Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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MIT Solve launches Brain Health Challenge: How can every person improve their brain health and mental resilience?

As a Judge and mem­ber of the Challenge’s Lead­er­ship Team, let me share some rel­e­vant news for sharp brains world­wide: MIT Solve (a recent MIT off­shoot to iden­ti­fy and accel­er­ate scal­able social solu­tions) has just launched a Brain Health Chal­lenge to address the key ques­tion: How can every per­son improve their brain health and men­tal resilience?

Sum­ma­ry: Brain and men­tal well-being are crit­i­cal to the health and hap­pi­ness of the 7.5 bil­lion peo­ple who inhab­it our plan­et. The way we feel, solve prob­lems, and inter­act with one anoth­er all depend on the health of our brains. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Read the rest of this entry »

Navigating The Many Dangers of Experience

As with “expert,” the root of expe­ri­ence is “experiri,” a Latin word mean­ing “to try out.” Peo­ple with a lot of expe­ri­ence should be will­ing to try new things, as their knowl­edge should pro­vide more con­text and points of view, enable more explo­ration of an issue, and min­i­mize risk with deci­sions. How­ev­er, high­ly expe­ri­enced peo­ple tend to fall into the habits of the past. Once we have accu­mu­lat­ed a valu­able base of knowl­edge, expe­ri­ence pro­vides a use­ful short­cut for deci­sion mak­ing. Rely­ing on expe­ri­ence is very fast and very effi­cient, but it is also poten­tial­ly very dan­ger­ous. Oper­at­ing with the least effort pos­si­ble, the brain retrieves what­ev­er quick­ly seems to fit. We apply past pat­terns to the future. Rather than call upon its amaz­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, too often the brain works as noth­ing but a huge stor­age bin of prece­dents.

Because “close is good enough” as our brain fills in the blanks, we Read the rest of this entry »

5 Tips on Lifelong Learning and Neuroplasticity for the Adult Brain

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Learn­ing & the Brain is a con­fer­ence that gets marked on my cal­en­dar annu­al­ly because I always return home hav­ing either been exposed to new infor­ma­tion, or with a new per­spec­tive on an old top­ic. Last month’s con­fer­ence in Cam­bridge, MA, themed Using Emo­tions Research to Enhance Learn­ing & Achieve­ment, was no excep­tion. As with pre­vi­ous con­fer­ences, in addi­tion to the many keynote ses­sions, I focused on the adult learn­ing strand, since so much of my time is spent pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment for, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with adults. Here are five con­fer­ence cues as they relate to edu­ca­tion.

1. CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH NEW LEARNING

Aaron Nel­son stat­ed that our mem­o­ry starts to decline between ages twen­ty-five and thir­ty, or to phrase it a bit more pos­i­tive­ly, Sam Wang says our mem­o­ry peaks around age thir­ty. On the oth­er end of the age spec­trum, accord­ing to Ken Kosik, there is unequiv­o­cal evi­dence that edu­ca­tion pro­tects against Alzheimer’s. Both Nel­son and Kosik men­tioned the the­o­ry of cog­ni­tive reserve, which trans­lates rough­ly to the more we learn, the more con­nec­tions we cre­ate, and there­fore the greater the neu­ronal buffer we have to draw upon as we age.

Elkhonon Gold­berg of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness stat­ed at last April’s con­fer­ence that “as one ages, the domain of the nov­el shrinks, and the domain of what is known grows”. He cau­tioned the audi­ence to beware of being on men­tal autopi­lot. Thus, the goal is not to sim­ply get bet­ter at doing more of the same. The type of learn­ing that makes a dif­fer­ence con­sists specif­i­cal­ly of new, nov­el chal­lenges. The result of such engage­ment is that Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness at New York Public Library

A few weeks ago I had the plea­sure to give a talk to one hun­dred or so staff mem­bers at New York Pub­lic Library. As you would expect, it was a very stim­u­lat­ing group, and one of the par­tic­i­pants, Brigid Caha­lan, just wrote a fun blog post on her impres­sions from the event:

Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library:

- “After attend­ing a recent staff train­ing ses­sion offered by the library’s Office of Staff Devel­op­ment, I decid­ed to return to a habit of my childhood–eating sar­dines.”
— key pil­lars for brain health …are… “1) A bal­anced diet; 2) Car­dio­vas­cu­lar phys­i­cal exer­cise; 3) Stress man­age­ment; and 4) Brain exer­cise: Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, Chal­lenge (as long as it doesn’t stress us out).”

Read full arti­cle: here.

Com­ment: A very inter­est­ing trend of observe — the grow­ing role of pub­lic libraries in pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty brain health infor­ma­tion and even, why not, becom­ing com­mu­ni­ty-based brain fit­ness des­ti­na­tions. After all, is it not men­tal stim­u­la­tion of all sorts, incor­po­rat­ing Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, and Chal­lenge, what they tru­ly offer?

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Thank you for your inter­est, atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Sharp­Brains com­mu­ni­ty. As always, we appre­ci­ate your com­ments and sug­ges­tions.

Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da

How can we per­suade busi­ness lead­ers, pol­i­cy-mak­ers and researchers of the urgency to devel­op and pro­mote an inte­grat­ed “Healthy Liv­ing” agen­da focused on main­tain­ing life­long phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health, vs. the usu­al mind­set focused on deal­ing with spe­cif­ic dis­eases and prob­lems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Cap­i­tal?, I sum­ma­rize some of the key themes dis­cussed at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum event in Dubai on Novem­ber 7–9th. The world is aging — and in health­i­er ways. But our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on track to go bank­rupt — their premis­es are out­dat­ed. The cur­rent dis­ease-based research agen­da com­pounds the prob­lem. Solu­tions? 1) Pro­mote Healthy Lifestyles that help Main­tain Phys­i­cal and Cog­ni­tive Func­tion­al Abil­i­ties, 2) Redesign Envi­ron­ments to Fos­ter Health, Engage­ment and Finan­cial Secu­ri­ty, 3) Devel­op an Inte­grat­ed Healthy Liv­ing & Aging Research Agen­da. Specif­i­cal­ly, we could work with the UN and Glob­al 2000 com­pa­nies to move for­ward a new agen­da.

Plan­et Earth 2.0: A New Oper­at­ing Sys­tem: Imag­ine see­ing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in tra­di­tion­al Arab cloth­ing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Oba­ma) in front of the 800 glob­al experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the atten­dants of the World Eco­nom­ic Forum’s Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da urged us to “reboot” the sys­tem. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new glob­al “Yes We Can” oper­at­ing sys­tem.

Brain Fit­ness Research

Train­ing Atten­tion and Emo­tion­al Self-Reg­u­la­tion: Dr. Michael Pos­ner, a promi­nent  cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on what atten­tion, self-reg­u­la­tion, and effort­ful con­trol are, and how to improve them using soft­ware, med­i­ta­tion, and par­ent­ing. In his words, “we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing (…) the high­er the results.”

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and the Brain That Changes Itself: Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the excel­lent book by Nor­man Doidge, explain­ing that “the neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, which is the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intel­li­gence,  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing enti­ty.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments?: In our view, a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the matu­ri­ty of the brain fit­ness mar­ket will be the avail­abil­i­ty of inex­pen­sive, valid and reli­able objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments,  to help mea­sure how our brain func­tions change over time and iden­ti­fy pri­or­i­ties for tar­get­ed improve­ments. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Prop­er­ly) or Lose It

Mem­o­ry Prob­lems? Per­haps you are Mul­ti-task­ing: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Mul­ti-task­ing vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­o­ry works.” He explains that “(mul­ti-task­ing) prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clear­ly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effec­tive.”

Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline: The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a week­ly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle on the impor­tance of phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise. We are very hap­py to see efforts like these to train physi­cians and health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­er­al,  giv­en that most of them were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recent­ly announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, to start air­ing soon.

MetaCar­ni­val #1: a con­ver­sa­tion across the blo­gos­phere: We often insist on “Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety and Chal­lenge” as key ingre­di­ents for good “brain exer­cise”. There are many ways to mix those ingre­di­ents — you may enjoy this one, the first inter­dis­ci­pli­nary gath­er­ing of blogs and blog car­ni­vals cov­er­ing health, sci­ence, anthro­pol­o­gy, gen­er­al advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Men­tal Exer­cise: Over the last 2 years we have pub­lished close to 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, and every kind of men­tal exer­cise (with­out count­ing our in-depth inter­views with top neu­ro­sci­en­tists). Which ones have proven most stim­u­lat­ing for you. Let us know. Here is a selec­tion of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offer­ing anoth­er great selec­tion of arti­cles: Dr. Andrew New­berg will dis­cuss the brain val­ue of med­i­ta­tion,  Dr. David Rabin­er will review a recent study on how neu­ro­feed­back may assist in the diag­nos­tic of atten­tion deficits, and much more.

Please share this newslet­ter with your friends and col­leagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Hap­py Thanks­giv­ing!

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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