Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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What Everyone Should Know About Stress, Brain Health, and Dance

-- Dancing to the clapping of bands. Egyptian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, about 3300 B.C. (British Museum.)

— Dancing to the clapping of bands. Egyptian, from the tomb of Ur-ari-en-Ptah, 6th Dynasty, about 3300 B.C. (British Museum)

Everyone experiences stress at some point in our lives. It is important to know that stress can harm the brain, and also that dance can be a great avenue for a person resist, reduce, or escape it.

Stress can change the physical structure and function of the brain, affecting wiring and thus performance of one’s activities. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn – Ideas for New Year Resolutions

My interest in the brain stems from wanting to better understand both how to make school more palatable for students, and professional development more meaningful for faculty. To that end, I began my Neurons Firing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of reading, and been attending workshops and conferences, including Learning & the Brain.

If you agree that our brains are designed for learning, then as educators it is incumbent upon us to be looking for ways to maximize the learning process for each of our students, as well as for ourselves. Some of what follows is simply common sense, but I’ve learned that all of it has a scientific basis in our brains. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health News: Top Articles and Resources in March

There’s such a flood of very significant research studies, educational resources and articles related to brain health, it’s hard to keep track – even for us!

Let me introduce and quote some of the top Brain Health Studies, Articles and Resources published in March:

1) Cognitive Decline Begins In Late 20s, Study Suggests (Science Daily)

– “These patterns suggest that some types of mental flexibility decrease relatively early in adulthood, but that how much knowledge one has, and the effectiveness of integrating it with one’s abilities, may increase throughout all of adulthood if there are no pathological diseases,” Salthouse said.

– However, Salthouse points out that there is a great deal of variance from person to person

2) Cerebrum 2009: Emerging Ideas in Brain Science – new book by the Dana Foundation that “explores the cutting edge of brain research and its implications in our everyday lives, in language understandable to the general reader.”

A couple of excellent chapters of direct relevance to everyone’s brain health are:
– Chapter 4: A Road Paved by Reason, by Elizabeth Norton Lasley

– Chapter 10: Neural Health: Is It Facilitated by Work Force Participation?, by Denise Park, Ph.D

3) Staying Sharp DVD Program: “Dr. Jordan Grafman, chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke outside of Washington, DC, and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, is your guide as we cover what to expect from the aging brain and what we can do to ‘stay sharp.’

For a free DVD of this program you can contact stayingsharp@dana.org. (they say free in their website, I don’t know if that includes shipping & handling)

4) Drivers to be tested on cognitive ability starting at age 75 (Japan Times)

The outline of a cognitive test that drivers aged 75 or over will be required to take from June when renewing their licenses was released Thursday…The test is intended to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers by measuring their cognitive level.

5) Physical Fitness Improves Spatial Memory, Increases Size Of Brain Structure (Science Daily)

– “Now researchers have found that elderly adults who are more physically fit tend to have bigger hippocampi and better spatial memory than those who are less fit.”

6) Brain Trainers: A Workout for the Mind (Scientific American Mind)

“I recently tried out eight of the latest brain fitness programs, training with each for a week. The programs ranged widely in focus, quality and how fun they were to use. “Like physical exercise equipment, a brain exercise program doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use it, says Andrew J. Carle, director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University. And people tend not to use boring equipment. “I remember when NordicTrack was the biggest thing out there. Everyone ran out and bought one, and 90 percent of them ended up as a clothes rack in the back of your bedroom.

The reporter used: Posit Science’s Brain Fitness Program Classic, HappyNeuron, Nintendo BrainAge, CogniFit’s MindFit/ CogniFit Personal Coach, Lumosity, MyBrainTrainer, BrainTwister, Cogmed Working Memory Training.

7) The Latest in Mental Health: Working Out at the ‘Brain Gym’ (Wall Street Journal)

– “Marshall Kahn, an 82-year-old family doctor in Fullerton, Calif., says he got such a boost from brain exercises he started doing at a “Nifty after Fifty” club that he decided to start seeing patients again part-time. “Doing all the mental exercise,” he says, “I realized I’ve still got it.”

8) Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites (Washington Post)

– “New data from a large federal study have reignited a debate over the effectiveness of long-term drug treatment of children with hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder, and have drawn accusations that some members of the research team have sought to play down evidence that medications do little good beyond 24 months.”

– “The study also indicated that long-term use of the drugs can stunt children’s growth.”

8) Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children (Developmental Science)

Abstract: Working memory plays a crucial role in supporting learning, with poor progress in reading and mathematics characterizing children with low memory skills. This study investigated whether these problems can be overcome by a training program designed to boost working memory. Children with low working memory skills were assessed on measures of working memory, IQ and academic attainment before and after training on either adaptive or non-adaptive versions of the program. Adaptive training that taxed working memory to its limits was associated with substantial and sustained gains in working memory, with age-appropriate levels achieved by the majority of children. Mathematical ability also improved significantly 6 months following adaptive training. These findings indicate that common impairments in working memory and associated learning difficulties may be overcome with this behavioral treatment.

9) Brain cortex thinning linked to inherited depression (Los Angeles Times)

– “On average, people with a family history of depression appear to have brains that are 28% thinner in the right cortex — the outermost layer of the brain — than those with no known family history of the disease. That cortical thinning, said the researchers, is on a scale similar to that seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia.”

Brain Teasers to Exercise Our Minds: Our Top Five

Here you have 4 of the most popular brain games in our blog, plus a bonus stress management tip.

Brain Teaser 1. In which direction is the bus pictured below traveling?

Schoolbus

Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn

My natural rhythms are in cycle with the school calendar. January 1st takes a back seat to my new year, which gets ushered in with the month of September when there is crispness in the air that gradually shakes off the slower, more relaxed pace of summer.Conveniently, my career in teaching meshes with my natural cyclical year. And as this year draws to a close, I am re-energized by the pace of summer, knowing that anything may pop in to my mind as I engage in activities not directly related to school. But before that happens, I’d like to reflect on this past year, in particular as it was my first year of blogging about the brain.

My interest in the brain stems from wanting to better understand both how to make school more palatable for students, and professional development more meaningful for faculty. To that end, I began my Neurons Firing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of reading, and been attending workshops and conferences, including Learning & the Brain.

If you agree that our brains are designed for learning, then Read the rest of this entry »

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