Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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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