Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Relaxing for your Brain’s Sake

What stress­es you out ?Meditation School Students

What­ev­er it is, how you respond to it may have more con­se­quences than you think. Let me show you how.

Recap­ping from last months arti­cle (see Stress and Neur­al Wreck­age: Part of the Brain Plas­tic­i­ty Puz­zle)…our bod­ies are a com­plex bal­anc­ing act between sys­tems work­ing full time to keep us alive and well. Any change which threat­ens this bal­ance can be referred to as stress. Cor­ti­sol, a key com­po­nent of the stress response, does an excel­lent job of allow­ing us to adapt to most stres­sors which last more than a cou­ple of min­utes. How­ev­er, hav­ing to endure a high stres­sor for longer than about 30 min­utes to an hour neg­a­tive­ly impacts the brain in var­i­ous ways.

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Cognitive training research: MindFit, Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed

The field of com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive train­ing (part of what we call “Brain Fit­ness”) is start­ing to get trac­tion in the media and becom­ing an emerg­ing indus­try, and we are hap­py to see how a grow­ing num­ber of researchers and sci­ence-based com­pa­nies are lead­ing stud­ies that will allow to bet­ter mea­sure results and refine the brain exer­cise soft­ware avail­able.

Pub­lished new research

  • Com­put­er­ized work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing after stroke-A pilot study. A pub­lished study on how Cogmed work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing may help stroke patients. See the ref­er­ence at Cogmed Research page (and full arti­cle here)
  • The Jour­nals of Geron­tol­ogy pub­lished a series of relat­ed papers in their June issue, includ­ing this by Kar­lene Ball, Jer­ri D. Edwards, and Les­ley A. Ross on The Impact of Speed of Pro­cess­ing Train­ing on Cog­ni­tive and Every­day Func­tions, J Geron­tol B Psy­chol Sci Soc Sci 2007 62: 19–31.  Abstract: “We com­bined data from six stud­ies, all using the same speed of pro­cess­ing train­ing pro­gram, to exam­ine the mech­a­nisms of train­ing gain and the impact of train­ing on cog­ni­tive and every­day abil­i­ties of old­er adults. Results indi­cat­ed that train­ing pro­duces imme­di­ate improve­ments across all sub­tests of the Use­ful Field of View test, par­tic­u­lar­ly for old­er adults with ini­tial speed of pro­cess­ing deficits. Age and edu­ca­tion had lit­tle to no impact on train­ing gain. Par­tic­i­pants main­tained ben­e­fits of train­ing for at least 2 years, which trans­lat­ed to improve­ments in every­day abil­i­ties, includ­ing effi­cient per­for­mance of instru­men­tal activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing and safer dri­ving per­for­mance.”

Ongoing/ start­ing research

Alzheimer’s Disease: too serious to play with headlines

Featured Website, Scientific American Mind, June/July 2007

We just came across an arti­cle titled Best Com­put­er Brain Games for Senior Cit­i­zens to Delay Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. The head­line makes lit­tle sci­en­tif­ic sense-and we observe this con­fu­sion often. The arti­cle men­tions a few pro­grams we have dis­cussed often in this blog, such as Posit Sci­ence and Mind­Fit, and oth­ers we haven’t because we haven’t found any pub­lished sci­ence behind, such as Dakim and MyBrain­Train­er. And there are more pro­grams: what about Hap­py Neu­ron, Lumos­i­ty, Spry Learn­ing and Captain’s Log. Not to talk about Nin­ten­do Brain Age, of course.

Some of those pro­grams have real sci­ence that, at best, shows how some spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills (like mem­o­ry, or atten­tion, or pro­cess­ing) can be trained and improved-no mat­ter the age. This is a very impor­tant mes­sage that hasn’t yet per­co­lat­ed through many brains out there: we know today that com­put­er-based soft­ware pro­grams can be very use­ful to train some cog­ni­tive skills, bet­ter than alter­na­tive meth­ods (paper and pen­cil, class­room-based, just “dai­ly liv­ing”).

Now, no sin­gle pro­gram can make ANY claim that it specif­i­cal­ly delays/ pre­vents Alzheimer’s Dis­ease beyond gen­er­al state­ments such as that Learn­ing Slows Phys­i­cal Pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (hence the imper­a­tive for life­long learn­ing) and that men­tal stim­u­la­tion-togeth­er with oth­er lifestyle fac­tors such as nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and stress man­age­ment, as out­lined in these Steps to Improve Your Brain Health- may con­tribute to build a Cog­ni­tive Reserve that may reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of prob­lems. Pro­grams may be able to Read the rest of this entry »

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