Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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A Love affair Across Generations: A Lamarckian Reincarnation?

Eric Jensen alert­ed me to a research study pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary 4th Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science — Trans­gen­er­a­tional Res­cue of a Genet­ic Defect in Long-Term Poten­ti­a­tion and Mem­o­ry For­ma­tion by Juve­nile Enrich­ment. We both had the same ini­tial WOW! feel­ing that we had expe­ri­enced when we first read about the dis­cov­ery of mir­ror neu­rons a decade+ ago.

The study’s find­ings seemed to sug­gest that acquired char­ac­ter­is­tics can be genet­i­cal­ly trans­mit­ted, a Lamar­ck­i­nan belief that had long been dis­card­ed by biol­o­gists. This seemed improb­a­ble, so we decid­ed to check out what the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty thought. It’s the kind of research that edu­ca­tors cer­tain­ly need to under­stand because the poten­tial edu­ca­tion­al impli­ca­tions are pro­found, no mat­ter how this par­tic­u­lar study sorts out.

I’ve thus append­ed the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion below: (1) the abstract and ref­er­ence of the orig­i­nal sttudy, (2) a link to a non-tech­ni­cal report in the cur­rent issue of New Sci­en­tist, (3) a link to a non- tech­ni­cal expla­na­tion of the research in Med­ical News Today, and (4) a link to a recent extend­ed non-tech­ni­cal New Sci­en­tist arti­cle on the issue of non-genet­ic inher­i­tance. Eric will post his com­men­tary on the research in the March edi­tion of his Brighter Brain Bul­letin newslet­ter.

THE STUDY:

To put it sim­ply: The researchers stud­ied long-term poten­ti­a­tion (LTP), in which longer and more robust synap­tic acti­va­tion occurs. LTP is the basic mech­a­nism for learn­ing and mem­o­ry for­ma­tion.

Juve­nile mice placed into an enriched envi­ron­ment (EE) devel­oped enhanced LTP capa­bil­i­ties that they lat­er trans­mit­ted to their own off­spring dur­ing embryo­ge­n­e­sis (rather than through lat­er mater­nal instruc­tion), and these effects per­sist­ed even when the off­spring weren’t in an EE. The study con­clud­ed that a stim­u­lat­ing juve­nile envi­ron­ment can thus influ­ence the com­po­si­tion of sig­nal­ing net­works that influ­ence synap­tic plas­tic­i­ty and mem­o­ry for­ma­tion in the enriched mouse, and also in its future off­spring.

The prob­lem with this research appears to be over whether the trans­mit­ted effects occurred via genet­ic changes or through some­thing else in the moth­er’s uter­ine envi­ron­ment. A female’s eggs devel­op ear­ly in life to be dis­trib­uted lat­er, so it’s improb­a­ble that a female’s juve­nile expe­ri­ences would alter the DNA in her eggs. A more prob­a­ble expla­na­tion may be that any changes in the moth­er’s brain that occur via an EE are rep­re­sent­ed as cur­rent­ly ill- under­stood sig­nal­ing mol­e­cules that pass through the pla­cen­tal bar­ri­er into the embry­on­ic brain.

THE SIGNIFICANCE:

For edu­ca­tors, this research sim­ply adds to our own strong belief that long-term ben­e­fits accrue from a stim­u­lat­ing ear­ly envi­ron­ment that encour­ages curios­i­ty and explo­ration. The research builds on Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Plasticity, Health and Fitness Books

As you may have noticed, we just changed a few things in our site, includ­ing prepar­ing a more sol­id Resources sec­tion. Please take a look at the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top.

One of the new pages, that we will update often, is an expand­ed Books page. Here are the books that we are rec­om­mend­ing now.

Fas­ci­nat­ing books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence):

Sharon Begley: Train Your Mind, Change Your BrainTrain Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves — by Sharon Beg­ley.

 

The Brain That Changes Itself - Norman DoidgeThe Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence — by Nor­man Doidge.

 

Great pop­u­lar sci­ence books by Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Newsletter: November Edition

Brain exercise, brain exercisesHere you are have the Month­ly Digest of our Most Pop­u­lar Blog Posts. You can con­sid­er it your month­ly Brain Exer­cise Mag­a­zine.

(Also, remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive our RSS feed, check our Top­ics sec­tion, and sub­scribe to our month­ly newslet­ter at the top of this page if you want to receive this Digest by email).

Grat­i­tude is a very impor­tant emo­tion to cul­ti­vate, as Pro­fes­sor Robert Emmons tells us in this inter­view, based on his last book. Please take some time to read it, and to find at least one thing you are thank­ful for-it will be good for your health.

We are grate­ful about a very stim­u­lat­ing Novem­ber:

Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket News

10 Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Trends: a lead­ing indus­try orga­ni­za­tion released their Top 10 Neu­roTrends for 2007, and brain fit­ness mat­ters appeared in 3 of them.

Thank Boomers for Buff­ing Up Brain Mar­ket: great overview of the mar­ket from a tech­nol­o­gy point of view, quot­ing our mar­ket pro­jec­tions. To clar­i­fy the num­bers men­tioned: we project $225m in the US alone for the brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket (grow­ing from $70m in 2003), bro­ken-down as fol­lows: $80m for the Con­sumer seg­ment, $60m in K12 Edu­ca­tion, $50m in Clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions, and $35m in the Cor­po­rate seg­ment. The Con­sumer seg­ment, with a healthy aging val­ue propo­si­tion, is the most recent one but the most rapid­ly grow­ing.

Exer­cise On the Brain: a NYT OpEd: a wide­ly read opin­ion piece in the New York Times, writ­ten by 2 neu­ro­sci­en­tists, that some­how seems to miss the research behind the val­ue of men­tal stim­u­la­tion and cog­ni­tive train­ing. Oth­er neu­ro­science teams and us write let­ters to the edi­tor that go unpub­lished. Should you have any con­tacts with jour­nal­ists, please ask them to con­tact us: we are always hap­py to serve as a resource to the media.

Posit Sci­ence @ GSA: well-designed Brain Train­ing Works: a time­ly heads up on how well-designed com­put­er-based pro­grams can be a great com­ple­ment to oth­er inter­ven­tions. We will be inter­view­ing the lead­ing researcher behind that study dur­ing the next 2 weeks, so keep tuned!

Brain and Mind News and Arti­cles: a vari­ety of links to good media reports, includ­ing a spec­tac­u­lar spe­cial on mem­o­ry in Nation­al Geo­graph­ic.

News You Can Use

Mar­i­an Dia­mond on the brain: lead­ing neu­ro­sci­en­tist Mar­i­an Dia­mond, now 81, shares her pre­scrip­tion for life­long brain health- diet, exer­cise, chal­lenge, new­ness and ten­der lov­ing care.

From Med­i­ta­tion to MBSR (Mind­ful­ness Based Stress Reduc­tion): a report on the ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion and how it is becom­ing more main­stream in med­i­cine.

Teasers

50 Mind and Brain Games for adults: you may have seen these teasers, but we want to alert you we have opened a new sec­tion in the site where you can eas­i­ly find our grow­ing col­lec­tion of teasers

Your Haiku, please?: a friend­ly chal­lenge to your brain.

Edu­ca­tion and Life­long Learn­ing

Car­ol Dweck on Mind­sets, Learn­ing and Intel­li­gence: we found a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on the impor­tance on hav­ing a growth and learn­ing ori­ent­ed mind­set. Both for kids and adults.

Is Intel­li­gence Innate and Fixed?: some reflec­tions based on biol­o­gy.

Cor­po­rate Train­ing, Well­ness and Lead­er­ship

Cog­ni­tive Fit­ness and The Future of Work: an excel­lent con­cept map on how neu­ro­science may influ­ence the work­place of the future, drawn in real time as I spoke at an Insti­tute for the Future event.

Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence and Faces: how many uni­ver­sal emo­tions and facial expres­sions are there?

Events

Use It or Lose It, and Cells that Fire togeth­er Wire togeth­er: I spoke at the Ital­ian Con­sulate in San Fran­cis­co, where we explored some of the basic con­cepts we should all know about how our brains and mind work.

Let me prac­tice the Grat­i­tude concept…Thank You for your atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion!

You can also enjoy our pre­vi­ous edi­tions of this month­ly digest:

- Octo­ber

- Sep­tem­ber

- August

- July

Marian Diamond on the brain

Quotes from a great arti­cle, Pro­fes­sor, 81, proves brain stays young:

- In 1960, Dia­mond became the first female fac­ul­ty mem­ber in Cal’s sci­ence depart­ment, achiev­ing full pro­fes­sor­ship in 1974. She still teach­es anato­my with her 81st birth­day two weeks away.

- Dia­mond, a pro­fes­sor of anato­my at UC Berke­ley, deter­mined that the brain can stay young through stim­u­la­tion, which can be achieved through her five-point plan: diet, exer­cise, chal­lenge, new­ness and ten­der lov­ing care.

- Using her plan, how is she chal­lenged?

- “Every stu­dent who sits in that chair,” she said, point­ing across the desk in her fifth-floor office in the Life Sci­ences Build­ing on cam­pus. “They come in here ask­ing ques­tions, and you bet­ter have the answers.”

- What new­ness, then, is in her life?

- “I have grand­chil­dren,” she said. “What could be bet­ter, decid­ing new things for them, to stim­u­late their brains.”

- She has four chil­dren, four grand­chil­dren and a hus­band, Arnold Schei­del, who teach­es anato­my at UCLA. They see each oth­er on school week­ends,

- Dia­mond feels her own brain grow­ing.

Keep read­ing here.

Relat­ed resources

A pre­vi­ous post list­ing a num­ber of her essays: Mar­i­an Dia­mond and the Brain Rev­o­lu­tion

Her great book Mag­ic Trees of the Mind: How to Nur­ture Your Child’s Intel­li­gence, Cre­ativ­i­ty, and Healthy Emo­tions from Birth Through Ado­les­cence, by Berke­ley’s Mar­i­an Dia­mond and Janet L. Hop­son.

Cognitive Development and Brain Research: Articles, Books, Papers (ASA)

brain fitness eventWe had a very fun ses­sion titled Teach­ing Brain Fit­ness in Your Com­mu­ni­ty at an Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging (ASA) con­fer­ence for health pro­fes­sion­als a cou­ple of weeks ago. Full house, with over 60 atten­dants and very good par­tic­i­pa­tion, show­ing great inter­est in the top­ic. I can’t wait to see the eval­u­a­tions.

These are some of the resources I promised as a fol­low-up, which can be use­ful to every­one inter­est­ed in our field:

Good gen­er­al arti­cles in the busi­ness and gen­er­al media:

Change or Die

Want a sharp mind for your gold­en years? Start now

You’re Wis­er Now

On how new neu­rons are born and grow in the adult brain:

Salk Sci­en­tists Demon­strate For The First Time That New­ly Born Brain Cells Are Func­tion­al In The Adult Brain

Old Brains, New Tricks

On the sur­pris­ing plas­tic­i­ty and devel­op­ment poten­tial through­out life:

Brain Plas­tic­i­ty, Lan­guage Pro­cess­ing and Read­ing

Jug­gling Jug­gles the Brain

Suc­cess­ful Aging of the Healthy Brain

Oth­er impor­tant aspects:

Stress and the Brain

Exer­cise and the Brain

Humor, Laugh­ter and The Brain

On the impor­tance and impact of men­tal stim­u­la­tion and train­ing: 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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