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Three neuroscientists win $1 million Kavli Prize for discovering brain’s plasticity

neuroplasticity-——-

Three neu­ro­sci­en­tists win $1m award for dis­cov­er­ing brain’s plas­tic­i­ty (STAT):

Three neu­ro­sci­en­tists whose research over­turned decades-old notions about how and whether the brain can change in response to expe­ri­ence have won a $1 mil­lion Kavli Prize in Neu­ro­science, the Nor­we­gian Acad­e­my of Sci­ence and Let­ters announced on Thurs­day.

In an event live-streamed from Oslo to the World Sci­ence Fes­ti­val in New York City, acad­e­my pres­i­dent Dr. Ole Sejer­st­ed said that Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co, Car­la Shatz of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, and Eve Marder of Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty were being hon­ored for dis­cov­er­ing “mech­a­nisms that allow expe­ri­ence and neur­al activ­i­ty to remod­el brain func­tion.”

The dis­cov­er­ies have led to the devel­op­ment of cochlear implants for hear­ing loss and to ther­a­pies that exploit the brain’s pow­er of “neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty” to recov­er from stroke, depres­sion, Tourette syn­drome, and oth­er con­di­tions — all with­out the use of drugs…Neuronal activ­i­ty, gen­er­at­ed either by what we do or what we think, lit­er­al­ly sculpts the con­nec­tions between neu­rons and there­by changes the struc­ture and func­tion of cir­cuits, the Kavli lau­re­ates demon­strat­ed.”

To learn more:

(From the Inter­view)

Ques­tion: There are many dif­fer­ent tech­nol­o­gy-free approach­es to harnessing/ enabling/ dri­ving neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty. What is the val­ue that tech­nol­o­gy brings to the cog­ni­tive health table?

Answer: It’s all about effi­cien­cy, scal­a­bil­i­ty, per­son­al­iza­tion, and assured effec­tive­ness. Tech­nol­o­gy sup­ports the imple­men­ta­tion of near-opti­mal­ly-effi­cient brain-train­ing strate­gies. Through the Inter­net, it enables the low-cost dis­tri­b­u­tion of these new tools, any­where out in the world. Tech­nol­o­gy also enables the per­son­al­iza­tion of brain health train­ing, by pro­vid­ing sim­ple ways to mea­sure and address indi­vid­ual needs in each per­son­’s brain-health train­ing expe­ri­ence. It enables assess­ments of your abil­i­ties that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effec­tive­ly addressed.

Of course sub­stan­tial gains could also be achieved by orga­niz­ing your every­day activ­i­ties that grow your neu­ro­log­i­cal abil­i­ties and sus­tain your brain health. Still, if the ordi­nary cit­i­zen is to have any real chance of main­tain­ing their brain fit­ness, they’re going to have to spend con­sid­er­able time at the brain gym!

One espe­cial­ly impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion of tech­nol­o­gy is the scal­a­bil­i­ty that it pro­vides for deliv­er­ing brain fit­ness help out into the world. Think about how effi­cient the drug deliv­ery sys­tem is today. Doc­tors pre­scribe drugs, insur­ance cov­ers them, and there is a drug store in every neigh­bor­hood in almost every city in the world so that every patient has access to them. Once neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty-based tools and out­comes and stan­dard­ized, we can envi­sion a sim­i­lar sce­nario. And we don’t need all those drug stores, because we have the Inter­net!

Hav­ing said this, there are obvi­ous obsta­cles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of under­stand­ing of what these new tools can do. Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, for exam­ple, seem counter-intu­itive to con­sumers and many pro­fes­sion­als “ why would one try to improve speed-of-pro­cess­ing if all one cares about is mem­o­ry? A sec­ond obvi­ous prob­lem is to get indi­vid­u­als to buy into the effort required to real­ly change their brains for the bet­ter. That buy-in has been achieved for many indi­vid­u­als as it applies to their phys­i­cal health, but we haven’t got­ten that far yet in edu­cat­ing the aver­age old­er per­son that brain fit­ness train­ing is an equal­ly effort­ful busi­ness!

–> Keep read­ing this com­pre­hen­sive Inter­view with Michael Merzenich on Brain Train­ing, Assess­ments, and Per­son­al Brain Train­ers

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