Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

At a time when edu­ca­tors are pre­oc­cu­pied with stan­dards, test­ing, and the bot­tom line, some researchers sug­gest the arts can boost stu­dents’ test scores; oth­ers aren’t con­vinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and nation­al endow­ment for the Arts Chair­man Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Com­mence­ment Address at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, he used the occa­sion to deliv­er an impas­sioned argu­ment for the val­ue of the arts and arts edu­ca­tion.

Art is an irre­place­able way of under­stand­ing and express­ing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as sto­ries, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, con­soles. It edu­cates our emo­tions.”

For years, arts advo­cates like Gioia have been mak­ing sim­i­lar pleas, stress­ing the intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of the arts at a time when many Amer­i­cans are pre­oc­cu­pied with a market–driven cul­ture of enter­tain­ment, and schools are con­sumed with meet­ing fed­er­al stan­dards. Art brings joy, these advo­cates say, or it evokes our human­i­ty, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daugh­ter, “It cools kids down after all the oth­er hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bol­ster­ing the case for the arts has become increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary in recent years, as school bud­get cuts and the move toward stan­dard­ized test­ing have pro­found­ly threat­ened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment start­ed assess­ing school dis­tricts by their stu­dents’ scores on read­ing and math­e­mat­ics tests.

As a result, accord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy, school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States increased the time they devot­ed to test­ed subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cut­ting spend­ing on non–tested sub­jects such as the visu­al arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB stan­dards, the more time and mon­ey was devot­ed to those test­ed sub­jects, with less going to the arts. The Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion has report­ed that the cuts fall hard­est on schools with high num­bers of minor­i­ty chil­dren.

And the sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to wors­en as state bud­gets get even tighter. Already, in a round of fed­er­al edu­ca­tion cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts edu­ca­tion nation­al­ly was slashed by $35 mil­lion. In 2008, the New York City Depart­ment of Education’s annu­al study of Read the rest of this entry »

Playing the Blame Game: Video Games Pros and Cons

Play­ing the Blame Game
– Video games stand accused of caus­ing obe­si­ty, vio­lence, and lousy grades. But new research paints a sur­pris­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed and pos­i­tive pic­ture, reports Greater Good Mag­a­zine’s Jere­my Adam Smith.

Cheryl Olson had seen her teenage son play video games. But like many par­ents, she didn’t know much about them.

Then in 2004 the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice asked Olson and her hus­band, Lawrence Kut­ner, to run a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed study of how video games affect ado­les­cents.

Olson and Kut­ner are the co-founders and direc­tors of the Har­vard Med­ical School’s Cen­ter for Men­tal Health and Media. Olson, a pub­lic health researcher, had stud­ied the effects of media on behav­ior but had nev­er exam­ined video games, either in her research or in her per­son­al life.

And so the first thing she did was watch over the shoul­der of her son, Michael, as he played his video games. Then, two years into her research—which com­bined sur­veys and focus groups of junior high school students—Michael urged her to pick up a joy­stick. “I def­i­nite­ly felt they should be famil­iar with the games if they were doing the research,” says Michael, who was 16 at the time and is now 18.

Olson start­ed with the PC game Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Emerging Tools, Not Magic Pills

Here you are have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our 10 most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please brainremem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by sub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Our first Brain Training/ Fit­ness Webi­nar Series was a suc­cess with sev­er­al hun­dred par­tic­i­pants and great feed­back. If you could not par­tic­i­pate, you can still review the pre­sen­ta­tion slides by click­ing Here. A key mes­sage from the series: it is excit­ing that our brains remain more flex­i­ble, at all ages, than was once thought pos­si­ble. The impli­ca­tions? Every sin­gle own­er of a brain can ben­e­fit from learn­ing more about how to main­tain the “It” in “Use It or Lose It.” And which tools, if any, can be help­ful. But, remember,there are no mag­ic pills for cog­ni­tive health and per­for­mance.

Mar­ket News

Nation­al Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy Ini­tia­tive: Neu­rotech lead­ers ask for help to sup­port a pend­ing bill on fund­ing for appli­ca­tions of brain research.

Lumos Labs rais­es $3 m in ven­ture cap­i­tal:  This web­site pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play

We some­times neglect to men­tion a very basic yet pow­er­ful method of cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al devel­op­ment, for chil­dren and adults alike: Play.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Pow­er of Play: Learn­ing That Comes Nat­u­ral­ly, dis­cuss­es the need to build a more “play­ful cul­ture” in this great arti­cle The Power of Play And Learningbrought to you thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

- Alvaro

——————–

Can We Play?

– By Dr. David Elkind

Play is rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing from our homes, our schools, and our neigh­bor­hoods. Over the last two decades alone, chil­dren have lost eight hours of free, unstruc­tured, and spon­ta­neous play a week. More than 30,000 schools in the Unit­ed States have elim­i­nat­ed recess to make more time for aca­d­e­mics. From 1997 to 2003, children’s time spent out­doors fell 50 per­cent, accord­ing to a study by San­dra Hof­ferth at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land. Hof­ferth has also found that the amount of time chil­dren spend in orga­nized sports has dou­bled, and the num­ber of min­utes chil­dren devote each week to pas­sive leisure, not includ­ing watch­ing tele­vi­sion, has increased from 30 min­utes to more than three hours. It is no sur­prise, then, that child­hood obe­si­ty is now con­sid­ered an epi­dem­ic.

But the prob­lem goes well beyond obe­si­ty. Decades of research has shown that play is cru­cial to phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment at all ages. This is espe­cial­ly true of the purest form of play: the unstruc­tured, self-moti­vat­ed, imag­i­na­tive, inde­pen­dent kind, where chil­dren ini­ti­ate their own games and even invent their own rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Exercise & Fitness Articles and Custom Content

Over the months we have received many requests for good arti­cles that could be reused in a vari­ety of places, from a hos­pi­tal newslet­ter to a cor­po­rate well­ness e-newslet­ter and a num­ber of web­sites. We want to reach as many peo­ple as possible, so tomor­row we are launch­ing a free Con­tent “Brain Feed”, and also cus­tom con­tent ser­vices.

In short, we are going to offer a week­ly arti­cle in the new SharpBrains free con­tent feed. This feed is designed to help web­site and newslet­ter pub­lish­ers dis­sem­i­nate good infor­ma­tion on brain exer­cise and fit­ness. 20 arti­cles are avail­able imme­di­ate­ly (check them in our Arti­cles sec­tion), build­ing on the con­tent we have writ­ten in this blog.

And, if an orga­ni­za­tion wants good con­tent on brain health/ training/ fit­ness to dis­trib­ute inter­nal­ly or exter­nal­ly, we can help.

On a relat­ed note, we just joined the Blog­Burst net­work to offer our blog con­tent to a vari­ety of news­pa­pers. Let’s see how these ini­tia­tives work!

All Slidedecks & Recordings Available — click image below

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.