Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most pop­u­lar ques­tion we got when we announced that PBS had a great spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in Decem­ber was, when will the DVD be avail­able?

Well, final­ly here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This pro­gram presents a work­out to help view­ers get their brains in bet­ter shape. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on neu­ro-plas­tic­i­ty, the abil­i­ty of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cis­co and his col­leagues around the world have been lead­ing this effort; he brings the research find­ings, along with a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es, to PBS view­ers in this inno­v­a­tive and life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote nar­rates. ”

To pur­chase: click Here.

You can watch a 3-minute trail­er: click here.

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

SharpBrainsGuide_3DIf you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion
“A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

Update (11/10/10): Have you seen PBS great spe­cials on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty ?

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95)

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on the brain’s abil­i­ty to change and adapt, even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the Peter Coyote Brain Fitness Programbrain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia and his col­leagues share their sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es in this life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote (pic­tured) nar­rates. ”

PBS aired in Decem­ber 2007 a spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, brain fit­ness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram”. To watch the 3-minute trail­er: click here.

In 2008, PBS released a sec­ond DVD:

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight and Sound DVD ($24.95)

This pro­gram, specif­i­cal­ly designed to help peo­ple get the most from their vision and hear­ing as they age, con­sid­ers how these sens­es change through­out life and what peo­ple can do to keep them healthy and ful­ly func­tion­al.”

.

If you do not have time to watch these great doc­u­men­taries, here are a few points one needs to under­stand about neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty:

1.  The human brain is now con­sid­ered to be a high­ly dynam­ic and con­stantly reor­ga­niz­ing sys­tem capa­ble of being shaped and reshaped across an entire lifes­pan. It is believed that every expe­ri­ence alters the brain’s orga­ni­za­tion at some lev­el. The key words in this new approach to the brain are neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time. The lat­ter process is also referred to as synap­to­ge­n­e­sis. This new par­a­digm con­trasts with tra­di­tional ideas of the human brain being a fixed and essen­tially lim­ited sys­tem that only degrades with age.

2. As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.

3. Brain plas­tic­ity is cru­cial fol­low­ing head injury. It is the one brain’s abil­ity that allows recov­ery. Brain plas­tic­ity is also the abil­ity that brain train­ing takes advan­tages of to try to slow down the aging process.

To read about evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in the human brain take a look at Brain plas­tic­i­ty: How learn­ing changes you brain

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
“Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95


SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Memory Improvement Techniques and Brain Exercises

Fitness TrainerA read­er (thanks Mike!) sends us this fun arti­cle, titled A mat­ter of train­ing, on how to train our mem­o­ry. Some quotes:

It’s a skill, not a tal­ent. It’s some­thing any­one could have picked up … I’m not born with this. It’s about train­ing and tech­nique, he says, explain­ing his unusu­al abil­i­ty. Anant holds the Lim­ca Record  the Indi­an equiv­a­lent of the Guin­ness Record œ for mem­o­ris­ing 75 tele­phone num­bers, along with the names of their own­ers, in less than an hour. He is recog­nised as “the man with the most phe­nom­e­nal mem­o­ry in India.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most peo­ple think that mem­o­ris­ing is very dif­fi­cult. The moment they see some­one demon­strate some­thing like this, they think it’s out of this world.

If you want to remem­ber some­thing, you have to link it to some­thing you already know. Asso­ci­a­tion is the nat­ur­al prin­ci­pal. For exam­ple, if you need direc­tions to a place, a land­mark is often used as a point of ref­er­ence. And if you derive plea­sure from some­thing you do, there’s a good chance you’ll remem­ber it. Since the brain already works in this man­ner, why don’t we take con­trol of it?

To me, an intel­li­gent per­son is some­one who is able to put togeth­er more of his skills to solve a prob­lem. Intel­li­gence is about using strate­gies.

The key con­cept here is that mem­o­ry, as well as oth­er cog­ni­tive skills, can be trained through Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training from a pediatrician perspective, focused on attention deficits

Arthur Lavin Today we inter­view Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice, and one of the first providers of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing in the US (the pro­gram whose research we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and Dr. Bradley Gib­son). Dr. Lavin has a long stand­ing inter­est in tech­nol­o­gy-as evi­denced by Microsoft’s recog­ni­tion of his paper­less office- and in brain research and appli­ca­tions-he trained with esteemed Mel Levine from All Kinds of Minds-.

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Key take-aways:

- Schools today are not yet in a posi­tion to effec­tive­ly help kids with cog­ni­tive issues deal with increas­ing cog­ni­tive demands.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry is a cog­ni­tive skill fun­da­men­tal to plan­ning, sequenc­ing, and exe­cut­ing school-relat­ed work.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry can be trained, as evi­denced by Dr. Lavin’s work, based on Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing, with kids who have atten­tion deficits.

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Con­text on cog­ni­tive fit­ness and schools

AF (Alvaro Fer­nan­dez): Dr. Lavin, thanks for being with us. It is not very com­mon for a pedi­a­tri­cian to have such an active inter­est in brain research and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Can you explain the source of your inter­est?

AL (Arthur Lavin): Through­out my life I have been fas­ci­nat­ed by how the mind works. Both from the research point of view and the prac­ti­cal one: how can sci­en­tists’ increas­ing knowl­edge improve kids’ lives? We now live in an tru­ly excit­ing era in which sol­id sci­en­tif­ic progress in neu­ro­science is at last cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve people’s actu­al cog­ni­tive func­tion. The progress Cogmed has achieved in cre­at­ing a pro­gram that can make great dif­fer­ences in the lives of chil­dren with atten­tion deficits is one of the most excit­ing recent devel­op­ments. My col­league Ms. Susan Glaser and I recent­ly pub­lished two books: Who’s Boss: Mov­ing Fam­i­lies from Con­flict to Col­lab­o­ra­tion (Col­lab­o­ra­tion Press, 2006) and Baby & Tod­dler Sleep Solu­tions for Dum­mies (Wiley, 2007), so I not only see myself as a pedi­a­tri­cian but also an edu­ca­tor. I see par­ents in real need of guid­ance and sup­port. They usu­al­ly are both very skep­ti­cal, since Read the rest of this entry »

The Gregarious Brain and cognitive skills

I find via Mind­Hacks that NYT Mag­a­zine has pub­lished a great arti­cle titled The Gre­gar­i­ous Brain, sub­ti­tled “Williams syn­drome — a genet­ic acci­dent that caus­es cog­ni­tive deficits-”. The writer, David Dobbs, does an spec­tac­u­lar job at explain­ing that syn­drome in the con­text of what cog­ni­tive skills are and how they evolved. Some sam­ple quotes:

  • In the view of two of Bellugi’s fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tors, Albert Gal­abur­da, a Har­vard Med­ical School pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy and neu­ro­science, and Allan Reiss, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Stan­ford School of Med­i­cine, Nicki’s learned facil­i­ty at sports talk illus­trates a cen­tral les­son of Williams and, for that mat­ter, mod­ern genet­ics: genes (or their absence) do not hard-wire peo­ple for cer­tain behav­iors. There is no gene for under­stand­ing cal­cu­lus. But genes do shape behav­ior and per­son­al­i­ty, and they do so by cre­at­ing brain struc­tures and func­tions that favor cer­tain abil­i­ties and appetites more than oth­ers.”
  • …This doesn’t mean that spe­cif­ic behav­iors are hard-wired. M.I.T. math majors aren’t born doing cal­cu­lus, and peo­ple with Williams don’t enter life telling sto­ries. As Allan Reiss put it: “It’s not just ‘genes make brain make behav­ior.’ You have envi­ron­ment and expe­ri­ence too. By envi­ron­ment, Reiss means less the atmos­phere of a home or a school than the end­less string of chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties that life presents any per­son start­ing at birth.”
  • (Talk­ing about when our ances­tors start­ed to live in larg­er groups) “But the big­ger groups imposed a new brain load: the mem­bers had to be smart enough to bal­ance their indi­vid­ual needs with those of the pack. This meant coop­er­at­ing and exer­cis­ing some indi­vid­ual restraint. It also required Read the rest of this entry »

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