Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Johns Hopkins study shows how brain training, if correctly targeted, can enhance cognitive and brain performance

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This train­ing exer­cise boosts brain pow­er, Johns Hop­kins researchers say (Johns Hop­kins release)

One of the two brain-train­ing meth­ods most sci­en­tists use in research is sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter in improv­ing mem­o­ry and atten­tion, Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty researchers found. It also results in more sig­nif­i­cant changes in brain activ­i­ty. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Brain teasers and brain fitness tips to improve attention and memory in 2016

3_BRAINSDear Sharp­Brains friend,

Time for Sharp­Brains’ Decem­ber e‑newsletter…and we are hon­ored to announce that the Japan­ese edi­tion of The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness just became avail­able, and is doing well! (more below)

Let us wish you Hap­py Hol­i­days and Hap­py New Year, and share a few resources and insights that may come handy in 2016.

Resources to enhance brain fitness in 2016:

New brain research:

Take-aways from the 2015 SharpBrains Virtual Summit:

BrainFitnessJapanese_Amazon

Meanwhile, in Japan…

 

Best wish­es for a sharp, healthy and hap­py 2016!

The Sharp­Brains Team

Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning

Arts edu­ca­tion influ­ences learn­ing and oth­er areas of cog­ni­tion and may deserve a more promi­nent place in schools, accord­ing to a wave of recent neu­ro­science research.One recent study found that chil­dren who receive music instruc­tion for just 15 months show strength­ened con­nec­tions in musi­cal­ly rel­e­vant brain areas and per­form bet­ter on asso­ci­at­ed tasks, com­pared with stu­dents who do not learn an instru­ment.

A sep­a­rate study found that chil­dren who receive train­ing to improve their focus and atten­tion per­form bet­ter not only on atten­tion tasks but also on intel­li­gence tests. Some researchers sug­gest that arts train­ing might sim­i­lar­ly affect a wide range of cog­ni­tive domains. Edu­ca­tors and neu­ro­sci­en­tists gath­ered recent­ly in Bal­ti­more and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to dis­cuss the increas­ing­ly detailed pic­ture of how arts edu­ca­tion changes the brain, and how to trans­late that research to edu­ca­tion pol­i­cy and the class­room. Many par­tic­i­pants referred to the results of Dana Foun­da­tion-fund­ed research by cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tists from sev­en lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties over three years, released in 2008.

Art must do some­thing to the mind and brain. What is that? How would we be able to detect that? asked Bar­ry Gor­don, a behav­ioral neu­rol­o­gist and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty, who spoke May 8 dur­ing the “Learn­ing and the Brain” con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “Art, I sub­mit to you with­out absolute proof, can improve the pow­er of our minds. How­ev­er, this improve­ment is hard to detect.”

Study links music, brain changes

Among the sci­en­tists try­ing to detect such improve­ment, Ellen Win­ner, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Boston Col­lege, and Got­tfried Schlaug, a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­ical Cen­ter and Har­vard Med­ical School, pre­sent­ed research at the “Learn­ing, Arts, and the Brain sum­mit May 6 in Bal­ti­more. Their work mea­sured, for the first time, changes to the brain as a result of music train­ing.

For four years, Win­ner and Schlaug fol­lowed chil­dren ages 9 to 11, some of whom Read the rest of this entry »

Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?)

The grow­ing field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (one of the tools for brain fit­ness) can appear very con­fus­ing as the media keeps report­ing con­tra­dic­to­ry claims. These claims are often based on press releas­es, with­out a deep­er eval­u­a­tion of the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence.

Let’s take a cou­ple of recent exam­ples, in suc­ces­sive days:

It does­n’t work!” type of head­line:
Reuters (Feb. 10, 2009)  For­mal brain exer­cise won’t help healthy seniors: research
Healthy old­er peo­ple should­n’t both­er spend­ing mon­ey on com­put­er games and web­sites promis­ing to ward off men­tal decline, the author of a review of sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence for the ben­e­fits of these “brain exer­cise” pro­grams says.

It works! type of head­line:
Sci­enceDai­ly (Feb. 11, 2009)  “Com­put­er Exer­cis­es Improve Mem­o­ry And Atten­tion, Study Sug­gests”
Accord­ing to the researchers, par­tic­i­pants who used the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram also scored as well as those ten years younger, on aver­age, on mem­o­ry and atten­tion tests for which they did not train.

So, does struc­tured brain exer­cise / cog­ni­tive train­ing work or not?

The prob­lem may in fact reside in ask­ing this very ques­tion in the first place, as Alvaro point­ed out a while ago in his arti­cle Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: too seri­ous to play with head­lines.

We need a more nuanced set of ques­tions.

Why? Because:
1. Cog­ni­tion is made of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties (work­ing mem­o­ry, atten­tion, exec­u­tive func­tions such as deci­sion-mak­ing, etc)
2. Avail­able train­ing pro­grams do not all train the same abil­i­ties
3. Users of train­ing pro­grams do not all have the same needs or goals
4. We need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between enhanc­ing cog­ni­tive func­tions and delay­ing the onset of cog­ni­tive deficits such as Alzheimer’s.

Let’s illus­trate these points, by Read the rest of this entry »

Should Social-Emotional Learning Be Part of Academic Curriculum?

The Secret to Suc­cess
New research says social-emo­tion­al learn­ing helps stu­dents in every way.
— by Daniel Gole­man

Schools are begin­ning to offer an increas­ing num­ber of cours­es in social and emo­tion­al intel­li­gence, teach­ing stu­dents how to bet­ter under­stand their own emo­tions and the emo­tions of oth­ers.

It sounds warm and fuzzy, but it’s a trend backed up by hard data. Today, new stud­ies reveal that teach­ing kids to be emo­tion­al­ly and social­ly com­pe­tent boosts their aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment. More pre­cise­ly, when schools offer stu­dents pro­grams in social and emo­tion­al learn­ing, their achieve­ment scores gain around 11 per­cent­age points.

That’s what I heard at a forum held last Decem­ber by the Col­lab­o­ra­tive for Aca­d­e­m­ic, Social, and Emo­tion­al Learn­ing (CASEL). (Dis­clo­sure: I’m a co-founder of CASEL.) Roger Weiss­berg, the orga­ni­za­tion’s direc­tor, gave a pre­view of a mas­sive study run by researchers at Loy­ola Uni­ver­si­ty and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois, which ana­lyzed eval­u­a­tions of more than 233,000 stu­dents across the coun­try.

Social-emo­tion­al learn­ing, they dis­cov­ered, helps stu­dents Read the rest of this entry »

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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