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Study Ques­tions Effec­tive­ness Of $80 Mil­lion Per Year ‘Brain Exer­cise Prod­ucts Indus­try for Elder­ly (Sci­ence Dai­ly)

- “There is much research on the ben­e­fits of cog­ni­tive reha­bil­i­ta­tion strate­gies among elder­ly who already expe­ri­ence mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dis­ease, as well as on the pos­i­tive impact of phys­i­cal exer­cise. The researchers, how­ev­er, want­ed to eval­u­ate cur­rent research that would focus on the impact of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions in the healthy elder­ly pop­u­la­tion.”

- “…they con­clud­ed that there was no evi­dence indi­cat­ing that struc­tured cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion pro­grams had an impact on the pro­gres­sion of demen­tia in the healthy elder­ly pop­u­la­tion”

Com­ment:  we have not reviewed the analy­sis yet, so can­not com­ment in depth. How­ev­er, just from the press release, we see a few poten­tial prob­lems in how the study was framed, reduc­ing its prac­ti­cal val­ue: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Update: Best of 2008

Dear read­er and mem­ber of Sharp­Brains’ com­mu­ni­ty,
We want to thank you for your atten­tion and sup­port in 2008, and wish you a Hap­py, brain fitness and health newsletterPros­per­ous, Healthy and Pos­i­tive 2009!

Below you have the Decem­ber edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter. Enjoy:

Best of 2008

Announc­ing the Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008: Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Torkel Kling­berg has writ­ten a very stim­u­lat­ing and acces­si­ble book on a cru­cial top­ic for our Infor­ma­tion Age: The Over­flow­ing Brain: Infor­ma­tion Over­load and the Lim­its of Work­ing Mem­o­ry. We have named it The Sharp­Brains Most Impor­tant Book of 2008, and asked Dr. Kling­berg to write a brief arti­cle to intro­duce his research and book to you. Enjoy it here.

Top 30 Brain Fit­ness Arti­cles of 2008: We have com­piled Sharp­Brains’ 30 most pop­u­lar arti­cles, writ­ten by thir­teen Expert Con­trib­u­tors and staff mem­bers for you. Have you read them all?

Novem­ber-Decem­ber News: No month goes by with­out sig­nif­i­cant news in the field of cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Sum­ma­rized here are 10 recent devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion, includ­ing an upcom­ing brain train­ing prod­uct for ice hock­ey play­ers, my lec­ture at New York Pub­lic Library, and more.

Inter­views: Videogames, Med­i­ta­tion

Are videogames good for your brain?: A land­mark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and col­leagues has shown that play­ing a strat­e­gy videogame can bring a vari­ety of sig­nif­i­cant men­tal ben­e­fits to old­er brains. Anoth­er recent study, also by Kramer and col­leagues, does not show sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to younger brains (despite play­ing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kind­ly agreed to serve on Sharp­Brains’ Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board, elab­o­rates.

Med­i­ta­tion on the Brain: Dr. Andrew New­berg pro­vides an excel­lent overview of the brain ben­e­fits of prac­tices such as med­i­ta­tion. He rec­om­mends, “look for some­thing sim­ple, easy to try first, ensur­ing the prac­tice is com­pat­i­ble with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match prac­tice with need: under­stand the spe­cif­ic goals you have in mind, your sched­ule and lifestyle, and find some­thing prac­ti­cal.”

The Need for Objec­tive Assess­ments

Cog­ni­tive screen­ings and Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­i­ca just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 giv­en the right con­di­tions). Sharp­Brains read­ers, probed by Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man, seem to agree.

Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG for ADHD diag­no­sis: Dr. David Rabin­er reports on the find­ings from a recent study that doc­u­ments the util­i­ty of Quan­ti­ta­tive EEG as an objec­tive test to assist in the diag­no­sis of ADHD. If this pro­ce­dure were to become more wide­ly used, he sug­gests, the num­ber of chil­dren and ado­les­cents who are inap­pro­pri­ate­ly diag­nosed and treat­ed for the dis­or­der would dimin­ish sub­stan­tial­ly.

Shall we ques­tion the brand new book of human trou­bles?: The fights over the new ver­sion of the psy­chi­atric diag­nos­tic man­u­al, the DSM-V, are start­ing to come to light. Dr. Vaugh­an Bell won­ders why the pub­lic debate avoids the key ques­tion of whether diag­no­sis itself is use­ful for men­tal health and why psy­cho­met­rics are sim­ply ignored.

Resources for Life­long Learn­ing

Edu­ca­tion builds Cog­ni­tive Reserve for Alzheimers Dis­ease Pro­tec­tion: Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reviews a recent study that sup­ports the Cog­ni­tive Reserve hypoth­e­sis — men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ences through­out life, such as for­mal edu­ca­tion, help build a reserve in our brains that con­tributes to a low­er prob­a­bil­i­ty of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms.

5 Tips on Life­long Learn­ing & the Adult Brain: Lau­rie Bar­tels asks us to please please 1) chal­lenge our­selves with new learn­ing, 2) remem­ber that neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis are hall­marks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learn­ing on an ongo­ing basis, 4) more visu­als, less text, 5) move it, move it — start today!

Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts: We all have heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science (SfN) has just released a user-friend­ly pub­li­ca­tion titled Neu­ro­science Core Con­cepts, aimed at help­ing edu­ca­tors and the gen­er­al pub­lic learn more about the brain.

Encephalon #61: Brain & Mind Reading for the Holidays

Wel­come to the 61st edi­tion Encephalon brain blog carnivalof Encephalon, the blog car­ni­val that offers some of the best neu­ro­science and psy­chol­o­gy blog posts every oth­er week.

We do have an excel­lent set of arti­cles today. cov­er­ing much ground. Enjoy the read­ing:

Neu­ro­science and Soci­ety

Neu­roan­thro­pol­o­gy,
by Greg Downey
The Fly­nn Effect: Trou­bles with Intel­li­gence
Aver­age IQ test scores had risen about 3 points per decade and in some cas­es more. Tests of vocab­u­lary, arith­metic, or gen­er­al knowl­edge (such as the sorts of facts one learns in school) have showed lit­tle increase, but scores have increased marked­ly on tests thought to mea­sure gen­er­al intel­li­gence.
Mind­Hacks,
by Vaugh­an Bell
Med­ical jar­gon alters our under­stand­ing of dis­ease
Under­stand­ing how pop­u­lar ideas influ­ence our per­son­al med­ical beliefs is an essen­tial part of under­stand­ing med­i­cine itself.
Cog­ni­tive Dai­ly,
by Dave Munger
Is it sex­ist to think men are angri­er than women?
Are we more like­ly to per­ceive a male face as angry and a female face as hap­py? A recent study sheds light on the issue.
Neu­r­o­crit­ic Crime, Pun­ish­ment, and Jer­ry Springer
Judges and jurors must put aside their emo­tion­al­ly-dri­ven desire for revenge when com­ing to an impar­tial ver­dict. Does neu­roimag­ing (fMRI) add any­thing to our under­stand­ing of jus­tice?

Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and Neu­rocog­ni­tive Health Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Foun­da­tion of Amer­i­ca just released a thought­ful report advo­cat­ing for wide­spread cog­ni­tive screen­ings after the age of 65 (55 giv­en the right con­di­tions).

Accord­ing to the press release,

- “The report shat­ters unsub­stan­ti­at­ed crit­i­cism and instead empha­sizes the safe­ty and cost-effec­tive­ness of these tools and calls on Con­gress to devel­op a nation­al demen­tia screen­ing pol­i­cy.”

- “Lift­ing the bar­ri­ers to ear­ly detec­tion is long over­due, Hall said. “Con­ver­sa­tions about brain health are not tak­ing place. We must edu­cate and empow­er con­sumers to talk open­ly about mem­o­ry con­cerns, par­tic­u­lar­ly with pri­ma­ry care providers, so they get the atten­tion and qual­i­ty of life they deserve.

- “Demand for screen­ings is evi­denced by the suc­cess of AFA’s recent sixth annu­al Nation­al Mem­o­ry Screen­ing Day held on Novem­ber 18, dur­ing which an esti­mat­ed 50,000 peo­ple were giv­en free con­fi­den­tial mem­o­ry screen­ings at near­ly 2,200 com­mu­ni­ty sites nation­wide. Dur­ing last year’s event, approx­i­mate­ly 16 per­cent of indi­vid­u­als who had a face-to-face screen­ing scored pos­i­tive and were referred to their pri­ma­ry care providers for fol­low-up. An AFA sur­vey of par­tic­i­pants revealed that few­er than one in four with self-report­ed mem­o­ry com­plaints had pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed them with their physi­cians despite recent vis­its.”

Excel­lent report avail­able: here

Please note that the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion recent­ly argued in the oppo­site direc­tion (no screen­ings) — which prob­a­bly trig­gered this response.

We see emerg­ing trends that sug­gest the posi­tion in favor of cog­ni­tive assess­ments may in fact gath­er momen­tum over the next few years: wide­spread com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive screen­ings in the US Army, insur­ance com­pa­nies like OptumHealth adding such tools to its clin­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing sys­tems, polls such as the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Aging’s a cou­ple of years ago indi­cat­ing a very strong demand for an “annu­al men­tal check-up”, the avail­abil­i­ty of use­ful assess­ment tools and research-based pre­ven­tive advice.

The start­ing point is to under­stand what those assess­ments are NOT: they are not diag­nos­tic tools. When used prop­er­ly, they can be used as a base­line to track per­for­mance in a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive domains over time, so that both the indi­vid­ual AND the physi­cian are not blind­ed by a one-time assess­ment, com­par­ing an indi­vid­ual with his or her peers (instead of his or her past per­for­mance) when seri­ous symp­toms have fre­quent­ly already been going on for a while.

Our con­trib­u­tor  Dr. Joshua Sil­ver­man, from Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine, recent­ly gen­er­at­ed a nice debate on the top­ic by ask­ing our read­ers their reac­tion to these 3 ques­tions: Read the rest of this entry »

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