Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Mindfulness and Meditation in Schools: Mindful Kids, Peaceful Schools

Mind­ful Kids, Peace­ful Schools

With eyes closed and deep breaths, stu­dents are learn­ing a new method to reduce anx­i­ety, con­flict, and atten­tion dis­or­ders. But don’t call it med­i­ta­tion.

— By Jill Sut­tie

At Tolu­ca Lake ele­men­tary school in Los Ange­les, a cyclone fence enclos­es the asphalt black­top, which is teem­ing with kids. It’s recess time and the kids, who are most­ly mindfulness exercises for teenagersLati­no, are play­ing tag, yelling, throw­ing balls, and jump­ing rope. When the bell rings, they reluc­tant­ly stop and head back to their class­rooms except for Daniel Mur­phy’s sec­ond grade class.

Mur­phy’s stu­dents file into the school audi­to­ri­um, each car­ry­ing a round blue pil­low dec­o­rat­ed with white stars. They enter gig­gling and chat­ting, but soon they are seat­ed in a cir­cle on their cush­ions, eyes closed, qui­et and con­cen­trat­ing. Two teach­ers give the chil­dren instruc­tions on how to pay atten­tion to their breath­ing, telling them to notice the rise and fall of their bel­lies and chests, the pas­sage of air in and out of their noses. Though the room is chilly the heat­ing sys­tem broke down ear­li­er that day the chil­dren appear com­fort­able, many with Read the rest of this entry »

Every man can, if he so desires, sculpt his own brain

Santiago Ramon y CajalA Span­ish friend and neu­ro­sci­en­tist just remind­ed me of a great quote by San­ti­a­go Ramon y Cajal (1852–1934): “todo hom­bre puede ser, si se lo pro­pone, escul­tor de su pro­pio cere­bro”.

Which means: “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculp­tor his own brain”.

Which real­ly means: “Each of us can lit­er­al­ly refine the struc­ture and func­tion of our brains, the same way we can do so with the rest of our body mus­cles” (my 2 cents…).

Our dai­ly thoughts and actions, learn­ings, med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­a­py, the grow­ing num­ber of soft­ware-based pro­grams, and more, are “sculpt­ing” tools…no more no less than tools. Good for some goals and con­texts, like improv­ing con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, becom­ing “sharp­er”, help­ing pro­tect our minds from decline, or man­age stress bet­ter.

I just bought Cajal’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, titled Rec­ol­lec­tions of My Life (thanks, Mind Hacks). Will be writ­ing about it in a month or so‑I have too many books on the table now, and only one brain.

If you want to read some good neu­ro­science blog posts, you can find a nice col­lec­tion in the lat­est edi­tion of Encephalon, host­ed by Dr Deb­o­rah Serani.

For gen­er­al sci­ence ones, try Tan­gled Bank. For edu­ca­tion, enjoy The Edu­ca­tion Car­ni­val.

Final­ly, I will be host­ing the next edi­tion of Car­ni­val of the Cap­i­tal­ists (I don’t real­ly love the name…but it is the old­est and best blog car­ni­val for busi­ness and eco­nom­ics). If you have some good posts, please sub­mit them here.

For some addi­tion­al thoughts on sculpt­ing brains, intel­li­gence, and becom­ing smarter, you can check this post.

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

The new Mental Game: sport psychology, coaches, get ready!

One of the many Sharp Brains around, who is up to date of every­thing relat­ed to brain health and fit­ness (yes, Jeanne, that’s you! thanks for being such a great bureau chief!) has sent us a very inter­est­ing press note on how brain fit­ness and train­ing can be applied in the sports per­for­mance world. I haven’t been able to track down the research behind the spe­cif­ic pro­grams men­tioned in the arti­cle, but the the­o­ret­i­cal ratio­nale makes sense based on sim­i­lar pro­grams we are famil­iar with: you can see below a sum­ma­ry of our inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher, sci­en­tif­ic mind behind com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions for mil­i­tary pilots and for bas­ket­ball play­ers.

The note Sports Vision Train­ing Takes Ath­letes to New Fron­tiers explains how

  • Spe­cial­ty sports vision facil­i­ties are help­ing ath­letes train skills that many believed were “untrain­able”; skills like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion.”
  • What has every­one all worked up is the knowl­edge that they can actu­al­ly train ath­let­ic skills that many believed were “untrain­able.” We’re talk­ing about intan­gi­bles like antic­i­pa­tion, field vision, tim­ing, sport intel­li­gence, game tem­po, reac­tion speed, focus and con­cen­tra­tion. “One of the worst mis­takes an ath­lete can make is to believe that you’re either born with or with­out these kinds of skills, and that they’re con­se­quent­ly not train­able, says Bri­an Stam­mer, edi­tor of SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine. “If you want to be the best ath­lete you can be, you must do exer­cis­es to con­di­tion and sharp­en your sen­so­ry sys­tem, includ­ing visu­al, audi­to­ry and brain-pro­cess­ing speed.
  • This is the link to the mag­a­zine they men­tion: SportsVi­sion Mag­a­zine

And here is the sum­ma­ry of my (AF) inter­view with Prof. Daniel Gopher (DG) on Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions and cog­ni­tive train­ing:

  • AF: …Can you sum­ma­rize your research find­ings across all these exam­ples and fields, and how you see the field evolv­ing?
  • DG: In short, I’d sum­ma­rize by say­ing that
  • - Cog­ni­tive per­for­mance can be sub­stan­tial­ly improved with prop­er train­ing. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain training to live long and strong

If you want to live long and strong, you’ve got to do more than work out your body; you’ve got to exer­cise your brain, insists Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine. While we’ve heard for years that men­tal stim­u­la­tion can stave off demen­tia and Alzheimer’s, Dr. Gold­berg says sci­en­tists now know exact­ly how to keep our brains from turn­ing to mush – by stim­u­lat­ing the growth of new neu­rons and inter­con­nec­tions between them that boost brain effi­cien­cy. If you don’t use your brain in new and nov­el ways, your brain won’t be fit to use.

As the chief sci­en­tif­ic advis­er for SharpBrains.com, Dr. Goldberg’s site offers an array of brain teasers and exer­cis­es that improve brain func­tion. But online tests are not all you can do. Just do some­thing dif­fer­ent and chal­leng­ing. Get­ting out of your mid­dle-aged com­fort zone is the dif­fer­ence in a high qual­i­ty of life when you’re old­er than none at all.

Keep read­ing more of the Flori­da Today inter­view with Dr. Gold­berg at Next Up, A Gym for the Mind.

You can also read our more detailed (and prob­a­bly more pre­cise) inter­view with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg on Brain Fit­ness and Cog­ni­tive Train­ing.

Search in our Archives

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.

About SharpBrains

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.

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)