Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Mysteries of Brain and Mind

Sev­er­al recent NYT arti­cles focus on sev­er­al fas­ci­nat­ing fron­tiers of brain sci­ence. We know much more about brain and mind than only 20 years ago, yet expo­nen­tial­ly less than 20 years from now.

A few wor­thy explo­rations on mind­ful­ness, per­cep­tu­al capac­i­ties, and the pow­er of place­bo: Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise your brain in the Cognitive Age

In the past two days, The New York Times has pub­lished two excel­lent arti­cles on brain and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Despite appear­ing in sep­a­rate sec­tions (tech­nol­o­gy and editorial), the two have more in com­mon than imme­di­ate­ly meets the eye. Both raise key ques­tions that politi­cians, health pol­i­cy mak­ers, busi­ness leaders, educators and consumers should pay atten­tion to.

1) First, Exer­cise Your Brain, or Else You’ll … Uh …, by Katie Hafn­er (5/3/08). Some quotes:

- “At the same time, boomers are seiz­ing on a mount­ing body of evi­dence that sug­gests that brains con­tain more plas­tic­i­ty than pre­vi­ous­ly thought, and many peo­ple are tak­ing mat­ters into their own hands, doing brain fit­ness exer­cis­es with the same inten­si­ty with which they attack a tread­mill.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Exercise On the Brain: a NYT OpEd

Brain Health NewsThe New York Times just pub­lished an OpEd that may be throw­ing out the baby with the bath water.

Exer­cise on the Brain extols the virtue of phys­i­cal exer­cise for brain health at the expense of oth­er impor­tant pil­lars such as good nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment and men­tal exer­cise.

We have sent a Let­ter to the Edi­tor to clar­i­fy the sub­ject and put their main rec­om­men­da­tion (go out and walk, or join the gym) in bet­ter con­text.

Let’s quick­ly review the four essen­tial pil­lars to help main­tain a healthy brain, and sug­gest some tips. Those pil­lars are:

  • Phys­i­cal Exer­cise
  • Men­tal Exer­cise
  • Good Nutri­tion
  • Stress Man­age­ment
  1. 1. Phys­i­cal Exer­cise
    • - Start by talk­ing to your doc­tor, espe­cial­ly if you are not cur­rent­ly phys­i­cal­ly active, have spe­cial health con­cerns, or are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant changes to your cur­rent pro­gram.
    • - Set a goal that you can achieve. Do some­thing you enjoy for even just 15 min­utes a day. You can always add more time and activ­i­ties lat­er.
    • - Sched­ule exer­cise into your dai­ly rou­tine. It will be become a habit faster if you do.
    • - If you can only do one thing, do some­thing car­dio­vas­cu­lar, mean­ing some­thing that gets your heart beat­ing faster. This includes walk­ing, run­ning, ski­ing, swim­ming, bik­ing, hik­ing, ten­nis, bas­ket­ball, play­ing tag, ulti­mate Fris­bee, and oth­er sim­i­lar sports/activities.
  2. 2. Men­tal Exer­cise
    • - Be curi­ous! Get to know your local library and com­mu­ni­ty col­lege, look for local orga­ni­za­tions or church­es that offer class­es or work­shops
    • - Do a vari­ety of things, includ­ing things you aren’t good at (if you like to sing, try paint­ing too)
    • - Work puz­zles like cross­words and sudoku or play games like chess and bridge
    • - Try a com­put­er­ized brain fit­ness pro­gram for a cus­tomized work­out
    • - If you can only do one thing, learn some­thing new every day
  3. Good Nutri­tion
    • - Eat a vari­ety of foods of dif­fer­ent col­ors with­out a lot of added ingre­di­ents or process­es
    • - Plan your meals around your veg­eta­bles, and then add fruit, pro­tein, dairy, and/or grains
    • - Add some cold-water fish to your diet (tuna, salmon, mack­er­el, hal­ibut, sar­dines, and her­ring) which con­tain omega-3 fat­ty acids
    • - Learn what a por­tion-size is, so you don’t overeat
    • - Try to eat more foods low on the Glycemic Index
    • - If you can only do one thing, eat more veg­eta­bles, par­tic­u­lar­ly leafy green ones
  4. Stress Man­age­ment
    • - Get reg­u­lar car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise
    • - Try to get enough sleep each night
    • - Keep con­nect­ed with your friends and fam­i­ly
    • - Prac­tice med­i­ta­tion, yoga, or some oth­er calm­ing activ­i­ty as way to take a relax­ing time-out (maybe a bath)
    • - Try train­ing with a heart rate vari­abil­i­ty biofeed­back sensor 
    • - If you can only do one thing, set aside 5–10 min­utes to just breathe deeply and recharge

Posit Science, Nintendo Brain Training, Dakim…WebMD on Brain Fitness.

Good Web­MD 4-page arti­cle on Brain Fit­ness pro­grams for seniors. Check Keep­ing Your Brain Fit for Life:Software com­pa­nies are offer­ing new pro­grams that promise to keep your brain sharp as you get old­er.

Some quotes:

- “The notion of brain fit­ness has even invad­ed pop­u­lar cul­ture. In April, Nin­ten­do released Brain Age, a Japan­ese-inspired, hand­held video game to help users’ minds stay active. While the game is mar­ket­ed for all ages, the buy­ers — now num­ber­ing more than 655,000 in the U.S. — have main­ly been old­er peo­ple, Nin­ten­do of Amer­i­ca spokes­woman Amber McCol­lom writes in an email.”

- “Play­ers take a non­sci­en­tif­ic test that cal­cu­lates a “brain age” for the pur­pos­es of the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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