Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Learning with Video Games: A Revolution in Education and Training?

In recent years, we have wit­nessed the begin­nings of a rev­o­lu­tion in edu­ca­tion.  Tech­nol­o­gy has fun­da­men­tal­ly altered the way we do many things in dai­ly life, but it is just start­ing to make head­way in chang­ing the way we teach.  Just as tele­vi­sion shows like Sesame Street enhanced the pas­sive learn­ing of infor­ma­tion for kids by teach­ing in a fun for­mat, elec­tron­ic games offer to great­ly enhance the way kids and adults are taught by active­ly engag­ing them in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

The Gene Delusion: IQ and the environment

An anony­mous read­er of Andrew Sul­li­van’s blog writes a superb com­ment, repro­duced here:

One thing Wat­son and oth­ers for­get is that the brain is high­ly mal­leable based on envi­ron­ment. Although he is the father of DNA he knows very lit­tle about neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Pre­vi­ous­ly it was thought that the human brain was ‘hard­wired’ after a cer­tain age. This is not true. Not only is not true, but the human mind is capa­ble of adap­ta­tion but actu­al neu­ron growth even late in life. Ten years ago this was thought impos­si­ble.

Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty proves that a nur­tur­ing social and fam­i­ly set­ting shifts IQ, per­spec­tive, and emo­tion­al IQ. The so-called bell curve isn’t genet­ic. Oppressed Tibetans and Chi­nese eth­nic minori­ties ‑whose test scores soar in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da- are 20–30 points low­er in their home­land. That 20–30 points deficit is in the same range of a lot of groups that are attacked or threat­ened (Mus­lims in France, Chris­tians in Nige­ria, Blacks in Amer­i­ca). Con­verse­ly when oppressed groups are removed from their envi­ron­ment their IQ, emo­tion­al health returns to a nor­mal rate, thus prov­ing that is NOT genet­ic.

It is plas­tic, shift­ing and based upon the envi­ron­ment.

That is why peo­ple Read the rest of this entry »

Memory Improvement Techniques and Brain Exercises

Fitness TrainerA read­er (thanks Mike!) sends us this fun arti­cle, titled A mat­ter of train­ing, on how to train our mem­o­ry. Some quotes:

It’s a skill, not a tal­ent. It’s some­thing any­one could have picked up … I’m not born with this. It’s about train­ing and tech­nique, he says, explain­ing his unusu­al abil­i­ty. Anant holds the Lim­ca Record  the Indi­an equiv­a­lent of the Guin­ness Record œ for mem­o­ris­ing 75 tele­phone num­bers, along with the names of their own­ers, in less than an hour. He is recog­nised as “the man with the most phe­nom­e­nal mem­o­ry in India.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most peo­ple think that mem­o­ris­ing is very dif­fi­cult. The moment they see some­one demon­strate some­thing like this, they think it’s out of this world.

If you want to remem­ber some­thing, you have to link it to some­thing you already know. Asso­ci­a­tion is the nat­ur­al prin­ci­pal. For exam­ple, if you need direc­tions to a place, a land­mark is often used as a point of ref­er­ence. And if you derive plea­sure from some­thing you do, there’s a good chance you’ll remem­ber it. Since the brain already works in this man­ner, why don’t we take con­trol of it?

To me, an intel­li­gent per­son is some­one who is able to put togeth­er more of his skills to solve a prob­lem. Intel­li­gence is about using strate­gies.

The key con­cept here is that mem­o­ry, as well as oth­er cog­ni­tive skills, can be trained through Read the rest of this entry »

Rethinking the Brain Fitness Business

Great arti­cle on the grow­ing brain fit­ness field. Rethink­ing the Brain Busi­ness: Why a men­tal-fit­ness pro­gram may be the start of some­thing big. Some quotes:

- “But Merzenich has lofti­er ambi­tions. He envi­sions his com­pa­ny as part of a new indus­try that will become a “mir­ror” of the drug indus­try. He wants to go far beyond sim­ply sharp­en­ing mem­o­ry and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty to tack­le dis­eases as well. Instead of med­ica­tions, he sees a busi­ness root­ed in neu­ro­science that will use non­in­va­sive com­put­er exer­cis­es to rewire the brain, grad­u­al­ly train­ing it back to men­tal health.”

- For now, Merzenich believes the emerg­ing field of “brain health” is clut­tered with bad sci­ence. He sin­gled out Nin­ten­do’s brain games as an exam­ple of a prod­uct that has no sci­ence to back up its claims. But he does­n’t expect that to last.

- “This field is undis­ci­plined now and full of trash,” he says. “But it will mature and ulti­mate­ly the snake oil will be cleaned up. It will grow like the fit­ness indus­try from almost nowhere. And it will become a part of every­day life.”

For help on how to eval­u­ate the grow­ing num­ber of pro­grams, check out our Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram eval­u­a­tion check­list.

10 (Surprising) Memory Improvement Tips

Healthy Seniors

There are sev­er­al brain fit­ness top­ics where we still see a large dis­con­nect between research and pop­u­lar knowl­edge, and a major one is the rela­tion­ship between mem­o­ry and stress. Car­o­line and I col­lab­o­rat­ed on this post to bring you some con­text and tips.

Our soci­ety has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with phys­i­cal, imme­di­ate­ly life-threat­en­ing crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and ill­ness­es that gnaw away at us slow­ly, that stress us out and that, believe it or not, end up hurt­ing our mem­o­ry and brain.

Dr. Robert Sapol­sky, in an inter­view about his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, points out that humans unique­ly “can get stressed sim­ply with thought, turn­ing on the same stress response as does the zebra.” But, the zebra releas­es the stress hor­mones through life-pre­serv­ing action, while we usu­al­ly just keep mud­dling along, get­ting more anx­ious by the moment.

What is the rela­tion­ship between stress and mem­o­ry? We all know chron­ic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­o­ry? Inter­est­ing­ly, acute stress can help us focus and remem­ber things more vivid­ly. Chron­ic stress, on the oth­er hand, reduce our abil­i­ty to focus and can specif­i­cal­ly dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term mem­o­ry.

When is stress chron­ic? When one feels Read the rest of this entry »

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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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