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Aerobic Exercise or Weight Training to Boost Brain Function?

Aer­o­bic exer­cise is the kind of exer­cise that has been con­sis­tent­ly shown to trig­ger the growth of both brain cells and new con­nec­tions between them, boost­ing cog­ni­tive func­tions. It has also been asso­ci­at­ed with low­er risks of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. Is it the case that oth­er types of phys­i­cal exer­cise can also ben­e­fit the brain? Evi­dence is more lim­it­ed, but a new study sug­gests that weight train­ing may be a like­ly can­di­date to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise Improves the Cognition of Overweight Children

Chil­dren who exer­cise vig­or­ous­ly tend to have bet­ter grades. In con­trast, over­weight chil­dren tend to under­achieve. With this in mind, Davis and her col­leagues from Med­ical Col­lege of Geor­gia test­ed whether par­tic­i­pat­ing in an exer­cise pro­gram would help over­weight chil­dren, not only phys­i­cal­ly but also men­tal­ly. Specif­i­cal­ly, they hypoth­e­sized that the chil­dren exec­u­tive func­tions would ben­e­fit from exer­cis­ing. These func­tions are sup­port­ed by the frontal lobes of the brain and include plan­ning, goal set­ting, self-con­trol, and inhi­bi­tion.

171 chil­dren, aged 7 to 11, who were over­weight and inac­tive par­tic­i­pat­ed in the study. They were ran­dom­ly assigned to three groups: a low-dose group doing aer­o­bic exer­cise 20 min/day, a high-dose group (40 min/day) and a no exer­cise con­trol group. The exer­cise pro­gram last­ed 13 weeks on aver­age. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness Books

Here you have The 10 Most Pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness & Cog­ni­tive Health Books, based on book pur­chas­es by Sharp­Brains’ read­ers dur­ing 2008.

Enjoy!

Brain Rules-John Medina
1. Brain Rules: 12 Prin­ci­ples for Sur­viv­ing and Thriv­ing at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)
- Dr. John Med­i­na, Direc­tor of the Brain Cen­ter for Applied Learn­ing Research at Seat­tle Pacif­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, writes an engag­ing and com­pre­hen­sive intro­duc­tion to the many dai­ly impli­ca­tions of recent brain research. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Rules: sci­ence and prac­tice for Sharp­Brains read­ers.
2. The Beck Diet Solu­tion: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Per­son (Oxmoor House, March 2007)
- Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research, con­nects the world of research-based cog­ni­tive ther­a­py with a main­stream appli­ca­tion: main­tain­ing weight-loss. Inter­view notes here.
3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence (Viking, March 2007)
- Dr. Nor­man Doidge, psy­chi­a­trist and author of this New York Times best­seller, brings us “a com­pelling col­lec­tion of tales about the amaz­ing abil­i­ties of the brain to rewire, read­just and relearn”. Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the book review here.
Spark John Ratey
4. Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary New Sci­ence of Exer­cise and the Brain(Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pa­ny, Jan­u­ary 2008)
- Dr. John Ratey, an asso­ciate clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­ical School, sum­ma­rizes the grow­ing research on the brain ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exer­cise. Lau­rie Bar­tels puts this research in per­spec­tive here.
5. The Art of Chang­ing the Brain: Enrich­ing the Prac­tice of Teach­ing by Explor­ing the Biol­o­gy of Learn­ing (Sty­lus Pub­lish­ing, Octo­ber 2002)
- Dr. James Zull, Direc­tor Emer­i­tus of the Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Inno­va­tion in Teach­ing and Edu­ca­tion at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty, writes a must-read for edu­ca­tors and life­long learn­ers. Inter­view notes here.
6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves (Bal­lan­tine Books, Jan­u­ary 2007)
- Sharon Beg­ley, Newsweek’ excel­lent sci­ence writer, pro­vides an in-depth intro­duc­tion to the research on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty based on a Mind & Life Insti­tute event.
7. Thanks: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pi­er (Houghton Mif­flin, August 2007)
- Prof. Robert Emmons, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at UC Davis and Edi­tor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy, writes a sol­id book that com­bines a research-based syn­the­sis of the top­ic as well as prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions. Inter­view notes here.
8. The Exec­u­tive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civ­i­lized Mind (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, Jan­u­ary 2001)
- Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing per­spec­tive on the role of the frontal roles and exec­u­tive func­tions through the lifes­pan. Inter­view notes here.
Brain Trust Program 9. The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­o­ry (Perigee Trade, Sep­tem­ber 2007)
- Dr. Lar­ry McCleary, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, cov­ers many lifestyle rec­om­men­da­tions for brain health in this prac­ti­cal book. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Evo­lu­tion and Health for Sharp­Brains.
10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Per­cep­tion, Atten­tion, and the Four The­aters of the Brain (Pan­theon, Jan­u­ary 2001)
— In this book (pre­vi­ous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing descrip­tion of how the brain works. An excel­lent Brain 101 book to any­one new to the field.

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 »

carnival of the capitalists with a brain- September 17, 2007

                

Wel­come to the Sep­tem­ber 17, 2007 edi­tion of car­ni­val of the cap­i­tal­ists.

First, a puzzle. Why do we have the brains we have? specif­i­cal­ly, why do humans have pro­por­tion­al­ly big­ger and bet­ter con­nect­ed frontal lobes (the blue area behind our foreheads) than any oth­er species? The answer: to be able to learn and adapt to chang­ing envi­ron­ments dur­ing our life­time. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists say that the frontal lobes are the “CEO of the brain”, and that we need that type of frontal lobes to exer­cise our so-called “Exec­u­tive Func­tions” that enable us to 1) Under­stand our envi­ron­ments, 2) Set goals and define strate­gies to accom­plish our goals, 3) Exe­cute those strate­gies well.Frontal Lobes

Now, let’s see how all these car­ni­val con­trib­u­tors are putting their frontal lobes to good use. Giv­en the vol­ume of sub­mis­sions received, we had to be real­ly selec­tive. Enjoy!

 

1) Under­stand­ing our envi­ron­ment: macro­econ­o­my, real estate slow­down, and lob­by­ing.

James won­ders, “Can the Fed begin as it must to cut the tar­get rate and still avoid Tim’s slip­pery slope? I think so, and here’s how.”

Ian presents a force­ful case that No, Greenspan Doesn’t Get To Reha­bil­i­tate His Rep­u­ta­tion, at Fire­doglake. Very time­ly post, giv­en that Greenspan is releas­ing his book today. 

The recent sub-prime mort­gage fias­co and its effect on our invest­ments prompt­ed us to recon­sid­er our portfolio’s risk tol­er­ance capa­bil­i­ty”, says FIRE Finance, out­lin­ing these Invest­ment Risks at a Glance. Along sim­i­lar lines, we can read that “I am not hop­ing for the mar­ket to get worse. I just know it will, because that is the nature of mar­ket cycles” at Is The Hous­ing Cri­sis and Stock Mar­ket Decline Bad Enough Yet?, by My Wealth Builder.

If you won­der what may have con­tributed to the real estate mess grow­ing so big, you may enjoy read­ing Pork: Wha’ss On The Bar­beque In Con­gress Is Your Future. The Ago­nist says: “In the Unit­ed States today, the sim­plest, eas­i­est and safest way to make mon­ey is to Read the rest of this entry »

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