Key Concepts in Brain and Cognitive Fitness
Brain Fitness: the general state of good, sharp, brain and mind, especially as the result of mental and physical exercise and proper nutrition. Having the mental abilities required to function in society, in our occupations, in our communities.
Brain Fitness Program: structured set of brain exercises, either computer-based or not, designed to train specific brain areas and functions in targeted ways.
Chronic Stress: ongoing, long-term stress. Continued physiological arousal where stressors block the formation of new neurons and negatively impact the immune system’s defenses.
Cognitive training (or Brain Training): variety of brain exercises designed to help work out specific cognitive abilities. The principle underlying cognitive training is to help improve “core” abilities, such as attention, memory, problem-solving.
Cognitive therapy: type of therapy based on the idea that the way people perceive their experience influences their behaviors and emotions. The therapist teaches the patient cognitive and behavioral skills to modify his or her dysfunctional thinking and actions. CT aims at improving specific cognitive skills or behaviors (such as planning and mental flexibility), as well as at helping the individual combat the symptoms and undesirable effects of clinical conditions (such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or phobias).
Cognitive Reserve (or Brain Reserve): theory that addresses the fact that individuals vary considerably in the severity of cognitive aging and clinical dementia. Mental stimulation, education and occupational level are believed to be major active components of building a cognitive reserve that can help resist the attacks of mental disease.
Executive Functions: Abilities that enable goal-oriented behavior, such as the ability to plan, and execute a goal. These include flexibility, theory of mind, anticipation, self-regulation, working memory and inhibition.
fMRI: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive neuroimaging technique that enables researchers see images of changing blood flow in the brain associated with neural activity. This allows images to be generated that reflect which structures are activated (and how) during performance of different tasks.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV): describes the frequency of the cardiac cycle, and is one of the best predictors of stress and anxiety. Our hear rate is not “flat” or constant: HRV measures the pattern of change.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): yoga and meditation practices designed to enable effective responses to stress, pain, and illness.
Neurogenesis: the process by which neurons are created all throughout our lives.
Neuroimaging: techniques that either directly or indirectly image the structure, function, or pharmacology of the brain. Recent techniques (such as fMRI) have enabled researchers to understand better the living human brain.
Neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections throughout life.
PubMed: very useful tool to search for published studies. “PubMed is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that includes over 16 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s. PubMed includes links to full text articles and other related resources.”
Working memory: the ability to keep information current for a short period while using this information. Working memory is used for controlling attention, and deficits in working memory capacity lead to attention problems. Recent research has proven that working memory training is possible and helpful for people with ADD/ ADHD.