Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness Program: How to Evaluate and Choose One

The hol­i­days are approach­ing and you can expect many soft­ware and game devel­op­ers to adver­tise their prod­ucts SharpBrains Checklistaggres­sive­ly, try­ing to get you buy their “brain train­ing” prod­ucts for you or as a gift for a loved one.

The good news is that there are more and more tools we can use to keep men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ed and even train and improve spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties (like pro­cess­ing speed, short-term mem­o­ry…). You may be read­ing about Nin­ten­do Brain Age, Posit Sci­ence, Fast For­Word, Mind­Fit, Lumos­i­ty, Hap­py Neu­ron, MyBrain­Train­er, emWave, StressEras­er and more. And, of course, there are also non-tech­nol­o­gy based inter­ven­tions.

The bad news is that it is dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing from sci­en­tif­ic claims, and to under­stand which one, if any, may be a good com­ple­ment to oth­er healthy lifestyle choic­es.

To help you nav­i­gate this process, we are pub­lish­ing the Sharp­Brains Check­list below, based on dozens of inter­views with sci­en­tists, experts and con­sumers:

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (and a brief expla­na­tion of why each ques­tion is impor­tant)

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­al­ly neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board Read the rest of this entry »

Brain class at UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

If you are based in North Cal­i­for­nia, you may be inter­est­ed in the class­es just announced by the UC Berke­ley Osh­er Life­long Learn­ing Insti­tute. “Berke­ley OLLI is an inquir­ing and stim­u­lat­ing com­mu­ni­ty of adults, age 50 and above, explor­ing new areas of knowl­edge and tra­di­tion­al dis­ci­plines, chal­leng­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing sub­jects.” If you are not in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, you can check the clos­est Life­long Learn­ing Cen­ter to you in either the Osh­er Life­long Learn­ing Insti­tute net­work or the Elder­hos­tel one.

You can see a list­ing of their class­es for the Fall 2007 ses­sion, on a fas­ci­nat­ing vari­ety of top­ics. Keep­ing our edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties since 2005 (first deliv­ered in SFSU), I will be teach­ing the fol­low­ing class

The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness (more here)

Octo­ber 9–30th, 4 class­es, 6.30–8.30pm

Loca­tion: Uni­ver­si­ty Hall, UC Berke­ley

Descrip­tion: Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have shown how the human brain retains neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty to rewire itself) and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (cre­ation of new neu­rons) dur­ing its full life­time, lead­ing to a new under­stand­ing of what aging means. In this class, we will review the sci­ence behind some of key con­cepts in this field and explore their impli­ca­tions on our lifestyles: neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, the Cog­ni­tive Reserve the­o­ry for healthy aging, com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams, emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion, and the 4 pil­lars for life­long Brain Health. We have all heard “Use it or lose it”. Lat­est research sug­gests, “Use it and improve it”.

If you are inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about the class­es, you can attend the open House on Tues­day, Sep­tem­ber 18, 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, at the Berke­ley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berke­ley. I can only say that the SFSU class­es were a lot of fun and I am sure the Berke­ley ones will be as com­pelling.

Brain Awareness Week

When is Brain Aware­ness Week?

March 12–18, 2007

What Will Happen

The Brain Aware­ness Week is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn more about how the brain func­tions and how to cul­ti­vate a healthy brain. The Dana Foun­da­tion and mul­ti­ple part­ners, such as Sharp­Brains, will lead out­reach events world­wide.

In the blog of the Dana Foun­da­tion we can read today that “To my knowl­edge, the brain is the only organ in the human body that is cel­e­brat­ed and hon­ored for an entire week. This year, 2,000 orga­ni­za­tions in 69 coun­tries will observe Brain Aware­ness Week with activ­i­ties, exhibits and com­pe­ti­tions, most from March 12 through 18.”

SharpBrains-Related Activities During Brain Awareness Week

Use It or Lose It: what is It?

Who has not heard “Use It or Lose It”. Now, what is “It”? And, is “It” only one thing or a num­ber of inte­grat­ed ele­ments, each of which are heav­i­ly involved in spe­cif­ic “brain exer­cis­es”, and all of which are impor­tant to main­tain Brain Fit­ness.

Let’s review at a glance:

The brain is com­posed of 3 “brains” or main sub-sys­tems, each named after the evo­lu­tion­ary moment in which the sub-sys­tem is believed to have appeared, and after which species we share that struc­ture with.

Theropod A) Neo­cor­tex, or Human Brain, is the most recent area, where we per­form high-lev­el think­ing and com­plex inte­gra­tive tasks. Oth­er mam­mals do have this part too, but in much small­er pro­por­tion of the whole brain vol­ume.
B) Lim­bic Sys­tem, or Mam­malian Brain, crit­i­cal for emo­tions and for mem­o­ry,

C) Cere­bel­lum and Stem, or Rep­til­ian Brain, that reg­u­lates basic vital vari­ables such as breath­ing, heart­beat and motor coor­di­na­tion (Cred­it for pic: Arnold Key­ser­ling and R.C.L.)

Theropod B) Lim­bic sys­tem: emo­tions are gen­er­at­ed here, as well as the appetites and urges that help us sur­vive. For instance, the amyg­dala gets trig­gered to pre­pare us to deal with a threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion, result­ing in our feel­ing of fear. The hip­pocam­pus is key in the for­ma­tion of mem­o­ry. (Cred­it: Sand­hills Col­lege)
Theropod A) The Neo­cor­tex is com­posed of

-Frontal Lobes: or the CEO of the Mind, for sophis­ti­cat­ed brain func­tions such as plan­ning and con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing.

-Pari­etal: deals with move­ment, the sens­es, and some forms of recog­ni­tion

-Tem­po­ral: audi­to­ry process­es and lan­guage

-Occip­i­tal: visu­al pro­cess­ing cen­ter (cred­it: Mor­phonix)

In action When we exer­cise our brains, we put our Neu­rons in action. “Cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er”, mean­ing that synaps­es, or unions between neu­rons, get solid­i­fied the more often the respec­tive neu­rons “talk” to each oth­er. (Cred­it: Peter Fursten­berg)

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