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Learning & The Brain: Interview with Robert Sylwester

Robert SylwesterDr. Robert Syl­west­er is an edu­ca­tor of edu­ca­tors, hav­ing received mul­ti­ple awards dur­ing his long career as a mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor of the impli­ca­tions of brain sci­ence research for edu­ca­tion and learn­ing. He is the author of sev­er­al books and many jour­nal arti­cles, and mem­ber of our Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board. His most recent book is The Ado­les­cent Brain: Reach­ing for Auton­o­my (Cor­win Press, 2007). He is an Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Edu­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Let’s start with that eter­nal source of debate. What do we know about the respec­tive roles of genes and our envi­ron­ment in brain devel­op­ment?

Robert Syl­west­er: Genet­ic and envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors both con­tribute to brain mat­u­ra­tion. Genet­ics prob­a­bly play a stronger role in the ear­ly years, and the envi­ron­ment plays a stronger role in lat­er years. Still the mother’s (envi­ron­men­tal) use of drugs dur­ing the preg­nan­cy could affect the genet­ics of fetal brain devel­op­ment, and some adult ill­ness­es, such as Huntington’s Dis­ease, are genet­i­cal­ly trig­gered.

Nature and nur­ture both require the sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions of the oth­er in most devel­op­men­tal and main­te­nance func­tions. We typ­i­cal­ly think of envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors as things that hap­pen to us, over which we have lit­tle con­trol.

Can’t our own deci­sions have an effect in our own brain devel­op­ment? For exam­ple, what if I choose a career in invest­ment bank­ing, vs. one in jour­nal­ism or teach­ing?

We make our own career deci­sions in life, and most of us make a com­bi­na­tion of good and bad deci­sions, which influ­ence our brain’s mat­u­ra­tion.

My father was very unusu­al in his career tra­jec­to­ry in that he worked at one place through­out his entire adult life, and died three months after he retired at 91. I’ve always thought that it’s a good idea to make a change every ten years or so and do some­thing dif­fer­ent either with­in the same orga­ni­za­tion or to move to anoth­er one.

It’s just as good for orga­ni­za­tions to have some staff turnover as it is for staff to move to new chal­lenges. The time to leave one posi­tion for anoth­er is while you and your employ­er are Read the rest of this entry »

Training the Brains of Fighter Pilots and Basketball Players

We are a brain fit­ness cen­ter because we want to offer the best infor­ma­tion, tools and sup­port on how to exer­cise our brains. Same way you join the gym to stay in shape and find the best machines and per­son­al train­ers.

One of the “tools” or “machines” we offer was designed under the sci­en­tif­ic super­vi­sion of Pro­fes­sor Daniel Gopher and his team for bas­ket­ball play­ers: click here to read our inter­view with him. And here for a fun clip with the Mem­phis Tigers.

Our part­ner ACE just issued this press release:

Fight­er Pilots Help Pur­due and Long Beach State Reach the Tour­na­ment

The Bas­ket­ball Intel­li­Gym Improves Deci­sion-Mak­ing

STUDIO CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The same tech­nol­o­gy ini­tial­ly devel­oped to train Israeli fight­er pilots on the cog­ni­tive, brain lev­el has been an inte­gral part of the train­ing reg­i­men for both Long Beach State and Pur­due, two teams earn­ing their first NCAA tour­na­ment births since 1995 and 2003 respec­tive­ly.

The inno­v­a­tive Bas­ket­ball Intel­li­Gym soft­ware pro­gram has been proven to improve real-time deci­sion-mak­ing and exe­cu­tion for thou­sands of bas­ket­ball play­ers world­wide and play­ers on more than a dozen col­lege bas­ket­ball teams. Read the rest of this entry »

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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