Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Summary: neuroplasticity-based opportunities and challenges for consumers and professionals

akThe main mes­sage behind the dis­cov­ery of brain plas­tic­i­ty is that the way we live our life can affect how well our brain age. This is great news. How­ev­er there is no just one gen­er­al solu­tion to brain main­te­nance. Sci­ence sug­gests so far to take a mul­ti-pronged approach cen­tered around bal­anced nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, and both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise.

Brain train­ing, defined as the struc­tured use of cog­ni­tive exer­cis­es or tech­niques aimed at improv­ing spe­cif­ic brain func­tions, can be deliv­ered in a num­ber of ways: med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­a­py, cog­ni­tive train­ing. The field is still emerg­ing and many more con­trolled and ran­dom­ized stud­ies are need­ed to (a) assess indi­vid­u­als’ cog­ni­tive pro­files eas­i­ly, (b) val­i­date the effects of dif­fer­ent brain train­ing pro­grams, © com­pare dif­fer­ent types of brain train­ings, (d) assess the appro­pri­ate­ness of cer­tain types of brain train­ings for cer­tain spe­cif­ic pop­u­la­tions.

One cru­cial aspect of brain train­ing that needs much improve­ment is the base­line cog­ni­tive screen­ing. Tools that allow the user to assess his or her brain func­tions before the train­ing starts are nec­es­sary for sound brain training.  They would allow the con­sumer or patient to tar­get the spe­cif­ic brain func­tions that do need train­ing.

Does brain train­ing work? It depends how “work” is defined. If it is defined as quan­tifi­able short-term improve­ments after a num­ber of weeks of sys­tem­at­ic brain train­ing to improve spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills, then yes. A num­ber of the brain fit­ness soft­ware pro­grams on the mar­ket today do seem to work. If, on the oth­er hand, “work­ing” means mea­sur­able long-term ben­e­fits, such as bet­ter over­all brain health as we age, or low­er inci­dence of demen­tia symp­toms, then the answer is that cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests they may work. But it is still too ear­ly to tell defin­i­tive­ly.

Brain train­ing is becom­ing more and more pop­u­lar and may play an increas­ing role in our every­day life in future years. It is easy to get lost in the increas­ing num­ber of prod­ucts avail­able. This is why stay­ing informed is cru­cial! Con­sumers need to learn how to eval­u­ate their cog­ni­tive needs and how to find the right prod­uct to match their need. Our hope is to be able to help you along the way.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewslet­ter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg.

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About SharpBrains

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.