Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Marian C. Diamond to open SharpBrains Summit

What a bet­ter open­ing for our Jan­u­ary Sharp­Brains Sum­mit than to have Mar­i­an C. Dia­mond, one of the pio­neers of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty research since the 1960s, intro­duce us to the human brain, its anato­my and func­tion, and impli­ca­tions from neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty for brain health and per­for­mance at any age.

marian_diamondMar­i­an C. Dia­mond, Ph.D., is Pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­science and Anato­my at UC-Berke­ley  and one of the world’s fore­most researchers on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and enrich­ment since the 1960s . She is author of more than 100 sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles and three books, includ­ing Enrich­ing Hered­i­ty (Free Press/Simon and Schus­ter, 1988) and The Mag­ic Trees of the Mind (Plume, 1999). In par­tic­u­lar, she is inter­est­ed in study­ing the effects of the exter­nal envi­ron­ment, aging, and immune respons­es on the cere­bral neo­cor­tex.

You can read a num­ber of her pub­lic edu­ca­tion essays online:

To learn more sharpbrains_summit_logo_webabout the agen­da of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit and the incred­i­ble ros­ter of speak­ers who have agreed to par­tic­i­pate in this impor­tant event, click on Sharp­Brains Sum­mit.

New Neurons: Good News, Bad News

Over the last year we have glad­ly seen an avalanche of news on adult neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons in adult brains), fol­low­ing recent research reports. Fur­ther, we have seen how the news that phys­i­cal exer­cise can enhance neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is becom­ing com­mon knowl­edge among many health sys­tems we work with.

Now, the obvi­ous ques­tion that does­n’t always get asked is, “What good are new neu­rons if they don’t sur­vive?”. And that’s where learn­ing, enrich­ment, men­tal exer­cise, are crit­i­cal.

We are glad to intro­duce a new Expert Con­trib­u­tor, Dr. Bill Klemm, a pro­fes­sor of Neu­ro­science at Texas A&M Uni­ver­si­ty, who sum­ma­rizes much research on how new neu­rons are born-and what they need to live long hap­py lives.

- Alvaro

New Neu­rons: Good News, Bad News

– By Dr. Bill Klemm

In the last few years, researchers have dis­cov­ered that new nerve cells (neu­rons) are born, pre­sum­ably from resid­ual stem cells that exist even in adults. That should be good news for all of us as we get old­er and fear men­tal decline. The bad news is that these new neu­rons die, unless our minds are active enough.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carnival of Education #159: Briefing the Next US President on 35 Issues

Dear Mr or Mrs Next US Pres­i­dent,

Thank you for stop­ping dur­ing recess for a quick study ses­siMeditation School Studentson. 35 edu­ca­tors have col­lab­o­rat­ed to present this Car­ni­val of Edu­ca­tion as a use­ful les­son plan for you and your edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy team on what our real con­cerns and sug­ges­tions are.

In case this is your first vis­it to our Sharp­Brains blog, let me first of all point out some use­ful resources to stay sane dur­ing the rest of the cam­paign: select­ed Brain Teasers, a list of 21 great Brain Books, over a dozen inter­views with lead­ing sci­en­tists on learn­ing and brain-based top­ics, and more.

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s pro­ceed to the issues raised. We hope they pro­vide, at the very least, good men­tal stim­u­la­tion for you and your advi­sors.

Edu­ca­tion as a Sys­tem

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!

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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 »

Cells that fire together wire together” and Stanford Media X

That is the goal of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Media X: to fos­ter deep col­lab­o­ra­tions between indus­try and acad­e­mia, as high­light­ed in Busi­ness Week’s recent arti­cle The Vir­tu­al Meet­ing Room. The 5th Annu­al Media X Con­fer­ence on Research, Col­lab­o­ra­tion, Inno­va­tion and Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty served its pur­pose well for the last cou­ple of days: very fun and insight­ful pre­sen­ta­tions by Stan­ford researchers (and a few exter­nal experts) and a great list of par­tic­i­pants to get to know.

No doubt, a great source of men­tal stim­u­la­tion for all of us. Charles House, Media X’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, framed the dia­logue as an effort to gen­er­ate the right ques­tions and then engage the best minds in answer­ing them.

Some of (my) main take-aways

  • The world does not come to us as neat dis­ci­pli­nary prob­lems, but as com­plex inter­dis­ci­pli­nary chal­lenges” (great quote by Dean John Hen­nessy)
  • Per­son­al Robot­ics is poised to explode soon-and soft­ware will be key (pre­dict­ed by Paul Saf­fo)
  • An incon­ve­nient truth: Al Gore had to be con­vinced to bring his pre­sen­ta­tion into a movie, since he was very attached to each and every of his X hun­dred slides. We are hap­py it hap­pened!
  • Neu­ro­sci­en­tists know what pat­terns in the brain indi­cate cer­tain inten­tions-and are start­ing to use tech­nolo­gies to help immo­bi­lized patients com­mu­ni­cate with exter­nal devices based mere­ly on their thoughts
  • We need to learn to embrace change- a lot of it is com­ing!

Now, some key points from sev­er­al pre­sen­ta­tions (there were more than these, but I could­n’t attend all). I encour­age you to vis­it the web­site of each pre­sen­ter if you are inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about that top­ic.

a. Paul Saf­fo on Inno­va­tion

  • It usu­al­ly takes 20 years since basic sci­ence until appli­ca­tions reach inflec­tion point and take the world by storm
  • Next big thing: per­son­al robot­ics. Indi­ca­tors: Read the rest of this entry »

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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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