Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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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?


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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