Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Study: Brain changes seen in cabbies who take ‘The Knowledge’

Brain changes seen in cabbies who take ‘The Knowledge (BBC Health):

“The structure of a London taxi driver’s brain changes during the grueling process of learning the quickest way around the capital, scans reveal. Dozens of trainee drivers had MRI scans before and after they acquired “The Knowledge”, memorizing hundreds of journeys and street names.

The University College London team, writing in Current Biology, found brain parts linked to memory grew bigger. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain News: Lifelong Learning for Cognitive Health

Here you have the March edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health Brain Fitnessand brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page. I know I am biased – but do believe this Newsletter issue might well be our best so far. I hope you find the time to enjoy it!

Bird’s Eye View

Top Articles and Resources in March: Highlights – a) great articles in SciAm Mind and the Wall Street Journal, b) new resources (book and free DVD) by the Dana Foundation, c) research studies on how our cognitive abilities tend to evolve as we age, the impact of physical exercise on the brain, the lack of long-term effectiveness of ADHD drugs, and how working memory training may benefit math performance.

Brain Fitness Survey: Over 2,000 thoughtful responses to our January survey (Thank You!) reinforce the need for public awareness initiatives and quality information to help evaluate and navigate lifestyle and product claims, as well as the need for more research, an expanded healthcare culture, as more. Given this context, we are publishing The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness in May 2009, a book with 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, in addition to our annual market report for professionals and executives (to be published in April). If you have ideas to help us promote the book, please reply to this email and let us know!

Lifelong Learning

Elderhostel’s Marty Knowlton dies at 88: He helped launch Elderhostel, reinvented “aging”, “retirement” and “learning”, and contributed to the brain fitness of millions of individuals as a result.

MetLife Mature Market Institute Report: Gerontologist Fay Radding presents the findings of a recent MetLife report, concluding that “As individuals age, meaningful interactions and purposeful activity become even more valued and crucial to cognitive health- and cognitive health itself becomes more of a priority.”

Change Your Environment, Change Yourself: Dr. Brett Steenbarger explains in his recent book that, “The greatest enemy of change is routine. When we lapse into routine and operate on autopilot, we are no longer fully and actively conscious of what we’re doing and why. That is why some of the most fertile situations for personal growth those that occur within new environments are those that force us to exit our routines and actively master unfamiliar challenges.”

Food for Thought

Michael Merzenich: Brain Plasticity offers Hope for Everyone: Dr. Ginger Campbell recently interviewed Dr. Michael Merzenich. Podcast Quote: “Whatever you struggle with in a sense as it stems from your neurology, the inherent plasticity of the brain gives you a basis for improvement. This is a way underutilized and under-appreciated resource that well all have.”

Therapy vs. Medication, Conflicts of Interest, and Intimidation: What started as an academic dispute regarding disclosure of conflict of interest is now snowballing. Dr. Jonathan Leo criticized two important aspects of a recent a study published in JAMA that compared the efficacy of therapy vs. medication. JAMA editors then tried to intimidate Dr. Leo and his university. An investigation by the American Medical Association is under way.

ETech09 on Life Hacking and Brain Training: Here you have the presentation Alvaro Fernandez delivered at O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2009, a gathering of technology pioneers with a growing interest in science and biology topics.

Attention!

Distracted in the Workplace?: In a very-thoughtful 2-part interview (part 1 here, part 2 here), author Maggie Jackson challenges us to “First, question the values that venerate McThinking and undermine attention.”

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.

Twitter

Finally, I wanted to let you know that you can follow quick SharpBrains updates and some of my thoughts via Twitter: http://twitter.com/AlvaroF

Have a great National Car Care Month in April! (now, wouldn’t you please pay at least equal attention to Brain Care than to Car Care?)

Teaching is the art of changing the brain

James Zull is a professor of Biology. He is also Director Emeritus of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The Art of Changing  the Brain - James ZullThese roles most assuredly coalesced in his 2002 book, The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.

This is a book for both teachers and parents (because parents are also teachers!) Written with the earnestness of first-person experience and reflection, and a lifetime of expertise in biology, Zull makes a well-rounded case for his ideas. He offers those ideas for your perusal, providing much supporting evidence, but he doesn’t try to ram them into your psyche. Rather, he practices what he preaches by engaging you with stories, informing you with fact, and encouraging your thinking by the way he posits his ideas.

I have read a number of books that translate current brain research into practice while providing practical suggestions for teachers to implement. This is the first book I have read that provides a biological, and clearly rational, overview of learning and the brain. Zull provokes you into thinking Read the rest of this entry »

Training Young Brains to Behave

Great article in the New York Times titled Training Young Brains to Behave. A couple of quotes:

– “But just as biology shapes behavior, so behavior can accelerate biology. And a small group of educational and cognitive scientists now say that mental exercises of a certain kind can teach children to become more self-possessed at earlier ages, reducing stress levels at home and improving their experience in school. Researchers can test this ability, which they call executive function, and they say it is more strongly associated with school success than I.Q.”

– “We know that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the 20s, and some people will ask, Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Work as a Brain Fitness Program

Here you have the twice-a-month newsletter with our most popular blog posts. Please brainremember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, simply by submitting your email at the top of this page.

There is one type of “brain fitness program” which is not only free but also pays you back. You guessed it, that program is your “job”. Our occupations can provide beneficial mental exercise if they incorporate the key ingredients of novelty, variety, and challenge, and are not a source of chronic stress.

We start today’s newsletter with two articles related to the brain value of having mentally stimulating jobs.

Your Brain At Work

Your Brain At Work Brochure: Aren’t “talent” and “human capital” all about brain fitness and cognitive performance, really? Individuals and Human Resources departments can access excellent cognitive fitness tips, an action plan, and a great brochure provided by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Conference Board for our readers.

ABC Reporter Bob Woodruff’s Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury: Former US presidential contender and Senator John Edwards recently granted an interview to reporter Bob Woodruff. The most remarkable aspect of the interview? Bob Woodruff’s spectacular recovery from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq 2 years ago. You can’t miss this interview with his wife Lee, where we discuss Bob’s recovery process (including making a documentary, co-writing a book and other projects at ABC), the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and the overall challenge of cognitive rehabilitation following traumatic brain injuries.

Research

Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s “Recollections of My Life”: Remarkable and candid views on neuroplasticity, learning, aging and life, straight from the autobiography of one of the founders of modern neuroscience, who once said “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.”

Can food improve brain health?: Dr. Pascale Michelon provides an overview of the effects of food on the brain, building on Fernando Gomez-Pinilla’s recent study in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Candidates for “brainy” foods contain: Omega-3 fatty acid, folic acid, flavonoids, anti-oxidant foods. Please note her warning, though: most of the studies showing positive effects have been conducted in mice.

The biology of aging: A monthly virtual gathering of bloggers to discuss Biology of Aging topics including research, policy, lifestyle guidance, and open questions. We are aware that “aging” may not be the sexiest  of words in our vocabulary… unless you consider the most common alternative.

Technology

Brain Fitness Centers in Senior Housing – A Field in the Making: The American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) has released an Special Issue Brief prepared by SharpBrains to provide quality information on market trends, best practices by leading seniors housing and long-term care organizations, lessons from pilot studies, navigational guidance, and more. If you are a professional or executive in the sector, please consider purchasing a copy.

The Future of Computer-assisted Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy is one of the most researched types of brain training, especially in dealing with depression and anxiety. Why don’t more people benefit today from it? The lack of a scalable distribution model may perhaps explain that. We predict that technology will help complement the role of therapists, helping more people better cope with change, life, anxiety, and a range of cognitive and emotional challenges. Without any stigma. Just as naturally as one trains abdominal muscles today.

Brain Teaser
Games for the Brain: Quick, can you identify what is going on in these photographs?

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We hope you enjoyed this edition. As always, you are welcome to share these articles with friends, and to give us feedback, for extra brain workout.

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