Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness Essentials

This Huff­in­g­ton Post arti­cle is writ­ten by Dr. Cyn­thia Green, an active mem­ber of the Friends of SharpBrains.com: Inno­va­tion to Enhance Brain Fit­ness group on LinkedIn. A good reminder of what we should all do to boost our brain fit­ness:

get­ting off the couch and on your feet

main­tain­ing a healthy weight with a low ratio of bel­ly fat

Lead­ing a brain-health­ful lifestyle

Play games against the clock

Learn sim­ple strate­gies to enhance your dai­ly recall

Look for activ­i­ties out of your com­fort zone

Let’s add to this list man­ag­ing your stress (via med­i­ta­tion or phys­i­cal exer­cise for instance), stay­ing social­ly con­nect­ed, and read­ing inter­est­ing and stim­u­lat­ing posts! For more info, revis­it our read­ers’ favorite one: The Ten Habits of High­ly Effec­tive Brains

How are Young Brains Affected by Stress?

Stress man­age­ment is among the pil­lars of brain health main­te­nance. High and sus­tained lev­els of stress can indeed dam­age neu­rons, espe­cial­ly in areas of the brain respon­si­ble for learn­ing and mem­o­ry.

What about the effect of stress on the devel­op­ing brains of infants and chil­dren? What are the cog­ni­tive con­se­quences? How can these be pre­vent­ed? This inter­est­ing arti­cle reports find­ings from both ani­mal and human research answer­ing these ques­tions:

Brain devel­op­ment goes through sen­si­tive peri­ods dur­ing which stres­sors and nur­tur­ing expe­ri­ences can have last­ing effects

Chaos in the home and incon­sis­tent par­ent­ing impairs devel­op­ment of self reg­u­la­to­ry behav­iors, Read the rest of this entry »

Maintain Your Brain and Stay Sharp: An Upcoming Guide and Resource

You may be read­ing all about brain fit­ness and brain train­ing. It seems every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which often con­tra­dict what you read the month before: Does Gingko Bilo­ba help delay Alzheimer’s Dis­ease? Can phys­i­cal exer­cise help you stay sharp as you age? Which com­put­er-based “brain fit­ness pro­grams”, if any, are worth your mon­ey?

All this cov­er­age reflects very excit­ing sci­en­tif­ic find­ings but also pos­es a key dilem­ma: How to become an informed life­long learn­er and con­sumer when there are few and con­tra­dic­to­ry author­i­ta­tive guide­lines?

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (to be pub­lished in May 2009; $24.95) aims to fill that void. This guide is the result of over a year of exten­sive research includ­ing more than a hun­dred inter­views with sci­en­tists, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers, and a deep lit­er­a­ture review. Below you have some of the main find­ings from our effort. The guide not only cov­ers these aspects in more depth and offers prac­ti­cal guid­ance, but also includes 18 inter­views with promi­nent sci­en­tists to help you under­stand the research bet­ter.

Can we intro­duce you to your Brain?

The Guide will start at the obvi­ous start­ing point: The Human Brain. In order to make informed deci­sions about brain health, one needs to first under­stand the basic orga­ni­za­tion of the human brain and how it tends to change as we get old­er.

* The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of regions serv­ing dis­tinct func­tions. For­get IQ: our life and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty depend on a vari­ety of brain func­tions, not just one.

* There is noth­ing inher­ent­ly fixed in the tra­jec­to­ry of how brain func­tions evolve as we age. Your lifestyle, actions, and even thoughts, do mat­ter.

The 4 Pil­lars of Brain Main­te­nance

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty is the life­long capac­i­ty of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. The lat­est sci­en­tif­ic research shows that spe­cif­ic lifestyles and actions can, no mat­ter our age, improve the health and lev­el of func­tion­ing of our brains.

What fac­tors seem to have the most influ­ence? Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Survey: We Need More Brain Awareness Weeks!

If you sub­scribe to our month­ly newslet­ter, you may remem­ber we ran a sur­vey in Jan­u­ary. Well, the response rate and the qual­i­ty of the respons­es were noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar, in many dimen­sions. The respons­es from over 2,000 par­tic­i­pants (out of 21,000 sub­scribers) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate prod­uct claims.

I have been pre­sent­ing the results from one of the ques­tions (see below), yes­ter­day at the ASA/ NCOA (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging) event, today at IHRSA (Inter­na­tion­al Health, Rac­quet and Sports­club Asso­ci­a­tion), as part of more com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tions of what is going on in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health field.

An obvi­ous impli­ca­tion for the sur­vey result rein­forces the need for brain-relat­ed pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns such as the ongo­ing Brain Aware­ness Week. Every year, land­mark research find­ings open new oppor­tu­ni­ties to help main­tain life­long cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness. The oppor­tu­ni­ty is immense — but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, help­ing con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als sep­a­rate hope from hype and make informed deci­sions.

Robin Klaus, Chair­man of Club One Fit­ness Cen­ters (the com­pa­ny is a client, he is an advi­sor), just gave us a nice quote say­ing that “as our pop­u­la­tion ages the fields of phys­i­cal fit­ness and brain fit­ness will nat­u­ral­ly merge and, as this hap­pens, a whole new field of val­ued added ser­vices will emerge for our mem­bers. High qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion­al resources such as Sharp­Brains’ are cru­cial to the suc­cess of this merg­er.”

The Sur­vey: Results to Key Ques­tion

Asked, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?” respon­dents iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing six prob­lems in rank order:

#1: Pub­lic Aware­ness (39%)
— “Get­ting peo­ple to under­stand that hered­i­ty alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing.”
— “An expec­tant pub­lic will first want to believe that a “mir­a­cle” drug is to be soon avail­able (to pre­vent Alzheimer’s Dis­ease).”

#2: Nav­i­gat­ing Claims (21%)
- “How to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing hype from stuff that real­ly works?”
— “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and makes a lot of peo­ple scep­ti­cal.”

#3: Research (15%)
— “Deter­min­ing what activ­i­ties are most ben­e­fi­cial to Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Global Consortium for Neurocognitive Fitness Innovation

As men­tioned before, the World Eco­nom­ic Forum asked me to write “an 800 words sum­ma­ry of your most com­pelling action­able idea on the chal­lenges of geron­tol­ogy”, in prepa­ra­tion for the Inau­gur­al Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da that will take place Novem­ber 7 to 9th in Dubai.A good num­ber of Sharp­Brains read­ers and clients offered their insights — and expressed an inter­est in read­ing the draft. So below you have — a pro­pos­al to cre­ate a Glob­al Con­sor­tium for Neu­rocog­ni­tive Fit­ness Inno­va­tion, build­ing on our exist­ing mar­ket research and advi­so­ry ser­vices work. Your thoughts?

—–

The Con­text

Grow­ing Demands on Our Brains: Pic­ture 6.7 bil­lion Prim­i­tive Brains inhab­it­ing a Knowl­edge Soci­ety where life­long learn­ing and mas­ter­ing con­stant change in com­plex envi­ron­ments are crit­i­cal for pro­duc­tive work, health and per­son­al ful­fill­ment.

Wel­come to Plan­et Earth, 2008.

Fur­ther stretched by increased longevi­ty: Now pic­ture close to 1 bil­lion of those brains over the age of 60 – and please remem­ber that, less than 100 years ago, life expectan­cy was between 30 to 40 years. The rapid­ly evolv­ing Knowl­edge Soci­ety is plac­ing new and enor­mous demands on our “prim­i­tive” human brains. And the longer our lifes­pans, the more obvi­ous the “cog­ni­tive gap”. Hence, from a health point of view, the grow­ing Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

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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