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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Study: Questioning the cognitive benefits of music classes

BabyMusicThe ‘Mozart effect’ of hav­ing kids study music? It’s only a myth, researchers find (Wash­ing­ton Post):

  • Chil­dren get plen­ty of ben­e­fits from music lessons: Learn­ing to play an instru­ment can be a great out­let for a child’s cre­ativ­i­ty, and the repeat­ed prac­tice can teach much-need­ed focus and dis­ci­pline. What’s more, the pay­off, whether it’s learn­ing a new song or just mas­ter­ing a new chord, is often a boost of self-esteem. But Har­vard researchers now say that one oft-cit­ed ben­e­fit — that study­ing music improves intel­li­gence — is a myth… Read the rest of this entry »

Our Brain on Music: We need to do more than listen

.What’s The Size Of The Mozart Effect? The Jury Is In.

In a now well-known 1993 paper in Nature called “Music and spa­tial task per­for­mance”, Frances H. Rausch­er and her col­leagues report that par­tic­i­pants who were exposed to the first move­ment “alle­gro con spir­i­to” of the Mozart Sonata KV 448 for Two Pianos in D major scored sig­nif­i­cant­ly high­er on stan­dard­ized tests of abstract/spatial rea­son­ing abil­i­ty than those who were instruct­ed to relax or those who just sat there in silence.

Even though the par­tic­i­pants in Rausch­er et al.‘s study were col­lege stu­dents, and they didn’t admin­is­ter a full bat­tery of cog­ni­tive tests to prop­er­ly assess gen­er­al intel­li­gence, their find­ings trans­lat­ed into “play Mozart to your chil­dren and they will grow up smart.” A cot­tage indus­try was born. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: 2009 Market Report Finds Growth, Promise and Confusion

Here you have the April edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

We are excit­ed to release our 2009 mar­ket report The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009. To be for­mal­ly released on May 4th but avail­able now for our clients and read­ers, this report aims to inform deci­sion-mak­ers at health­care, insur­ance, research, pub­lic pol­i­cy, invest­ment and tech­nol­o­gy orga­ni­za­tions about impor­tant devel­op­ments in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health space.

2009 Mar­ket Report

The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009: This new 150-page report finds The State of the Brain Fitness/ Training Software Market 2009 reportsus­tained growth in the brain fit­ness soft­ware mar­ket (from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008) and promis­ing seeds for future growth, com­bined with increased con­fu­sion giv­en aggres­sive mar­ket­ing claims and lack of edu­ca­tion and stan­dards. The report includes, for the first time, a Mar­ket & Research Momen­tum Matrix to cat­e­go­rize 21 key ven­dors, 10 Research Exec­u­tive Briefs writ­ten by 12 lead­ing sci­en­tists, and the com­plete results of our mar­ket sur­vey with 2,000+ respon­dents. You can learn more, and acquire the report, Here.

News and Resources

Cog­ni­tive Health News April Round-Up: New cog­ni­tive track at the Games for Health con­fer­ence, bilin­gual brains, poverty’s effect on the brain and work­ing mem­o­ry due to stress, dia­betes, neu­roen­hanc­ing drugs, Kellogg’s set­tle­ment with the FTC, neu­rocog­ni­tive test­ing in the mil­i­tary.

Nor­mal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy shares his very insight­ful views on the key ques­tion, “How can we help the pub­lic at large to dis­tin­guish Alzheimer’s Dis­ease from nor­mal aging — so that an inter­est in ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn’t trans­late into unneed­ed wor­ries?”, based on his recent book The Alzheimer’s Action Plan.

Upcom­ing Guide

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: It seems every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which often con­tra­dict what you read the month before: Does Gingko Bilo­ba improve mem­o­ry? Can phys­i­cal exer­cise help you stay sharp as you age? Which brain fit­ness pro­gram”, if any, is worth your mon­ey? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant for mem­o­ry and the brain?. This new book (avail­able both in print and Kin­dle ver­sions) aims to answer those ques­tions -and more. We will send you an email announce­ment when the book is ready for pur­chase, in late May.

The Big Pic­ture

Do Art Class­es Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans, through our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine, offers a very thought­ful review of the evi­dence. She also chal­lenges us by ask­ing, “Now, is this the right ques­tion?”

Improv­ing the world, and one’s brain, at the same time: The Gold­man Envi­ron­men­tal Prize recent­ly rec­og­nized sev­en social entre­pre­neurs who are clear­ly help­ing improve the state of the world. Now, the “state of the world” does include their very own brains — as you may have seen in a recent study.

Brain Teasers

Brain plas­tic­i­ty and dai­ly live: If you lived in Lon­don, and want­ed to grow your hip­pocam­pus, which job would you choose?

Stim­u­late your Con­cen­tra­tion Skills: when one real­ly wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon chal­lenges you to count a few sim­ple let­ters.

Have a great May

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

At a time when edu­ca­tors are pre­oc­cu­pied with stan­dards, test­ing, and the bot­tom line, some researchers sug­gest the arts can boost stu­dents’ test scores; oth­ers aren’t con­vinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and nation­al endow­ment for the Arts Chair­man Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Com­mence­ment Address at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, he used the occa­sion to deliv­er an impas­sioned argu­ment for the val­ue of the arts and arts edu­ca­tion.

Art is an irre­place­able way of under­stand­ing and express­ing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as sto­ries, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, con­soles. It edu­cates our emo­tions.”

For years, arts advo­cates like Gioia have been mak­ing sim­i­lar pleas, stress­ing the intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of the arts at a time when many Amer­i­cans are pre­oc­cu­pied with a market–driven cul­ture of enter­tain­ment, and schools are con­sumed with meet­ing fed­er­al stan­dards. Art brings joy, these advo­cates say, or it evokes our human­i­ty, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daugh­ter, “It cools kids down after all the oth­er hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bol­ster­ing the case for the arts has become increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary in recent years, as school bud­get cuts and the move toward stan­dard­ized test­ing have pro­found­ly threat­ened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment start­ed assess­ing school dis­tricts by their stu­dents’ scores on read­ing and math­e­mat­ics tests.

As a result, accord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy, school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States increased the time they devot­ed to test­ed subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cut­ting spend­ing on non–tested sub­jects such as the visu­al arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB stan­dards, the more time and mon­ey was devot­ed to those test­ed sub­jects, with less going to the arts. The Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion has report­ed that the cuts fall hard­est on schools with high num­bers of minor­i­ty chil­dren.

And the sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to wors­en as state bud­gets get even tighter. Already, in a round of fed­er­al edu­ca­tion cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts edu­ca­tion nation­al­ly was slashed by $35 mil­lion. In 2008, the New York City Depart­ment of Education’s annu­al study of Read the rest of this entry »

Musical training as mental exercise for cognitive performance

We often hear (glad­ly!) how teach­ers use our blog arti­cles and brain teasers in their class­es. We also hear how many psy­chol­o­gy and biol­o­gy teach­ers are get­ting their stu­dents excit­ed about brain research, and, to con­tribute to their efforts, we like to rec­og­nize some great ini­tia­tives.

Last year, Jef­frey Gonce, a Psy­chol­o­gy teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School Dis­trict, PA) asked his stu­dents to “com­plete a project describ­ing a recent brain (or genet­ic) study that affects behav­ior.” The stu­dents could opt to post their arti­cles online, and Jef­frey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results. We enjoyed read­ing them all, and pub­lished in our blog this beau­ti­ful essay, titled “Tis bet­ter to give than receive”, writ­ten by Alexan­dra, which Piano musical training was sub­se­quent­ly includ­ed in a num­ber of neu­ro­science an psy­chol­o­gy blogs.

This year, Jef­frey also sent us his stu­dents’ essays, and we are going to rec­og­nize and pub­lish this great essay by high school stu­dent Megan. Enjoy!
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It has long been the source of sci­en­tif­ic debate as to whether music can improve the cog­ni­tive process­es in chil­dren. Referred to by some as “The Mozart Effect,” a strong Read the rest of this entry »

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