Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking

Today’s kids are into multi-tasking. This is the generation hooked on iPods, IM’ing, video games – not to mention TV! Many people in my generation think it is wonderful that kids can do all these things simultaneously and are impressed with their competence.

Well, as a teacher of such kids when they reach college, I am not impressed. College students these days have short attention spans and have trouble concentrating. They got this way in secondary school. I see this in the middle-school outreach program I help run. At this age kids are really wrapped up in multi-tasking at the expense of focus.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study last year, school kids in all grades beyond the second grade committed, on average, more than six hours per day to TV or videos, music, video games, and computers. Almost one-third reported that “most of the time” they did their homework while chatting on the phone, surfing the Web, sending instant messages, watching TV, or listening to music.

Kids think that this entertainment while studying helps their learning. It probably does make learning less tedious, but it clearly makes learning less efficient and less effective. Multi-tasking violates everything we know about how memory works. Now we have objective scientific evidence that Read the rest of this entry »

Encephalon #50 Edition: Brain & Mind Research

Welcome to Encephalon 50th edition, where you will find another superb collection of blog posts on all things Brain and Mind.Encephalon brain and mind blog carnival

Enjoy these contributions:

Science & Technology

Mind Hacks reports that Facebook ate my psychiatrist. We can learn about the benefits of social networking sites like Facebook, bringing great perspective to recent and misguided media speculation (fuelled by a recent talk at the Royal College of Psychiatrists). Vaughan, will you please report on the benefits of participating (and, better, hosting) Encephalon?.

Dungeons And Dragons – Or Mazes And Monsters?: PodBlack Cat offers a thought-provoking review of the therapy (including self-therapy) applications of role-playing games such as the classic Dungeons And Dragons and the more recent massively multiplayer online games.

Cognitive Daily covers another type of game. Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Memory with Sleep, Practice, and Testing

There are whole markets (think crosswords, herbal supplements, drugs, brain fitness software) aimed at helping us improve our memory.

Now, what is “memory”? how does the process of memory sleep and memorywork?

Dr. Bill Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, explains a very important concept below.

– Alvaro


Getting from Here to There:
Making Memory Consolidation Work

By Bill Klemm,  Ph. D.

Until consolidation has occurred, a short-term memory is very vulnerable, as all of us have experienced from looking up a phone number only to have some distraction cause us to lose the number before we can get it dialed.

What is “consolidation”?

Brain researchers use the term “consolidation” for the process whereby short-term memory gets made more permanent.

Here, I would like to discuss some aspects of consolidation that many people may not know about: why sleep is so important, why memory must be practiced, and how testing promotes consolidation. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brain Fitness Vacation

San PedroA year ago we wrote a Glossary where we defined Brain Fitness as “the general state of good, sharp, brain and mind, especially as the result of mental and physical exercise and proper nutrition” and a Brain Fitness Program as a “structured set of brain exercises, usually computer-based, designed to train specific brain areas and functions in targeted ways, and measured by brain fitness assessments.”

Now, thanks to this recent article Alvaro and Lisa’s Brain Vacation, we can add Brain Fitness Vacation: “A brain fitness vacation is like a regular vacation, only you attend events, do exercises, and arrange for experiences that address the aspects of good brain health: physical exercise, mental exercise, good nutrition, and stress management.”

Dave Bunnell, the founder and editor of new magazine ELDR (and previously editor of PC World, PC Magazine, Upside, and many other magazines) met Dr. Goldberg and myself after our speech in SFSU last May. When he showed an interest in writing a story, and I mentioned half-jokingly that it would have to wait a few weeks since my wife and I were about to take a much needed “brain fitness vacation”, he said, well, maybe that’s the story!.

You can read the full article here. For the benefit of the attendants to my lectures this week, who may be looking for some additional brain exercises, here go some quotes:

  • Guesstimation. Lisa asks Alvaro a question, “How many trees are there in San Francisco?” To come up with an answer, Alvaro first tries to guess how many trees, on average, there are in a city block. He then calculates approximately how many blocks there are in a square mile, followed by how many square miles there are in San Francisco, and so on.
  • Number Series. Alvaro says, “Two, three,” and Lisa replies, “four, six.” Alvaro then says, “Six, nine,” and Lisa replies, “Eight, twelve.” He says,”Ten, fifteen,” and the sequence goes on as long and as fast as you can keep doing it.
  • Haiku. During the entire vacation, Alvaro and Lisa composed haiku for each other every morning. The rule was they couldn’t write them down. They had to create them in their heads and remember them.
  • Sensory training. Lisa puts a piece of chocolate into Alvaro’s mouth while his eyes are closed. He lets it melt completely without chewing and without opening his eyes. Next, he puts a grape in Lisa’s mouth.
  • Visualizations. Alvaro and Lisa sit quietly for about 15 minutes, breathe deeply using their diaphragms, and visualize special moments from their past, such as the most beautiful view they’ve ever seen, or a loving personal moment.


Pic credit: San Pedro de Alcantara, Spain (Wikipedia)

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