Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Learning & Brain Conference in Boston

The next Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence edi­tion is April 26–29, 2008, in Cam­bridge, MA. We rec­om­mend it high­ly for edu­ca­tors inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about lat­est brain research find­ings and impli­ca­tions for teach­ing. See Detailed pro­gram.

Descrip­tion: Cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science has dis­cov­ered that the brain is not ‘hard­wired’ from birth, but holds a remark­able life­long pow­er to change—a phe­nom­e­non called ‘plas­tic­i­ty.’ Pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive envi­ron­ments, exer­cise, nur­tu­rance, learn­ing, and oth­er expe­ri­ences con­tin­ue to change the brain through­out life.

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The new Mental Game: sport psychology, coaches, get ready!

One of the many Sharp Brains around, who is up to date of every­thing relat­ed to brain health and fit­ness (yes, Jeanne, that’s you! thanks for being such a great bureau chief!) has sent us a very inter­est­ing press note on how brain fit­ness and train­ing can be applied in the sports per­for­mance world. I haven’t been able to track down the research behind the spe­cif­ic pro­grams men­tioned in the arti­cle, but the the­o­ret­i­cal ratio­nale makes sense based on sim­i­lar pro­grams we are famil­iar with: you can see below a sum­ma­ry of our inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher, sci­en­tif­ic mind behind com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions for mil­i­tary pilots and for bas­ket­ball play­ers.

The note Sports Vision Train­ing Takes Ath­letes to New Fron­tiers explains how

  • Spe­cial­ty sports vision facil­i­ties are help­ing ath­letes train skills that many believed were “untrain­able”; skills like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion.”
  • What has every­one all worked up is the knowl­edge that they can actu­al­ly train ath­let­ic skills that many believed were “untrain­able.” We’re talk­ing about intan­gi­bles like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion. “One of the worst mis­takes an ath­lete can make is to believe that you’re either born with or with­out these kinds of skills, and that they’re con­se­quent­ly not train­able, says Bri­an Stam­mer, edi­tor of SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine. “If you want to be the best ath­lete you can be, you must do exer­cis­es to con­di­tion and sharp­en your sen­so­ry sys­tem, includ­ing visu­al, audi­to­ry and brain-pro­cess­ing speed.
  • This is the link to the mag­a­zine they men­tion: SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine

And here is the sum­ma­ry of my (AF) inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher (DG) on Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions and cog­ni­tive train­ing:

  • AF: …Can you sum­ma­rize your research find­ings across all these exam­ples and fields, and how you see the field evolv­ing?
  • DG: In short, I’d sum­ma­rize by say­ing that
  • - Cog­ni­tive per­for­mance can be sub­stan­tial­ly improved with prop­er train­ing. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: the Art and the emerging Science

Tom alerts us (thanks!) of a fun book review in the New York Times today, by Abi­gail Zuger, titled The Brain: Mal­leable, Capa­ble, Vul­ner­a­ble, on the book The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, $24.95) by psy­chi­a­trist Nor­man Doidge. Some quotes:

  • In book­stores, the sci­ence aisle gen­er­al­ly lies well away from the self-help sec­tion, with hard real­i­ty on one set of shelves and wish­ful think­ing on the oth­er. But Nor­man Doidge’s fas­ci­nat­ing syn­op­sis of the cur­rent rev­o­lu­tion in neu­ro­science strad­dles this gap: the age-old dis­tinc­tion between the brain and the mind is crum­bling fast as the pow­er of pos­i­tive think­ing final­ly gains sci­en­tif­ic cred­i­bil­i­ty.”
  • So it is for­giv­able that Dr. Doidge, a Cana­di­an psy­chi­a­trist and award-win­ning sci­ence writer, recounts the accom­plish­ments of the “neu­ro­plas­ti­cians,”  as he calls the neu­ro­sci­en­tists involved in these new stud­ies, with breath­less rev­er­ence. Their work is indeed mind-bend­ing, mir­a­cle-mak­ing, real­i­ty-bust­ing stuff, with impli­ca­tions, as Dr. Doidge notes, not only for indi­vid­ual patients with neu­ro­log­ic dis­ease but for all human beings, not to men­tion human cul­ture, human learn­ing and human his­to­ry.”
  • Research into the mal­leabil­i­ty of the nor­mal brain has been no less amaz­ing. Sub­jects who learn to play a sequence of notes on the piano devel­op char­ac­ter­is­tic changes in the brain’s elec­tric activ­i­ty; when oth­er sub­jects sit in front of a piano and just think about play­ing the same notes, the same changes occur. It is the vir­tu­al made real, a sol­id quan­tifi­ca­tion of the pow­er of thought.”
  • The new sci­ence of the brain may still be in its infan­cy, but already, as Dr. Doidge makes quite clear, the sci­en­tif­ic minds are leap­ing ahead.”

Here you have some of our inter­views with a few “sci­en­tif­ic minds” that have, for years, been “leap­ing ahead” beyond “pos­i­tive think­ing” into “pos­i­tive train­ing”:

And a cou­ple of relat­ed blog posts:

Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost?

car-radio.

You’re dri­ving through sub­ur­bia one evening look­ing for the street where you’re sup­posed to have din­ner at a friend’s new house. You slow down to a crawl, turn down the radio, stop talk­ing, and stare at every sign. Why is that? Nei­ther the radio nor talk­ing affects your vision.

Or do they?
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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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