Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Large study highlights the cognitive enhancement value of both higher education and lifelong learning

 

Cour­tesy David Lee at The Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian

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UC Berke­ley study links cog­ni­tive longevi­ty to high­er edu­ca­tion (The Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian):

A study led by cam­pus researchers found that high­er lev­els of edu­ca­tion are linked to lat­er ages of peak cog­ni­tive performance…The team was able to use anony­mous data gath­ered from almost 200,000 sub­scribers to Lumos­i­ty, an online cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram, whose users con­sent­ed that their results could be used for sci­en­tif­ic research. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning

Arts edu­ca­tion influ­ences learn­ing and oth­er areas of cog­ni­tion and may deserve a more promi­nent place in schools, accord­ing to a wave of recent neu­ro­science research.One recent study found that chil­dren who receive music instruc­tion for just 15 months show strength­ened con­nec­tions in musi­cal­ly rel­e­vant brain areas and per­form bet­ter on asso­ci­at­ed tasks, com­pared with stu­dents who do not learn an instru­ment.

A sep­a­rate study found that chil­dren who receive train­ing to improve their focus and atten­tion per­form bet­ter not only on atten­tion tasks but also on intel­li­gence tests. Some researchers sug­gest that arts train­ing might sim­i­lar­ly affect a wide range of cog­ni­tive domains. Edu­ca­tors and neu­ro­sci­en­tists gath­ered recent­ly in Bal­ti­more and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to dis­cuss the increas­ing­ly detailed pic­ture of how arts edu­ca­tion changes the brain, and how to trans­late that research to edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and the class­room. Many par­tic­i­pants referred to the results of Dana Foun­da­tion-fund­ed research by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists from sev­en lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties over three years, released in 2008.

Art must do some­thing to the mind and brain. What is that? How would we be able to detect that? asked Bar­ry Gor­don, a behav­ioral neu­rol­o­gist and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, who spoke May 8 dur­ing the “Learn­ing and the Brain” con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “Art, I sub­mit to you with­out absolute proof, can improve the pow­er of our minds. How­ev­er, this improve­ment is hard to detect.”

Study links music, brain changes

Among the sci­en­tists try­ing to detect such improve­ment, Ellen Win­ner, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Boston Col­lege, and Got­tfried Schlaug, a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter and Har­vard Med­ical School, pre­sent­ed research at the “Learn­ing, Arts, and the Brain sum­mit May 6 in Bal­ti­more. Their work mea­sured, for the first time, changes to the brain as a result of music train­ing.

For four years, Win­ner and Schlaug fol­lowed chil­dren ages 9 to 11, some of whom Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: It Works, and It Doesn’t Work

The IMPACT study which we report­ed on in Decem­ber 2007, fund­ed by Posit Sci­ence, con­duct­ed by the Mayo Clin­ic and USC Davis, has just announced pub­li­ca­tion at the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety. Ref­er­ence:

- Smith et al. A Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Pro­gram Designed Based on Prin­ci­ples of Brain Plas­tic­i­ty: Results from the Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Study. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety, April 2009.

Com­put­er Exer­cis­es Improve Mem­o­ry And Atten­tion, Study Sug­gests (Sci­ence Dai­ly)

- “The Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing (IMPACT) study was fund­ed by the Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion, which owns the rights to the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, test­ed in the study.”

- “Of the 487 healthy adults over the age of 65 who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­al, half used the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for 40 hours over the course of eight weeks. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram con­sists of six audio exer­cis­es done on a com­put­er, and is intend­ed to “retrain the brain to dis­crim­i­nate fine dis­tinc­tions in sound, and do it in a way that keeps the user engaged,” Zelin­s­ki explained.” The oth­er half of par­tic­i­pants spent an equal amount of time learn­ing from edu­ca­tion­al DVDs fol­lowed by quizzes.

Com­ment: this is a very inter­est­ing study, in that it shows both that cog­ni­tive train­ing works, and that it does­n’t work.

What do I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Health News Roundup

July is shap­ing up to be a fas­ci­nat­ing month, full of cog­ni­tive health research reports and appli­ca­tions. Here you have a roundup, cov­er­ing food for the brain, cog­ni­tive assess­ments, men­tal train­ing and DNA, and more.

1) Brain foods: the effects of nutri­ents on brain func­tion (Nature Neu­ro­science)

“Brain foods: the effects of nutri­ents on brain func­tion”, by Fer­nan­do Gmez-Pinil­la.

Abstract: Read the rest of this entry »

On The Brain

neuronsVery intense week, and very fun. I will be writ­ing more about this week’s 3 speak­ing events, but let me say now that our key mes­sages

1) our brains remain flex­i­ble dur­ing our life­times,

2) we can refine our brains with tar­get­ed prac­tice,

3) good brain exer­cise, or “men­tal cross-training”, requires nov­el­ty, vari­ety, and increas­ing lev­el of chal­lenge (but with­out cre­at­ing too much stress),

are being very well accept­ed from both healthy aging and work­place pro­duc­tiv­i­ty points of view. We have ONE brain: health and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty are 2 sides of the same coin.

If you want to make sure we learn more about our brains, you can help fel­low blog­ger Shel­ley Batts get a col­lege schol­ar­ship by voting here. She has a great neu­ro­science blog, is now final­ist in a com­pe­ti­tion to win a nice schol­ar­ship, and needs out help.

Have some more time? You can watch this excellent 90-sec­ond video of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist Dr Lisa Sak­si­da doing yoga in front of the fire while explain­ing the nature of Brain and Mind (via Mind­Hacks). Quotes:

I wish peo­ple under­stood that there is no mind/brain dual­i­ty. Specif­i­cal­ly, I wish peo­ple under­stood that there is no such thing as a pure­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der. Every event in your psy­cho­log­i­cal life, and there­fore every psy­cho­log­i­cal change, is reducible in the­o­ry to events and changes in your brain. We should there­fore not judge peo­ple dif­fer­ent­ly, accord­ing to whether they are con­sid­ered to have a ‘psy­cho­log­i­cal’ as opposed to a ‘neu­ro­log­i­cal’ prob­lem.”

Of course, a lack of mind/brain split does not mean that we should aban­don all talk of psy­chol­o­gy. Psy­chol­o­gy and neu­ro­science are two ways of study­ing the same thing, and both are essen­tial for under­stand­ing the human con­di­tion.”

For more, check the posts in these always great blog car­ni­vals (select­ed col­lec­tions of blog posts by a num­ber of blog­gers around spe­cif­ic top­ics)

Tan­gled Bank (sci­ence in gen­er­al)

Encephalon (neu­ro­science)

Cred­it: Pho­to of Neu­rons by sym­pha­nee via flickr

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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