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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.”

Nintendo BrainAge, Lumosity, Happy Neuron, MyBrainTrainer…

A col­lec­tion of recent announce­ment in the “brain games” or “brain train­ing games” space:

The Wii sets new gen­er­a­tional stan­dards for the videogame indus­try

  • “The age­ing of the Japan­ese pop­u­la­tion com­pelled gamemak­er Nin­ten­do to widen its audi­ence. Now, the Wii is lead­ing the indus­try stan­dards. But hard­core gamers are still too impor­tant to be neglect­ed.”

Strain your brain the smart way

  • George Har­ri­son, Nin­ten­do’s senior vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, has said that more than half of the com­pa­ny’s mar­ket­ing for Wii is aimed at adults. And the sys­tem has been pre­sent­ed at con­ven­tions for the aging “gray gamer” pop­u­la­tion.” and talks about sudoku, Brain Age, Big Brain Acad­e­my, and more.

SBT Announces the Acqui­si­tion of Quix­it

Neurogenesis and How Learning Saves Your Neurons

Jon Bar­ron’s blog high­light­ed this recent press release from The Soci­ety for Neu­ro­science.

For decades, it was believed that the adult brain did not pro­duce new neu­rons after birth. But that notion has been dis­pelled by research in the last ten years. It became clear by the mid- to late-1990’s that the brain does, in fact, pro­duce new neu­rons through­out the lifes­pan.

This phe­nom­e­non, known as neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, occurs in most species, includ­ing humans, but the degree to which it occurs and the extent to which it occurs is still a mat­ter of some con­tro­ver­sy, says Tracey Shors, PhD, at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty.

How­ev­er, there is no ques­tion that neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis occurs in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain region involved in aspects of learn­ing and mem­o­ry. Thou­sands of new cells are pro­duced there each day, although many die with weeks of their birth.” Shors’ recent stud­ies have shown a cor­re­la­tion in ani­mal mod­els between learn­ing and cell sur­vival in the hip­pocam­pus.

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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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