Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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The Future of Preventive Brain Medicine: Breaking Down the Cognition & Alzheimer’s Disease Alphabet Soup

As the pres­i­dent and med­ical direc­tor of the Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), it’s my job to stay on top of advances in the field of Alzheimer’s research. Recent­ly, a num­ber of arti­cles in the med­ical lit­er­a­ture have caught my atten­tion. They are focused on a par­tic­u­lar ques­tion that con­cerns most Baby Boomers like me: “Is mem­o­ry loss just a nor­mal part of aging?” Read the rest of this entry »

Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?)

The grow­ing field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (one of the tools for brain fit­ness) can appear very con­fus­ing as the media keeps report­ing con­tra­dic­to­ry claims. These claims are often based on press releas­es, with­out a deep­er eval­u­a­tion of the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence.

Let’s take a cou­ple of recent exam­ples, in suc­ces­sive days:

It doesn’t work!” type of head­line:
Reuters (Feb. 10, 2009)  For­mal brain exer­cise won’t help healthy seniors: research
Healthy old­er peo­ple shouldn’t both­er spend­ing mon­ey on com­put­er games and web­sites promis­ing to ward off men­tal decline, the author of a review of sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence for the ben­e­fits of these “brain exer­cise” pro­grams says.

It works! type of head­line:
Sci­enceDai­ly (Feb. 11, 2009)  “Com­put­er Exer­cis­es Improve Mem­o­ry And Atten­tion, Study Sug­gests”
Accord­ing to the researchers, par­tic­i­pants who used the Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram also scored as well as those ten years younger, on aver­age, on mem­o­ry and atten­tion tests for which they did not train.

So, does struc­tured brain exer­cise / cog­ni­tive train­ing work or not?

The prob­lem may in fact reside in ask­ing this very ques­tion in the first place, as Alvaro point­ed out a while ago in his arti­cle Alzheimer’s Dis­ease: too seri­ous to play with head­lines.

We need a more nuanced set of ques­tions.

Why? Because:
1. Cog­ni­tion is made of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties (work­ing mem­o­ry, atten­tion, exec­u­tive func­tions such as deci­sion-mak­ing, etc)
2. Avail­able train­ing pro­grams do not all train the same abil­i­ties
3. Users of train­ing pro­grams do not all have the same needs or goals
4. We need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between enhanc­ing cog­ni­tive func­tions and delay­ing the onset of cog­ni­tive deficits such as Alzheimer’s.

Let’s illus­trate these points, by Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive News November-December 2008

Here you have sev­er­al recent arti­cles and devel­op­ments wor­thy of atten­tion:Brain Health News

1) Boom times for brain train­ing games (CNN)
2) Nav­i­gat­ing the brain fit­ness land­scape: do’s and don’ts (McKnight’s Long Term Care News)
3) USA Hock­ey and Intel­li­gym (press release)
4) Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library (NYPL blog)
5) McDon­nell Foun­da­tion grant har­ness­es cog­ni­tive sci­ence to improve stu­dent learn­ing (press release)
6) Health insur­ance firms offer­ing online cog­ni­tive ther­a­py for insom­nia (Los Ange­les Times)
7) Head­Min­der Cog­ni­tive Sta­bil­i­ty Index: Com­put­er­ized Neu­rocog­ni­tive … (Press release)
8) THE AGE OF MASS INTELLIGENCE (Intel­li­gent Life)
9) Work­ing Lat­er in Life May Facil­i­tate Neur­al Health (Cere­brum)
10) The Cool Fac­tor: Nev­er Let Them See You Sweat (New York Times)

Links, select­ed quotes and com­men­tary: Read the rest of this entry »

Grand Rounds 5:12 — Healthcare Reform Q&A

If Dr. Rob can inter­view San­ta, why can’t I inter­view a select group of health & med­ical blog­gers? They will have some good ideas to share”.

So did Pres­i­dent-elect Oba­ma came to real­ize a few days ago. After his peo­ple kind­ly con­tact­ed our peo­ple, we felt com­pelled to grant him open access to our col­lec­tive wis­dom. With­out fur­ther ado, below you have Grand Rounds 5:12 — a Q&A ses­sion led by the incom­ing Pres­i­dent on how to reform (for the bet­ter, we hope) health­care.

On Health Insur­ance

Q:  How does the blo­gos­phere per­ceive the prob­lem of hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant group of peo­ple unin­sured?

Health Insur­ance Col­orado: a grow­ing eco­nom­ic bur­den, which may lead to emer­gency rooms turn­ing peo­ple away if they are unable to pro­vide proof of health insur­ance.

Dr Rich: well, a recent arti­cle in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion showed how over­crowd­ing in Amer­i­can emer­gency rooms is NOT due to the unin­sured. Rather, it is due to insured Amer­i­cans who can­not get in to see their pri­ma­ry care physi­cians. We may need improved care both for the insured and unin­sured groups.

Insure­Blog: I’d sec­ond that. Lack of health insur­ance is a major prob­lem but is it real­ly our Biggest Prob­lem?

It’s All about Atti­tude

Q: You may have heard my cam­paign mantra, “Yes We Can”. Can I count on your sup­port?

ButY­ouDont­Look­Sick: Yes. If Leslie Hunt can talk so open­ly about her chron­ic ill­ness (Lupus) yet ful­fill her Amer­i­can Idol dreams, we can ful­fill our dreams too.

Notes of an Anes­the­sioboist: you are talk­ing to the group of pro­fes­sion­als will­ing to self-exper­i­ment with our own body for the ben­e­fit of sci­ence and our patients.

Med­views: My wife, son, and I signed up to work as med­ical vol­un­teers for your upcom­ing inau­gu­ra­tion.

Emergi­Blog: I am on board too. But, please, remem­ber that car­ing is the essence of nurs­ing. And that is why my patients will always be my patients and nev­er my  clients.

Neu­roan­thro­pol­o­gy: Mr. Pres­i­dent-elect, it seems to me that, despite all our good inten­tions, bal­anc­ing the bud­get and mul­ti­ple com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties will be a chal­lenge. May I sug­gest you start prac­tic­ing some capoeira for equi­lib­ri­um train­ing?

Shrink Rap: Hap­py to help. Now, we will need to pro­tect some time for qual­i­ty sleep time.

Train­ing

Q: I am encour­aged by your words. How can my team and I bet­ter sup­port you in your dai­ly activ­i­ties?

Aequa­nim­i­tas: we need more role mod­els for us to “learn to think, observe, and com­pare” and that the patient is our “first, last, and only teacher”.

Mud­phud­der: Couldn’t agree more. We need Read the rest of this entry »

Emotional self-regulation and Obama

Great arti­cle in the New York Times on Obama’s emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion abil­i­ties:
The Cool Fac­tor: Nev­er Let Them See You Sweat

- “We even ele­vate such equi­lib­ri­um to the super­hu­man: calm, as applied to No Dra­ma Oba­ma, often comes linked to the mod­i­fi­er “preter­nat­ur­al.”

- “But the calm tem­pera­ment is not so super­hu­man, nor is it entire­ly the gift of the cho­sen few. It can be cul­ti­vat­ed, even as the world cleaves around us.”

- “So how do we get there with­out a steady diet of beta block­ers and Xanax? Calm, per se, doesn’t appear in the tax­on­o­my of those who study per­son­al­i­ty and tem­pera­ment.”

As the arti­cle lat­er dis­clos­es, this abil­i­ty is often called “emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion” by cog­ni­tive sci­en­tists, and its devel­op­ment can assist­ed with tools such as med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­a­py and biofeed­back.

Per­haps one day this will be part of everybody’s school cur­ricu­lum and lead­er­ship pro­grams?

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