Brain training via mindfulness, cognitive training, and/ or tDCS

brains-mindsSev­er­al recent media arti­cles high­light the grow­ing inter­est in a vari­ety of approach­es to enhance the brain and the mind. The obvi­ous emerg­ing ques­tion, which we address at The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness giv­en that “one size does­n’t fit all” is, what works best for whom and for what?

Mind­ful­ness: Get­ting Its Share of Atten­tion (The New York Times):

The Marine Corps is test­ing Mind Fit­ness Train­ing to help sol­diers relax and boost “emo­tion­al intel­li­gence,” the buzz­words of the hour. Nike, Gen­er­al Mills, Tar­get and Aet­na encour­age employ­ees to sit and do noth­ing, and with class­es that show them how. As the high priest­ess of the ful­ly aware, Ari­an­na Huff­in­g­ton this year start­ed a mind­ful­ness con­fer­ence, a page ded­i­cat­ed to the sub­ject on The Huff­in­g­ton Post and a “GPS for the Soul” phone appli­ca­tion with a built-in heart sen­sor to alert you when you’re calm or stressed…Even the most dis­tract­ed are eas­ing up and let­ting go. These days, Mr. Williams spends most of his time over­see­ing an online lit­er­ary ven­ture called Medi­um. The office holds com­pa­ny­wide nature retreats and offers guid­ed relax­ation ses­sions twice a week. “Med­i­ta­tion always had bad brand­ing for this cul­ture — it seemed very hand wavy,” he said. “But to me, it’s a way to think more clear­ly and to not feel so swept up.”

Match­ing our cog­ni­tive brain span to our extend­ed lifes­pan (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press blog)

Until recent­ly, cog­ni­tive loss­es in healthy adults were viewed as an inevitable con­se­quence of liv­ing longer. How­ev­er, researchers around the world are dis­cov­er­ing ways to rein­vig­o­rate over­all brain health and reverse cog­ni­tive loss­es, giv­ing spe­cif­ic focus to abil­i­ties that sup­port inde­pen­dent liv­ing such as the capac­i­ty to rea­son, prob­lem solve, and plan. Through­out our life­time our brain remains high­ly mal­leable, an asset referred to as neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty… We found that the brain train­ing strate­gies not only improved cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, but also induced ben­e­fi­cial phys­i­o­log­i­cal brain changes. These pub­lished find­ings show healthy adults can regain lost cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, improve blood flow in the brain, speed up com­mu­ni­ca­tion between brain regions, and expand struc­tur­al con­nec­tions after brief training.”

Jumper Cables for the Mind (The New York Times):

This couldn’t pos­si­bly be a good idea. On Fri­day the 13th of Sep­tem­ber, in an old brick build­ing on 13th Street in Boston’s Charlestown neigh­bor­hood, a pair of elec­trodes was attached to my fore­head, one over my brain’s left pre­frontal cor­tex, the oth­er just above my right eye sock­et. I was about to under­go tran­scra­nial direct-cur­rent stim­u­la­tion, or tDCS, an exper­i­men­tal tech­nique for deliv­er­ing extreme­ly low dose elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion to the brain. Using less than 1 per­cent of the elec­tri­cal ener­gy nec­es­sary for elec­tro­con­vul­sive ther­a­py, pow­ered by an ordi­nary nine-volt bat­tery, tDCS has been shown in hun­dreds of stud­ies to enhance an aston­ish­ing, seem­ing­ly implau­si­ble vari­ety of intel­lec­tu­al, emo­tion­al and move­ment-relat­ed brain func­tions. And its side effects appear lim­it­ed to a mild tin­gling at the site of the elec­trode, some­times a slight red­den­ing of the skin, very rarely a headache and cer­tain­ly no seizures or mem­o­ry loss. Still, I felt more than a bit appre­hen­sive as I pre­pared to find out if a lit­tle bit of juice could amp up my cog­ni­tive reserves and make me, in a word, smarter.”

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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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