Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain Teasers and Games for the Brain: Test your Brain

Frontal LobesIt is always good to stim­u­late our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work. Here you have a selec­tion of the 50 Brain Teasers that peo­ple have enjoyed the most in our blog and speak­ing engage­ments.

Fun exper­i­ments on how our brains work

1. Do you think you know the col­ors?: try the Stroop Test.

2. Can you count?: Bas­ket­ball atten­tion exper­i­ment (Inter­ac­tive).

3. Who is this?: A very impor­tant lit­tle guy (Inter­ac­tive).

4. How is this pos­si­ble?.

5. Take the Sens­es Chal­lenge (Inter­ac­tive).

6. Are there more brain con­nec­tions or leaves in the Ama­zon?.

Atten­tionTwo In One Task

7. How are your divid­ed atten­tion skills? check out “Inside and Out­side” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit).

8. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? try “Two in One” (Inter­ac­tive, from Mind­Fit)

9. Count the Fs in this sen­tence.

10. What do you see? can you alter­nate between 2 views?.

Mem­o­ryPicasso Task

11. Easy one…draw the face of a pen­ny, please. Read the rest of this entry »

#20. Pattern Recognition Brain Teaser — The Empty Triangle

Please enjoy this brain teas­er com­pli­ments of puz­zle mas­ter Wes Car­roll.

The Emp­ty Tri­an­gle

Pattern Recognition Test - Empty Triangle

Which fig­ure should be placed in the emp­ty tri­an­gle?

This puz­zle works your exec­u­tive func­tions in your frontal lobes by using your pat­tern recog­ni­tion, hypoth­e­sis test­ing, and log­ic. Let us know how you do!




The top num­ber minus the bot­tom left-hand num­ber is mul­ti­plied by the bot­tom right-hand num­ber to give the num­ber inside the tri­an­gle.

Next brain teas­er in Sharp­Brains’ top 25 series:

Bill Gates Harvard commencement speech (and his Frontal Lobes)

Bill Gates deliv­ered a very inspir­ing com­mence­ment speech in Har­vard last week. I rec­om­mend read­ing the full Remarks of Bill Gates and reflect­ing on his core mes­sage, which may be sum­ma­rized in its last sen­tence:

  • And I hope you will come back here to Har­vard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your tal­ent and your ener­gy. I hope you will judge your­selves not on your pro­fes­sion­al accom­plish­ments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deep­est inequities  on how well you treat­ed peo­ple a world away who have noth­ing in com­mon with you but their human­i­ty.”

A note­wor­thy aspect of the speech was the dis­play of what neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists call Exec­u­tive Func­tions, which are most­ly locat­ed in our Frontal Lobes-the most recent part of our brains in evo­lu­tion­ary terms, and that enable us to learn and adapt to new envi­ron­ments. What makes a “sharp brain”. You can read more about this in our post Exec­u­tive Func­tions and MacArthur “Genius Grants”.

See here Bill Gates’ advice on how to find solu­tions in com­plex envi­ron­ments-and how he applies a learned pat­tern to guide his actions in the field of AIDS pre­ven­tion:

  • Cut­ting through com­plex­i­ty to find a solu­tion runs through four pre­dictable stages: deter­mine a goal, find the high­est-lever­age approach, dis­cov­er the ide­al tech­nol­o­gy for that approach, and in the mean­time, make the smartest appli­ca­tion of the tech­nol­o­gy that you already have whether it’s some­thing sophis­ti­cat­ed, like a drug, or some­thing sim­pler, like a bed­net.”
  • The AIDS epi­dem­ic offers an exam­ple. The broad goal, of course, is to end the dis­ease. The high­est-lever­age approach is pre­ven­tion. The ide­al tech­nol­o­gy would be a vac­cine that gives life­time immu­ni­ty with a sin­gle dose. So gov­ern­ments, drug com­pa­nies, and foun­da­tions fund vac­cine research. But their work is like­ly to take more than a decade, so in the mean­time, we have to work with what we have in hand and the best pre­ven­tion approach we have now is get­ting peo­ple to avoid risky behav­ior.”
  • Pur­su­ing that goal starts the four-step cycle again. This is the pat­tern. The cru­cial thing is to nev­er stop think­ing and work­ing  and nev­er do what we did with malar­ia and tuber­cu­lo­sis in the 20th cen­tu­ry  which is to sur­ren­der to com­plex­i­ty and quit.”
  • The final step  after see­ing the prob­lem and find­ing an approach  is to mea­sure the impact of your work and share your suc­cess­es and fail­ures so that oth­ers learn from your efforts.”

Cer­tain­ly, good advice for us too to refine our Brain Fit­ness efforts. Here you have a rel­e­vant frag­ment of my (AF)recent inter­view with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg (EG):

AF: Please tell us more about what the Frontal Lobes are

EG: We researchers typ­i­cal­ly call them the Exec­u­tive Brain. The pre­frontal cor­tex is young by evo­lu­tion­ary terms, and is the brain area crit­i­cal to adapt to new sit­u­a­tions, plan for the future, and self-reg­u­late our actions in order to achieve long-term objec­tives. We could say that that part of the brain, right behind our fore­head, acts as the con­duc­tor of an orches­tra, direct­ing and inte­grat­ing the work of oth­er parts of the brain.

I pro­vide a good exam­ple in The Exec­u­tive Brain book, where I explain how I was able to orga­nize my escape from Rus­sia into the US.

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the path­ways that con­nect the frontal lobes with the rest of the brain are slow to mature, reach­ing full oper­a­tional state between ages 18 and 30, or maybe even lat­er. And, giv­en that they are not as hard-wired as oth­er parts of the brain, they are typ­i­cal­ly the first areas to decline.

Well, I’d say Mr. Gates has pret­ty mature and sol­id path­ways!

Executive Function Workout

Here is new brain teas­er from puz­zle mas­ter Wes Car­roll.

The Fork in the Road

fork in the road number puzzles

Start at the cen­ter num­ber and col­lect anoth­er four num­bers by fol­low­ing the paths shown (and not going back­wards). Add the five num­bers togeth­er. What is the low­est num­ber you can score?

This puz­zle works your exec­u­tive func­tions in your frontal lobes by using your plan­ning skills, hypoth­e­sis test­ing, and log­ic.





More brain teas­er games:

Exercising Your Lexical Recall and Pattern Recognition

Crossword Puzzle
I was sent these links to a free online cross­word puz­zle game and sudoko. While we often talk about the excel­lent com­put­er-based brain fit­ness pro­grams avail­able, puz­zles can still be good men­tal exer­cise … they are just not a com­plete work­out for your whole brain.

Word games like cross­word puz­zles and SCRABBLE® exer­cise your lex­i­cal recall (mem­o­ry for words that name things), atten­tion, mem­o­ry, and pat­tern recog­ni­tion. They can help main­tain your vocab­u­lary and avoid the frus­trat­ing tip-of-the-tongue phe­nom­e­non that all of us expe­ri­ence from time to time. Sudoko is not a math­e­mat­ics game in that you don’t actu­al­ly manip­u­late the num­bers as math­e­mat­i­cal enti­ties, but it is a pat­tern recog­ni­tion game using sym­bols (num­bers). A very legit­i­mate rea­son to play casu­al games is that they can be social and fun — which is good for reduc­ing stress.

The draw­backs to puz­zles and games is that they are hard to cal­i­brate to ensure increas­ing chal­lenge, and they gen­er­al­ly only exer­cise a lim­it­ed num­ber of brain func­tions.

So by all means, do puz­zles if you enjoy them! But be sure to push your­self to keep find­ing hard­er ones that fall just short of frus­trat­ing you. Also, just as you cross train your vol­un­tary mus­cles, be sure to cross train your men­tal mus­cles by bal­anc­ing your work­out with oth­er types of men­tal work (motor coor­di­na­tion, audi­to­ry, work­ing mem­o­ry, plan­ning, etc.). The com­put­er­ized pro­grams make it eas­i­er for you in the sense that they are indi­vid­u­al­ly cal­i­brat­ed for you to employ nov­el­ty, vari­ety, chal­lenge, and prac­tice to exer­cise your brain more thor­ough­ly in each ses­sion.

Fur­ther read­ing on lan­guage pro­duc­tion, com­pre­hen­sion, and goofs:

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

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