Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Preventive Medicine for Brain Health

brainGiven the current political climate, we are pleased to host this thought-provoking article by 2 of our Expert Contributors. Dear Mr or Mrs Next President: how can you help our minds take better care of our brains?


Ask Not What The Health System Can Do For You…

— By Simon J. Evans, PhD and Paul R. Burghardt, PhD.

With the presidential debates gearing up again we are sure to hear more about health care. But we propose a slightly different question. In addition to asking how we can get more people healthcare coverage, we should also ask why so many people are sick in the first place.

The words of John Kennedy might today be, “Ask not what the health care system can do for you. Ask what you can do to reduce the health care burden”. But before delving into what we can do, let’s take a look at some realities that our next president could face in their first ‘State of the Union’ address.

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Cognitive training research: MindFit, Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed

The field of computer-based cognitive training (part of what we call “Brain Fitness”) is starting to get traction in the media and becoming an emerging industry, and we are happy to see how a growing number of researchers and science-based companies are leading studies that will allow to better measure results and refine the brain exercise software available.

Published new research

  • Computerized working memory training after stroke-A pilot study. A published study on how Cogmed working memory training may help stroke patients. See the reference at Cogmed Research page (and full article here)
  • The Journals of Gerontology published a series of related papers in their June issue, including this by Karlene Ball, Jerri D. Edwards, and Lesley A. Ross on The Impact of Speed of Processing Training on Cognitive and Everyday Functions, J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2007 62: 19-31.  Abstract: “We combined data from six studies, all using the same speed of processing training program, to examine the mechanisms of training gain and the impact of training on cognitive and everyday abilities of older adults. Results indicated that training produces immediate improvements across all subtests of the Useful Field of View test, particularly for older adults with initial speed of processing deficits. Age and education had little to no impact on training gain. Participants maintained benefits of training for at least 2 years, which translated to improvements in everyday abilities, including efficient performance of instrumental activities of daily living and safer driving performance.”

Ongoing/ starting research

Attention deficits: drugs, therapy, cognitive training

Shelley launched a good discussion on The Neuroscience of ADHD in her blog, discussing the situation and providing a technical overview of drug-based interventions. Something I hadn’t heard is that “For example, babies born prematurely face a significantly greater risk of developing ADHD than full-term babies (socioeconomic status was controlled for).”

Which helps me better understand the need to think about pre-schoolers, as discussed in the article Diagnosing ADD/ ADHD in Preschoolers, at ADDitude Magazine. I quote:

  • “The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study, or PATS, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is the first long-term study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of treating preschoolers with ADHD with behavioral therapy, and then, in some cases, methylphenidate. In the first stage, the children (303 preschoolers with severe ADHD, between the ages of three and five) and their parents participated in a 10-week behavioral therapy course. For one third of the children, ADHD symptoms improved so dramatically with behavior therapy alone that they did not progress to the ADHD medication phase of the study.”

As Shelley’s post and the article explain, drugs do help when used appropriately. Now, they are not the only answer. I am happy to see that behavioral therapy can be as useful when appropriate. Which is not a surprise, given the growing literature on different methods of cognitive training, including therapy and working memory training like the one discussed with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gibson and in our post Cognitive Neuroscience and ADD/ADHD Today.

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