“The controversy itself is superficial; as the obvious reality is the internet and technology are not only here to stay, but constantly evolving and permeating more of our lives…The real conversation should be how we can best use the Internet in smarter ways that help us to monitor and enhance the brain, and how can we actively prepare to manage information overload.” Keep reading over at WIRED
Is Your Brain Being Wired By Technology? (Center for BrainHealth at UT-Dallas):
“…Research shows we are exposed to three times more information today as compared to four decades ago. This information overload leads to more multitasking and forces us to push our brain to do things it was not built to do. Technology is allowing us, pushing us to [Read more…] about Brains shape technology as technology shapes brains
Very interesting new study on computerized cognitive training (or brain training), well summarized in LA Times article Memory training improves intelligence in some children, report says. Quote:
The training program used by Jaeggi and co-workers focused on ramping up working memory: the ability to hold in mind a handful of information bits briefly, and to update them as needed. Cognitive scientists consider working memory a key component of intelligence. But they have [Read more…] about Study: Working memory training can improve fluid intelligence
Dear reader and member of SharpBrains’ community,
We want to thank you for your attention and support in 2008, and wish you a Happy, Prosperous, Healthy and Positive 2009!
Below you have the December edition of our monthly newsletter. Enjoy:
Best of 2008
Top 30 Brain Fitness Articles of 2008: We have compiled SharpBrains’ 30 most popular articles, written by thirteen Expert Contributors and staff members for you. Have you read them all?
November-December News: No month goes by without significant news in the field of cognitive fitness. Summarized here are 10 recent developments worthy of attention, including an upcoming brain training product for ice hockey players, my lecture at New York Public Library, and more.
Interviews: Videogames, Meditation
Are videogames good for your brain?: A landmark study by Dr. Arthur Kramer and colleagues has shown that playing a strategy videogame can bring a variety of significant mental benefits to older brains. Another recent study, also by Kramer and colleagues, does not show similar benefits to younger brains (despite playing the same game). How can this be? Dr. Kramer, who has kindly agreed to serve on SharpBrains’ Scientific Advisory Board, elaborates.
Meditation on the Brain: Dr. Andrew Newberg provides an excellent overview of the brain benefits of practices such as meditation. He recommends, “look for something simple, easy to try first, ensuring the practice is compatible with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match practice with need: understand the specific goals you have in mind, your schedule and lifestyle, and find something practical.”
The Need for Objective Assessments
Cognitive screenings and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America just released a thoughtful report advocating for widespread cognitive screenings after the age of 65 (55 given the right conditions). SharpBrains readers, probed by Dr. Joshua Steinerman, seem to agree.
Quantitative EEG for ADHD diagnosis: Dr. David Rabiner reports on the findings from a recent study that documents the utility of Quantitative EEG as an objective test to assist in the diagnosis of ADHD. If this procedure were to become more widely used, he suggests, the number of children and adolescents who are inappropriately diagnosed and treated for the disorder would diminish substantially.
Shall we question the brand new book of human troubles?: The fights over the new version of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM‑V, are starting to come to light. Dr. Vaughan Bell wonders why the public debate avoids the key question of whether diagnosis itself is useful for mental health and why psychometrics are simply ignored.
Resources for Lifelong Learning
Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection: Dr. Pascale Michelon reviews a recent study that supports the Cognitive Reserve hypothesis — mentally stimulating experiences throughout life, such as formal education, help build a reserve in our brains that contributes to a lower probability of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
5 Tips on Lifelong Learning & the Adult Brain: Laurie Bartels asks us to please please 1) challenge ourselves with new learning, 2) remember that neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are hallmarks of our brains, 3) check for mis-learning on an ongoing basis, 4) more visuals, less text, 5) move it, move it — start today!
Karolinska Institute’s Dr. Torkel Klingberg has just released in the US his excellent book The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
The title was first released in Sweden with great success, and our co-founder Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg gave a Foreword to the new US edition.
Dr. Klingberg will be writing an essay for SharpBrains readers soon, so we can discuss the importance of this topic and his work in depth. Let me now link to two thought-provoking reviews of the book:
Attention Must Be Paid (Inside Higher Ed)
- “The weak link in the information age seems to be our human hard-wiring. So one gathers from The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory (Oxford University Press) by Torkel Klingberg, who is a professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the Stockholm Brain Institute. A review of recent research on how attention and memory actually function within our gray matter, it is a work of scientific popularization rather than a handbook on how to minimize the cognitive drain of distraction.”
- “To simplify Klingberg’s already pared-down analysis, we can distinguish between two kinds of attention. One is controlled attention: the directed effort to apply ones concentration to a particular task. The other is stimulus-driven attention, which is an involuntary response to something happening in the environment. (You can tune out the conversations going on around you in a restaurant. But if a waiter drops a tray full of dishes, it is going to impose itself on your awareness.)”
- “Klingberg reports that a two-year study in his lab showed that it was possible to increase working-memory capacity [Read more…] about Torkel Klingberg helps with Overflowing Brain & Information Overload
We often talk in this blog about how to expand fundamental abilities or cognitive functions, like attention, or memory, or emotional self-regulation. Think of them as muscles one can train. Now, it is also important to think of ways one can use our existing muscles more efficiently.
Let’s talk about how to manage better the overwhelming amount of information available these days.
Hundreds of thousands of new books, analyst reports, scientific papers published every year. Millions of websites at our googletips. The flow of data, information and knowledge is growing exponentially, stretching the capacity of our not-so-evolved brains. We can complain all day that we cannot process ALL this flow. Now, let me ask, should we even try?
Probably not. Why engage in a losing proposition. Instead, let me offer a few strategies that can help manage this flow of information better.
1. Prioritize: strategic consulting firms such as McKinsey and BCG train their staff in the so-called 80/20 rule: 80% of effects are caused by the top 20% of causes. In a company, 80% sales may come from 20% of the accounts. Implication: focus on that top 20%; don’t spend too much time on the 80% that only account for 20%.
2. Leverage a scientific mindset. Scientists shift through tons of data in efficient, goal-oriented ways. How do they do it? By first stating a hypothesis and then looking for data. For example, an untrained person could spend weeks “boiling the ocean”, trying to read as much as possible, in a very fragmentary way, about how physical exercise affects our brain. A trained scientist would first define clear hypotheses and preliminary assumptions, such as “Physical exercise can enhance the brain’s ability to generate new neurons” or “Those new neurons appear in the hippocampus”, and then look specifically for data that corroborates or refutes those sentences, enabling him or her to refine the hypotheses further, based on accumulated knowledge, in a virtuous learning cycle.