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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain/ Cognitive Enhancement with drugs… and cereal?

Sev­er­al recent arti­cles and news:

Brain Gain: the under­ground world of “neu­roen­hanc­ing” drugs (The New York­er)

- “Alex remains enthu­si­as­tic about Adder­all, but he also has a slight­ly jaun­diced cri­tique of it. “It only works as a cog­ni­tive enhancer inso­far as you are ded­i­cat­ed to accom­plish­ing the task at hand,” he said. “The num­ber of times I’ve tak­en Adder­all late at night and decid­ed that, rather than start­ing my paper, hey, I’ll orga­nize my entire music library! I’ve seen peo­ple obses­sive­ly clean­ing their rooms on it.” Alex thought that gen­er­al­ly the drug helped him to bear down on his work, but it also tend­ed to pro­duce writ­ing with a char­ac­ter­is­tic flaw. “Often, I’ve looked back at papers I’ve writ­ten on Adder­all, and they’re ver­bose. They’re bela­bor­ing a point, try­ing to cre­ate this air­tight argu­ment, when if you just got to your point in a more direct man­ner it would be stronger. But with Adder­all I’d pro­duce two pages on some­thing that could be said in a cou­ple of sen­tences.” Nev­er­the­less, his Adder­all-assist­ed papers usu­al­ly earned him at least a B. They got the job done. As Alex put it, “Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is a good thing.”

Eschew Enhance­ment: Mem­o­ry-boost­ing drugs should not be made avail­able to the gen­er­al pub­lic (Tech­nol­o­gy Review)

- “Who might use them? Stu­dents will be tempt­ed, as might play­ers of any game involv­ing count­ing or remem­ber­ing (chess, bridge, and even pok­er and black­jack). Cer­tain pro­fes­sion­als might desire a boost in atten­tion or mem­o­ry”

- “But these poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful med­i­cines should not be made avail­able to every­one, for two rea­sons. The first is safe­ty. The last sev­er­al years have pro­vid­ed many exam­ples of side effects, some life-threatening…The sec­ond rea­son is that we still know rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle about learn­ing and mem­o­ry and how they are inte­grat­ed to make judg­ments and deci­sions.”

Kel­logg Set­tles with FTC over Health Claims on Cere­al (Pro­mo Mag­a­zine)

- “The FTC said that Kel­logg pro­mot­ed the cere­al as “clin­i­cal­ly shown to improve kids’ atten­tive­ness by near­ly 20%,” when in fact the study referred to in the ads showed dif­fer­ent results.”

- “The study found that only about half the chil­dren who ate Frost­ed Mini-Wheats for break­fast showed any improve­ment in atten­tive­ness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or more, the FTC said.”

Brain shock: The new Gulf War syn­drome (New Sci­en­tist)

- “The US army also screens for symp­toms of mTBI when sol­diers return from a tour of duty, and again three months lat­er. The army is also car­ry­ing out neu­rocog­ni­tive tests on recruits before they are sent into com­bat so that doc­tors can check for dete­ri­o­ra­tion in lat­er tests.”

- “When it comes to com­bat trau­ma, unpick­ing the phys­i­cal from the psy­cho­log­i­cal is bound to be high­ly com­plex. As Barth says, per­haps the great­est dan­ger could be in try­ing to sim­pli­fy the pic­ture too much. “I rec­om­mend that we get com­fort­able with the com­plex­i­ty,” he says, “and treat it as a chal­lenge.”

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 »

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