Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Jack and Elaine LaLanne and Brain Health

Very fun inter­view with Jack and Elaine LaLanne by Dave Bun­nell: read it at Meet Fit­ness Leg­ends Jack and Elaine LaLanne | ELDR.com. See some quotes:

  • In 1936, Jack opened America’s first health club in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, called the “Jack LaLanne Phys­i­cal Cul­ture Stu­dio.”
  • Through tele­vi­sion shows, pub­lic appear­ances, and books—and by sell­ing health-relat­ed products—they have been the most vocal and effec­tive evan­ge­lists for pre­ven­tive health the world has ever known.
  • Elaine works out,” Jack replies, “but I work out eight days a week. I spend an hour and a half in the gym, and then a half hour in the pool, and I change my rou­tine every 30 days com­plete­ly.”
  • You’ve got to go at it hard and work on dif­fer­ent mus­cles,” he con­tin­ues. “You know how you stay young, don’t you? You work your butt off. Any­thing you do in life that’s worth­while, there’s a price to pay.”

Jack recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed his 92nd birth­day!

We all have to be very thank­ful for their life mis­sion: a recent arti­cle from the Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science quotes:

Every­body knows that exer­cise is good for your heart, but in recent years we’ve gath­ered com­pelling evi­dence that exer­cise is also good for your brain,” says Fred Gage, PhD, of the Salk Insti­tute for Bio­log­i­cal Stud­ies. “We now know that exer­cise helps gen­er­ate new brain cells, even in the aging brain.”

You can check oth­er tips in Read the rest of this entry »

Yoga and stress management

GABA Receptor
Steven Edwards at Wired Blog writes a post titled Yoga Boosts Brain’s GABA Lev­els, say­ing that “Par­tic­i­pants in the yoga group had a 27% increase in GABA lev­els, while those in the read­ing group remained unchanged. Co-authors Chris Streeter from BUSM and Domenic Ciraulo point­ed out that this research shows a method of treat­ing low GABA states. Fair­ly obvi­ous — yes — but this shows a non­phar­ma­co­log­i­cal method for increas­ing GABA lev­els that peo­ple can act on now, with­out wait­ing for a drug to go through FDA approval.”

Hav­ing attend­ed last week a con­fer­ence where neu­rophar­ma exec­u­tives pre­sent­ed all their future drugs against obe­si­ty, anx­i­ety, depression…I couldn’t agree more. The rates of seri­ous side effects of these drugs are astound­ing, yet as a soci­ety we seem to pre­fer to rely on tak­ing drugs when are sick rather than proac­tive­ly tak­ing charge of our health and lifestyles and do our best (which not always is enough) to pro­tect our fit­ness and well­ness.

The press release Steven talks about: Yoga and Ele­vat­ed Brain GABA Lev­els [PhysOrg]. Quotes: Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Program: how to select the right one

You can use our check­list for guid­ance on how to nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of brain fit­ness pro­grams.

Forbes recent­ly pub­lished a great arti­cle on Top Brain Boost­ers, by Alli­son Van Dusen, with good lifestyle advice on life­long learn­ing, com­put­er pro­grams, social inter­ac­tion, stress reduc­tion, sleep, exer­cise and emo­tion­al health, and nutri­tion.

The arti­cle also men­tions the Mind­Fit and Posit Sci­ence pro­grams, and includes our Sharp­Brains Check­list to help select the right com­put­er-based pro­gram.

Why did we devel­op a Check­list? Well, research shows that Phys­i­cal Exer­cise, Good Nutri­tion, Stress Man­age­ment and Brain Fitness/Exercise are all four crit­i­cal pil­lars for Brain Health. Most peo­ple already under­stand the first 3, but the 4th one, Brain Fitness/Exercise, is often mis­un­der­stood or over­looked. We have spent over 18 months inter­view­ing sci­en­tists and review­ing avail­able Brain Fitness/Exercise Pro­grams world­wide, and, giv­en the over­whelm­ing amount of pro­grams mak­ing “Brain Fit­ness” claims nowa­days, we would like to share the research-based cri­te­ria we use to eval­u­ate Brain Fitness/Exercise pro­grams.

The Forbes Top Brain Boost­ers arti­cle asks “How do you know if a pricey brain fit­ness soft­ware pro­gram is right for you?”

And offers our check­list:

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­al­ly neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board behind the pro­gram?

(Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists spe­cial­ize in mea­sur­ing and under­stand­ing human cog­ni­tion and brain struc­ture and func­tion.)

* 2. Are there pub­lished, peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers in PubMed writ­ten by those sci­en­tists? How many?

(Pubmed is a ser­vice of the U.S. Nation­al Library of Med­i­cine that includes mil­lions of cita­tions sci­ence jour­nals. If a sci­en­tist has not pub­lished a paper that appears in that data­base, he or she can­not make sci­en­tif­ic claims.)

* 3. What are the spe­cif­ic ben­e­fits claimed for using this pro­gram?

(Some pro­grams present the ben­e­fits in such a neb­u­lous way that it is impos­si­ble to tell if they will have any results or not…“brain train­ing” itself is a lim­it­ed ben­e­fit, because activ­i­ties like gar­den­ing or learn­ing a new lan­guage pro­vide “brain train­ing too”…you need to see some­thing more spe­cif­ic, like what cog­ni­tive or emo­tion­al skill that pro­gram is aimed at)

* 4. Does the pro­gram tell me what part of my brain or which cog­ni­tive skill I am exer­cis­ing, and is there an inde­pen­dent assess­ment to mea­sure my progress?

(The ques­tion is whether the improve­ment expe­ri­enced in the pro­gram will trans­fer into real life. For that to hap­pen we need assess­ments that are dis­tinct from the exer­cis­es them­selves.)

* 5. Is it a struc­tured pro­gram with guid­ance on how many hours per week and days per week to use it?

(Brain exer­cise is not a mag­ic pill. You have to do the exer­cis­es in order to ben­e­fit, so you need clar­i­ty on the effort required.)

* 6. Do the exer­cis­es vary and teach me some­thing new?

(The only way to exer­cise impor­tant parts of our brain is by tack­ling nov­el chal­lenges.)

* 7. Does the pro­gram chal­lenge and moti­vate me, or does it feel like it would become easy once I learned it?

(Good brain exer­cise requires increas­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty)

* 8. Does the pro­gram fit my per­son­al goals?

(Each indi­vid­ual has dif­fer­ent goals/ needs when it comes to brain health. For exam­ple, some want to man­age anx­i­ety, oth­ers to improve short-term mem­o­ry…)

* 9. Does the pro­gram fit my lifestyle?

(Some brain exer­cise pro­grams have great short-term results but are very intense. Oth­ers may be bet­ter over time)

* 10. Am I ready and will­ing to do the pro­gram, or would it be too stress­ful?

(Excess stress reduces, or may even inhib­it, neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis-the cre­ation of new neu­rons-. So, it is impor­tant to make sure not to do things that stress us in unhealthy ways.)

Spe­cial Offer: For a lim­it­ed time, you can receive a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of our Brain Fit­ness 101 e-Guide: Answers to your Top 25 Ques­tions, writ­ten by Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg and Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, by sub­scrib­ing to our month­ly newslet­ter. You can sub­scribe Here.

You may also enjoy these relat­ed blog posts:

- Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty 101 and Brain Fit­ness Glos­sary: an overview of the emerg­ing sci­ence and some key con­cepts to under­stand it.

- Brain Train­ing Games and “Games”: a 10-Ques­tion Check­list on how to eval­u­ate pro­grams that make brain-relat­ed claims.

- Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science and Psy­chol­o­gy Inter­view Series: in-depth inter­views with 11 sci­en­tists and experts in cog­ni­tive train­ing and brain fit­ness.

- Books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and mem­o­ry train­ing: reviews of Train Your Brain, Change Your Mind, by Sharon Beg­ley, and The Brain That Changes Itself, by Nor­man Doidge. Both books are fas­ci­nat­ing and pow­er­ful; each would have mer­it­ed appear­ing in the 2007 New York Times List of 100 Notable Books.

Final­ly, this is one on the impor­tant top­ics we cov­er in our Sem­i­nars, so let us know if your orga­ni­za­tion needs more infor­ma­tion.

All about Brain Fitness

We are very hap­py to see how the sci­ence-based brain fit­ness field is emerg­ing, and we have pre­pared a Hot Top­ics sec­tion to keep you well informed. Our Chief Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer, Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, has been writ­ing about brain fit­ness for many years. Here you have a selec­tion of the most pop­u­lar posts: Hot Top­ics on Mem­o­ry, Brain Fit­ness, Brain Teasers, Men­tal Exer­cise, Stress Man­age­ment, Phys­i­cal Exer­cise, Nutri­tion, News, Prod­ucts, Events, Stu­dents, Sci­ence, Resources, and more.

We are also open­ing up our mod­er­at­ed Mes­sage Boards to every­one inter­est­ed in learn­ing and shar­ing. You can self-reg­is­ter to cre­ate a new forum account and join the con­ver­sa­tion. Jump in and start ask­ing ques­tions and give us feed­back!

This is a new field, and we are hap­py to con­tribute, and to lis­ten. Look­ing for­ward a stim­u­lat­ing dia­logue!

Are there specific brain fitness programs for kids? My kids have problems with math.

Here is ques­tion 22 from Brain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions.

Question:

Are there spe­cif­ic brain fit­ness pro­grams for kids? My kids have prob­lems with math-why should they do these things that may dis­tract them?

Key Points:
  • Learn­ing stress man­age­ment skills can reduce test anx­i­ety and improve learn­ing readi­ness.
  • If stress lev­els are too high, con­cen­tra­tion and focus are neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed.
Answer:

Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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