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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive enhancement at the edge: The US Navy tests neuro-priming and other non-pharmacological aids to boost cognition and performance

Super SEALs: Elite Units Pur­sue Brain-Stim­u­lat­ing Tech­nolo­gies (Military.com):

At a con­fer­ence near Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in Feb­ru­ary, the com­man­der of all Navy spe­cial oper­a­tions units made an unusu­al request to indus­try: Devel­op and demon­strate tech­nolo­gies that offer “cog­ni­tive enhance­ment” capa­bil­i­ties to boost his elite forces’ men­tal and phys­i­cal per­for­mance Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training to Enhance Performance, both post-Traumatic Brain Injury and for the workplace

A cou­ple of very inter­est­ing recent announce­ments show (in a mil­i­tary con­text) how well-tar­get­ed brain train­ing can com­ple­ment and aug­ment exist­ing approach­es, both to help “nor­mal” and “clin­i­cal” pop­u­la­tions, in ways that silo-based, rear-mir­ror think­ing often miss­es: Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroscience, brain development and cognitive health

Round-up of recent arti­cles on neu­ro­science, brain devel­op­ment and cog­ni­tive health:

Encephalon 68: A car­ni­val of neu­ro­science:

Chris hosts a great col­lec­tion of neu­ro­science and psy­chol­o­gy posts in his sig­na­ture Q&A style.

Bilin­gual Babies Get Head Start — Before They Can Talk:

- Unlike the mono­lin­gual group, the bilin­gual group was able to suc­cess­ful­ly learn a new sound type and use it to pre­dict where each char­ac­ter would pop up.

- The bilin­gual babies’ skill applies to more than just switch­ing between lan­guages. Mehler likened this appar­ent­ly enhanced cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty to a brain select­ing “the right tool for the right oper­a­tion” also called exec­u­tive func­tion.

- In this basic process, the brain, ever flex­i­ble, nim­bly switch­es from one learned response to anoth­er as sit­u­a­tions change.

- Mono­lin­gual babies hone this abil­i­ty lat­er in their young lives, Mehler sug­gests.”

Study shows how kids’ stress hurts mem­o­ry:

Now, research is pro­vid­ing what could be cru­cial clues to explain how child­hood pover­ty trans­lates into dim­mer chances of suc­cess: Chron­ic stress from grow­ing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leav­ing chil­dren with impair­ment in at least one key area — work­ing mem­o­ry.”

Return­ing troops get­ting test­ed for brain injuries:

- “More than 150,000 ser­vice mem­bers from the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy have under­gone the test­ing that became manda­to­ry last year. Those who suf­fer a con­cus­sion or sim­i­lar head injury will get a fol­low-up test.”

Dia­betes ‘impact on brain pow­er’:

- “Fail­ure to con­trol type 2 dia­betes may have a long-term impact on the brain, research has sug­gest­ed.

- Lead researcher Dr Jack­ie Price said: “Either hypos lead to cog­ni­tive decline, or cog­ni­tive decline makes it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to man­age their dia­betes, which in turn caus­es more hypos.

- “A third expla­na­tion could be that a third uniden­ti­fied fac­tor is caus­ing both the hypos and the cog­ni­tive decline.”

Best of the Brain from Scientific American

Best of Brain, Scientific American

The Dana Foun­da­tion kind­ly sent us a copy of the great book Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, a col­lec­tion of 21 superb arti­cles pub­lished pre­vi­ous­ly in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can mag­a­zine. A very nice­ly edit­ed and illus­trat­ed book, this is a must for any­one who enjoys learn­ing about the brain and spec­u­lat­ing about what the future will bring us.

Some essays, like the ones by Eric Kan­del (The New Sci­ence of Mind), Fred Gage (Brain, Repair Your­self), Carl Zim­mer (The Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of the Self) and that by Steven Hol­lon, Michael Thase and John Markowitz (Treat­ing Depres­sion: Pills or Talk), are both intel­lec­tu­al feasts and very rel­e­vant to brain fit­ness. And final­ly start­ing to per­co­late into main­stream con­scious­ness.

Let me quote some quotes and reflec­tions as I was read­ing the book a cou­ple of days ago, in the court­yard of a beau­ti­ful French cafe in Berke­ley:

1) On Brain Plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself), Fred Gage says: “With­in the past 5 years, how­ev­er, neu­ro­sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that the brain does indeed change through­out life-…The new cells and con­nec­tions that we and oth­ers have doc­u­ment­ed may pro­vide the extra capac­i­ty the brain requires for the vari­ety of chal­lenges that indi­vid­u­als face through­out life. Such plas­tic­i­ty offers a pos­si­ble mech­a­nism through which the brain might be induced to repair itself after injury or dis­ease. It might even open the prospect of enhanc­ing an already healthy brain’s pow­er to think and abil­i­ty to feel”

2)  and How Expe­ri­ence affects Brain Struc­ture: Under the sec­tion title “A Brain Work­out”, Fred Gage says “One of the mot strik­ing aspects of neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (Note: the cre­ation of new neu­rons) is that expe­ri­ence can reg­u­late the rate of cell divi­sion, the sur­vival of new­born neu­rons and their abil­i­ty to inte­grate into the exist­ing neur­al circuits…The best way to aug­ment brain func­tion might not involve drugs or cell implants but lifestyle changes.”

3) Biol­o­gy of Mind: Eric Kan­del pro­vides a won­der­ful overview of the most Read the rest of this entry »

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