Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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DARPA invests in nonsurgical neurotechnologies for eventual use in healthy human subjects

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Non­sur­gi­cal Neur­al Inter­faces Could Sig­nif­i­cant­ly Expand Use of Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy (DARPA News):

Over the past two decades, the inter­na­tion­al bio­med­ical research com­mu­ni­ty has demon­strat­ed increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed ways to allow a person’s brain to com­mu­ni­cate with a device, allow­ing break­throughs aimed at improv­ing qual­i­ty of life, such as access to com­put­ers and the inter­net, and more recent­ly con­trol of a pros­thet­ic limb.

The state of the art in brain-sys­tem com­mu­ni­ca­tions has employed inva­sive tech­niques that allow pre­cise, high-qual­i­ty con­nec­tions to spe­cif­ic neu­rons or groups of neu­rons. These tech­niques have helped patients with brain injury and oth­er ill­ness­es. How­ev­er, these tech­niques are not appro­pri­ate for able-bod­ied peo­ple. DARPA now seeks to achieve high lev­els of brain-sys­tem com­mu­ni­ca­tions with­out surgery, in its new pro­gram, Next-Gen­er­a­tion Non­sur­gi­cal Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy (N3). Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Anna Wexler to discuss the Present and Future of DIY Brain Enhancement at the 2017 SharpBrains Virtual Summit (December 5–7th)

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Proud to con­firm that Dr. Anna Wexler, a sci­ence writer, film­mak­er and post­doc fel­low in advanced bio­med­ical ethics at the Depart­ment of Med­ical Ethics & Health Pol­i­cy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, will dis­cuss the Present and Future of DIY Brain Enhance­ment (espe­cial­ly brain stim­u­la­tion modal­i­ties such as tDCS) at the upcom­ing 2017 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit.

Her research cen­ters on the eth­i­cal, legal and social impli­ca­tions of emerg­ing neu­rotech­nol­o­gy. Dr. Wexler received Read the rest of this entry »

Required: Deep partnerships between industry and academia to upgrade healthcare and biomedical research via Big Data

Join the dis­rup­tors of health sci­ence (Nature):

Thomas R. Insel’s biggest les­son from his shift from NIMH direc­tor to Sil­i­con Val­ley entre­pre­neur: aca­d­e­m­ic and tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­ny researchers should part­ner up.

In ear­ly 2015, I tes­ti­fied with sev­er­al oth­er Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) direc­tors at an annu­al hear­ing held by the US Sen­ate. It was my 13th and final year as direc­tor of the US Nation­al Insti­tute of Men­tal Health (NIMH) in Bethes­da, Mary­land. What struck me most was how Read the rest of this entry »

Mixed reaction to new BRAIN initiative

BRAINinitiativeMap­ping the mind—smart think­ing for brain health? (The Lancet):  “…Will the real­i­ty match the ambi­tion? Reac­tion has been mixed…Given that our brains change, learn, think, remem­ber, and are shaped by our expe­ri­ences, inter­ac­tions with oth­er peo­ple, and soci­ety, map­ping the elec­tri­cal spikes in the brain seems an over­ly restric­tive bio­med­ical approach to under­stand­ing the most com­plex organ in the human body. It is also doubt­ful that this approach will yield cures for con­di­tions such as Parkinson’s dis­ease and Alzheimer’s dis­ease as purported…There are also non-bio­med­ical aspects of brain dis­or­ders that require urgent atten­tion. For exam­ple, access to psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ments for depres­sion world­wide is woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate…”

Relat­ed arti­cles:

Dr. Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs to Enhance Cognitive Fitness and Brain Health

Art KramerDr. Arthur Kramer is a Pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy, the Cam­pus Neu­ro­science Pro­gram, the Beck­man Insti­tute, and the Direc­tor of the Bio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by try­ing to clar­i­fy some exist­ing mis­con­cep­tions and con­tro­ver­sies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (ref­er­enced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you sug­gest to a per­son who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms and improve over­all brain health?

First, Be Active. Do phys­i­cal exer­cise. Aer­o­bic exer­cise, 30 to 60 min­utes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments. And you don’t need to do some­thing stren­u­ous: even walk­ing has shown that effect. There are many open ques­tions in terms of spe­cif­ic types of exer­cise, dura­tion, mag­ni­tude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science arti­cle, there is lit­tle doubt that lead­ing a seden­tary life is bad for our cog­ni­tive health. Car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to have a pos­i­tive effect.

Sec­ond, Main­tain Life­long Intel­lec­tu­al Engage­ment. There is abun­dant prospec­tive obser­va­tion­al research show­ing that doing more men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties reduces the risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms.

Let me add, giv­en all media hype, that no “brain game” in par­tic­u­lar has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the main­te­nance of cog­ni­tion across extend­ed peri­ods of time. It is too ear­ly for that-and con­sumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some com­pa­nies are being more sci­ence-based than oth­ers but, in my view, the con­sumer-ori­ent­ed field is grow­ing faster than the research is.

Ide­al­ly, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grat­ed and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more like­ly we will do them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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