Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Every man can, if he so desires, sculpt his own brain

Santiago Ramon y CajalA Span­ish friend and neu­ro­sci­en­tist just remind­ed me of a great quote by San­ti­a­go Ramon y Cajal (1852–1934): “todo hom­bre puede ser, si se lo pro­pone, escul­tor de su pro­pio cere­bro”.

Which means: “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”.

Which real­ly means: “Each of us can lit­er­al­ly refine the struc­ture and func­tion of our brains, the same way we can do so with the rest of our body mus­cles” (my 2 cents…).

Our dai­ly thoughts and actions, learn­ings, med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­a­py, the grow­ing num­ber of soft­ware-based pro­grams, and more, are “sculpt­ing” tools…no more no less than tools. Good for some goals and con­texts, like improv­ing con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, becom­ing “sharp­er”, help­ing pro­tect our minds from decline, or man­age stress bet­ter.

I just bought Cajal’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, titled Rec­ol­lec­tions of My Life (thanks, Mind Hacks). Will be writ­ing about it in a month or so-I have too many books on the table now, and only one brain.

If you want to read some good neu­ro­science blog posts, you can find a nice col­lec­tion in the lat­est edi­tion of Encephalon, host­ed by Dr Deb­o­rah Serani.

For gen­er­al sci­ence ones, try Tan­gled Bank. For edu­ca­tion, enjoy The Edu­ca­tion Car­ni­val.

Final­ly, I will be host­ing the next edi­tion of Car­ni­val of the Cap­i­tal­ists (I don’t real­ly love the name…but it is the old­est and best blog car­ni­val for busi­ness and eco­nom­ics). If you have some good posts, please sub­mit them here.

For some addi­tion­al thoughts on sculpt­ing brains, intel­li­gence, and becom­ing smarter, you can check this post.

Training the Aging Workforce

Alice Snell kind­ly brings to our atten­tion her nice post, Baby Boomers: The Beat Goes On, com­ment­ing on sev­er­al reports and arti­cles on the aging work­force challenge. 

This is a very impor­tant top­ic, and direct­ly relat­ed to what we are doing. Let me pro­vide an overview with these 10 points. First, some con­text:

1) The Con­fer­ence Board pub­lished a good report in 2005 titled America’s Aging Work­force Pos­ing New Oppor­tu­ni­ties and Chal­lenges. Quotes:

  • Some 64 mil­lion baby boomers (over 40 per­cent of the U.S. labor force) are poised to retire in large num­bers by the end of this decade. In indus­tries already fac­ing labor and skills short­ages, for­ward-think­ing com­pa­nies are recruit­ing, retain­ing, and devel­op­ing flex­i­ble work-time arrange­ments and/or phased retire­ment plans for these work­ers (55 years of age or old­er), many of whom have skills that are dif­fi­cult to replace. Such actions are putting these com­pa­nies ahead of com­peti­tors who view the aging work­force large­ly as a bur­den putting strains on pen­sion plans and health­care costs.”
  • More old­er work­ers want to remain in their jobs for both per­son­al ful­fill­ment and finan­cial rea­sons. In a relat­ed forth­com­ing study from The Con­fer­ence Board, more than half (55 per­cent) of old­er employ­ees sur­veyed said they were not plan­ning to retire because they find their jobs inter­est­ing. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, 74 per­cent also cit­ed not hav­ing suf­fi­cient finan­cial resources as a rea­son they were con­tin­u­ing to work, and 60 per­cent cit­ed the need for med­ical ben­e­fits.”

Not only in the US: the largest sin­gle group with­in the UK work­force in 2006 was com­prised of peo­ple between 45 and 59.

2) Some con­sult­ing com­pa­nies like Accen­ture seem to be bet­ting that the solu­tion will be to improve tech­nol­o­gy for knowl­edge trans­fer and train younger employ­ees as soon as pos­si­ble (inter­view notes of the con­ver­sa­tion between Accenture’s CEO Bill Green and William J. Hol­stein, edi­tor in chief of Chief Exec­u­tive mag­a­zine.)

3) And the mar­ket for Tal­ent Man­age­ment and Suc­ces­sion Plan­ning solu­tions has been grow­ing steadi­ly, and Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Afternoon Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz to test your mem­o­ry and think­ing skills which should work out your tem­po­ral and frontal lobes. See how you do!

  1. Name the one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors nor the par­tic­i­pants know the score or the leader until the con­test ends.
  2. What famous North Amer­i­can land­mark is con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward?
  3. Of all veg­eta­bles, only two can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons. All oth­er veg­eta­bles must be replant­ed every year. What are the only two peren­ni­al veg­eta­bles?
  4. What fruit has its seeds on the out­side?
  5. In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bot­tle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bot­tle is gen­uine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bot­tle?
  6. Only three words in Stan­dard Eng­lish begin with the let­ters “dw” and they are all com­mon words. Name two of them.
  7. There are 14 punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar. Can you name at least half of them?
  8. Name the one veg­etable or fruit that is nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form except fresh.
  9. Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet begin­ning with the let­ter “S.”


Answers To Quiz:

  1.  The one sport in which nei­ther the spec­ta­tors, nor the par­tic­i­pants, know the score or the leader until the con­test ends: box­ing
  2.  The North Amer­i­can land­mark con­stant­ly mov­ing back­ward: Nia­gara Falls (the rim is worn down about two and a half feet each year because of the mil­lions of gal­lons of water that rush over it every minute.)
  3. Only two veg­eta­bles that can live to pro­duce on their own for sev­er­al grow­ing sea­sons: aspara­gus and rhubarb.
  4. The fruit with its seeds on the out­side: straw­ber­ry.
  5. How did the pear get inside the brandy bot­tle? It grew inside the bot­tle. (The bot­tles are placed over pear buds when they are small and are wired in place on the tree. The bot­tle is left in place for the entire grow­ing sea­son. When the pears are ripe, they are snipped off at the stems.)
  6. Three Eng­lish words begin­ning with “dw”: dwarf, dwell, and dwin­dle.
  7. Four­teen punc­tu­a­tion marks in Eng­lish gram­mar: peri­od, com­ma, colon, semi­colon, dash, hyphen, apos­tro­phe, ques­tion mark, excla­ma­tion point, quo­ta­tion marks, brack­ets, paren­the­sis, braces, and ellipses.
  8. The only veg­etable or fruit nev­er sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any oth­er form but fresh: let­tuce.
  9. Six or more things you can wear on your feet begin­ning with “s”: shoes, socks, san­dals, sneak­ers, slip­pers, skis, skates, snow­shoes, stock­ings, stilts.


More brain teas­er games:

Baby Boomers, Memory and Wisdom

The NYT Mag­a­zine today is devot­ed to the top­ic of Can Sci­ence Tell us Who Grows Wis­er.

It may have been even bet­ter had the ques­tion been, “What Sci­ence Tells us About How we Can Grow Wis­er”, but it is a pret­ty good issue any­way.

A very good arti­cle on The Older–and–Wiser Hypoth­e­sis. Quotes: 

  • One of the most inter­est­ing areas of neu­ro­science research involves look­ing at the way peo­ple reg­u­late their Read the rest of this entry »

Theater for brain fitness

Cog­ni­tive Dai­ly brings an intrigu­ing arti­cle titled Is the­ater the ulti­mate brain fit­ness prod­uct?, based on research pub­lished in 2004 by Hel­ga and Tony Noice.

Very inter­est­ing results on mem­o­ry and prob­lem-solv­ing. Will inves­ti­gate whether that exper­i­ment has been repli­cat­ed since then and we can rec­om­mend such a fun (and demand­ing) brain fit­ness activ­i­ty!

If you live in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, you may be inter­est­ed in the Geezer The­ater orga­nized by one of our part­ners, the Osh­er Life­long Learn­ing Insti­tute.

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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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