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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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!

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About SharpBrains

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