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Update: Expo Day; Top 15 Articles of 2009

In this Jan­u­ary issue of our eNewslet­ter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlight­en­ing demos that will take place on Wednes­day, Jan­u­ary 20th, as part of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, and then present the 15 most stim­u­lat­ing Sharp­Brains arti­cles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and dis­cuss the lat­est pro­grams and tech­nolo­gies for brain fit­ness, pre­sent­ed by Sum­mit Spon­sors, Wednes­day Jan­u­ary 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 min­utes, fol­lowed by 15 min­utes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cog­nic­i­ti will intro­duce the new Memory@Work work­shop, designed to teach what mem­o­ry is, how lifestyle fac­tors such as dis­trac­tion and stress can affect mem­o­ry, and how to enhance mem­o­ry per­for­mance at work with the use of enabling strate­gies.

10am. Cog­niFit will demo Cog­niFit Per­son­al Coach and Cog­niFit Senior Dri­ver, two online pro­grams designed to assess and main cog­ni­tive func­tions for healthy liv­ing and safe dri­ving, respec­tive­ly.

11am. Posit Sci­ence will demo InSight, a soft­ware-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pack­age designed to sharp­en brain’s visu­al sys­tem. This is the pro­gram being test­ed by All­state for safer dri­ving.

Noon. Hap­py Neu­ron will intro­duce HAP­PYneu­ron PRO, a new plat­form for pro­fes­sion­als for the effec­tive deliv­ery and man­age­ment of cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams in a patient cen­tric man­ner.

1pm. Sharp­Brains will help nav­i­gate this grow­ing field by dis­cussing The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware 2009 report and The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness con­sumer guide, and sum­ma­riz­ing key Sum­mit take-aways.

Learn more and reg­is­ter HERE. Please remem­ber that reg­is­tra­tion clos­es on Jan­u­ary 17th.

We want to thank our most recent spon­sor, the Arrow­smith Pro­gram, a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties avail­able in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in Cana­da and the U.S. More infor­ma­tion here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stim­u­lat­ing arti­cles of 2009.

The Big Pic­ture

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Bar­ry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodi­gy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learn­ing.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Mag­ic Pill to pre­vent mem­o­ry prob­lems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths.

Why is work­ing mem­o­ry rel­e­vant to read­ing and math­e­mat­ics: A recent large UK study iden­ti­fied 1 in 10 stu­dents as hav­ing work­ing mem­o­ry dif­fi­cul­ties. Dr. Tra­cy Alloway elab­o­rates why this mat­ters.

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barg­er explains why new envi­ron­ments  force us to exit our rou­tines and active­ly mas­ter unfa­mil­iar chal­lenges.”

Tools

Retool­ing Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez dis­cuss­es why rou­tine, doing things inside our com­fort zones, is the most com­mon ene­my of the nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge our brains need.

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, dis­sects a cou­ple of recent press releas­es and the under­ly­ing stud­ies to clar­i­fy­ing what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabin­er reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled tri­al on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Do Art Class­es Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans offers a  thought­ful review of the evi­dence and asks, “Now, is this the right ques­tion?”

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reports good news (long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­er­al brain func­tions).

Indus­try

Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When insur­ance com­pa­nies and pol­i­cy mak­ers pay atten­tion, Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore reports.

Visu­al Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the State of the Mar­ket 2009: Paul Van Slem­brouck beau­ti­ful­ly presents the main find­ings of our 150-page mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fit­ness: neu­ro­sci­en­tist Michael Merzenich dis­cuss­es neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, tech­nol­o­gy, safe dri­ving, men­tal health, and the need for stan­dards, auto­mat­ed assess­ments and “per­son­al brain train­ers”.

Brain Teas­er

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.

Res­o­lu­tion

Final­ly, an arti­cle that may inspire some New Year Res­o­lu­tions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpow­er, Daniel Gole­man dis­cuss­es how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are need­ed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to oth­er brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­ful­ly, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Wish­ing you a Hap­py and Pro­duc­tive 2010, and look­ing for­ward to meet­ing many of you (200 so far) at the inau­gur­al Sharp­Brains Sum­mit!

Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning

Arts edu­ca­tion influ­ences learn­ing and oth­er areas of cog­ni­tion and may deserve a more promi­nent place in schools, accord­ing to a wave of recent neu­ro­science research.One recent study found that chil­dren who receive music instruc­tion for just 15 months show strength­ened con­nec­tions in musi­cal­ly rel­e­vant brain areas and per­form bet­ter on asso­ci­at­ed tasks, com­pared with stu­dents who do not learn an instru­ment.

A sep­a­rate study found that chil­dren who receive train­ing to improve their focus and atten­tion per­form bet­ter not only on atten­tion tasks but also on intel­li­gence tests. Some researchers sug­gest that arts train­ing might sim­i­lar­ly affect a wide range of cog­ni­tive domains. Edu­ca­tors and neu­ro­sci­en­tists gath­ered recent­ly in Bal­ti­more and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to dis­cuss the increas­ing­ly detailed pic­ture of how arts edu­ca­tion changes the brain, and how to trans­late that research to edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and the class­room. Many par­tic­i­pants referred to the results of Dana Foun­da­tion-fund­ed research by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists from sev­en lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties over three years, released in 2008.

Art must do some­thing to the mind and brain. What is that? How would we be able to detect that? asked Bar­ry Gor­don, a behav­ioral neu­rol­o­gist and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, who spoke May 8 dur­ing the “Learn­ing and the Brain” con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “Art, I sub­mit to you with­out absolute proof, can improve the pow­er of our minds. How­ev­er, this improve­ment is hard to detect.”

Study links music, brain changes

Among the sci­en­tists try­ing to detect such improve­ment, Ellen Win­ner, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Boston Col­lege, and Got­tfried Schlaug, a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter and Har­vard Med­ical School, pre­sent­ed research at the “Learn­ing, Arts, and the Brain sum­mit May 6 in Bal­ti­more. Their work mea­sured, for the first time, changes to the brain as a result of music train­ing.

For four years, Win­ner and Schlaug fol­lowed chil­dren ages 9 to 11, some of whom Read the rest of this entry »

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

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

At a time when edu­ca­tors are pre­oc­cu­pied with stan­dards, test­ing, and the bot­tom line, some researchers sug­gest the arts can boost stu­dents’ test scores; oth­ers aren’t con­vinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and nation­al endow­ment for the Arts Chair­man Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Com­mence­ment Address at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, he used the occa­sion to deliv­er an impas­sioned argu­ment for the val­ue of the arts and arts edu­ca­tion.

Art is an irre­place­able way of under­stand­ing and express­ing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as sto­ries, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, con­soles. It edu­cates our emo­tions.”

For years, arts advo­cates like Gioia have been mak­ing sim­i­lar pleas, stress­ing the intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of the arts at a time when many Amer­i­cans are pre­oc­cu­pied with a market–driven cul­ture of enter­tain­ment, and schools are con­sumed with meet­ing fed­er­al stan­dards. Art brings joy, these advo­cates say, or it evokes our human­i­ty, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daugh­ter, “It cools kids down after all the oth­er hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bol­ster­ing the case for the arts has become increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary in recent years, as school bud­get cuts and the move toward stan­dard­ized test­ing have pro­found­ly threat­ened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment start­ed assess­ing school dis­tricts by their stu­dents’ scores on read­ing and math­e­mat­ics tests.

As a result, accord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy, school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States increased the time they devot­ed to test­ed subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cut­ting spend­ing on non–tested sub­jects such as the visu­al arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB stan­dards, the more time and mon­ey was devot­ed to those test­ed sub­jects, with less going to the arts. The Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion has report­ed that the cuts fall hard­est on schools with high num­bers of minor­i­ty chil­dren.

And the sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to wors­en as state bud­gets get even tighter. Already, in a round of fed­er­al edu­ca­tion cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts edu­ca­tion nation­al­ly was slashed by $35 mil­lion. In 2008, the New York City Depart­ment of Education’s annu­al study of Read the rest of this entry »

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