Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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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