Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Resources for Brain Health Across the Lifespan

As promised in my previous post on Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains, I will now list some interviews, video, articles, and books that go hand-in-hand with these brain booksfascinating topics we are discussing. Please comment below if you have favorite additional resources!

NEUROGENESIS

MIT news – Picower researcher finds neuron growth in adult brain

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Adult Neurogenesis

BRAIN PLASTICITY

Neuroscience for Kids – Brain Plasticity: What Is It?

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Brain Plasticity, Language Processing and Reading

Brain Science Podcast – Ginger Campbell interview with Norman Doidge, MD, Read the rest of this entry »

Exercising the body is exercising the mind

I apologize for the long delay in getting back to this column but I have a good excuse. We just recently had a baby, and boy, that takes care right there of the physical exercise need. Between carrying the baby upstairs and downstairs, running to get the baby, getting out of the bed and picking the baby up and putting the baby down a couple of times a night no you need not worry about getting your daily exercise dose in…Now, the majority of the answers to my post on the brain virtues of physical exercise suggests that most people think that the brain benefits of physical exercise are mostly to be understood as complementary effects of a healthy life style.

Is this correct? In my post today I will attempt to answer this question.

First, while generally healthier people seem to have healthier brains, the physical exercise effect on the brain seems to be independent of other things. One of the most important development in neuroscience was when the official dogma claiming that there was no neurogenesis (production of new brain cells) in the adult brain was toppled. Now we know that the brain is “plastic” meaning that, under the right circumstances, the brain can change Read the rest of this entry »

Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

Back in July, I wrote a post entitled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to students of any age, including adults, for ideally adults are still learners. Why is adult learning relevant in a brain-focused blog, you may wonder:

The short of it

As we age, our brain:

still forms new brain cells
can change its structure & function
finds positive stress can be beneficial; negative stress can be detrimental
can thrive on novel challenges
needs to be exercised, just like our bodies

The long of it

Adults may have a tendency to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learning & the Brain conference, the theme of which was neuroplasticity, I attended several sessions on adult learning. Here’s what the experts are saying.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Neurons: Good News, Bad News

Over the last year we have gladly seen an avalanche of news on adult neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons in adult brains), following recent research reports. Further, we have seen how the news that physical exercise can enhance neurogenesis is becoming common knowledge among many health systems we work with.

Now, the obvious question that doesn’t always get asked is, “What good are new neurons if they don’t survive?”. And that’s where learning, enrichment, mental exercise, are critical.

We are glad to introduce a new Expert Contributor, Dr. Bill Klemm, a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, who summarizes much research on how new neurons are born-and what they need to live long happy lives.

– Alvaro

New Neurons: Good News, Bad News

— By Dr. Bill Klemm

In the last few years, researchers have discovered that new nerve cells (neurons) are born, presumably from residual stem cells that exist even in adults. That should be good news for all of us as we get older and fear mental decline. The bad news is that these new neurons die, unless our minds are active enough.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Training for Gratitude and Altruism

Brandon Keim writes a nice post on The Future Science of Altruism at Wired Science Blog, based on an interview with Jordan Grafman, chief of cognitive neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Brandon provides good context saying that “Scientists, said Grafman, are understanding how our brains are shaped by culture and environment, and a mechanism of these changes may involve fluctuation in our genes themselves, which we’re only beginning to understand”. (more on this in our post Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nurture).

And gives us some very nice quotes from Dr. Grafman, including

  • “One of the ways we differentiate ourselves from other species is that we have a sense of future. We don’t have to have immediate gratification…. But how far can we go into the future? How much of our brain is aimed at doing that? […]”
  • “Other great apes have a frontal lobe, fairly well developed, but not nearly as well developed as our own. If you believe in Darwin and evolution, you argue that the area grew, and the neural architecture had to change in some way to accommodate the abilities associated with that behavior. There’s no doubt that didn’t occur overnight; probably a slow change, and it was one of the last areas of the brain to develop as well. It’s very recent evolutionary development that humans took full advantage of. What in the future? What in the brains can change?”
  • “The issue becomes — do we teach this? Train people to do this? Children tend to be selfish, and have to be taught to share.”

The UC Berkeley magazine Greater Good tries to answer that question with a series of articles on Gratitude. I especially enjoyed A Lesson in Thanks, described as Read the rest of this entry »

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Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

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