Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain News: Lifelong Learning for Cognitive Health

Here you have the March edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health Brain Fitnessand brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page. I know I am biased — but do believe this Newslet­ter issue might well be our best so far. I hope you find the time to enjoy it!

Bird’s Eye View

Top Arti­cles and Resources in March: High­lights — a) great arti­cles in Sci­Am Mind and the Wall Street Jour­nal, b) new resources (book and free DVD) by the Dana Foun­da­tion, c) research stud­ies on how our cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties tend to evolve as we age, the impact of phys­i­cal exer­cise on the brain, the lack of long-term effec­tive­ness of ADHD drugs, and how work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing may ben­e­fit math per­for­mance.

Brain Fit­ness Sur­vey: Over 2,000 thought­ful respons­es to our Jan­u­ary sur­vey (Thank You!) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate lifestyle and prod­uct claims, as well as the need for more research, an expand­ed health­care cul­ture, as more. Giv­en this con­text, we are pub­lish­ing The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness in May 2009, a book with 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, in addi­tion to our annu­al mar­ket report for pro­fes­sion­als and exec­u­tives (to be pub­lished in April). If you have ideas to help us pro­mote the book, please reply to this email and let us know!

Life­long Learn­ing

Elder­hostel’s Mar­ty Knowl­ton dies at 88: He helped launch Elder­hos­tel, rein­vent­ed “aging”, “retire­ment” and “learn­ing”, and con­tributed to the brain fit­ness of mil­lions of indi­vid­u­als as a result.

MetLife Mature Mar­ket Insti­tute Report: Geron­tol­o­gist Fay Radding presents the find­ings of a recent MetLife report, con­clud­ing that “As indi­vid­u­als age, mean­ing­ful inter­ac­tions and pur­pose­ful activ­i­ty become even more val­ued and cru­cial to cog­ni­tive health- and cog­ni­tive health itself becomes more of a pri­or­i­ty.”

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barg­er explains in his recent book that, “The great­est ene­my of change is rou­tine. When we lapse into rou­tine and oper­ate on autopi­lot, we are no longer ful­ly and active­ly con­scious of what we’re doing and why. That is why some of the most fer­tile sit­u­a­tions for per­son­al growth those that occur with­in new envi­ron­ments are those that force us to exit our rou­tines and active­ly mas­ter unfa­mil­iar chal­lenges.”

Food for Thought

Michael Merzenich: Brain Plas­tic­i­ty offers Hope for Every­one: Dr. Gin­ger Camp­bell recent­ly inter­viewed Dr. Michael Merzenich. Pod­cast Quote: “What­ev­er you strug­gle with in a sense as it stems from your neu­rol­o­gy, the inher­ent plas­tic­i­ty of the brain gives you a basis for improve­ment. This is a way under­uti­lized and under-appre­ci­at­ed resource that well all have.”

Ther­a­py vs. Med­ica­tion, Con­flicts of Inter­est, and Intim­i­da­tion: What start­ed as an aca­d­e­m­ic dis­pute regard­ing dis­clo­sure of con­flict of inter­est is now snow­balling. Dr. Jonathan Leo crit­i­cized two impor­tant aspects of a recent a study pub­lished in JAMA that com­pared the effi­ca­cy of ther­a­py vs. med­ica­tion. JAMA edi­tors then tried to intim­i­date Dr. Leo and his uni­ver­si­ty. An inves­ti­ga­tion by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion is under way.

ETech09 on Life Hack­ing and Brain Train­ing: Here you have the pre­sen­ta­tion Alvaro Fer­nan­dez deliv­ered at O’Reil­ly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Con­fer­ence 2009, a gath­er­ing of tech­nol­o­gy pio­neers with a grow­ing inter­est in sci­ence and biol­o­gy top­ics.

Atten­tion!

Dis­tract­ed in the Work­place?: In a very-thought­ful 2‑part inter­view (part 1 here, part 2 here), author Mag­gie Jack­son chal­lenges us to “First, ques­tion the val­ues that ven­er­ate McThink­ing and under­mine atten­tion.”

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabin­er reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled tri­al on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Twit­ter

Final­ly, I want­ed to let you know that you can fol­low quick Sharp­Brains updates and some of my thoughts via Twit­ter: http://twitter.com/AlvaroF

Have a great Nation­al Car Care Month in April! (now, would­n’t you please pay at least equal atten­tion to Brain Care than to Car Care?)

ETech09: on Life Hacking and Brain Training

Here you have the pre­sen­ta­tion I deliv­ered on Tues­day at ETech 2009 (this year’s O’Reil­ly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Con­fer­ence):

Emerg­ing Research and Tech­nol­o­gy for Life Hacking/ Brain Train­ing

(click to open pre­sen­ta­tion in new win­dow)

Descrip­tion: Life hack­ing. Brain train­ing. They are one and the same. The brain’s frontal lobes enable our goal-ori­ent­ed behav­ior, sup­port­ing exec­u­tive func­tions, such as deci­sion-mak­ing, atten­tion, emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion, goal-set­ting, and work­ing mem­o­ry. These func­tions can be enhanced with tar­get­ed prac­tice  such as life hack­ing. This ses­sion will pro­vide an overview of the cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science under­pin­ning life hack­ing, and review the state-of-the-art of non-inva­sive tools for brain train­ing: neu­ro­feed­back, biofeed­back, soft­ware appli­ca­tions, cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions, Tran­scra­nial Mag­net­ic Stim­u­la­tion, and plain-old med­i­ta­tion.

It was great to meet fel­low blog­gers and pre­sen­ters, such as Shel­ley Batts of Of Two Minds and Chris Patil of Ouroboros, and very inquisite and through­ful audi­ence mem­bers. Get­ting ready to speak at ASA/ NCOA and IHRSA next week!

Mind Hacks and the Placebo Effect

Placebo effect, mind hacksIn the ETech pan­el a few days ago, we dis­cussed some futur­is­tic and some emerg­ing ways in which we can “hack our minds”, most­ly from a tech­nol­o­gy point of view.

Nei­ther myself nor the oth­er pan­elists thought of sug­gest­ing the most obvi­ous and inex­pen­sive method, proven in thou­sands of research stud­ies.

The secret com­pound?: Belief. Also called “the place­bo effect”. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain News: Software, Education, Arts

A few updates and announce­ments:

- 1) My apolo­gies for slow blog­ging, due to trav­el. I par­tic­i­pat­ed yes­ter­day in a fun pan­el dis­cus­sion at ETech on Use Your Head- The Future of Mind Hacks. You can read some take-aways (in Ital­ian, so this may be good brain exer­cise) here.

- 2) We will release our report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2008 next Mon­day (Update: Tues­day March 11th!), to coin­cide with Brain Aware­ness Week. Make sure to vis­it our blog next Mon­day if you want to learn more.

- 3) The Nation­al Muse­um of Health and Med­i­cine at Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter is plan­ning some great activ­i­ties dur­ing Brain Aware­ness Week (Thank you, Tim). Learn more about their “Part­ners in Edu­ca­tion” activ­i­ties for stu­dents in the Wash­ing­ton DC area.

- 4) The Dana Foun­da­tion has released a great research report to address the ques­tion “Are smart peo­ple drawn to the arts or does arts train­ing make peo­ple smarter?” Enjoy the report and some excel­lent relat­ed resources Here.

- 5) Eric Jensen has writ­ten a great arti­cle on Brain-Based Edu­ca­tion for PDK Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Edu­ca­tion. Enjoy it!

Placebo effect: why not more of it?

Senia writes a great arti­cle on How You Tell the Sto­ry of Your Life in Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy News Dai­ly. As part of the sto­ry, she men­tions a very fun study on the pow­er of the Place­bo effect.

From Seni­a’s post:

Hotel WorkerIn the Feb­ru­ary, 2007 issue of Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, Langer and col­league Alia Crum report­ed that they took 84 hotel work­ers and told one group that “the work they do (clean­ing hotel rooms) is good exer­cise and sat­is­fies the Sur­geon Gen­er­al’s rec­om­men­da­tions for an active lifestyle. Exam­ples of how their work was exer­cise were pro­vid­ed. Langer and Crum told the con­trol group noth­ing. Four weeks lat­er, Langer and Crum returned to find some mea­sure­ments of both groups: the con­trol group had­n’t changed phys­i­cal­ly, but the test group had decreased all of the fol­low­ing: weight, blood pres­sure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

Langer and Crum describe this study as sup­port­ing the the­o­ry that exer­cise affects health at least part­ly due to the place­bo effect. Fur­ther­more, we can ask, what are the sto­ries that these hotel work­ers are telling them­selves? Why do the hotel work­ers sud­den­ly believe that they active­ly affect their exer­cise reg­i­ment?”

Impli­ca­tion: the place­bo effect is real, and it can help our health.

A few fun ques­tions to con­sid­er:

- How do we pre­vent oth­er peo­ple from sell­ing us stuff that only works based on the place­bo effect?

- Once we decide to do some­thing, should­n’t we try to “place­bo” our­selves in order to get the most of it? this is anoth­er man­i­fes­ta­tion of the impor­tance of emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion.

Enjoy the long week­end

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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