Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Mental stimulation over genetics: How to hold off Alzheimer’s Disease 8+ Years (even APOE4 carriers)

Alzheimers DiseaseFeed­ing the Brain’s Curios­i­ty Helps Delay Alzheimer’s, Study Says (Bloomberg):

Peo­ple genet­i­cal­ly prone to Alzheimer’s who went to col­lege, worked in com­plex fields and stayed engaged intel­lec­tu­al­ly held off the dis­ease almost a decade longer than oth­ers, a study found. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center adopts Intelligym cognitive training

USAHockey_IntelliGymIntelligym’s Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py Tech­nolo­gies Added to Com­pre­hen­sive Approach in Mayo Clin­ic Sports Med­i­cine Center’s Hock­ey Pro­gram (press release):

Cog­ni­tive train­ing has tak­en off amongst thou­sands of play­ers and hock­ey pro­grams Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: It Works, and It Doesn’t Work

The IMPACT study which we report­ed on in Decem­ber 2007, fund­ed by Posit Sci­ence, con­duct­ed by the Mayo Clin­ic and USC Davis, has just announced pub­li­ca­tion at the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety. Ref­er­ence:

- Smith et al. A Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Pro­gram Designed Based on Prin­ci­ples of Brain Plas­tic­i­ty: Results from the Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Study. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Geri­atrics Soci­ety, April 2009.

Com­put­er Exer­cis­es Improve Mem­o­ry And Atten­tion, Study Sug­gests (Sci­ence Dai­ly)

- “The Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing (IMPACT) study was fund­ed by the Posit Sci­ence Cor­po­ra­tion, which owns the rights to the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, test­ed in the study.”

- “Of the 487 healthy adults over the age of 65 who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­al, half used the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for 40 hours over the course of eight weeks. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram con­sists of six audio exer­cis­es done on a com­put­er, and is intend­ed to “retrain the brain to dis­crim­i­nate fine dis­tinc­tions in sound, and do it in a way that keeps the user engaged,” Zelin­s­ki explained.” The oth­er half of par­tic­i­pants spent an equal amount of time learn­ing from edu­ca­tion­al DVDs fol­lowed by quizzes.

Com­ment: this is a very inter­est­ing study, in that it shows both that cog­ni­tive train­ing works, and that it doesn’t work.

What do I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: No Magic Bullet, Yet Useful Tool. Interview with Elizabeth Zelinski

Sharon Beg­ley, Newsweek’s sci­ence reporter, recent­ly wrote that

- “With the nation’s 78 mil­lion baby boomers approach­ing the age of those dread­ed ‘“where did I leave my keys?” moments, it’s no won­der the mar­ket for com­put­er-based brain train­ing has shot up from essen­tial­ly zero in 2005 to $80 mil­lion this year, accord­ing to the con­sult­ing firm Sharp­Brains.

- “Now comes the largest and most rig­or­ous study of a com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able train­ing pro­gram, and it shows that there is hope for aging brains. This morn­ing, at the meet­ing of the Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, sci­en­tists are pre­sent­ing data show­ing that after eight weeks of dai­ly one-hour ses­sions with Brain Fit­ness 2.0 from Posit Sci­ence, elder­ly vol­un­teers got mea­sur­ably bet­ter in their brain’s speed and accu­ra­cy of processElizabeth Zelinski IMPACTing.

We recent­ly had the chance to inter­view Dr. Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Andrus Geron­tol­ogy Cen­ter, who led the IMPACT (Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing) Study Sharon Beg­ley refers to in the quote above.

First, some con­text on this study, which is by far the largest high-qual­i­ty study of its kind. The study was prospec­tive, ran­dom­ized, con­trolled, and used a dou­ble blind tri­al. 524 healthy adults 65-year-old and over were divid­ed into two groups. One received an hour a day of train­ing for eight to ten weeks, and the oth­er spent the same amount of time watch­ing edu­ca­tion­al DVDs. The IMPACT study, fund­ed by Posit Sci­ence cor­po­ra­tion, was per­formed in mul­ti­ple loca­tions, includ­ing the Mayo Clin­ic, USCF, and San Fran­cis­co Vet­er­an Affairs Med­ical Cen­ter.

The dis­cus­sion cen­ters at his point on the ini­tial results that were pre­sent­ed Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca (the study hasn’t been pub­lished yet).

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Dr. Zelin­s­ki. Thank you for being with us. Could you start by set­ting the con­text and pro­vid­ing an overview of how human cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties typ­i­cal­ly evolve as we age based on insights from your Long Beach Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study?

Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki: Of course. The first con­cept to under­stand is that dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive skills evolve over the lifes­pan in dif­fer­ent ways. Some that rely on expe­ri­ence, such as vocab­u­lary, actu­al­ly improve as we age. Some tend to decline grad­u­al­ly, start­ing in our late 20s. This hap­pens, for exam­ple, with pro­cess­ing speed (how long it takes us to process and respond to infor­ma­tion), mem­o­ry, and rea­son­ing. We could sum­ma­rize this phe­nom­e­non by say­ing that as we age we get bet­ter at deal­ing with the famil­iar, but worse at deal­ing with the new. We can always learn, but at a slow­er pace.

Are there any spe­cif­ic tip­ping or inflec­tion points in this trend, any age when the rate of decline is more pro­nounced?

We don’t have a clear answer to that. It depends a lot on the indi­vid­ual. In gen­er­al it is a grad­ual, cumu­la­tive process, so that by age 70 we sta­tis­ti­cal­ly see clear age declines. Which, for exam­ple, is a strong fac­tor deter­min­ing why old­er adults strug­gle to adapt to new tech­nolo­gies, but why try­ing to learn them pro­vides need­ed men­tal stim­u­la­tion. Now we know that genes only account for a por­tion of this decline. Much of it depends on our envi­ron­ment, lifestyle and actions.

Can you sum­ma­rize what a healthy indi­vid­ual can do to slow down this process of decline, and help stay healthy and pro­duc­tive as long as pos­si­ble?

One gen­er­al rec­om­men­da­tion is to do every­thing we can to pre­vent or delay dis­ease process­es, such as dia­betes or high-blood pres­sure, that have a neg­a­tive effect on our brains. For exam­ple, it is a tragedy in our soci­ety that we usu­al­ly reduce our lev­els of phys­i­cal exer­cise dras­ti­cal­ly after we leave school.

Let me then ask: what are the rel­a­tive virtues of phys­i­cal vs. men­tal exer­cise?

Great ques­tion! That in fact leads into my sec­ond rec­om­men­da­tion. Aer­o­bic exer­cise has been shown to Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health and Fitness Workshops

Today I have an announce­ment to make. You prob­a­bly are seeing all the arti­cles about Brain Fit­ness in the press and wondering, “What is this all about?”, “Can some­one help me nav­i­gate through all the pro­grams out there?”, “How is Brain Fit­ness rel­e­vant to me in my per­son­al life or at work?”. Well…we are deliv­er­ing a series of work­shops to com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions com­bin­ing mod­ules -includ­ing sci­en­tif­ic overview, the indus­try trends and key play­ers, fun team-build­ing exer­cis­es- that can be tai­lored to each organization’s spe­cif­ic needs. Ses­sions last from 1 to 6 hours, depend­ing on the group’s com­po­si­tion and agen­da and are deliv­ered either in per­son or via web con­fer­ence.

We want to be able to reach more orga­ni­za­tions, so please let us know of any ideas!

Some recent examples

1. Man­ag­ing Stress for Peak Per­for­mance (we men­tioned some notes on an Accen­ture ses­sion)

New and chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions – such as tak­ing on new respon­si­bil­i­ties– can trig­ger reac­tions in our brain and body that lim­it or even block our deci­sion-mak­ing abil­i­ties. These reac­tions may also harm our long-term brain pow­er and health. Although we can­not avoid change and stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, we can learn how to man­age our stress lev­els to ensure peak per­for­mance-even in tough moments. The lat­est neu­ro­science research proves that stress man­age­ment is a train­able “men­tal mus­cle.” This is true for any high pres­sure pro­fes­sion, be it trad­ing, sports, or sim­ply mod­ern life.

2. The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness (sim­i­lar to what I will teach at UC Berke­ley OLLI)

Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have shown how the human brain retains neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty to rewire itself) and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons) dur­ing its full life­time, lead­ing to a new under­stand­ing of Read the rest of this entry »

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