Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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 »

Update: Major Implications from Brain Research

Here you have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brainremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Major Impli­ca­tions from Brain Research

Should Social-Emo­tion­al Learn­ing Be Part of Aca­d­e­m­ic Cur­ricu­lum?: It is clear by now that our brains are more than cog­ni­tive machines. For exam­ple, emo­tions can either enhance or inhib­it our abil­i­ty to learn. Daniel Gole­man explores the impli­ca­tions of “new stud­ies that reveal how teach­ing kids to be emo­tion­al­ly and social­ly com­pe­tent boost their aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment.” Brought to you in part­ner­ship with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

Retain old­er work­ers beyond retire­ment: Busi­ness­Week cov­ers a best prac­tice in a top­ic of grow­ing impor­tance: how large com­pa­nies, such as Amer­i­can Express, can retain old­er work­ers in pro­duc­tive ways beyond a set arbi­trary retire­ment age. As Dr. Art Kramer told us recent­ly, “as a soci­ety, it is a mas­sive waste of tal­ent not to ensure old­er adults remain active and pro­duc­tive.”

Brain­Tech and Sus­tain­able Brains: Build­ing on a recent quote by John Doerr about clean tech­nol­o­gy trends, we won­der… “If Ener­gy is the moth­er of all markets…who would be the father of all mar­kets?” The Human Brain, per­haps?

Health and Research

Exer­cis­ing the body is exer­cis­ing the mind: Dr. Adri­an Pre­da explains research con­duct­ed at Gage lab­o­ra­to­ry that sup­ports the mer­its for phys­i­cal exer­cise to be rec­og­nized as a form of brain exer­cise too.

What You Can do to Improve Mem­o­ry (and Why It Dete­ri­o­rates in Old Age): Is there any­thing we can do besides “exer­cise like crazy, eat healthy foods that you don’t like all that much, pop your statin pills, and take up yoga?” Yes: focus, focus, focus, sug­gests Dr. Bill Klemm.

News and Events

Cog­ni­tive Health News August 2008: This is a roundup of recent brain health news and our com­men­tary, includ­ing the grow­ing adop­tion of Dakim and Nin­ten­do prod­ucts, the cog­ni­tive impact of videogames, and the cog­ni­tive dimen­sion of the obe­si­ty cri­sis.

Exer­cise your brain at these events: Alvaro will present the main find­ings from our mar­ket research at mul­ti­ple con­fer­ences in the US, Cana­da and Dubai dur­ing the rest of  the year.

Edu­ca­tion­al Resources

Where does the “Feel­ing of Know­ing” comes from?: Dr. Gin­ger Camp­bell shares some insights from her recent inter­view with neu­rol­o­gist Robert Bur­ton (author of On Being Cer­tain: Believ­ing You Are Right Even When You’re Not).“While it might be true that one can learn to become more aware of the emo­tion­al sig­nals com­ing from ones body, Dr. Bur­ton argues that “gut feel­ings” or intu­ition should not be assumed to be true with­out test­ing.”

Resources for Brain Health Across the Lifes­pan: Lau­rie Bar­tels shares a list of inter­views, video, arti­cles, and books that go hand-in-hand with the brain-relat­ed top­ics we cov­er.

Brain teas­er

Can you use men­tal self rota­tion to read a map?: please check out this teas­er by Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, one of our favorites so far.

We hope you have enjoyed this newslet­ter. We encour­age you to stay tuned for our Sep­tem­ber edi­tions, since great con­tent is com­ing. We will soon pub­lish an inter­view with Lee Woodruff, co-author of the book In An Instant: A Fam­i­ly’s Jour­ney of Love and Heal­ing, and dis­cuss the spec­tac­u­lar cog­ni­tive recov­ery of her hus­band, ABC reporter Bob Woodruff, who expe­ri­enced a trau­mat­ic brain injury in Iraq in 2006. We will also inter­view Dr. Mike Pos­ner, emi­nent cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist, to explore recent find­ings on atten­tion and atten­tion train­ing and their impli­ca­tions.

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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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