Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Update: Let’s transform brain health from “suffer-in-silence” to “let-me-take-control”

Summit Interviews

Time for our Sep­tem­ber 2014 e‑newsletter, fea­tur­ing a wealth of insights  and inno­va­tions reports…including four thought-pro­vok­ing inter­views with Spon­sors of the 2014 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit (Octo­ber 28–30th). Enjoy!

New per­spec­tives at the fron­tier of Brain, Health & Inno­va­tion:

New trends:

New stud­ies:

2014_SharpBrains_Virtual_Summit_Shaping the Practice and the Future of Brain FitnessFinal­ly, you may want to try this brain teas­er to test your mul­ti-task­ing abil­i­ties…and, if you are inter­est­ed in all these top­ics for pro­fes­sion­al rea­sons, please con­sid­er join­ing us at the 2014 Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit (Octo­ber 28–30th) — you can reg­is­ter with a 10% dis­count using pro­mo­tion­al code: sharp2014

Have a great month of Octo­ber!

When early retirement equals mental retirement and memory decline

The New-York Times reports on the study pub­lished a few days ago in the Jour­nal of Eco­nom­ic Per­spec­tives, “Men­tal retire­ment”:

… Data from the Unit­ed States, Eng­land and 11 oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries sug­gest that the ear­li­er peo­ple retire, the more quick­ly their mem­o­ries decline.

… what aspect of work is doing that, Dr. Suz­man said. “Is it the social engage­ment and inter­ac­tion or the cog­ni­tive com­po­nent of work, or is it the aer­o­bic com­po­nent of work?” he asked. “Or is it the absence of what hap­pens when you retire, which could be increased TV watch­ing?”

Com­ments: This new study is anoth­er piece of evi­dence accu­mu­lat­ing with more and more oth­ers sug­gest­ing that a brain healthy life-style requires con­stant cog­ni­tive chal­lenge to help main­tain high-lev­el cog­ni­tive func­tions. Whether it is speak­ing mul­ti­ple lan­guages, phys­i­cal­ly exer­cis­ing or stay­ing men­tal­ly active, our every­day life can pos­i­tive­ly impact our brain health.  Some­thing to keep in mind after retirement…and to even retire the word “retire­ment”!

The results are also intrigu­ing because work­ing com­bines mul­ti­ple aspects of a brain-healthy lifestyle (social engage­ment, men­tal stim­u­la­tion) with aspects not so good for the brain (stress, absence of phys­i­cal exer­cise in some cas­es). How­ev­er, it seems that, over­all, the good aspects of work­ing take over the bad ones as far as mem­o­ry func­tions are con­cerned.

What is Brain Fitness, anyway?

Vijay, one of our read­ers, wrote yes­ter­day a very thought­ful com­ment :

What is brain fit­ness and how it is mea­sured? Is it the same as mind fit­ness which seeks to achieve bal­ance in life?”

I am curi­ous to learn how you would answer that ques­tion. I will add my per­spec­tive over the week­end, since I don’t want to bias your thoughts now.

What is brain fit­ness and how it is mea­sured?

Lifelong Learning and New Neurons in Adults

Very inter­est­ing new study, Crit­i­cal Peri­od Plas­tic­i­ty of Adult-Born Neu­rons, pub­lished in the jour­nal Neu­ron by a team of Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine researchers. The press release New Adult Brain Cells May Be Cen­tral To Life­long Learn­ing con­tains a good sum­ma­ry (the bold for­mat is mine):

  • The steady for­ma­tion of new brain cells in adults may rep­re­sent more than mere­ly a patch­ing up of aging brains, a new study has shown.”
  • The new adult brain cells may serve to give the adult brain the same kind of learn­ing abil­i­ty that young brains have while still allow­ing the exist­ing, mature cir­cuit­ry to main­tain sta­bil­i­ty.”
  • The researchers found that the new adult neu­rons showed a pat­tern of chang­ing plas­tic­i­ty very sim­i­lar to that seen in brain cells in new­born ani­mals. That is, the new adult brain cells showed a “crit­i­cal peri­od” in which they were high­ly plas­tic before they set­tled into the less plas­tic prop­er­ties of mature brain cells. In new­born ani­mals, such a crit­i­cal peri­od enables an impor­tant, ear­ly burst of wiring of new brain cir­cuit­ry with expe­ri­ence.”
  • The researchers also observed in the new adult neu­rons anatom­i­cal evi­dence of the same kind of for­ma­tion of new con­nec­tions that take place in the brains of new­borns as they wire new path­ways in response to expe­ri­ence.”
  • They con­clud­ed that “adult neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis may rep­re­sent not mere­ly a replace­ment mech­a­nism for lost neu­rons, but instead an ongo­ing devel­op­men­tal process that con­tin­u­ous­ly reju­ve­nates the mature ner­vous sys­tem by offer­ing expand­ed capac­i­ty of plas­tic­i­ty in response to expe­ri­ence through­out life.”

In short: not only do we know today that the adult brain is capa­ble of cre­at­ing new neu­rons, but this shows that our expe­ri­ence influ­ences what hap­pens to those neu­rons once cre­at­ed. Pret­ty rev­o­lu­tion­ary under­stand­ing, that still needs to per­me­ate through soci­ety and influ­ence our lifestyles and habits.

Some relat­ed posts:

Yoga and stress management

GABA Receptor
Steven Edwards at Wired Blog writes a post titled Yoga Boosts Brain’s GABA Lev­els, say­ing that “Par­tic­i­pants in the yoga group had a 27% increase in GABA lev­els, while those in the read­ing group remained unchanged. Co-authors Chris Streeter from BUSM and Domenic Ciraulo point­ed out that this research shows a method of treat­ing low GABA states. Fair­ly obvi­ous — yes — but this shows a non­phar­ma­co­log­i­cal method for increas­ing GABA lev­els that peo­ple can act on now, with­out wait­ing for a drug to go through FDA approval.”

Hav­ing attend­ed last week a con­fer­ence where neu­rophar­ma exec­u­tives pre­sent­ed all their future drugs against obe­si­ty, anx­i­ety, depression…I could­n’t agree more. The rates of seri­ous side effects of these drugs are astound­ing, yet as a soci­ety we seem to pre­fer to rely on tak­ing drugs when are sick rather than proac­tive­ly tak­ing charge of our health and lifestyles and do our best (which not always is enough) to pro­tect our fit­ness and well­ness.

The press release Steven talks about: Yoga and Ele­vat­ed Brain GABA Lev­els [PhysOrg]. Quotes: Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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