“…the issue of what does and doesn’t work is complex…The critical question is whether transfer of training occurs. Does extended practice of the trained games result in general perceptual and cognitive improvements that boost performance of meaningful, real-life tasks such as driving, remembering names and faces, and keeping track of finances?… [Read more…] about To develop personalized brain training that works, gather and analyze big data
We have all heard about children who have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). Indeed, this condition seems to affect 5 to 8% of school age children. Have you ever wondered what happen to these children? As many as 60% of them become adults presenting AD/HD symptoms! Ron de Graaf and colleagues recently published a study in which they found that an average of 3.5% of workers (in ten countries) meet the criteria for adult ADHD. As you can imagine, being an adult with AD/HD can be a challenge at work.
Before we explore this issue let’s start by describing the symptoms of ADHD.
What is adult AD/HD?
AD/HD is a disorder of the brain. Research clearly indicates that AD/HD is to a large extent genetic, that is it tends to run in families. However, AD/HD is a complex disorder and other causal factors may be at play.
Typically, the symptoms arise in early childhood, unless they are associated with some type of brain injury later in life. Some people have mild AD/HD with only a few symptoms while others have more serious AD/HD with more symptoms.
Symptoms of inattention (adapted from the DSM-IV)
Over the last months, thanks to the traffic growth of SharpBrains.com (over 100,000 unique visitors per month these days, THANK YOU for visiting today and please come back!), a number of proactive book agents, publishers and authors have contacted us to inform us of their latest brain-related books. We have taken a look at many books, wrote reviews of The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review‚ and Best of the Brain from Scientific American, and interviewed scientists such as Judith Beck, Robert Emmons and James Zull.
Now we are launching a new Author Speaks Series to provide a platform for leading scientists and experts writing high-quality brain-related books to reach a wide audience. We are honored to start the series with an article by Larry McCleary, M.D, former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, and author of The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory, Elevate Mood, Enhance Attention, Alleviate Migraine and Menopausal Symptoms, and Boost Mental Energy (Perigee Trade, 2007).
Without further ado, let’s enjoy Dr. McCleary’s article:
Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health
You may feel overwhelmed by the stream of seemingly contradictory suggestions regarding the best way to maintain mental clarity as you age. Based on an analysis of seminal factors in the development of modern brain anatomy, I believe it is possible to make some very compelling recommendations for growing big brains, enhancing their function, and making them resistant to the aging process. These may be loosely categorized as factors pertaining to the mental or physical attributes of the brain. Although they are not truly independent entities, such a conceptualization provides a basis for the generation of brain healthy prescriptions. Diet, physical exercise, and stress reduction enhance neuronal resilience. Sleep and mental stimulation are vital for cognitive ability, learning, and memory.
Diet: Follow a modern shore-based/marine diet including seafood in its most general sense, non-starchy vegetables of all colors, berries, and eggs. Other sources of lean protein containing long-chain omega 3 fatty acids such as free range beef, chicken, bison, or elk are nutritious alternatives.
Physical exercise (Think fight or flight — activity.): Include all types. Aerobic activities such as swimming, bicycling, walking, or hiking for promotion of vascular health and weight control; resistance training for promotion of neurotrophic factors, naturally occurring compounds that make brain cells more resistant to aging, such as IGF‑1 (Insulin-like growth factor‑1) and BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor); and balance, coordination, and agility training such as ping-pong, balance beam, trampoline, and jumping rope to enhance cognitive speed and motor skills.
Stress Control: From an evolutionary perspective, stressors (such as meeting a cave bear) and intense physical activity (running or fighting) were brief in duration and usually occurred together. Modern stressors (psychological or emotional stress) tend to be unremitting and are generally uncoupled from the physical (fight or flight) component, meaning stress develops without any associated physical activity. Such intense physical pursuits are now called exercise. Not surprisingly, exercise is a perfect physiologic antidote for stress due to its beneficial impact on cortisol (the stress hormone) and blood pressure and should be incorporated into any program of stress reduction.
Adequate sleep: The body needs rest, but the brain requires sleep. Acute or chronic sleep deprivation causes devastating short and long-term consequences to brain anatomy (synaptic loss) and function (memory and learning difficulties). Off-line information processing and memory consolidation are additional sleep-related benefits.
Mental stimulation: Brain-training, a cognitively challenging lifestyle, novelty, and socialization are vital for the promotion of neuronal plasticity and neurogenesis (the formation of new nerve cells and neuronal connections), the enhancement of specific brain functions such as memory, and the development of cognitive reserve — additional mental processing potential that may be brought online when needed.
The combination of these recommendations, each of which was instrumental in the transformation from primitive to modern nervous systems, provides a template for the most logical approach for enhancing mental function and resisting neurodegeneration as we travel through life.
The Evolutionary Rationale
The human brain clearly has the genetic potential for dramatic expansion. This was illustrated about [Read more…] about Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health
Today we will continue our review of the benefits of brain training for specific occupations: in this case, pilots and basketball players. The lessons can be relevant not only for corporate training but also for education and brain health & wellness.
To do so, we will select quotes from our interview last year with one of the major scientists in the field of cognitive simulations, Professor Daniel Gopher. You can read the full interview here.
Prof. Gopher published an award-winning article in 1994, Gopher, D., Weil, M. and Baraket, T. (1994), Transfer of skill from a computer game trainer to flight, Human Factors 36, 1–19., that constitutes a key milestone in the cognitive engineering field.
On Cognitive Training and Cognitive Simulations
AF: Tell us a bit about your overall research interests
DG: My main interest has been how to expand the limits of human attention, information processing and response capabilities which are critical in complex, real-time decision-making, high-demand tasks such as flying a military jet or playing professional basketball. Using a tennis analogy, my goal has been, and is, how to help develop many “Wimbledon”-like champions. Each with their own styles, but performing to their maximum capacity to succeed in their environments.
What research over the last 15–20 years has shown is that cognition, or what we call thinking and performance, is really a set of skills that we can train systematically. And that computer-based cognitive trainers or “cognitive simulations” are the most effective and efficient way to do so.
This is an important point, so let me emphasize it. What we have discovered is that a key factor for an effective transfer from training environment to reality is that the training program ensures “Cognitive Fidelity”, this is, it should faithfully represent the mental demands that happen in the real world. Traditional approaches focus instead on [Read more…] about Brain Training with Cognitive Simulations