Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Epigenetics: Nature vs. Nurture?

In yes­ter­day’s inter­view with Michael Pos­ner, he says:

- “There is a grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies that show the impor­tance of inter­ac­tion between our genes and each of our envi­ron­ments. Epi­ge­net­ics is going to help us under­stand that ques­tion bet­ter, but let me share a very inter­est­ing piece of research from my lab where we found an unusu­al inter­ac­tion between genet­ics and par­ent­ing.”

- “Good par­ent­ing, as mea­sured by dif­fer­ent research-based scales, has been shown to build good effort­ful con­trol which, as we saw ear­li­er, is so impor­tant. Now, what we found is that some spe­cif­ic genes reduced, even elim­i­nat­ed, the influ­ence of the qual­i­ty of par­ent­ing. In oth­er words, some chil­dren’s devel­op­ment real­ly depends on how their par­ents bring them up, where­as oth­ers do not — or do to a much small­er extent.”

Now check out this fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle in the Econ­o­mist:Domes­ti­ca­tion and intel­li­gence in dogs and wolves | Not so dumb ani­mals

- “Monique Udell of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da … won­dered whether learn­ing rather than evo­lu­tion explained his obser­va­tions. Her team there­fore worked with a mix­ture of pet dogs, dogs from ani­mal shel­ters that had had min­i­mal inter­ac­tion with peo­ple, and wolves raised by humans.”

- “As they report in Ani­mal Behav­iour, the wolves out­per­formed both shel­ter dogs and pets. Indeed, Read the rest of this entry »

Training Attention and Emotional Self-Regulation — Interview with Michael Posner

(Edi­tor’s Note: this is one of the 20 inter­views includ­ed in the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age)

Michael I. Pos­ner is a promi­nent sci­en­tist in the field of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science. He is cur­rent­ly an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon (Depart­mentMichael Posner of Psy­chol­o­gy, Insti­tute of Cog­ni­tive and Deci­sion Sci­ences). In August 2008, the Inter­na­tion­al Union of Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence made him the first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize “in recog­ni­tion of a con­tri­bu­tion that rep­re­sents a major advance in psy­chol­o­gy by a schol­ar or team of schol­ars of high inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion.”

Dr. Pos­ner, many thanks for your time today. I real­ly enjoyed the James Arthur Lec­ture mono­graph on Evo­lu­tion and Devel­op­ment of Self-Reg­u­la­tion that you deliv­ered last year. Could you pro­vide a sum­ma­ry of the research you pre­sent­ed?

I would empha­size that we human beings can reg­u­late our thoughts, emo­tions, and actions to a greater degree than oth­er pri­mates. For exam­ple, we can choose to pass up an imme­di­ate reward for a larg­er, delayed reward.

We can plan ahead, resist dis­trac­tions, be goal-ori­ent­ed. These human char­ac­ter­is­tics appear to depend upon what we often call “self-reg­u­la­tion.” What is excit­ing these days is that progress in neu­roimag­ing and in genet­ics make it pos­si­ble to think about self-reg­u­la­tion in terms of spe­cif­ic brain-based net­works.

Can you explain what self-reg­u­la­tion is?

All par­ents have seen this in their kids. Par­ents can see the remark­able trans­for­ma­tion as their chil­dren devel­op the abil­i­ty to reg­u­late emo­tions and to per­sist with goals in the face of dis­trac­tions. That abil­i­ty is usu­al­ly labeled ‚ self-reg­u­la­tion.

The oth­er main area of your research is atten­tion. Can you explain the brain-basis for what we usu­al­ly call “atten­tion”?

I have been inter­est­ed in how the atten­tion sys­tem devel­ops in infan­cy and ear­ly child­hood.

One of our major find­ings, thanks to neu­roimag­ing, is that there is not one sin­gle “atten­tion”, but three sep­a­rate func­tions of atten­tion with three sep­a­rate under­ly­ing brain net­works: alert­ing, ori­ent­ing, and exec­u­tive atten­tion. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Schools (Cognitively) Nutritive for Children’s Complex Thinking?

Today we host a very stim­u­lat­ing essay on the impor­tance of prob­lem-solv­ing and encour­ag­ing com­plex game-play­ing for chil­dren’s com­plete “cog­ni­tive nutri­tion”. Enjoy!

——————–

Chil­dren’s Com­plex Think­ing

– By Tom O’Brien and Chris­tine Wal­lach

Pop over to your neigh­bor­hood school and vis­it some class­rooms. Is what’s hap­pen­ing cog­ni­tive­ly nutri­tive? That is, does it sat­is­fy present needs and pro­vide nour­ish­ment for the future health and devel­op­ment of chil­dren’s think­ing?

Or is it puni­tive, with lit­tle con­cern for present nour­ish­ment and future health and devel­op­ment?

The Genevan psy­chol­o­gist and researcher Her­mi­na Sin­clair said, Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Development and Brain Research: Articles, Books, Papers (ASA)

brain fitness eventWe had a very fun ses­sion titled Teach­ing Brain Fit­ness in Your Com­mu­ni­ty at an Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging (ASA) con­fer­ence for health pro­fes­sion­als a cou­ple of weeks ago. Full house, with over 60 atten­dants and very good par­tic­i­pa­tion, show­ing great inter­est in the top­ic. I can’t wait to see the eval­u­a­tions.

These are some of the resources I promised as a fol­low-up, which can be use­ful to every­one inter­est­ed in our field:

Good gen­er­al arti­cles in the busi­ness and gen­er­al media:

Change or Die

Want a sharp mind for your gold­en years? Start now

You’re Wis­er Now

On how new neu­rons are born and grow in the adult brain:

Salk Sci­en­tists Demon­strate For The First Time That New­ly Born Brain Cells Are Func­tion­al In The Adult Brain

Old Brains, New Tricks

On the sur­pris­ing plas­tic­i­ty and devel­op­ment poten­tial through­out life:

Brain Plas­tic­i­ty, Lan­guage Pro­cess­ing and Read­ing

Jug­gling Jug­gles the Brain

Suc­cess­ful Aging of the Healthy Brain

Oth­er impor­tant aspects:

Stress and the Brain

Exer­cise and the Brain

Humor, Laugh­ter and The Brain

On the impor­tance and impact of men­tal stim­u­la­tion and train­ing: Read the rest of this entry »

Physical and Brain Exercise Boost Memory

Researchers at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty have just released a good paper show­ing the impor­tance of both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to main­tain good mem­o­ry (full text of research paper Sin­gle Enrich­ment Vari­ables Reduce Aged-relat­ed Mem­o­ry Decline in Female Mice).

Some quotes from the Sci­ence Dai­ly release Exer­cise And Men­tal Stim­u­la­tion Both Boost Mouse Mem­o­ry Late In Life:

  • The results sug­gest that as we get old and maybe less able to exer­cise, cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion can help to com­pen­sate. If the trend holds, write the authors, “These data may sug­gest that enrich­ment ini­ti­at­ed at any age can sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve mem­o­ry func­tion. And exer­cise plus men­tal chal­lenge in mid­dle age — when many peo­ple start to notice sub­tle mem­o­ry changes — may offer the strongest, most wide­spread ben­e­fits for mem­o­ry func­tion.”
  • The authors note that exer­cise was cen­tral to mem­o­ry rein­force­ment in all age groups. Says lead author Karyn Frick, PhD, “It is impor­tant for peo­ple of all ages to do 20 to 30 min­utes of aer­o­bic exer­cise sev­er­al times a week. Keep­ing a healthy and active brain may pre­vent mem­o­ry decline in old age, but only a lon­gi­tu­di­nal study that fol­lows mice over time could con­firm this pos­si­bil­i­ty.”

We dis­cussed this top­ic in more depth in my inter­view on Build­ing Your Cog­ni­tive Reserve with Dr. Yaakov Stern and in the dia­logue with Dr. Michael Merzenich that includ­ed fea­tur­ing the pio­neer­ing work of Dr. Mar­i­an Dia­mond.

In short, if you want to pro­tect and improve your mem­o­ry, get ready to exer­cise both body and brain!

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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