Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Poll: 93% believe mental health system needs to change

mental health


Satcher-Kennedy: How to fix the mental health system (USA Today):

“…an overwhelming majority (96%) of the public agrees that mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse are serious public health problems, according to a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies. Almost as many (93%) believe that the current way we are handling mental health needs to change…

Fifty-two years ago this week, President John Kennedy Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding Brain Imaging

Daniel Lende and Greg Downey run the though-provoking Neuroanthropology blog. Daniel also teaches a class at University of Notre Dame, and he asked his students to submit group-based blog posts in lieu of the traditional final essays. He explains more on Why A Final Essay When We Can Do This?.

Below you have a spectacular post written by 4 of his students. They show how brain imaging is starting to provide a window into the plasticity (glossary here) of our brains, and how our very own actions impact them. For good and for bad.

Understanding Brain Imaging

— By Chris Dudley, Matt Gasperetti, Mikey Narvaez, and Sarah Walorski

Do you remember the anti-drug public service announcement from the 1980s that showed an egg frying in a hot pan which represented your brain on drugs?

Read the rest of this entry »

Build Your Cognitive Reserve: An Interview with Dr. Yaakov Stern

Yaakov SternDr. Yaakov Stern is the Division Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Sergievsky Center, and Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York. Alvaro Fernandez interviews him here as part of our research for The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness book.

Dr. Stern is one of the leading proponents of the Cognitive reserve theory, which aims to explain why some individuals with full Alzheimer’s pathology (accumulation of plaques and tangles in their brains) can keep normal lives until they die, while others -with the same amount of plaques and tangles- display the severe symptoms we associate with Alzheimer’s Disease. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject.

The concept of a Cognitive Reserve has been around since 1989, when a post mortem analysis of 137 people with Alzheimer’s Disease showed that some patients exhibited fewer clinical symptoms than their actual pathology suggested. These patients also showed higher brain weights and greater number of neurons when compared to age-matched controls. The investigators hypothesized that the patients had a larger “reserve” of neurons and abilities that enable them to offset the losses caused by Alzheimer’s. Since then, the concept of Cognitive Reserve has been defined as the ability of an individual to tolerate progressive brain pathology without demonstrating clinical cognitive symptoms. (You can check at the end of this interview a great clip on this).


Key take-aways

– Lifetime experiences, like education, engaging occupation, and leisure activities, have been shown to have a major influence on how we age, specifically on whether we will develop Alzheimer’s symptoms or not.

– This is so because stimulating activities, ideally combining physical exercise, learning and social interaction, help us build a Cognitive Reserve to protect us.

– The earlier we start building our Reserve, the better; but it is never too late to start. And, the more activities, the better: the effect is cumulative.


The Cognitive Reserve

Alvaro Fernandez (AF): Dear Dr. Stern, it is a pleasure to have you here. Let me first ask you this: the implications of your research are pretty broad, presenting major implications across sectors and age groups. What has been the most unexpected reaction so far?

YS: well…I was pretty surprised when Read the rest of this entry »

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