Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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A conversation with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg on Creativity, Neuroscience, and Technological Innovation

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Dear Elkhonon, a plea­sure to have you with us. Let’s get out the gate by dis­cussing how are new ideas born — for exam­ple, how exact­ly did you first think about writ­ing your new book, Cre­ativ­i­ty: The Human Brain in the Age of Inno­va­tion?

Orig­i­nal­ly, I set out to write a book about how the brain deals with nov­el­ty — a long-stand­ing focus of my own research. But the more I thought about it, the more the sub­ject of cre­ativ­i­ty was com­ing up, so I decid­ed to tack­le nov­el­ty and cre­ativ­i­ty at the same time.

Do we need yet anoth­er book on Cre­ativ­i­ty?

We absolute­ly do. Cre­ativ­i­ty is not just an indi­vid­ual feat; it is embed­ded into a cul­ture which either fos­ter, sti­fles, or shapes it in a vari­ety of ways. And it is nev­er a strict­ly soli­tary process, since even the most cre­ative mind draws on the pre­vi­ous­ly accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge. So, in order to tru­ly under­stand cre­ativ­i­ty, we must inte­grate neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic and cul­tur­al per­spec­tives into a coher­ent nar­ra­tive. To my knowl­edge, this has not been done before, and this is what my book aims to accom­plish.

I am par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the dynam­ic rela­tion­ship between over- and under­ac­ti­va­tion of pre­frontal cor­tex areas in the cre­ative process and dis­cuss it exten­sive­ly in the book. This is one of the most intrigu­ing and pos­si­bly most con­se­quen­tial aspects of the brain machin­ery of cre­ativ­i­ty.

What have we learned about the brain mech­a­nisms of cre­ativ­i­ty over the last five to ten years?

We have learned a lot: that cre­ativ­i­ty is not a mono­lith­ic trait; that is con­sists of many mov­ing parts and may take many paths even with­in the same are­na of human endeav­or; that it is not linked to any sin­gle brain struc­ture or to a sin­gle gene or even a small group of genes.

How do you define Cre­ativ­i­ty, and what can Neu­ro­science con­tribute to its under­stand­ing?

Cre­ativ­i­ty is often defined as the abil­i­ty to come up with con­tent which is both nov­el and salient. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn — Ideas for New Year Resolutions

My inter­est in the brain stems from want­i­ng to bet­ter under­stand both how to make school more palat­able for stu­dents, and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment more mean­ing­ful for fac­ul­ty. To that end, I began my Neu­rons Fir­ing blog in April, 2007, have been doing a lot of read­ing, and been attend­ing work­shops and con­fer­ences, includ­ing Learn­ing & the Brain.

If you agree that our brains are designed for learn­ing, then as edu­ca­tors it is incum­bent upon us to be look­ing for ways to max­i­mize the learn­ing process for each of our stu­dents, as well as for our­selves. Some of what fol­lows is sim­ply com­mon sense, but I’ve learned that all of it has a sci­en­tif­ic basis in our brains. Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness at New York Public Library

A few weeks ago I had the plea­sure to give a talk to one hun­dred or so staff mem­bers at New York Pub­lic Library. As you would expect, it was a very stim­u­lat­ing group, and one of the par­tic­i­pants, Brigid Caha­lan, just wrote a fun blog post on her impres­sions from the event:

Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library:

- “After attend­ing a recent staff train­ing ses­sion offered by the library’s Office of Staff Devel­op­ment, I decid­ed to return to a habit of my childhood–eating sar­dines.”
— key pil­lars for brain health …are… “1) A bal­anced diet; 2) Car­dio­vas­cu­lar phys­i­cal exer­cise; 3) Stress man­age­ment; and 4) Brain exer­cise: Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, Chal­lenge (as long as it doesn’t stress us out).”

Read full arti­cle: here.

Com­ment: A very inter­est­ing trend of observe — the grow­ing role of pub­lic libraries in pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty brain health infor­ma­tion and even, why not, becom­ing com­mu­ni­ty-based brain fit­ness des­ti­na­tions. After all, is it not men­tal stim­u­la­tion of all sorts, incor­po­rat­ing Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, and Chal­lenge, what they tru­ly offer?

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Thank you for your inter­est, atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Sharp­Brains com­mu­ni­ty. As always, we appre­ci­ate your com­ments and sug­ges­tions.

Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da

How can we per­suade busi­ness lead­ers, pol­i­cy-mak­ers and researchers of the urgency to devel­op and pro­mote an inte­grat­ed “Healthy Liv­ing” agen­da focused on main­tain­ing life­long phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health, vs. the usu­al mind­set focused on deal­ing with spe­cif­ic dis­eases and prob­lems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Cap­i­tal?, I sum­ma­rize some of the key themes dis­cussed at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum event in Dubai on Novem­ber 7–9th. The world is aging — and in health­i­er ways. But our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on track to go bank­rupt — their premis­es are out­dat­ed. The cur­rent dis­ease-based research agen­da com­pounds the prob­lem. Solu­tions? 1) Pro­mote Healthy Lifestyles that help Main­tain Phys­i­cal and Cog­ni­tive Func­tion­al Abil­i­ties, 2) Redesign Envi­ron­ments to Fos­ter Health, Engage­ment and Finan­cial Secu­ri­ty, 3) Devel­op an Inte­grat­ed Healthy Liv­ing & Aging Research Agen­da. Specif­i­cal­ly, we could work with the UN and Glob­al 2000 com­pa­nies to move for­ward a new agen­da.

Plan­et Earth 2.0: A New Oper­at­ing Sys­tem: Imag­ine see­ing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in tra­di­tion­al Arab cloth­ing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Oba­ma) in front of the 800 glob­al experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the atten­dants of the World Eco­nom­ic Forum’s Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da urged us to “reboot” the sys­tem. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new glob­al “Yes We Can” oper­at­ing sys­tem.

Brain Fit­ness Research

Train­ing Atten­tion and Emo­tion­al Self-Reg­u­la­tion: Dr. Michael Pos­ner, a promi­nent  cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on what atten­tion, self-reg­u­la­tion, and effort­ful con­trol are, and how to improve them using soft­ware, med­i­ta­tion, and par­ent­ing. In his words, “we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing (…) the high­er the results.”

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and the Brain That Changes Itself: Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the excel­lent book by Nor­man Doidge, explain­ing that “the neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, which is the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intel­li­gence,  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing enti­ty.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments?: In our view, a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the matu­ri­ty of the brain fit­ness mar­ket will be the avail­abil­i­ty of inex­pen­sive, valid and reli­able objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments,  to help mea­sure how our brain func­tions change over time and iden­ti­fy pri­or­i­ties for tar­get­ed improve­ments. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Prop­er­ly) or Lose It

Mem­o­ry Prob­lems? Per­haps you are Mul­ti-task­ing: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Mul­ti-task­ing vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­o­ry works.” He explains that “(mul­ti-task­ing) prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clear­ly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effec­tive.”

Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline: The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a week­ly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle on the impor­tance of phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise. We are very hap­py to see efforts like these to train physi­cians and health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­er­al,  giv­en that most of them were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recent­ly announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, to start air­ing soon.

MetaCar­ni­val #1: a con­ver­sa­tion across the blo­gos­phere: We often insist on “Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety and Chal­lenge” as key ingre­di­ents for good “brain exer­cise”. There are many ways to mix those ingre­di­ents — you may enjoy this one, the first inter­dis­ci­pli­nary gath­er­ing of blogs and blog car­ni­vals cov­er­ing health, sci­ence, anthro­pol­o­gy, gen­er­al advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Men­tal Exer­cise: Over the last 2 years we have pub­lished close to 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, and every kind of men­tal exer­cise (with­out count­ing our in-depth inter­views with top neu­ro­sci­en­tists). Which ones have proven most stim­u­lat­ing for you. Let us know. Here is a selec­tion of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offer­ing anoth­er great selec­tion of arti­cles: Dr. Andrew New­berg will dis­cuss the brain val­ue of med­i­ta­tion,  Dr. David Rabin­er will review a recent study on how neu­ro­feed­back may assist in the diag­nos­tic of atten­tion deficits, and much more.

Please share this newslet­ter with your friends and col­leagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Hap­py Thanks­giv­ing!

Improve Memory and Enhance Post-Stroke Rehab with Exercise

A cou­ple of recent stud­ies have rein­forced the life­long poten­tial for brain plas­tic­i­ty (the Brain Health Newsabil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence) and the impor­tance of phys­i­cal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive vital­i­ty. One study focused on 1) adults over 50 with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, the oth­er one on 2) stroke sur­vivors.

1)  Mem­o­ry prob­lems: Adults 50-years-old and over with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (an advanced form of mem­o­ry prob­lems, but pre-demen­tia) were asked to exer­cise for three 50-minute ses­sions per week for 24 weeks (a total of 60 hours). Results: there were small, but mea­sur­able, cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits even 18 months after Read the rest of this entry »

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