Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive stimulation is beneficial, even after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

An inter­est­ing arti­cle in Nature Reviews last month reviewed sev­er­al stud­ies show­ing that cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion can be ben­e­fi­cial even for indi­vid­u­als already diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (Buschert et al., 2010).

The arti­cle shows that patients with mild-to-mod­er­ate demen­tia can ben­e­fit from a range of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions: from train­ing of par­tial­ly spared cog­ni­tive func­tions to train­ing on activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing. Results sug­gest that such inter­ven­tions can improve glob­al cog­ni­tion, abil­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing and qual­i­ty of life in these patients.

Patients with mod­er­ate-to-severe demen­tia seem to ben­e­fit from gen­er­al engage­ment in activ­i­ties that enhance cog­ni­tive and social func­tion­ing in a non-spe­cif­ic man­ner.

In gen­er­al, for patients diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease, the reviewed stud­ies sug­gest that pro­grams focus­ing on glob­al cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion are more effec­tive than pro­grams that train spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions.

The oppo­site seems true for peo­ple diag­nosed with Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment (MCI). As you may remem­ber, MCI diag­no­sis is made upon objec­tive mem­o­ry deficits that do not inter­fere with activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing. 5 to 10% of peo­ple with MCI devel­op demen­tia with­in 1 year after being diag­nosed.

It is inter­est­ing to see that the type of cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tion one may ben­e­fit from changes over the years, depend­ing on one’s cog­ni­tive sta­tus. This shows once again that there is no gen­er­al mag­ic pill in terms of brain fit­ness: Some inter­ven­tions or pro­grams work because they meet the needs of some spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als. No pro­gram can work for every­body.

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Do You Mind?

Ask your­self the tough ques­tions: Do you mind your brain? Do you know your nog­gin’? Can you claim cere­bral own­er­ship or is your men­tal a rental?

Although these ques­tions are rel­e­vant at vir­tu­al­ly all lifes­pan stages, firm answers can some­times appear incon­ceiv­able.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly with advanc­ing age, atten­tion to men­tal per­for­mance is often either aban­doned or framed in terms of per­ceived impair­ment and decline.  Now, I have pre­vi­ous­ly shared my mes­sage on mind­ing the aging brain with Sharp­Brains read­ers.  As a cog­ni­tive neu­ropsy­chi­a­trist pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in lat­er-life phe­nom­e­na, I tend to stick to my area of exper­tise.  Nev­er­the­less, whether you are elder or not, I implore you to take these ideas to heart…do you mind?

Just as brain fit­ness is for all, aging is sim­i­lar­ly uni­ver­sal.  Every thought­ful indi­vid­ual rec­og­nizes the unavoid­able answer to “are you aging?”  How­ev­er, the answer to “how are you aging?” is less obvi­ous to most, and is even more obscure when con­sid­er­ing lifes­pan cog­ni­tive tra­jec­to­ries.  In fact, no con­sen­sus lex­i­con yet exists to describe the ways in which cog­ni­tion can be mod­u­lat­ed to achieve desired lifestyle or clin­i­cal goals.

In my lat­est pub­li­ca­tion on tech­nol­o­gy-enabled cog­ni­tive train­ing for healthy elders, I out­line a pro­posed lex­i­con for pos­i­tive cog­ni­tion inter­ven­tions, as well as a frame­work for clas­si­fy­ing puta­tive ben­e­fits of cog­ni­tive train­ing.  Here, I will present these con­cepts with­out regard to age, as they apply equal­ly well to all sapi­ent sapi­ens:

?      Cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion refers to non­tar­get­ed engage­ment that gen­er­al­ly enhances men­tal func­tion­ing.  Exam­ples might include edu­ca­tion­al endeav­ors or life review.

?      Cog­ni­tive train­ing refers to the­o­ry-dri­ven inter­ven­tion, Read the rest of this entry »

Promising Cognitive Training Studies for ADHD

As not­ed in our Mar­ket Report, we expect the field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (or “brain fit­ness”) soft­ware to grow in a vari­ety of edu­ca­tion and health-relat­ed areas over the next years. One of the most promis­ing areas in our view: help­ing chil­dren and adults with atten­tion deficits improve brain func­tion to reduce ADHD symp­toms.

I am glad to present this in-depth dis­cus­sion on the results of two recent high-qual­i­ty sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies. Let me start with Dr. Rabiner’s con­clu­sion:

Results from these two cog­ni­tive train­ing stud­ies high­light that cog­ni­tive train­ing inter­ven­tions may pro­vide an impor­tant com­ple­ment to tra­di­tion­al med­ica­tion treat­ment and behav­ior ther­a­py. Both stud­ies includ­ed appro­pri­ate con­trol groups, employed ran­dom assign­ment, and had out­come mea­sures pro­vid­ed by indi­vid­u­als who were “blind” to which con­di­tion chil­dren were assigned to. They are thus well-designed stud­ies from which sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound con­clu­sions can be drawn. They add to the grow­ing research base that inten­sive prac­tice and train­ing focused of key cog­ni­tive skills can have pos­i­tive effects that extend beyond the train­ing sit­u­a­tion itself.”

With­out futher ado…enjoy the arti­cle!

- Alvaro

——————

Two New Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Stud­ies for ADHD Yield Promis­ing Find­ings

– By Dr. David Rabin­er

Although med­ica­tion treat­ment is effec­tive for many chil­dren with ADHD, there remains an impor­tant need to explore and devel­op inter­ven­tions that can com­ple­ment or even sub­sti­tute for med­ica­tion. This is true for a vari­ety of rea­sons includ­ing:

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Salon.com on Brain Fitness: Tree or Forest?

Salon.com pub­lished yes­ter­day a thought-pro­vok­ing arti­cle focused on Posit Science’s Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, titled Buff Up Your Brain, that com­bined a) some pret­ty good analy­sis and great points about that spe­cif­ic pro­gram and jus­ti­fi­able (to a point) crit­i­cism of the com­mer­cial tone of a recent PBS Spe­cial, with b) the error of con­fus­ing a tree with the for­est, that led the author to make sev­er­al unwar­rant­ed claims regard­ing the field.

Com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing has been around since way before Posit Sci­ence, and will be here way beyond Posit Sci­ence (and Sharp­Brains, and Salon.com), and their audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing prod­uct-fea­tured in the PBS Spe­cial- is not, in our view, the most par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive exam­ple. Well-direct­ed cog­ni­tive exer­cise can enhance men­tal skills and trans­fer to real-life out­comes, act­ing as a good com­ple­men­tary tool, when used prop­er­ly, to oth­er lifestyle options and tools.

Read the rest of this entry »

Improving Driving Skills and Brain Functioning- Interview with ACTIVE’s Jerri Edwards

Jerri Edwards- Active trialToday we are for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Jer­ri Edwards, an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor at Uni­ver­si­ty of South Florida’s School of Aging Stud­ies and Co-Inves­ti­ga­tor of the influ­en­cial ACTIVE study. Dr. Edwards was trained by Dr. Kar­lene K. Ball, and her research is aimed toward dis­cov­er­ing how cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties can be main­tained and even enhanced with advanc­ing age.

Main focus of research

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Please explain to our read­ers your main research areas

Jer­ri Edwards: I am par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in how cog­ni­tive inter­ven­tions may help old­er adults to avoid or at least delay func­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ties and there­by main­tain their inde­pen­dence longer. Much of my work has focused on the func­tion­al abil­i­ty of dri­ving includ­ing assess­ing dri­ving fit­ness among old­er adults and reme­di­a­tion of cog­ni­tive decline that results in dri­ving dif­fi­cul­ties.

Some research ques­tions that inter­est me include, how can we main­tain health­i­er lives longer? How can train­ing improve cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, both to improve those abil­i­ties and also to slow-down, or delay, cog­ni­tive decline? The spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty that I have stud­ied the most is pro­cess­ing speed, which is one of the cog­ni­tive skills that decline ear­ly on as we age.

ACTIVE results

Can you explain what cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing speed is, and why it is rel­e­vant to our dai­ly lives?

Pro­cess­ing speed is men­tal quick­ness. Just like a com­put­er with a 486 proces­sor can do a lot of the same things as a com­put­er with a Pen­tium 4 proces­sor, but it takes much longer, our minds tend to slow down with age as com­pared to when we were younger. We can do the same tasks, but it takes more time. Quick speed of pro­cess­ing is impor­tant for Read the rest of this entry »

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