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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