Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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.

Maximize the Cognitive Value of Your Mental Workout

Phys­i­cal fit­ness. Cognitive/ brain fit­ness. Both require nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge. Pro­fes­sor Schlo­mo Breznitz, a sci­en­tif­ic and busi­ness leader in the cog­ni­tive fit­ness field, explains why, elo­quent­ly, below. Per­haps “we want change” real­ly means “we need change”. Enjoy!

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Why are every­day life chal­lenges not suf­fi­cient to keep our brains fit?

– By Prof. Shlo­mo Breznitz

Often, when describ­ing the ben­e­fits of Mind­Fit to brain health, I am asked by peo­ple in the audi­ence whether this soft­ware is real­ly need­ed. After all, so they argue, life pro­vides con­tin­ues cog­ni­tive chal­lenges, which should suf­fice for ensur­ing brain fit­ness. From the moment we wake up until we go to sleep our brains have to attend to com­plex stim­uli, plan many activ­i­ties, some of them quite com­plex, and car­ry us through what­ev­er the day offers. These tasks should pro­vide suf­fi­cient “brain exer­cise” with­out the need to engage in spe­cif­ic men­tal work­out.

This line of argu­ment sounds odd­ly famil­iar, since it is an exact dupli­ca­tion of claims made in the recent past against the need for phys­i­cal exer­cise. One jumps into the car and from the car and per­haps even climbs a few stairs before sit­ting in the chair, which should be enough to burn the calo­ries and keep fit.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most pop­u­lar ques­tion we got when we announced that PBS had a great spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in Decem­ber was, when will the DVD be avail­able?

Well, final­ly here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This pro­gram presents a work­out to help view­ers get their brains in bet­ter shape. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on neu­ro-plas­tic­i­ty, the abil­i­ty of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cis­co and his col­leagues around the world have been lead­ing this effort; he brings the research find­ings, along with a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es, to PBS view­ers in this inno­v­a­tive and life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote nar­rates. ”

To pur­chase: click Here.

You can watch a 3-minute trail­er: click here.

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Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

SharpBrainsGuide_3DIf you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion
“A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

Update (11/10/10): Have you seen PBS great spe­cials on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty ?

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95)

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on the brain’s abil­i­ty to change and adapt, even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the Peter Coyote Brain Fitness Programbrain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia and his col­leagues share their sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es in this life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote (pic­tured) nar­rates. ”

PBS aired in Decem­ber 2007 a spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, brain fit­ness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram”. To watch the 3-minute trail­er: click here.

In 2008, PBS released a sec­ond DVD:

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight and Sound DVD ($24.95)

This pro­gram, specif­i­cal­ly designed to help peo­ple get the most from their vision and hear­ing as they age, con­sid­ers how these sens­es change through­out life and what peo­ple can do to keep them healthy and ful­ly func­tion­al.”

.

If you do not have time to watch these great doc­u­men­taries, here are a few points one needs to under­stand about neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty:

1.  The human brain is now con­sid­ered to be a high­ly dynam­ic and con­stantly reor­ga­niz­ing sys­tem capa­ble of being shaped and reshaped across an entire lifes­pan. It is believed that every expe­ri­ence alters the brain’s orga­ni­za­tion at some lev­el. The key words in this new approach to the brain are neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time. The lat­ter process is also referred to as synap­to­ge­n­e­sis. This new par­a­digm con­trasts with tra­di­tional ideas of the human brain being a fixed and essen­tially lim­ited sys­tem that only degrades with age.

2. As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.

3. Brain plas­tic­ity is cru­cial fol­low­ing head injury. It is the one brain’s abil­ity that allows recov­ery. Brain plas­tic­ity is also the abil­ity that brain train­ing takes advan­tages of to try to slow down the aging process.

To read about evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in the human brain take a look at Brain plas­tic­i­ty: How learn­ing changes you brain

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
“Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95


SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance

There has been an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about the issues relat­ed to the aging of the legal pro­fes­sion. Stephanie intro­duced us to the arti­cle “the Gray­ing Bar: let’s not for­get the ethics” by David Giacalone.

In short: sta­tis­tics about the increas­ing ratio of lawyers over 70 in active prac­tice, on the one hand, and the gen­er­al inci­dence of Alzheimer’s and oth­er demen­tias, on the oth­er, lead David to point out an increas­ing like­li­hood that some lawyers may be prac­tic­ing in less than ide­al con­di­tions for their clients, beyond a rea­son­able “brain age”. The ques­tion then becomes: who and how can solve this prob­lem, which is only going to grow giv­en demo­graph­ic trends?.

We are not legal experts, but would like to inform the debate by offer­ing 10 con­sid­er­a­tions on healthy aging and job per­for­mance from a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, that apply to all occu­pa­tions:

1- We should talk more about change than about decline, as Sharon Beg­ley wrote recent­ly in her great arti­cle on The Upside of Aging — WSJ.com (sub­scrip­tion required).

We dis­cussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, who wrote his great book The Wis­dom Para­dox pre­cise­ly on this point, at The Exec­u­tive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

2- Some skills improve as we age: In our “Exer­cis­ing Our Brains” Class­es, we typ­i­cal­ly explain how some areas typ­i­cal­ly improve as we age, such as self-reg­u­la­tion, emo­tion­al func­tion­ing and Wis­dom (which means mov­ing from Prob­lem solv­ing to Pat­tern recog­ni­tion). As a lawyer accu­mu­lates more cas­es under his/ her belt, he or she devel­ops an auto­mat­ic “intu­ition” for solu­tions and strate­gies. As long as the envi­ron­ment doesn’t change too rapid­ly, this grow­ing wis­dom is very valu­able.

3- …where­as, yes, oth­ers typ­i­cal­ly decline: Read the rest of this entry »

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