Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Report calls for wide classroom-based adoption of ten brain fitness programs designed to improve foundational executive functions

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Nation­al Non­prof­it Releas­es Report Call­ing for Brain Fit­ness Inter­ven­tions in All U.S. Schools (press release):

Brain­Fu­tures released a report today that makes a clear case for inte­grat­ing proven brain fit­ness pro­grams into all U.S. class­rooms. Over a decade of research has shown that evi­dence-based pro­grams can improve stu­dents’ exec­u­tive func­tion skills and proso­cial behav­iors, which are more accu­rate pre­dic­tors of aca­d­e­m­ic readi­ness and life suc­cess than IQ or any oth­er per­for­mance mark­ers. Read the rest of this entry »

Pearson acquires Cogmed working memory training

Karolin­s­ka Devel­op­ment to divest port­fo­lio com­pa­ny (press release)

Today, Karolin­s­ka Devel­op­ment has divest­ed Cogmed, one of Karolin­s­ka Devel­op­men­t’s port­fo­lio com­pa­nies, to Pear­son where it will become part of Pear­son­’s Clin­i­cal Assess­ment busi­ness.”

Why does it make all the sense in the world for a large pub­lish­er with heavy edu­ca­tion­al and clin­i­cal oper­a­tions to acquire a com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing com­pa­ny like Cogmed? and, why Pear­son? Read more

Brain Quiz: Do You Have a Brain?

Have you already read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness?

Let’s see…brain health and brain fitness

1. Pick the only part of your body that does not con­tain fat:

a. Arm
b. Thigh
c. Brain
d. None

Answer: d) Fats are also present in the brain: in neu­rons’ mem­branes to keep them flex­i­ble. These fats are the omega 3 and omega 6 fat­ty acids mol­e­cules. (Page 32 of the book)

2. Pick the only food prod­uct that doesn’t con­tain Omega‑3 fat­ty acids

a. Tuna
b. Wal­nut
c. Kiwi
d. Jel­ly Beans

Answer: d) Fat­ty acids can be found in cold-water fish (such as mack­er­el, her­ring, salmon, and tuna), kiwi, and wal­nuts. (Page 33)

3. Pick the only food prod­uct that doesn’t con­tain antiox­i­dants

a. Olive oil
b. Milk
c. Nuts
d. Berries

Answer: b) Antiox­i­dants can be found in veg­etable oils, nuts, green leafy veg­eta­bles (e.g., spinach), cit­rus fruit, and berries. (Page 33)

4. Chron­ic Stress can­not:

a. Pre­vent you from being cre­ative
b. Kill brain cells
c. Pre­vent you from sleep­ing
d. Kill liv­er cells

Answer: d) Pro­longed expo­sure to adren­al steroid hor­mones like cor­ti­sol, which is released into the blood stream when we are stressed, can lead to cell death and block the for­ma­tion of new neu­rons. (Page 35)

5. What type of phys­i­cal exer­cise is the best for your brain health?

a. Weight lift­ing
b. Aer­o­bic exer­cis­es
c. Flex­i­bil­i­ty exer­cis­es Read the rest of this entry »

Comparing Working Memory Training & Medication Treatment for ADHD

Work­ing mem­o­ry (WM) is the cog­ni­tive sys­tem respon­si­ble for the tem­po­rary stor­age and manip­u­la­tion of infor­ma­tion and plays an impor­tant role in both learn­ing and focus­ing atten­tion. Con­sid­er­able research has doc­u­ment­ed that many chil­dren and adults with ADHD have WM deficits and that this con­tributes to dif­fi­cul­ties asso­ci­at­ed with the dis­or­der. For an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to the role of WM deficits in ADHD, click here.

A sim­ple exam­ple illus­trates the impor­tance of WM for par­tic­u­lar aca­d­e­m­ic tasks. Try adding 3 and 9 in your head. That was prob­a­bly easy for you. Now try­ing adding 33 and 99. That was prob­a­bly more dif­fi­cult. Final­ly, try adding 333 and 999. This is quite chal­leng­ing for most adults even though each cal­cu­la­tion required is triv­ial­ly easy. The chal­lenge occurred because you need to store infor­ma­tion — the sum of 3+9 in the one’s col­umn and then ten’s col­umn — as you process the remain­ing part of the prob­lem, i.e., 3+9 in the hun­dred’s col­umn, and this taxed your WM. If your WM capac­i­ty was exceed­ed, you could not com­plete the prob­lem suc­cess­ful­ly.

This sim­ple prob­lem also illus­trates the dif­fer­ence between short-term mem­o­ry (STM) and WM. Short-term mem­o­ry sim­ply involves retain­ing infor­ma­tion in mind for short peri­ods of time, e.g., remem­ber­ing that the prob­lem you need to solve is 333+999. Work­ing mem­o­ry, in con­trast, involves men­tal­ly manip­u­lat­ing — or ‘work­ing’ with — retained infor­ma­tion and comes into play in a wide range of learn­ing activ­i­ties. For exam­ple, to answer ques­tions about a sci­ence chap­ter, a child not only has to cor­rect­ly retain fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion but must men­tal­ly work with that infor­ma­tion to answer ques­tions about it. Thus, when a child’s WM capac­i­ty is low rel­a­tive to peers, aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance is like­ly to be com­pro­mised in mul­ti­ple areas.

Because WM deficits play an impor­tant role in the strug­gles expe­ri­enced by many indi­vid­u­als with ADHD, it is impor­tant to con­sid­er how dif­fer­ent inter­ven­tions address this aspect of the dis­or­der. In this study, the authors were inter­est­ed in com­par­ing the impact of Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and stim­u­lant med­ica­tion treat­ment on the WM per­for­mance of chil­dren diag­nosed with ADHD.

Par­tic­i­pants were 25 8–11 year-old chil­dren with ADHD (21 boy and 4 girls) who were Placebo effect, mind hacksbeing treat­ed with stim­u­lant med­ica­tion. Chil­dren’s mem­o­ry per­for­mance was assessed on 4 occa­sions using the Auto­mat­ed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Assess­ment (AWMA), a com­put­er­ized test that mea­sures ver­bal short-term mem­o­ry, ver­bal work­ing mem­o­ry, visuo-spa­tial short-term mem­o­ry, and visuo-spa­tial work­ing mem­o­ry.

At time 1, the assess­ment was con­duct­ed when chil­dren had been off med­ica­tion for at least 24 hours. The sec­ond assess­ment occurred an aver­age of 5 months lat­er and when chil­dren were on med­ica­tion. The third assess­ment occurred after chil­dren had com­plet­ed 5 weeks of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing using the stan­dard train­ing pro­to­col (see below). The final assess­ment occurred approx­i­mate­ly 6 months after train­ing had end­ed. This design enabled the researchers to make the fol­low­ing com­par­isons:

- WM per­for­mance on med­ica­tion vs. off med­ica­tion (T1 vs T2)
— WM per­for­mance on med­ica­tion vs. after train­ing (T2 vs. T3)
— WM per­for­mance imme­di­ate­ly after train­ing end­ed vs. 6 months fol­low­ing train­ing (T3 vs. T4)

This final com­par­i­son pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion on whether any ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed by the train­ing had endured.

In addi­tion to mea­sur­ing STM and WM at each time point, mea­sures of IQ were col­lect­ed at times 1, 2, and 3.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing -

WM train­ing was con­duct­ed using the stan­dard Cogmed train­ing pro­to­col with each child Cogmed working memory trainingcom­plet­ing 20–25 train­ing ses­sions with­in a 25 day peri­od. The train­ing requires the stor­age and manip­u­la­tion of sequences of ver­bal, e.g., repeat­ing back a sequence of dig­its in reverse order, and/or visuo-spa­tial infor­ma­tion, e.g., recall­ing the loca­tion of objects on dif­fer­ent por­tions of the com­put­er screen.

Dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el is cal­i­brat­ed on a tri­al by tri­al basis so the child is always work­ing at a lev­el that close­ly match­es their per­for­mance. For exam­ple, if a child suc­cess­ful­ly recalled three dig­its in reverse order, on the next tri­al he had to recall four. When a tri­al was failed, the next tri­al was made eas­i­er by reduc­ing the num­ber of items to be recalled. This method of ‘adap­tive train­ing’ is thought to be a key ele­ment because it requires the child to ‘stretch’ their WM capac­i­ty to move through the pro­gram.

- Results -

- Impact of Short-Term Mem­o­ry and Work­ing Mem­o­ry -

Med­ica­tion vs. no med­ica­tion — When test­ed on med­ica­tion, Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training can Influence Brain Biochemistry

I want­ed to alert you to a very inter­est­ing find­ing pub­lished in a recent issue of Sci­ence, one of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals.

The study was led by Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and his col­leagues from the Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute Torkel Klingbergin Swe­den. The goal was to learn whether Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing is asso­ci­at­ed with changes in brain bio­chem­istry, thus sug­gest­ing a mech­a­nism by which train­ing may lead to enhanced work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty and a reduc­tion in atten­tion prob­lems. Thus, although Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing has pre­vi­ous­ly shown promis­ing results as a treat­ment for work­ing mem­o­ry and atten­tion dif­fi­cul­ties, this was a basic sci­ence study rather than a treat­ment study.

The major find­ing was that increased work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty fol­low­ing train­ing was asso­ci­at­ed with changes in brain bio­chem­istry. Specif­i­cal­ly, the researchers found changes in the den­si­ty and bind­ing poten­tial of cor­ti­cal D1 dopamine recep­tors in brain regions that are acti­vat­ed dur­ing work­ing mem­o­ry tasks.

Results from this study sug­gest a bio­log­i­cal basis for the improve­ment in work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty and reduc­tions i 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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