If you believe most self-help books, pop-psychology articles, and television therapists, then you probably assume that how people respond to significant life events is pretty predictable. Most of us, according to the “experts,” are affected in just about the same way by a given experience—there is a grieving process that everyone goes through, there is a sequence of events that happens when we fall in love, there is a standard response to being jilted, and there are fairly standard ways almost every normal person reacts to the birth of a child, to being unappreciated at one’s job, to having an unbearable workload, to the challenges of raising teenagers, and to the inevitable changes that occur with aging.
Yesterday we had a fun session on Brain Fitness during the Neuroleadership Summit taking place now in San Francisco, exploring opportunities to enhance performance and health of leaders and workforces by deploying both old tools (like breathing and meditation) and new ones (such as biofeedback and database-driven personalized brain training solutions). Here are a couple of the main ideas I wanted to introduce:
A. Let’s define Brain Fitness as an “integrated approach to enhance brain functionality”, combining as appropriate lifestyle, invasive and non-invasive options. “Brain fitness” is above all an outcome, a culture, similar to “physical fitness” (jokingly, I also said that “brain fitness” is the part of “physical fitness” that “physical fitness” doesn’t yet know what to do with)
B. Then, the question becomes, “what are the most important brain functions to enhance/ develop/ maintain?”. Here I shared the following results [Read more…] about Brain Fitness: Definition, Priorities, and Links to Neuroleadership and Human Capital
The brain has two hemispheres, each divided into four lobes. Each lobe is responsible for different functions. For instance the frontal cortex (in blue below) is responsible for decision making and planning; the temporal lobe (in green) for language and memory; and the parietal lobe (in yellow) for spatial skills. The occipital lobe (in red) is entirely devoted to vision: It is thus the place where visual illusions happen.
The frontal lobe represents around 41% of total cerebral cortex volume; the temporal lobe 22%; the parietal lobe 19%; and the occipital lobe 18%. How the visual system processes shapes, colors, sizes, etc. has been researched for decades. One way to understand more about this system is to look at how we can trick it, that is, to look at how the brain reacts to visual illusions.
10 visual illusions to combine fun and learning about the visual system (You’ll find answers and explanations at the end of the article) [Read more…] about #8. Test your Brain with these 10 Optical Illusions
Different parts of the brain support different functions. One function, central to many of our actions, is “attention”. Attention can be defined as the ability to sustain concentration on a particular object, action, or thought.
It can also be defined as the ability to manage competing demands in our environment.connections between neurons, die. In the brain it is supported mainly by neuronal networks in the parietal (yellow in the figure) and frontal (blue in the figure) lobes.
What can be done to maintain and boost such a fundamental ability?
Dr. Andrew Newberg (Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology and Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania), here interviewed by Alvaro Fernandez (CEO of SharpBrains) suggests that meditation may have cognitive benefits, especially related to attention: [Read more…] about Boost your Attention with Meditation
In this January issue of our eNewsletter, we will first brief you on the enlightening demos that will take place on Wednesday, January 20th, as part of the SharpBrains Summit, and then present the 15 most stimulating SharpBrains articles of 2009.
If you want to see and discuss the latest programs and technologies for brain fitness, presented by Summit Sponsors, Wednesday January 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.
9am. Baycrest/ Cogniciti will introduce the new Memory@Work workshop, designed to teach what memory is, how lifestyle factors such as distraction and stress can affect memory, and how to enhance memory performance at work with the use of enabling strategies.
10am. CogniFit will demo CogniFit Personal Coach and CogniFit Senior Driver, two online programs designed to assess and main cognitive functions for healthy living and safe driving, respectively.
11am. Posit Science will demo InSight, a software-based cognitive training package designed to sharpen brain’s visual system. This is the program being tested by Allstate for safer driving.
Noon. Happy Neuron will introduce HAPPYneuron PRO, a new platform for professionals for the effective delivery and management of cognitive remediation and rehabilitation programs in a patient centric manner.
1pm. SharpBrains will help navigate this growing field by discussing The State of the Brain Fitness Software 2009 report and The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness consumer guide, and summarizing key Summit take-aways.
Learn more and register HERE. Please remember that registration closes on January 17th.
We want to thank our most recent sponsor, the Arrowsmith Program, a comprehensive suite of cognitive programs for students with learning disabilities available in public and private schools in Canada and the U.S. More information here.
And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stimulating articles of 2009.
The Big Picture
100 is the new 65: Why do some people live, and well, to 100? Researchers are trying to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine.
Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin: Scott Barry Kaufman interviews â€œchild prodigyâ€ Joshua Waitzkin on The Art of Learning.
Debunking 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a â€œBrain Ageâ€? Is a Magic Pill to prevent memory problems right around the corner?Â Check out the facts to debunk 10 common myths.
Why is working memory relevant to reading and mathematics: A recent large UK study identified 1 in 10 students as having working memory difficulties. Dr. Tracy Alloway elaborates why this matters.
Change Your Environment, Change Yourself: Dr. Brett Steenbarger explains why new environmentsÂ â€œforce us to exit our routines and actively master unfamiliar challenges.â€
Retooling Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fernandez discusses why routine, doing things inside our comfort zones, is the most common enemy of the novelty, variety and challenge our brains need.
Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pascale Michelon, dissects a couple of recent press releases and the underlying studies to clarifying what they mean â€“ and what they donâ€™t mean.
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.
Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a â€œMozart Effect?â€: Some researchers suggest so; others are not convinced. Karin Evans offers aÂ thoughtful review of the evidence and asks, â€œNow, is this the right question?â€
Does coffee boost cognitive functions over time? Dr. Pascale Michelon reports good news (long-term effects seem more positive than negative, so coffee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear beneficial effects on general brain functions).
Brain fitness heads towards its tipping point: How do you know when something is moving towards a Gladwellian tipping point? When insurance companies and policy makers pay attention, Dr. Gerard Finnemore reports.
Visual Representation of the State of the Market 2009: Paul Van Slembrouck beautifully presents the main findings of our 150-page market report, The State of the Brain Fitness Market 2009.
Michael Merzenich on brain fitness: neuroscientist Michael Merzenich discusses neuroplasticity, technology, safe driving, mental health, and the need for standards, automated assessments and â€œpersonal brain trainersâ€.
Stimulate your Concentration Skills: when one really wants to memorize a fact, it is crucial to pay attention. Dr. Pascale Michelon challenges you to count a few simple letters.
Finally, an article that may inspire some New Year Resolutions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpower, Daniel Goleman discusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 connections to other brain cells. Implication? Meditate, mindfully, and build positive habits.
Wishing you a Happy and Productive 2010, and looking forward to meeting many of you (200 so far) at the inaugural SharpBrains Summit!
A few eternal questions:
— Is caffeine good for the brain?
— Does it boost cognitive functions?
— Does it protect against dementia?
There is little doubt that drinking that morning cup of coffee will likely increase alertness, but the main questions that research is trying to answer go beyond that. Basically: is there a sustained, lifetime, benefit or harm from drinking coffee regularly?
The answer, so far, contains good news and bad news. The good news for coffee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are directionally more positive than negative, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caffeine has beneficial effects on general brain functions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).
It is important to note that many of the studies showing an effect of coffee consumption on brain functions or risks of dementia report a correlation or association (they are not randomized clinical trials). As you know, correlation doesn’t prove causation: coffee drinkers may seem to do well in a number in these long-term studies, but there may be other reasons why coffee drinkers do better.
Q: How does caffeine affect my brain?
A: Caffeine is a stimulant.
It belongs to a chemical group called xanthine. Adenosine is a naturally occurring xanthine in the brain that slows down the activity of brain cells (neurons). To a neuron, caffeine looks like adenosine. It is therefore used by some neurons in place of adenosine. The result is that these neurons speed up instead of slowing down.
This increased neuronal activity triggers the release of the adrenaline hormone, which will affect your body [Read more…] about Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?