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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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