Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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A conversation with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg on Creativity, Neuroscience, and Technological Innovation

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Dear Elkhonon, a plea­sure to have you with us. Let’s get out the gate by dis­cussing how are new ideas born — for exam­ple, how exact­ly did you first think about writ­ing your new book, Cre­ativ­i­ty: The Human Brain in the Age of Inno­va­tion?

Orig­i­nal­ly, I set out to write a book about how the brain deals with nov­el­ty — a long-stand­ing focus of my own research. But the more I thought about it, the more the sub­ject of cre­ativ­i­ty was com­ing up, so I decid­ed to tack­le nov­el­ty and cre­ativ­i­ty at the same time.

Do we need yet anoth­er book on Cre­ativ­i­ty?

We absolute­ly do. Cre­ativ­i­ty is not just an indi­vid­ual feat; it is embed­ded into a cul­ture which either fos­ter, sti­fles, or shapes it in a vari­ety of ways. And it is nev­er a strict­ly soli­tary process, since even the most cre­ative mind draws on the pre­vi­ous­ly accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge. So, in order to tru­ly under­stand cre­ativ­i­ty, we must inte­grate neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic and cul­tur­al per­spec­tives into a coher­ent nar­ra­tive. To my knowl­edge, this has not been done before, and this is what my book aims to accom­plish.

I am par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the dynam­ic rela­tion­ship between over- and under­ac­ti­va­tion of pre­frontal cor­tex areas in the cre­ative process and dis­cuss it exten­sive­ly in the book. This is one of the most intrigu­ing and pos­si­bly most con­se­quen­tial aspects of the brain machin­ery of cre­ativ­i­ty.

What have we learned about the brain mech­a­nisms of cre­ativ­i­ty over the last five to ten years?

We have learned a lot: that cre­ativ­i­ty is not a mono­lith­ic trait; that is con­sists of many mov­ing parts and may take many paths even with­in the same are­na of human endeav­or; that it is not linked to any sin­gle brain struc­ture or to a sin­gle gene or even a small group of genes.

How do you define Cre­ativ­i­ty, and what can Neu­ro­science con­tribute to its under­stand­ing?

Cre­ativ­i­ty is often defined as the abil­i­ty to come up with con­tent which is both nov­el and salient. Read the rest of this entry »

Resource: Free brain games for children (kid tested, teacher approved)

exquisiteminds.

Exquis­ite Minds (a web­site for gift­ed and cre­ative chil­dren) has curat­ed a fan­tas­tic list of Free Brain Games, promis­ing that “These free brain games have been kid test­ed and teacher approved.”

We are proud our brain teasers for teens and adults top the list, and agree with their assess­ment that “This site is more intel­lec­tu­al in nature, it’s bet­ter for adult-child dis­cus­sion or for use with old­er kids and adults.”

I hope you (and your kids) enjoy them all!

Cognitive Fitness @ Harvard Business Review

The Har­vard Busi­ness Review just pub­lished (thanks Cather­ine!) this arti­cle on cog­ni­tive fit­ness, by Rod­er­ick Gilkey and Clint Kilts. We are hap­py to see the grow­ing inter­est on how to main­tain healthy and pro­duc­tive brains, from a broad­en­ing num­ber of quar­ters. With­out hav­ing yet ful­ly read the article…it seems to pro­vide a rea­son­able intro­duc­tion to brain sci­ence, yet could have more beef regard­ing assess­ment, train­ing and rec­om­men­da­tions. In such an emerg­ing field, though, going one step at a time makes sense. What real­ly mat­ters is thet fact itself that it was pub­lished.

The HBR Descrip­tion of the arti­cle:

Recent neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic research shows that the health of your brain isn’t, as experts once thought, just the prod­uct of child­hood expe­ri­ences and genet­ics; it reflects your adult choic­es and expe­ri­ences as well. Pro­fes­sors Gilkey and Kilts of Emory University’s med­ical and busi­ness schools explain how you can strength­en your brain’s anato­my, neur­al net­works, and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, and pre­vent func­tions such as mem­o­ry from dete­ri­o­rat­ing as you age. The brain’s alert­ness is the result of what the authors call cog­ni­tive fitness–a state of opti­mized abil­i­ty to rea­son, remem­ber, learn, plan, and adapt. Cer­tain atti­tudes, lifestyle choic­es, and exer­cis­es enhance cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Men­tal work­outs are the key. Brain-imag­ing stud­ies indi­cate that acquir­ing exper­tise in areas as diverse as play­ing a cel­lo, jug­gling, speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage, and dri­ving a taxi­cab expands your neur­al sys­tems and makes them more com­mu­nica­tive. In oth­er words, you can alter the phys­i­cal make­up of your brain by learn­ing new skills. The more cog­ni­tive­ly fit you are, the bet­ter equipped you are to make deci­sions, solve prob­lems, and deal with stress and change. Read the rest of this entry »

Sharpen Your Wits With This Special Offer!

We are offer­ing a lim­it­ed-time deal for the rest of Feb­ru­ary 2007.

You will get Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 QuestionsBrain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions includ­ed for free! (an $11.95 sav­ings!)

Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez answer in plain Eng­lish the most com­mon ques­tions around why and how to exer­cise our brains.

…when you buy any of the fol­low­ing brain exer­cise pro­grams:

Exercise Your Brain: New Brain Research and Implications

Exer­cise Your Brain: New Brain Research and Impli­ca­tions DVD

This one-hour and 20 minute class intro­duces you to the sci­ence of brain fit­ness and includes many engag­ing brain exer­cis­es you can do on your own or in a group set­ting. You will learn about basic neu­roanato­my and phys­i­ol­o­gy, as well as hear about the ground­break­ing pub­li­ca­tions that launched this field. Then, get you will prac­tice how to exer­cise your own brain and flex all your men­tal mus­cles. Per­fect intro­duc­tion to Brain Fit­ness!
Read the rest of this entry »

Memory training and attention deficits: interview with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gibson

Bradley S. Gibson, Ph.D.Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame, and Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab there. He is a cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist with research inter­ests in per­cep­tion, atten­tion, and visu­al cog­ni­tion. Gibson’s research has been pub­lished in a vari­ety of jour­nals, includ­ing Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, Human Per­cep­tion and Per­for­mance, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, and Per­cep­tion & Psy­chophysics.

In 2006 he con­duct­ed the first inde­pen­dent repli­ca­tion study based on the Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing pro­gram we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg.

A local news­pa­per intro­duced some pre­lim­i­nary results of the study Atten­tion, please: Mem­o­ry exer­cis­es reduce symp­toms of ADHD. Some quotes from the arti­cles:

- “The com­put­er game has been shown to reduce ADHD symp­toms in chil­dren in exper­i­ments con­duct­ed in Swe­den, where it was devel­oped, and more recent­ly in a Granger school, where it was test­ed by psy­chol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame.

- Fif­teen stu­dents at Dis­cov­ery Mid­dle School tried RoboMemo dur­ing a five-week peri­od in Feb­ru­ary and March, said lead researcher Brad Gib­son

- As a result of that expe­ri­ence, symp­toms of inat­ten­tion and hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty were both reduced, accord­ing to reports by teach­ers and par­ents, Gib­son said.

- Oth­er tests found sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in “work­ing mem­o­ry”, a short-term mem­o­ry func­tion that’s con­sid­ered key to focus­ing atten­tion and con­trol­ling impuls­es.

- RoboMemo’s effec­tive­ness is not as well estab­lished as med­ica­tions, and it’s a lot more work than pop­ping a pill.

- Gib­son said Notre Dame’s study is con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary because it involved a small num­ber of stu­dents. Anoth­er lim­i­ta­tion is that the study did not have a con­trol group of stu­dents receiv­ing a place­bo treat­ment.

We feel for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Gib­son today.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Dr. Gib­son, thanks for being with us. Could you first tell us about your over­all research inter­ests?

Dr. Bradley Gib­son (BG): Thanks for giv­ing me this oppor­tu­ni­ty. My pri­ma­ry research Read the rest of this entry »

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