Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin

In 1993, Paramount Pictures released Searching for Bobby Fischer, which depicts Joshua Waitzkin’s early chess success as he embarks on a journey to win his first National chessJoshua Waitzkin championship. This movie had the effect of weakening his love for the game as well as the learning process. His passion for learning was rejuvenated, however, after years of meditation, and reading philosophy and psychology. With this rekindling of the learning process, Waitzkin took up the martial art Tai Chi Chuan at the age of 21 and made rapid progress, winning the 2004 push hands world championship at the age of 27.

After reading Joshua’s most recent book The Art of Learning, I thought of a million topics The Art of LearningI wanted to discuss with him–topics such as being labelled a “child prodigy”, blooming, creativity, and the learning process. Thankfully, since I was profiling Waitzkin for an article I was fortunate enough to get a chance to have such a conversation with him. I hope you find this discussion just as provocative and illuminating as I did.

The Child Prodigy

S. Why did you leave chess at the top of your game?

J. This is a complicated question that I wrote about very openly in my book. In short, I had lost the love. My relationship to the game had become externalized-by pressures from the film about my life, by losing touch with my natural voice as an artist, by mistakes I made in the growth process. At the very core of my relationship to learning is the idea that we should be as organic as possible. We need to cultivate a deeply refined introspective sense, and build our relationship to learning around our nuance of character. I stopped doing this and fell into crisis from a sense of alienation from an art I had loved so deeply. This is when I left chess behind, started meditating, studying philosophy and psychology, and ultimately moved towards Tai Chi Chuan.

S. Do you think being a child prodigy hurt your chess career in any way?

J. I have never considered myself a prodigy. Others have used that term, but I never bought in to it. From a young age it was always about embracing the battle, loving the game, and overcoming adversity. Growing up as Read the rest of this entry »

Resources for Brain Health Across the Lifespan

As promised in my previous post on Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains, I will now list some interviews, video, articles, and books that go hand-in-hand with these brain booksfascinating topics we are discussing. Please comment below if you have favorite additional resources!


MIT news – Picower researcher finds neuron growth in adult brain

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Adult Neurogenesis


Neuroscience for Kids – Brain Plasticity: What Is It?

Society for Neuroscience brain brief – Brain Plasticity, Language Processing and Reading

Brain Science Podcast – Ginger Campbell interview with Norman Doidge, MD, Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: November Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesHere you are have the Monthly Digest of our Most Popular Blog Posts. You can consider it your monthly Brain Exercise Magazine.

(Also, remember that you can subscribe to receive our RSS feed, check our Topics section, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter at the top of this page if you want to receive this Digest by email).

Gratitude is a very important emotion to cultivate, as Professor Robert Emmons tells us in this interview, based on his last book. Please take some time to read it, and to find at least one thing you are thankful for-it will be good for your health.

We are grateful about a very stimulating November:

Brain Fitness Market News

10 Neurotechnology Trends: a leading industry organization released their Top 10 NeuroTrends for 2007, and brain fitness matters appeared in 3 of them.

Thank Boomers for Buffing Up Brain Market: great overview of the market from a technology point of view, quoting our market projections. To clarify the numbers mentioned: we project $225m in the US alone for the brain fitness software market (growing from $70m in 2003), broken-down as follows: $80m for the Consumer segment, $60m in K12 Education, $50m in Clinical applications, and $35m in the Corporate segment. The Consumer segment, with a healthy aging value proposition, is the most recent one but the most rapidly growing.

Exercise On the Brain: a NYT OpEd: a widely read opinion piece in the New York Times, written by 2 neuroscientists, that somehow seems to miss the research behind the value of mental stimulation and cognitive training. Other neuroscience teams and us write letters to the editor that go unpublished. Should you have any contacts with journalists, please ask them to contact us: we are always happy to serve as a resource to the media.

Posit Science @ GSA: well-designed Brain Training Works: a timely heads up on how well-designed computer-based programs can be a great complement to other interventions. We will be interviewing the leading researcher behind that study during the next 2 weeks, so keep tuned!

Brain and Mind News and Articles: a variety of links to good media reports, including a spectacular special on memory in National Geographic.

News You Can Use

Marian Diamond on the brain: leading neuroscientist Marian Diamond, now 81, shares her prescription for lifelong brain health- diet, exercise, challenge, newness and tender loving care.

From Meditation to MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction): a report on the benefits of meditation and how it is becoming more mainstream in medicine.


50 Mind and Brain Games for adults: you may have seen these teasers, but we want to alert you we have opened a new section in the site where you can easily find our growing collection of teasers

Your Haiku, please?: a friendly challenge to your brain.

Education and Lifelong Learning

Carol Dweck on Mindsets, Learning and Intelligence: we found a fascinating interview on the importance on having a growth and learning oriented mindset. Both for kids and adults.

Is Intelligence Innate and Fixed?: some reflections based on biology.

Corporate Training, Wellness and Leadership

Cognitive Fitness and The Future of Work: an excellent concept map on how neuroscience may influence the workplace of the future, drawn in real time as I spoke at an Institute for the Future event.

Emotional Intelligence and Faces: how many universal emotions and facial expressions are there?


Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire together Wire together: I spoke at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, where we explored some of the basic concepts we should all know about how our brains and mind work.

Let me practice the Gratitude concept…Thank You for your attention and participation!

You can also enjoy our previous editions of this monthly digest:





Carol Dweck on Mindsets, Learning and Intelligence

Just came across an excellent Interview with Carol Dweck. Thank you Coert!

Carol Dweck is a professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Last year she published a great book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, where she elaborates on her (and ours) key message: the way you view your own intelligence largely determines how it will develop. And no matter how you define “intelligence”. In this interview Coert asks Carol Dweck about the book and about what the practical implications of her work are for managers. See a couple of quotes below:

– “In my book I identify two mindsets that play important roles in people’s success. In one, the fixed mindset, people believe that their talents and abilities are fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that; nothing can be done to change it. Many years of research have now shown that when people adopt the fixed mindset, it can limit their success. They become over-concerned with proving their talents and abilities, hiding deficiencies, and reacting defensively to mistakes or setbacks-because deficiencies and mistakes imply a (permanent) lack of talent or ability. People in this mindset will actually pass up important opportunities to learn and grow if there is a risk of unmasking weaknesses. This is not a recipe for success in business, as ultimately shown by the folks at Enron, who rarely admitted any mistakes. What is the alternative?”
– “In the other mindset, the growth mindset, people believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through passion, education, and persistence. For them, it’s not about looking smart or grooming their image. It’s about a commitment to learning–taking informed risks and learning from the results, surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you to grow, looking frankly at your deficiencies and seeking to remedy them. Most great business leaders have had this mindset, because building and maintaining excellent organizations in the face of constant change requires it.”

Enjoy the whole Interview with Carol Dweck

And this related blog post, where we posited that “In short: there is much that each of us can do to improve our brain fitness, no matter our age, occupation or starting point. There are some fundamental capacities that we can train. And we have to care for good physical exercise and stress management on top of mental exercise.”

Are there herbal and vitamin supplements that will protect my memory?

Here is question 17 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.

Are there herbal and vitamin supplements that will protect my memory?

Key Points:

  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in cold-water fish may be helpful to long term brain health.
  • Folic acid may also be helpful to both cognitive function and hearing.
  • Ginkgo biloba and DHEA do not appear to help your brain.
  • There is still more research to be done and never dismiss the placebo effect!

Read the rest of this entry »

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