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Study: Judicial opinions mentioning neuroscientific evidence doubled between 2005 and 2012

law_brainscansThe Brain Gets Its Day in Court (The Atlantic):

The crime was brutal…Detrich is still on death row today as the appeals process drags on, but in 2010, his lawyers achieved a vic­to­ry of sorts. They claimed that Read the rest of this entry »

Travel and Engagement as Good Brain Exercise

University of Namibia

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty is defined as “the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence”.

We typ­i­cal­ly sum­ma­rize a lot of brain research by encour­ag­ing Sharp­Brains read­ers is to seek for nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge, as guide­lines for “brain exer­cise” that will help build new con­nec­tions in the brain, force one to be mind­ful and pay atten­tion, improve abil­i­ties such as pat­tern-recog­ni­tion, and in gen­er­al con­tribute to life­long brain health.

A friend just sent an update on her amaz­ing expe­ri­ence in Namib­ia (the pic on the right shows the entrance to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Namib­ia) that shows how Trav­el and Engage­ment with mean­ing­ful projects can pro­vide superb men­tal stim­u­la­tion, or “brain exer­cise”. This is rel­e­vant at all ages, and we are encour­aged to see orga­ni­za­tions such as Civic Ven­tures and Elder­hos­tel that offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for baby boomers and old­er adults who want to main­tain active minds.

Try pic­tur­ing in your mind, as you read this, all her dif­fer­ent brain areas that are get­ting need­ed stim­u­la­tion through her Namib­ia expe­ri­ence.

UPDATE: my friend just wrote to expand on the “be mind­ful” angle by say­ing that “it def­i­nite­ly requires pur­pose­ful pro­cess­ing of the infor­ma­tion that you are con­sum­ing in order to make it a use­ful brain exer­cise. For exam­ple, I always try to jour­nal or write thought­ful emails about my expe­ri­ence in order to try to best under­stand it.” Great point.

With her per­mis­sion, here you have:

———————————-

Dear Friends,

I am just return­ing from Namib­ia and am buzzing with excite­ment about all of the oppor­tu­ni­ties for us to make an impact there when we return with our stu­dents next Spring.

Namib­ia is very dif­fer­ent than I expect­ed. It was the last coun­try in Africa to gain inde­pen­dence from colo­nial­ism, gain­ing inde­pen­dence just 20 years ago. Thus, it is much more devel­oped than any African coun­try that I have vis­it­ed, with rel­a­tive­ly good infra­struc­ture and no exist­ing debt. That said, the lega­cies of apartheid can still be felt in today’s soci­ety, and the peo­ple are very clear­ly deal­ing con­stant­ly with issues of race and iden­ti­ty. One of the most inter­est­ing expe­ri­ences that I had was attend­ing a “braai” (the Namib­ian ver­sion of a bar­be­cue which basi­cal­ly con­sists of Read the rest of this entry »

Best of the Brain from Scientific American

Best of Brain, Scientific American

The Dana Foun­da­tion kind­ly sent us a copy of the great book Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, a col­lec­tion of 21 superb arti­cles pub­lished pre­vi­ous­ly in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can mag­a­zine. A very nice­ly edit­ed and illus­trat­ed book, this is a must for any­one who enjoys learn­ing about the brain and spec­u­lat­ing about what the future will bring us.

Some essays, like the ones by Eric Kan­del (The New Sci­ence of Mind), Fred Gage (Brain, Repair Your­self), Carl Zim­mer (The Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of the Self) and that by Steven Hol­lon, Michael Thase and John Markowitz (Treat­ing Depres­sion: Pills or Talk), are both intel­lec­tu­al feasts and very rel­e­vant to brain fit­ness. And final­ly start­ing to per­co­late into main­stream con­scious­ness.

Let me quote some quotes and reflec­tions as I was read­ing the book a cou­ple of days ago, in the court­yard of a beau­ti­ful French cafe in Berke­ley:

1) On Brain Plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself), Fred Gage says: “With­in the past 5 years, how­ev­er, neu­ro­sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that the brain does indeed change through­out life-…The new cells and con­nec­tions that we and oth­ers have doc­u­ment­ed may pro­vide the extra capac­i­ty the brain requires for the vari­ety of chal­lenges that indi­vid­u­als face through­out life. Such plas­tic­i­ty offers a pos­si­ble mech­a­nism through which the brain might be induced to repair itself after injury or dis­ease. It might even open the prospect of enhanc­ing an already healthy brain’s pow­er to think and abil­i­ty to feel”

2)  and How Expe­ri­ence affects Brain Struc­ture: Under the sec­tion title “A Brain Work­out”, Fred Gage says “One of the mot strik­ing aspects of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (Note: the cre­ation of new neu­rons) is that expe­ri­ence can reg­u­late the rate of cell divi­sion, the sur­vival of new­born neu­rons and their abil­i­ty to inte­grate into the exist­ing neur­al circuits…The best way to aug­ment brain func­tion might not involve drugs or cell implants but lifestyle changes.”

3) Biol­o­gy of Mind: Eric Kan­del pro­vides a won­der­ful overview of the most Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: MindFit workout

Just released in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can:
Mem­o­ry work­outs beat oth­er com­put­er games in study

Some quotes

  • Train­ing the brain with a com­put­er work­out pro­gram may be bet­ter than clas­sic com­put­er games at staving off age-relat­ed men­tal decline, sci­en­tists report­ed on Fri­day.”
  • Researchers in Israel com­pared how one brain-train­ing pro­gram, Mind­Fit, fared ver­sus a work­out with a sam­pling of clas­sic com­put­er games, such as the puz­zle game Tetris.”
  • The study, fund­ed by a grant from game mak­er Cog­niFit Ltd., involved 121 vol­un­teers over 50 who used the Mind­Fit train­ing pro­gram or a sam­pling of com­put­er games for three months.”
  • Both groups ben­e­fit­ed, but the group using the Mind­Fit pro­gram showed a sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in spa­tial short-term mem­o­ry, spa­tial learn­ing and focused atten­tion.”
  • Improve­ment was espe­cial­ly pro­nounced in users who start­ed out with some form of cog­ni­tive decline.
  • The find­ings, which were pre­sent­ed on Fri­day at an Alzheimer’s con­fer­ence in Salzburg, Aus­tria, were sim­i­lar to a small­er study done at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia last year.”

Spe­cial Offer: For a lim­it­ed time, you can receive a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of our Brain Fit­ness 101 e-Guide: Answers to your Top 25 Ques­tions, writ­ten by Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, by sub­scrib­ing to our month­ly newslet­ter. You can sub­scribe Here.

Relat­ed blog posts

- Brain Fit­ness: Novem­ber Month­ly Digest: a col­lec­tion of arti­cles and links includ­ing news, resources, brain teasers, and more.

- Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty 101 and Brain Fit­ness Glos­sary: an overview of the emerg­ing sci­ence and some key con­cepts to under­stand it.

- Brain Train­ing Games and “Games”: a 10-Ques­tion Check­list on how to eval­u­ate pro­grams that make brain-relat­ed claims.

- Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science and Psy­chol­o­gy Inter­view Series: in-depth inter­views with 11 sci­en­tists and experts in cog­ni­tive train­ing and brain fit­ness.

- Books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and mem­o­ry train­ing: reviews of Train Your Brain, Change Your Mind, by Sharon Beg­ley, and The Brain That Changes Itself, by Nor­man Doidge. Both books are fas­ci­nat­ing and pow­er­ful; each would have mer­it­ed appear­ing in the 2007 New York Times List of 100 Notable Books.

Smart Brains, Sharp Brain… new research on maintaining one

There has been a lot of recent buzz about brain fit­ness. A New York Times edi­to­r­i­al print­ed today states:

When test­ed five years lat­er, these par­tic­i­pants [in a cog­ni­tive train­ing study] had less of a decline in the skill they were trained in than did a con­trol group that received no cog­ni­tive train­ing. The pay­off from men­tal exer­cise seemed far greater than we are accus­tomed to get­ting for phys­i­cal exer­cise — as if 10 work­outs at the gym were enough to keep you fit five years lat­er.

and

If fur­ther stud­ies show that men­tal exer­cis­es can improve every­day func­tion­ing, doc­tors may need to pre­scribe such train­ing, senior cen­ters may want to set up “brain gyms,” and aging Amer­i­cans would be wise to do brain-stretch­ing activ­i­ties. For this pur­pose, even the Medicare pre­scrip­tion drug pro­gram, which crit­ics deem too con­fus­ing for many old­er peo­ple to nav­i­gate, could prove an unex­pect­ed bless­ing. Spend 10 hours mas­ter­ing its intri­ca­cies today and you could be a lot sharp­er than your com­pa­tri­ots five years from now.

Read the rest of this entry »

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