Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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?

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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.

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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