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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