Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive Training can Boost Sense of Control

Hav­ing a sense of con­trol over one’s life may be one of the most cru­cial mark­ers of suc­cess­ful aging. Aging indi­vid­u­als who feel in con­trol seem to know more about their health, be more like­ly to take actions to pro­tect it and thus enjoy health­i­er and longer lives.

Stud­ies have shown that peo­ple feel less in con­trol as they get old­er. Could cog­ni­tive or brain train­ing boost such feel­ing and reverse or at least coun­ter­act that trend?

A recent study says the answer is yes. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs to Enhance Cognitive Fitness and Brain Health

Art KramerDr. Arthur Kramer is a Pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy, the Cam­pus Neu­ro­science Pro­gram, the Beck­man Insti­tute, and the Direc­tor of the Bio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by try­ing to clar­i­fy some exist­ing mis­con­cep­tions and con­tro­ver­sies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (ref­er­enced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you sug­gest to a per­son who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms and improve over­all brain health?

First, Be Active. Do phys­i­cal exer­cise. Aer­o­bic exer­cise, 30 to 60 min­utes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments. And you don’t need to do some­thing stren­u­ous: even walk­ing has shown that effect. There are many open ques­tions in terms of spe­cif­ic types of exer­cise, dura­tion, mag­ni­tude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science arti­cle, there is lit­tle doubt that lead­ing a seden­tary life is bad for our cog­ni­tive health. Car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to have a pos­i­tive effect.

Sec­ond, Main­tain Life­long Intel­lec­tu­al Engage­ment. There is abun­dant prospec­tive obser­va­tion­al research show­ing that doing more men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties reduces the risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms.

Let me add, giv­en all media hype, that no “brain game” in par­tic­u­lar has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the main­te­nance of cog­ni­tion across extend­ed peri­ods of time. It is too ear­ly for that-and con­sumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some com­pa­nies are being more sci­ence-based than oth­ers but, in my view, the con­sumer-ori­ent­ed field is grow­ing faster than the research is.

Ide­al­ly, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grat­ed and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more like­ly we will do them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Improving Driving Skills and Brain Functioning- Interview with ACTIVE’s Jerri Edwards

Jerri Edwards- Active trialToday we are for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Jer­ri Edwards, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­si­ty of South Florida’s School of Aging Stud­ies and Co-Inves­ti­ga­tor of the influ­en­cial ACTIVE study. Dr. Edwards was trained by Dr. Kar­lene K. Ball, and her research is aimed toward dis­cov­er­ing how cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties can be main­tained and even enhanced with advanc­ing age.

Main focus of research

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Please explain to our read­ers your main research areas

Jer­ri Edwards: I am par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in how cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions may help old­er adults to avoid or at least delay func­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ties and there­by main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer. Much of my work has focused on the func­tion­al abil­i­ty of dri­ving includ­ing assess­ing dri­ving fit­ness among old­er adults and reme­di­a­tion of cog­ni­tive decline that results in dri­ving dif­fi­cul­ties.

Some research ques­tions that inter­est me include, how can we main­tain health­i­er lives longer? How can train­ing improve cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, both to improve those abil­i­ties and also to slow-down, or delay, cog­ni­tive decline? The spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty that I have stud­ied the most is pro­cess­ing speed, which is one of the cog­ni­tive skills that decline ear­ly on as we age.

ACTIVE results

Can you explain what cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing speed is, and why it is rel­e­vant to our dai­ly lives?

Pro­cess­ing speed is men­tal quick­ness. Just like a com­put­er with a 486 proces­sor can do a lot of the same things as a com­put­er with a Pen­tium 4 proces­sor, but it takes much longer, our minds tend to slow down with age as com­pared to when we were younger. We can do the same tasks, but it takes more time. Quick speed of pro­cess­ing is impor­tant for Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health/ Brain Training News

Brain Health NewsRoundup of inter­est­ing news in this emerg­ing field:

1) Brain Health Lead­ers Team Up to Pre­vent Crash­es.

2) Adults Improve Crit­i­cal Pro­fes­sion­al and Per­son­al Skills Through New Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Pro­gram.

3) Nature Neu­ro­science Pod­cast and Lon­don Taxi Dri­vers.

4) What Have You Changed Your Mind About, late­ly?.

5) The 2008 Mind & Life Sum­mer Research Insti­tute starts accept­ing appli­ca­tions.

6) The Mind & Life Insti­tute has announced the 2007 Fran­cis­co J. Varela Research Award Recip­i­ents. Read the rest of this entry »

Tis better to give than receive”: oxytocin and dopamine

Jef­frey Gonce, a Psy­chol­o­gy teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School Dis­trict, PA) just asked his stu­dents to “com­plete a project describ­ing a recent brain (or genet­ic) study that affects behav­ior.”  The stu­dents could opt to post their arti­cles online, and Jef­frey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results.

We enjoyed the over­all lev­el of the essays (you can read them all here), and tru­ly enjoyed read­ing a beau­ti­ful, well-researched and bet­ter writ­ten essay by Alexan­dra M, 15. Which, inci­den­tal­ly, quotes from one of our favourite pop­u­lar sci­ence books on the brain, John Ratey’s A User’s Guide to the Brain.

Enjoy!

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March 2, 2007

Alexan­dra M

It’s Christ­mas morn­ing, and your broth­er rush­es down­stairs to see what “San­ta” brought him. The morn­ing goes by in a flur­ry of col­or­ful wrap­ping paper and stringy rib­bons until all that’s left is a big present in the cen­ter of your brother’s lap. The present that “San­ta” brought him. As he rips open the paper, “Santa’s” chest swells with pride, he feels good and hap­py. As the broth­er runs around scream­ing about his new remote con­trolled F-14 Tom­cat, “San­ta” laughs and cleans up. But why did he feel that way? Read the rest of this entry »

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