Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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BrainArt Awards and Exhi­bi­tion opens (Facebook) polls

The BrainArt Awards & Exhi­bi­tion  Gallery is now open for vot­ing (by Lik­ing select­ed works via Face­book but­ton). The Brain Art Awards is an inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion with ten media cat­e­gories, open to any­one aged 14 — 99. It offers a $5,000 cash prize to the major win­ner, and gar­ners a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­na­tional response to a spe­cific area of human expe­ri­ence. This year’s theme is ‘Life Plea­sures and the Brain.’

To Learn More:

Study: Music Training Can Enhance Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function

Very inter­est­ing new study pub­lished in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence: Short-Term Music Train­ing Enhances Ver­bal Intel­li­gence and Exec­u­tive Func­tion.

Abstract: Researchers have designed train­ing meth­ods that can be used to improve men­tal health and to test the effi­ca­cy of edu­ca­tion pro­grams. How­ev­er, few stud­ies have demon­strat­ed broad trans­fer from such train­ing to per­for­mance on untrained cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties. Here we report the effects of two inter­ac­tive com­put­er­ized train­ing pro­grams devel­oped for preschool chil­dren: one for music and one for visu­al art. After only 20 days of train­ing, Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Workout: Have you Seen your Mind?

These fan­tas­tic pic­tures by Carl Schoonover in “Por­traits of the Mind: Visu­al­iz­ing the Brain from Antiq­ui­ty to the 21st Cen­tu­ry” will have 2 effects on your brain: 1) stim­u­late the neu­rons in your occip­i­tal lobes (as you know, the part at the back of your  brain that is devot­ed to vision) and 2) acti­vate your rea­son­ing skills as you reflect on what the mind is…

See more pho­tos here.

Changing our Minds…by Reading Fiction

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

Chang­ing our Minds

By imag­in­ing many pos­si­ble worlds, argues nov­el­ist and psy­chol­o­gist Kei­th Oat­ley, fic­tion helps us under­stand our­selves and oth­ers.

-By Kei­th Oat­ley

For more than two thou­sand years peo­ple have insist­ed that read­ing fic­tion is good for bookyou. Aris­to­tle claimed that poetry—he meant the epics of Homer and the tragedies of Aeschy­lus, Sopho­cles, and Euripi­des, which we would now call fiction—is a more seri­ous busi­ness than his­to­ry. His­to­ry, he argued, tells us only what has hap­pened, where­as fic­tion tells us what can hap­pen, which can stretch our moral imag­i­na­tions and give us insights into our­selves and oth­er peo­ple. This is a strong argu­ment for schools to con­tin­ue to focus on the lit­er­ary arts, not just his­to­ry, sci­ence, and social stud­ies.

But is the idea of fic­tion being good for you mere­ly wish­ful think­ing? The mem­bers of a small research group in Toronto—Maja Dji­kic, Ray­mond Mar, and I—have been work­ing on the prob­lem. We have turned the idea into ques­tions. In what ways might read­ing fic­tion be good for you? If it is good for you, why would this be? And what is the psy­cho­log­i­cal func­tion of art gen­er­al­ly?

Through a series of stud­ies, we have dis­cov­ered that fic­tion at its best isn’t just enjoy­able. It mea­sur­ably enhances our abil­i­ties to empathize with oth­er peo­ple and con­nect with some­thing larg­er than our­selves.

Pos­si­ble selves, pos­si­ble worlds

Peo­ple often think that a fic­tion is some­thing untrue, but this is wrong. The word derives from the Latin fin­gere, to make. As some­thing made, fic­tion is dif­fer­ent from some­thing dis­cov­ered, as in physics, or from some­thing that hap­pened, as in the news. But this does not mean it is false. Fic­tion is about pos­si­ble selves in pos­si­ble worlds.

In terms of 21st-cen­tu­ry psy­chol­o­gy, we might best see fic­tion as a kind of sim­u­la­tion: one that runs not on com­put­ers, but on minds. Such men­tal sim­u­la­tion unfolds on two lev­els.

The first lev­el involves sim­u­lat­ing the minds of oth­er peo­ple: imag­in­ing what they are think­ing and feel­ing, which devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gists call “the­o­ry of mind.” The the­o­ry-of-mind sim­u­la­tion is like a watch, which is a small mod­el that sim­u­lates Read the rest of this entry »

Update: 2009 Market Report Finds Growth, Promise and Confusion

Here you have the April edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

We are excit­ed to release our 2009 mar­ket report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009. To be for­mal­ly released on May 4th but avail­able now for our clients and read­ers, this report aims to inform deci­sion-mak­ers at health­care, insur­ance, research, pub­lic pol­i­cy, invest­ment and tech­nol­o­gy orga­ni­za­tions about impor­tant devel­op­ments in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health space.

2009 Mar­ket Report

The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009: This new 150-page report finds The State of the Brain Fitness/ Training Software Market 2009 reportsus­tained growth in the brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket (from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008) and promis­ing seeds for future growth, com­bined with increased con­fu­sion giv­en aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims and lack of edu­ca­tion and stan­dards. The report includes, for the first time, a Mar­ket & Research Momen­tum Matrix to cat­e­go­rize 21 key ven­dors, 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs writ­ten by 12 lead­ing sci­en­tists, and the com­plete results of our mar­ket sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents. You can learn more, and acquire the report, Here.

News and Resources

Cog­ni­tive Health News April Round-Up: New cog­ni­tive track at the Games for Health con­fer­ence, bilin­gual brains, poverty’s effect on the brain and work­ing mem­o­ry due to stress, dia­betes, neu­roen­hanc­ing drugs, Kellogg’s set­tle­ment with the FTC, neu­rocog­ni­tive test­ing in the mil­i­tary.

Nor­mal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy shares his very insight­ful views on the key ques­tion, “How can we help the pub­lic at large to dis­tin­guish Alzheimer’s Dis­ease from nor­mal aging — so that an inter­est in ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn’t trans­late into unneed­ed wor­ries?”, based on his recent book The Alzheimer’s Action Plan.

Upcom­ing Guide

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: It seems every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which often con­tra­dict what you read the month before: Does Gingko Bilo­ba improve mem­o­ry? Can phys­i­cal exer­cise help you stay sharp as you age? Which brain fit­ness pro­gram”, if any, is worth your mon­ey? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant for mem­o­ry and the brain?. This new book (avail­able both in print and Kin­dle ver­sions) aims to answer those ques­tions -and more. We will send you an email announce­ment when the book is ready for pur­chase, in late May.

The Big Pic­ture

Do Art Class­es Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans, through our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine, offers a very thought­ful review of the evi­dence. She also chal­lenges us by ask­ing, “Now, is this the right ques­tion?”

Improv­ing the world, and one’s brain, at the same time: The Gold­man Envi­ron­men­tal Prize recent­ly rec­og­nized sev­en social entre­pre­neurs who are clear­ly help­ing improve the state of the world. Now, the “state of the world” does include their very own brains — as you may have seen in a recent study.

Brain Teasers

Brain plas­tic­i­ty and dai­ly live: If you lived in Lon­don, and want­ed to grow your hip­pocam­pus, which job would you choose?

Stim­u­late your Con­cen­tra­tion Skills: when one real­ly wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon chal­lenges you to count a few sim­ple let­ters.

Have a great May

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