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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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 »

Jogging our Brains for Brain Vitality, Healthy Aging-and Intelligence!

Stroop Test

Quick: say the col­or in which each word in this graph­ic is dis­played (don’t just read the word!):

Here you have a round-up of some great recent arti­cles on mem­o­ry, aging, and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties such as self-con­trol:

1) How to Boost Your Willpow­er (New York Times).

- “The video watch­ers were lat­er giv­en a con­cen­tra­tion test in which they were asked to iden­ti­fy the col­or in which words were dis­played. (Note: now you see why we start­ed with that brain exer­cise…) The word  for instance, might appear in blue ink. The video watch­ers who had sti­fled their respons­es did the worst on the test, sug­gest­ing that their self-con­trol had already been deplet­ed by the film chal­lenge.”

- “Final­ly, some research sug­gests that peo­ple strug­gling with self-con­trol should start small. A few stud­ies show that peo­ple who were instruct­ed for two weeks to make small changes like improv­ing their pos­ture or brush­ing their teeth with their oppo­site hand improved their scores on lab­o­ra­to­ry tests of self-con­trol. The data aren’t con­clu­sive, but they do sug­gest that the quest for self-improve­ment should start small. A vow to stop swear­ing, to make the bed every day or to give up just one food may be a way to strength­en your self-con­trol, giv­ing you more willpow­er reserves for big­ger chal­lenges lat­er.”

Com­ment: learn­ing, build­ing abil­i­ties, are process­es that require prac­tice and grow­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty. Like train­ing our mus­cles in the gym. So the advice to start small and pro­gres­sive­ly do more makes sense. Many times the ene­my of learn­ing is the stress and anx­i­ety we pro­voke by try­ing to do too many things at the same time…

2) Jog­ging Your Mem­o­ry (Newsweek) Thanks Chris for alert­ing us!

- “No one should expect mir­a­cles soon, if at all. But the deep­er sci­en­tists peer into the work­ings of mem­o­ry, the bet­ter they under­stand Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teasers with a Neuroscience angle

Stroop Test Quick! say aloud the col­or you see in every word, DON“T sim­ply read the word.
The Stroop test is used in neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions to mea­sure men­tal vital­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty, since per­form­ing well requires strong impulse-con­trol capa­bil­i­ty.

This is one of the Top 10 Brain Teasers and Games we pro­file here.

Want more teasers? You can check our col­lec­tion here.


Brain Teaser for the Frontal Lobes: Tipping the Scales

Here is a new brain teas­er from puz­zle mas­ter Wes Car­roll.

Tip­ping the Scales

free brain teasers for frontal lobes

The top two scales are in per­fect bal­ance. How many dia­monds will be need­ed to bal­ance the bot­tom set?

This puz­zle works your exec­u­tive func­tions in your frontal lobes by using your pat­tern recog­ni­tion, hypoth­e­sis test­ing, and log­ic.

Four dia­monds


First add up the num­ber of clubs in the first two scales (5). Then count how many clubs are in the bot­tom scale (5). The do the same with the spades, which gets you 5 and 5. There are 4 dia­monds in the top two bal­anced scales. There­fore, it must take 4 dia­monds to bal­ance the third scale since all the oth­er mea­sure­ments are the same.


More brain teas­er games:

Sunday Afternoon Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz to test your mem­o­ry and think­ing skills which should work out your tem­po­ral and frontal lobes. See how you do!

  1. Name the one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors nor the par­tic­i­pants know the score or the leader until the con­test ends.
  2. What famous North Amer­i­can land­mark is con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward?
  3. Of all veg­eta­bles, only two can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons. All oth­er veg­eta­bles must be replant­ed every year. What are the only two peren­ni­al veg­eta­bles?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the out­side?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bot­tle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bot­tle is gen­uine; it has­n’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bot­tle?
  6. Only three words in Stan­dard Eng­lish begin with the let­ters “dw” and they are all com­mon words. Name two of them.
  7. There are 14 punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the one veg­etable or fruit that is nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet begin­ning with the let­ter “S.”


Answers To Quiz:

  1.  The one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors, nor the par­tic­i­pants, know the score or the leader until the con­test ends: box­ing
  2.  The North Amer­i­can land­mark con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward: Nia­gara Falls (the rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the mil­lions of gal­lons of water that rush over it every minute.)
  3. Only two veg­eta­bles that can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons: aspara­gus and rhubarb.
  4. The fruit with its seeds on the out­side: straw­ber­ry.
  5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bot­tle? It grew inside the bot­tle. (The bot­tles are placed over pear buds when they are small and are wired in place on the tree. The bot­tle is left in place for the entire grow­ing sea­son. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)
  6. Three Eng­lish words begin­ning with “dw”: dwarf, dwell, and dwin­dle.
  7. Four­teen punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar: peri­od, com­ma, colon, semi­colon, dash, hyphen, apos­tro­phe, ques­tion mark, excla­ma­tion point, quo­ta­tion marks, brack­ets, paren­the­sis, braces, and ellipses.
  8. The only veg­etable or fruit nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form but fresh: let­tuce.
  9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet begin­ning with “s”: shoes, socks, san­dals, sneak­ers, slip­pers, skis, skates, snow­shoes, stock­ings, stilts.


More brain teas­er games:

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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