Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Debunking 10 Cognitive Health and Fitness Myths

As part of the research behind the book The Sharp­Brains Guide for Brain Fit­ness we inter­viewed dozens of lead­ing cog­ni­tive health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and experts world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have a num­ber of take-aways to report.

What Santiago Ramon y Cajal can we clear­ly say today that we could­n’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­a­go Ramon y Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tu­ry, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­i­ty in the XXI.

And trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process, since Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Fitness and Brain Improvement: 10 Debunked Myths

Over the last year we have inter­viewed a num­ber of lead­ing brain health and fit­ness sci­en­tists and prac­ti­tion­ers world­wide to learn about their research and thoughts, and have news to report.

What can we say today that we could­n’t have said only 10 years ago? That what neu­ro­science pio­neer San­ti­a­go Ramon ySantiago Ramon y Cajal Cajal claimed in the XX cen­tu­ry, “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”, may well become real­i­ty in the XXI. And influ­ence Edu­ca­tion, Health, Train­ing, and Gam­ing in the process.

We have only scratched the sur­face of what sci­ence-based struc­tured cog­ni­tive (i.e., men­tal) exer­cise can do for brain health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. We are now wit­ness­ing the birth of a new indus­try that cross­es tra­di­tion­al sec­tor bound­aries and that may help us under­stand, assess and train our brains, har­ness­ing the grow­ing research about neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons), neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence), cog­ni­tive train­ing and emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion.

Let’s now debunk 10 myths, still too preva­lent, that may pre­vent us from see­ing the full poten­tial of this emerg­ing field:

Myth 1: It’s all in our genes.

Real­i­ty: A big com­po­nent of our life­long brain health and devel­op­ment depends on what we do with our brains. Our own actions, not only our genes, influ­ence our lives to a large extent. Genes pre­dis­pose us, not deter­mine our fates.

Indi­vid­u­als who lead men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s. Stud­ies sug­gest that they have 35–40% less risk of man­i­fest­ing the dis­ease” — Dr. Yaakov Stern, Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty.

Myth 2: The field of Cognitive/ Brain Fit­ness is too new to be cred­i­ble.

Real­i­ty: The field rests on sol­id foun­da­tions dat­ing back more decades — what is new is the num­ber and range of tools that are now start­ing to be avail­able for healthy indi­vid­u­als.

Rig­or­ous and tar­get­ed cog­ni­tive train­ing has been used in clin­i­cal prac­tice for many years. Exer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies.” — Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, Frontal Lobes fMRIclin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of Alexan­der Luria.

Today, thanks to fMRI and oth­er neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, we are start­ing to under­stand the impact our actions can have on spe­cif­ic parts of the brain.” — Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research.

Myth 3: Med­ica­tion is and will remain the only evi­dence-based inter­ven­tion for a num­ber of brain-relat­ed prob­lems.

Real­i­ty: Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams are start­ing to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health and Fitness Workshops

Today I have an announce­ment to make. You prob­a­bly are seeing all the arti­cles about Brain Fit­ness in the press and wondering, “What is this all about?”, “Can some­one help me nav­i­gate through all the pro­grams out there?”, “How is Brain Fit­ness rel­e­vant to me in my per­son­al life or at work?”. Well…we are deliv­er­ing a series of work­shops to com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions com­bin­ing mod­ules ‑includ­ing sci­en­tif­ic overview, the indus­try trends and key play­ers, fun team-build­ing exer­cis­es- that can be tai­lored to each orga­ni­za­tion’s spe­cif­ic needs. Ses­sions last from 1 to 6 hours, depend­ing on the group’s com­po­si­tion and agen­da and are deliv­ered either in per­son or via web con­fer­ence.

We want to be able to reach more orga­ni­za­tions, so please let us know of any ideas!

Some recent examples

1. Man­ag­ing Stress for Peak Per­for­mance (we men­tioned some notes on an Accen­ture ses­sion)

New and chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions – such as tak­ing on new respon­si­bil­i­ties– can trig­ger reac­tions in our brain and body that lim­it or even block our deci­sion-mak­ing abil­i­ties. These reac­tions may also harm our long-term brain pow­er and health. Although we can­not avoid change and stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, we can learn how to man­age our stress lev­els to ensure peak per­for­mance-even in tough moments. The lat­est neu­ro­science research proves that stress man­age­ment is a train­able “men­tal mus­cle.” This is true for any high pres­sure pro­fes­sion, be it trad­ing, sports, or sim­ply mod­ern life.

2. The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness (sim­i­lar to what I will teach at UC Berke­ley OLLI)

Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have shown how the human brain retains neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty to rewire itself) and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons) dur­ing its full life­time, lead­ing to a new under­stand­ing of Read the rest of this entry »

Customer Satisfaction Survey/ Tech Museum Awards

We usu­al­ly spend more time in this blog talk­ing about brain fit­ness sci­ence, pro­grams and trends than talk­ing about peo­ple. Today we are going to change that, since we have been receiv­ing great feed­back from a num­ber of sources. While we still need to improve a lot, we can start to see the results of what we do in our “brain fit­ness cen­ter”. And we could­n’t be hap­pi­er about the nom­i­na­tion this week of Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and myself, as Sharp­Brains cofounders, for The Tech Muse­um Awards — Tech­nol­o­gy Ben­e­fit­ing Human­i­ty, in the Health cat­e­go­ry.

I. Anony­mous Feed­back from an online sur­vey of our online store cus­tomers

  • 58% respon­dents are Very Sat­is­fied, and 42% Sat­is­fied, with the prod­ucts and ser­vices they chose. I promise that there were more options (Dis­sat­is­fied, Very Dis­sat­is­fied)
  • As a trad­er, I real­ly need to sus­tain atten­tion for long peri­ods. Your pro­gram (here) has been eye-open­ing and very help­ful.”
  • I LOVE the pro­gram! It is fun, chal­lenges me and gives me hope for improv­ing in the areas where I have lim­i­ta­tions. Staff sup­port & edu­ca­tion­al infor­ma­tion has been great. It is very impor­tant to be able to talk to some­one about the ques­tions or process prob­lems that we experience…your mem­ber on-line site gives us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get answers & need­ed sup­port. Thanks for all you are doing. My hus­band and I love get­ting feed­back about our progress…it is a very pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence!”
  • Keep devel­op­ing pro­grams so when we fin­ish doing the Mind­Fit (here) pro­gram there will be anoth­er one to build upon the first! I am impressed at how well your pro­grams are indi­vid­u­al­ized. Good Job to all involved!”
  • Good, I enjoy the games (here) and I can tell a dif­fer­ence in my mem­o­ry and over­all aware­ness.”

II. Feed­back about our Stress Man­age­ment for Peak Per­for­mance work­shop (here)

  • Accen­ture: 46 per­cent of sur­vey respon­dents Strong­ly Agreed that they “gained prac­ti­cal skills and knowl­edge they could start using imme­di­ate­ly.” 69 per­cent Strong­ly Agreed Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health Newsletter, March Edition

We hope you are enjoy­ing Brain Aware­ness Week this week and hope­ful­ly think­ing a lit­tle more about your brain and brain fit­ness! Below you have the Brain Fit­ness Newslet­ter we sent a few days ago. You can sub­scribe to this month­ly email update in the box on the the top of this page.

We have had anoth­er busy month behind us, and we’re look­ing for­ward to Brain Aware­ness Week March 12–18. Keep read­ing for the details (includ­ing a spe­cial offer in hon­or of Brain Aware­ness Week) …

I. Press Cov­er­age
II. Events
III. Pro­gram Reviews
IV. New Offer­ings
V. Web­site and Blog Sum­ma­ry, includ­ing brain teasers

Read the rest of this entry »

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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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