Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Stimulating Minds, Stimulating Links

Just a quick note to announce a new Silver Sponsor of the SharpBrains Summit, and link to a couple stimulating online conversations.

iftf-logoThe Institute For the Future is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 40 years of forecasting experience. The core of our work is identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide our members with insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and health care to technology, the workplace, and human identity. The Institute for the Future is located in Palo Alto, California.

I have been collaborating informally with IFTF projects for a few years, and it is exciting to collaborate on the upcoming Summit and related work.

Now, two stimulating links:

1) Encyclopedia Britannica Blog is hosting an online conversation on Multi-tasking:

“Multitasking” remember when that was something computers did? They were supposed to do it for our benefit, to make our lives easier, but somehow it hasn’t quite worked out that way. With fast computers, the Internet, and smart phones in our pockets, today we’re always tethered to The Network, and sometimes it seems we’re doing its bidding instead of it doing ours. There’s so much to do, it comes at us so fast, and it all has to be done now. The solution: forget what you were taught about doing one thing at a time and start doing several things at once. Call your office from the expressway. Bring that Blackberry to the meeting. Answer e-mails over dinner. Multitask.

Of course, whether multitasking really is efficient is a matter both of public debate and clinical research, and it’s just one of the questions we plan to get into next week in a new forum on the subject here at the Britannica Blog.”

You can participate Here.

2) For extra brain & mind reading, you can visit  yesterday’s Encephalon edition at The Mouse Trap. Enjoy!

Brain Fitness/ Training Newsletter: January Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesAs we have been doing for the last 6 months, here you are have the Monthly Digest of our Most Popular Blog Posts. You can consider it your monthly Brain Fitness/ Training Newsletter.

(Also, remember that you can subscribe to receive our blog RSS feed, or to our monthly newsletter at the top of this page if you want to receive this Monthly Digest by email).

Let me first introduce our new roster of Expert Contributors, highlighting first an article by Duke University’s Dr. David Rabiner, a leading authority on attention deficits and author of the Attention Research Update newsletter, on the “promising, yet unproven” value of neurofeedback for attention deficits: How Strong is the Research Support for Neurofeedback.

Two other great articles by our Expert Contributors this month:

Looking inside the Brain: cognitive scientist Dr. Pascale Michelon introduces us to the world of neuroimaging and building mental reserves.

Meditation in Schools: thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine, we offer an excellent article on the emerging trend of schools using meditation to help students manage anxiety and stress.

The following Expert Contributors will be featured in February, so make sure to visit our blog often:

Wes Carroll, Puzzle Master for Ask a Scientist lecture series.

Simon Evans, PhD., and Paul Burghardt, PhD., from University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry and the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute.

Gregory Kellett, masters in Cognitive Neurology/Research Psychology from SFSU and researcher at UCSF.

Joanne Jacobs, education expert and blogger, will participate in the “SharpBrains Author Speaks Series” to present her most recent book.

Eric Jensen, well-known resource on brain research information with implications for K12 education.

Tom O’Brien, Professor Emeritus in Mathematics education and author of prize-winning games.

Adrian Preda, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

Joshua Steinerman, M.D., Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow in the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Brain Fitness and SharpBrains in the News

Brain Fitness Software Trends (January 3rd): Scientific Learning Corp. (cognitive training for children with dislexia and reading difficulties) acquires Soliloquy Learning, and Paris-based Scientific Brain Training acquires Technomedia, a Canadian provider of corporate training.

More News on the Field (January 14th): Posit Science (auditory processing training) acquires Visual Awareness, Inc (visual processing training for driving skills, used in ACTIVE trials). Cogmed announces working memory training for adults. Nature Neuroscience brings great resources on the classic London Taxi Drivers study. The 2008 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute starts accepting applications by researchers interested in studying the effects of meditation on the brain.

SharpBrains Featured in Newsweek & Fox Business Network (January 19th): several great articles on the emerging brain fitness/ training field. New Scientist (subscription-only) provides a broad picture of the research. Newsweek kindly invites readers to “check out, which promotes science-based cognitive training”. Fox Business Network includes our market estimates of $225 million for the whole brain fitness software field in 2007 in the US. The New York Times has a great article on the value of music training.

Is Your Brain Ready To Drink Cheap Wine?: Prof. Baba Shiv, one of our advisors, published a fascinating paper on the power of our beliefs to influence brain activation, and on how marketing can influence those beliefs.

Sharpen Your Brain to Improve Performance, Lower Stress (subscription required): Nicholas Genes from Medscape interviews me on the background behind cognitive fitness and

Health and Wellness

It is Not Only Cars That Deserve Good Maintenance: If we can all agree on the importance of maintaining our cars that get us around town, what about maintaining our brains sitting behind the wheel?.

Grand Rounds: Briefing the Next US President on 40 Health Issues: we hosted an open letter to the “Next US President”, gathering the questions and impressions of 40 health and medical bloggers. We will do the same on Education issues on February 20th-see below.

Cognitive Training Clinical Trial: Seeking Older Adults:  Neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center asked for help in recruiting volunteers for an exciting clinical trial. If you are based in New York City, and between the ages of 60 and 75, please consider joining this study.

10 Brain Fitness New Year’s Resolutions: probably a bit late…but contains potential New Years Resolutions with the three principles of brain fitness in mind – novelty, variety and challenge.


Interview with Robert Sylwester on The Adolescent Brain: Dr. Robert Sylwester is an educator of educators, having received multiple awards during his long career as a master communicator of the implications of brain science research for education and learning. Enjoy this interview.

Don’t Outsource Your Brain: neither to other people… nor to your GPS system. Funny, true story.

February 20th Blog Carnival of education: we will host this edition and present it as an open letter to the “Next US President”, gathering the questions and impressions of a number of education bloggers.


20 Brain Plasticity Books: we just changed a few things in our site, including preparing a more solid Resources section. Please take a look at the navigation bar at the top, including an expanded Books page.

PBS Brain Fitness DVD: the PBS shop is already selling DVDs of its great December special on Brain Fitness and Neuroplasticity.

Brain Teasers

Monkeys and Brain Games: did you read about the recent experiment where young chimps displayed amazing visual working memory capability, beating humans? you can release your competitive juices here.

Brain Exercises for the Weekend: Harriet Vines, Ph.D., an experienced author and retired college professor, sends us a few fun brain exercises to train our attention and working memory.

Events and Speaking Engagements (more details in our Speaking page)

>> Feb. 2th: I will lead a Workshop on Brain Fitness: The Science and Practice, sponsored by San Jose State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

>> Feb. 7th: will speak on “Sharpening Minds through Computerized Cognitive and Emotional Training Programs,” at the Learning & The Brain Conference.

>> Feb. 12th: will speak on The Emerging Brain Fitness Software Market: Building Better Brains: sponsored by The MIT Club of Northern California, American Society on Aging, The Business Forum on Aging and SmartSilvers, we will cover how “Scientific, technological and demographic trends have converged to create an exciting new market in brain fitness, where software and online applications can assess and train cognitive abilities.”

>> March 4th: I will be a panelist on how to Use Your Head-The Future of Mind Hacks, at O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference.

>> March 27th, 2008: will present an Overview of Cognitive Training Research and Programs, at the NCOA/ ASA Aging in America Conference.

David Pescovitz, Research Director, Institute for the Future, says “Alvaro Fernandez synthesizes and translates the latest neuroscience into provocative, compelling, and entertaining stories of mental fitness and the future of the brain.” Please contact us, simply responding to this email, if your organization is interested in learning more about Brain and Cognitive Fitness and this emerging field.

All feedback and contributions are welcome, too. Please leave your comments below.

Cognitive Fitness, The Future of Work, and Concept Maps

Some weeks ago we explained how useful Concept Maps can be to quickly visualize the key ideas in a field, and their relationships.

Let me show you this fantastic example. A few weeks ago I was interviewed by David Pescovitz of the Institute for the Future (blog) to discuss The Future of Work and Cognitive Fitness trends. They had an artist who drew the graph below IN REAL TIME, AS WE SPOKE. Very impressive.

Please open the full image by clicking on it, and spend a few minutes reading around, top-down, left-to right.

You will learn much about what the future may bring (will Human Resources staff become “Cognitive Resources Managers”?), and also how to display complex information in beautiful visual form.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Kudos to the Institute for the Future, an independent nonprofit research group,  for a fascinating event on The Future of Work.

Credit for the Map: Anthony Weeks, from Grove Consultants.

(Dear RSS readers: I’d really appreciate if you could Digg this post. You can find the Digg button if you visit this post in our blog. Thanks!)

“Everyone a Changemaker”, Ashoka and Google

What an event yesterday night. My wife and I were fortunate to visit the Google Campus and attend the Sixth Annual North American Fellowship Induction Program of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a social venture fund where we have been involved for a number of years, and thanks to which (thanks Michele!) my wife and I met in the first place.

18 new Ashoka Fellows/ social entrepreneurs were elected, and after a fun cocktail reception the ceremony began. Sergei Brin (Google Co-founder), Sheryl Sandberg (who helped launch Google Foundation and, Salar Kamangar (the mind behind AdWords) gave introductory remarks. Salar explained how he first heard of Ashoka (through the book How to Change the World, by David Bornstein) and how he saw tremendous similarities between Ashoka and Google: both Read the rest of this entry »

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