma­tion is under­way that peo­ple need to be aware of and pre­pared for. This book is a great start for mak­ing sense of it all and for tak­ing active steps towards smart health, at the indi­vid­ual level, and Smart Health, at the soci­etal level. And while this book was writ­ten to be acces­si­ble to a wide audi­ence, it remains a worth­while and inter­est­ing read for experts as it pro­vides a thought­ful and well-integrated sum­mary of emerg­ing find­ings and hypothe­ses. This com­bined value — for the gen­eral and the expert reader — is in part achieved through the inclu­sion of can­did inter­views with top researchers and lead­ers in var­i­ous rel­e­vant fields as well as suc­cinct sum­maries and very clear struc­ture and writing.

In short, no mat­ter who you are, this is an impor­tant read. I hope you enjoy it.

Misha Pavel, PhD

Pro­fes­sor of Bio­med­ical Engi­neer­ing, Ore­gon Health and Sci­ence Uni­ver­sity, and Pro­gram Direc­tor for the National Sci­ence Foundation’s Smart Health and Well­be­ing Program.

–> To Learn More and Buy Book, click HERE.

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.