Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Exercise your brain at these events

Here are the dates and locations of some upcoming events where I will be presenting. Please introduce yourself if you are attending!

>> September 4-5th, San Francisco, CA: several Brain Health Promotion sessions, at the American Society on Aging conference.

>> October 9th, Vancouver, Canada: Exercising Our Brains 101 and Navigating The Brain Fitness Maze, at the British Columbia Seniors Living Association annual conference.

>> October 11th, San Jose, CA: The Science and Practice of Brain Fitness, at San Jose State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Information here).

>> October 23rd, Pocatello, Idaho: Cognitive and Emotional Training for Healthy Aging, at the Idaho Conference on Health Care. (Information here).

>> November 1st, Berkeley, CA: The Science and Practice of Brain Fitness, at UC-Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. (Information here).

>> November 7-9th, Dubai: Global Agenda Councils Inaugural Summit in Dubai, organized by the World Economic Forum. (Information here).

>> November 17th, New York City: The Emerging Brain Fitness Field: Research and Implications, at New York Public Library.

>> December 5th, San Antonio, Texas: The Emerging Brain Fitness Field: Overview of Research and Tools, at the International Council on Active Aging conference. (Information here).

As always, I will share the main take-aways via this blog. I hope to meet some of you down the road!

Cognitive Fitness @ UC-Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Quick post for my UC-Berkeley OLLI students: here are the links I promised.

– Collection of 50 Brain Teasers.

Neuroscience Interview Series including in-depth notes of interviews with leading scientists and practitioners.

Build Your Cognitive Reserve-Yaakov Stern: which talks about the Cognitive Reserve and Alzheimer’s symptoms, and includes a great clip on the famous “nun study”.

Articles and Papers: a collection of good reading materials.

Books: the selection of books we discussed.

YouTube Channel: some clips you will enjoy to refresh your class memories.



Brain Wellness: Train Your Brain to Be Happier

I am delighted to participate in LifeTwo’s “How to be Happier” week with this post. Happiness is still largely unchartered territory for neuroscience. It sounds like a hidden, elusive El Dorado. However, once one follows positive psychology research and Harvard’s Dr. Ben-Shahar’s advice, “The question should not be whether you are happy but what you can do to become happier”, the happiness quest starts to become more tangible and workable according to latest neuroscience research.

We are now going to explore the four key concepts of Dr. Ben-Shahar’s statement — 1) “you”, 2) “can”, 3) “do”, and 4) “happier” — from a neuropsychological perspective.

1) Who is “you”? According to latest scientific understanding, what we experience as “mind”, our Frontal Lobesawareness, emerges from the physical brain. So, if we want to refine our minds, we better start by understanding and training our brains. A very important reality to appreciate: each brain is unique, since it reflects our unique lifetime experiences. Scientists have already shown how even adult brains retain a significant ability to continually generate new neurons and literally rewire themselves. So, each of us is unique, with our own aspirations, emotional preferences, capacities, and each of us in continually in flux. A powerful concept to remind ourselves: “you” can become happier means that “you” are the only person who can take action and evaluate what works for “you”. And “you” means the mind that emerges from your own, very personal, unique, and constantly evolving, brain. Which only “you” can train.

2) Why the use of “can”? Well, this reminds me a great quote by Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who said that “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain“. Each of us has immense potential. However, in the same way that Michaelangelo’s David didn’t spontaneously appear out-of-the-blue one day, becoming happier requires attention, intention, and actual practice.

Attention: Every second, you choose what to pay attention to. You can focus on the negative and thereby train your brain to focus on the negative. You can Read the rest of this entry »

carnival of the capitalists with a brain- September 17, 2007


Welcome to the September 17, 2007 edition of carnival of the capitalists.

First, a puzzle. Why do we have the brains we have? specifically, why do humans have proportionally bigger and better connected frontal lobes (the blue area behind our foreheads) than any other species? The answer: to be able to learn and adapt to changing environments during our lifetime. Neuroscientists say that the frontal lobes are the “CEO of the brain”, and that we need that type of frontal lobes to exercise our so-called “Executive Functions” that enable us to 1) Understand our environments, 2) Set goals and define strategies to accomplish our goals, 3) Execute those strategies well.Frontal Lobes

Now, let’s see how all these carnival contributors are putting their frontal lobes to good use. Given the volume of submissions received, we had to be really selective. Enjoy!


1) Understanding our environment: macroeconomy, real estate slowdown, and lobbying.

James wonders, “Can the Fed begin as it must to cut the target rate and still avoid Tim’s slippery slope? I think so, and here’s how.”

Ian presents a forceful case that No, Greenspan Doesn’t Get To Rehabilitate His Reputation, at Firedoglake. Very timely post, given that Greenspan is releasing his book today. 

“The recent sub-prime mortgage fiasco and its effect on our investments prompted us to reconsider our portfolio’s risk tolerance capability”, says FIRE Finance, outlining these Investment Risks at a Glance. Along similar lines, we can read that “I am not hoping for the market to get worse. I just know it will, because that is the nature of market cycles” at Is The Housing Crisis and Stock Market Decline Bad Enough Yet?, by My Wealth Builder.

If you wonder what may have contributed to the real estate mess growing so big, you may enjoy reading Pork: Wha’ss On The Barbeque In Congress Is Your Future. The Agonist says: “In the United States today, the simplest, easiest and safest way to make money is to Read the rest of this entry »

Executive Functions and Google/ Microsoft Brain Teasers

Interesting article: Want a job at Google? Try these brainteasers first (CNN)

Quote: “Seemingly random questions like these have become commonplace in Silicon Valley and other tech outposts, where companies aren’t as interested in the correct answer to a tough question as they are in how a prospective employee might try to solve it. Since businesses today have to be able to react quickly to shifting market dynamics, they want more than engineers with high IQs and good college transcripts. They want people who can think on their feet.”

Comment: What are those companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon) after? Employees with good Executive Functions. You can try some of the fun teasers in the article:

1) How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?

  • About 500,000, assuming the bus is 50 balls high, 50 balls wide, and 200 balls long

2) You’re shrunk and trapped in a blender that will turn on in 60 seconds. What do you do?

Some options:

1. Use the measurement marks to climb out

2. Try to unscrew the glass

3. Risk riding out the air current

3) How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?

  • Assuming 10,000 city blocks, 600 windows per block, five minutes per window, and a rate of $20 per hour, about $10 million


PS: Enjoy these 50 brain teasers to test your cognitive ability. Free, and fun for adults of any age!


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