Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Transcendental Meditation and Working Memory Training To Enhance Executive Functions

New study shows Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion improves brain func­tion­ing in ADHD stu­dents (press release):

- “Pri­or research shows ADHD chil­dren have slow­er brain devel­op­ment and a reduced abil­i­ty to cope with stress,” said Dr. Stixrud. “Vir­tu­al­ly every­one finds it dif­fi­cult to pay atten­tion, orga­nize them­selves and get things done when they’re under stress,” he explained. “Stress inter­feres with Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Teaser to Stimulate your Concentration Skills

Learn­ing can be inci­den­tal. We all mem­o­rize facts with­out pay­ing much atten­tion to these facts or with­out will­ing to mem­o­rize them. How­ev­er, when one real­ly wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Many stud­ies have shown that com­pared to full atten­tion con­di­tions, divid­ing atten­tion dur­ing study time leads to poor mem­o­ry per­for­mance.

This exer­cise will help you prac­tice focus­ing your atten­tion.

It may seem easy but make sure you count twice!

Count the num­ber of “Y” in this text:

Yes­ter­day, Lucy went all the way to Boston. She want­ed to buy new shoes. She had to go in many shops before she found the shoes she want­ed. She was hap­py to stop at a restau­rant to have some tea and cook­ies before she took the train back home.

Count the num­ber of “F” in this text:

Fin­ished files are the result of years of sci­en­tif­ic study com­bined with the expe­ri­ence of years.

Count the num­ber of “E” in this text:

Last sum­mer, Jean and Har­ri­et spent their vaca­tion in Michi­gan. They rent­ed a cab­in on the lake. The cab­in had two bed­rooms and a nice deck. They used to spend a lot of time on the deck, just look­ing at how the light would change on the water. Sev­er­al times, they bor­rowed bikes from their neigh­bors and spent a few hours explor­ing the vil­lages not far from their cab­in.


There are 7 “Y” in the first text.

There are 6 “F” in the sec­ond text (got them?)

There are 38 “E” in the third text.

For many oth­er Brain Teasers, click Here.
For many oth­er teasers and arti­cles by Dr. Mich­e­lon, click Here.

Pascale MichelonPas­cale Mich­e­lon, Ph. D., is Sharp­Brains’ Research Man­ag­er for Edu­ca­tion­al Projects. Dr. Mich­e­lon has a Ph.D. in Cog­ni­tive Psy­chol­o­gy and has worked as a Research Sci­en­tist at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in Saint Louis, in the Psy­chol­o­gy Depart­ment. She con­duct­ed sev­er­al research projects to under­stand how the brain makes use of visu­al infor­ma­tion and mem­o­rizes facts. She is now an Adjunct Fac­ul­ty at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty.

Resources to help students build emotional intelligence

(Editor’s note: Daniel Gole­man is now con­duct­ing a great series of audio inter­views includ­ing one with Richard David­son on Train­ing the Brain: Cul­ti­vat­ing Emo­tion­al Skills. We are hon­ored to bring you this guest post by Daniel Gole­man, thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)


Resources to help stu­dents build emo­tion­al intel­li­gence

By Daniel Gole­man

The scene: a first-grade class­room in a Man­hat­tan school. Not just any class­room this one has lots of Spe­cial Ed stu­dents, who are very hyper­ac­tive. So the room is a whirlpool of fren­zied activ­i­ty. The teacher tells the kids that they’re going to lis­ten to a CD. The kids qui­et down a bit.

Then they get pret­ty still as the CD starts, and a man’s voice asks the kids to lie down on their backs, arms at their sides, and get a “breath­ing bud­dy,” like a stuffed ani­mal, who will sit on their stom­achs and help them be aware of their breath­ing. The voice takes the chil­dren through a series of breath­ing and body aware­ness exer­cis­es, and the kids man­age to calm down and stay focused through the entire six min­utes, which ends with them wig­gling their toes.

You’ve just learned how to make your body feel calm and relaxed,” says the voice. “And you can do this again any time you want.”

The voice on the CD is mine, though I’m read­ing the words of Lin­da Lantieri, who has pio­neered pub­lic school pro­grams in social and emo­tion­al learn­ing that have been adopt­ed world­wide.

Her newest pro­gram adds an impor­tant tool to the emo­tion­al intel­li­gence kit: mind­ful­ness, a moment-by-moment aware­ness of one’s inter­nal state and exter­nal envi­ron­ment. In a Building emotional intelligencenew book, Build­ing Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence, which comes with the CD, Lantieri uses mind­ful­ness train­ing to enhance con­cen­tra­tion and atten­tion among kids, and to help them learn to bet­ter calm them­selves. Build­ing Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence comes with instruc­tions that explain how teach­ers and par­ents can adapt Latieri’s exer­cis­es to kids at dif­fer­ent age lev­els (five to sev­en, eight to 11, or 12 and up) and pro­vides detailed expla­na­tions of each exer­cise.

Lantieri’s project exem­pli­fies the ways we can build on sci­en­tif­ic insights to help chil­dren mas­ter the skills of emo­tion­al intel­li­gence. As Richard David­son, founder of the Lab­o­ra­to­ry for Affec­tive Neu­ro­science at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin, explained to me in Read the rest of this entry »

Helping Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think

- “There are these two young fish swim­ming along, and they hap­pen to meet an old­er fish swim­ming the oth­er way, who nods at them and says, “Morn­ing, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then even­tu­al­ly one of them looks over at the oth­er and goes, “What the hell is water?”

- “If at this moment, you’re wor­ried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explain­ing what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The imme­di­ate point of the fish sto­ry is that…”

Keep read­ing the mas­ter­ful com­mence­ment speech giv­en by David Fos­ter Wal­lace to the 2005 grad­u­at­ing  class at Keny­on Col­lege, pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nal today:

David Fos­ter Wal­lace on Life and Work (WSJ).

The whole piece makes for the most beau­ti­ful med­i­ta­tion, to savor word by word. The whole arti­cle is real­ly a quote worth read­ing, but let me fea­ture this one

- “Learn­ing how to think” real­ly means how to exer­cise some con­trol over how and what you think. It means being con­scious and aware enough to choose what you pay atten­tion to and to choose how you con­struct mean­ing from expe­ri­ence.”

What a poet­ic intro­duc­tion to brain and cog­ni­tive fit­ness: learn­ing, think, exer­cise, con­trol, con­scious, aware, choose, pay atten­tion, con­struct mean­ing, expe­ri­ence.

What You Can do to Improve Memory (and Why It Deteriorates in Old Age)

After about age 50, most peo­ple begin to expe­ri­ence a decline in mem­o­ry capa­bil­i­ty. Why is that? One obvi­ous answer is that the small arter­ies of the brain begin to clog up, often as a result of a life­time of eat­ing the wrong things and a lack of exer­cise. If that life­time has been stress­ful, many neu­rons may have been killed by stress hor­mones. Giv­en theImprove Memory Bill Klemm most recent sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture, reviewed in my book Thank You, Brain, For All You Remem­ber. What You For­got Was My Fault, dead neu­rons can’t be replaced, except in the hip­pocam­pus, which is for­tu­nate for mem­o­ry because the hip­pocam­pus is essen­tial for mak­ing cer­tain kinds of mem­o­ries per­ma­nent. Anoth­er cause is incip­i­ent Alzheimer’s dis­ease; autop­sies show that many peo­ple have the lesions of the dis­ease but have nev­er shown symp­toms, pre­sum­ably because a life­time of excep­tion­al men­tal activ­i­ty has built up a “cog­ni­tive reserve.

So is there any­thing you can do about it besides exer­cise like crazy, eat healthy foods that you don’t like all that much, pop your statin pills, and take up yoga?

Yes. In short: focus, focus, focus.

Chang­ing think­ing styles can help. Research shows that Read the rest of this entry »

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