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Trend: More healthcare and research facilities offer multipronged brain fitness programs

BrainFitnessJigsaw_webCan an exer­cise rou­tine real­ly help keep your men­tal “mus­cles” in good shape? (Har­vard Health Let­ter):

Fear of los­ing your mem­o­ry and think­ing skills is one of the great­est con­cerns of get­ting old­er. Maybe that’s behind the increas­ing num­ber of clin­ics offer­ing brain fit­ness pro­grams. “Brain train­ing” isn’t a typ­i­cal exer­cise pro­gram; it incor­po­rates a num­ber of activ­i­ties and lifestyle changes to help boost brain func­tion. “It makes very good sense to pro­mote cog­ni­tive health using a vari­ety of approach­es. I embrace it even as we await more data,” says Dr. Kirk Daffn­er, a neu­rol­o­gist and med­ical edi­tor of the Har­vard Spe­cial Health Report Improv­ing Memory…Hospitals and research facil­i­ties offer brain fit­ness pro­grams, and so do pri­vate prac­tices. “Ide­al­ly you want peo­ple who have done this for a long time and who offer a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary approach, with a neu­rol­o­gist, psy­chol­o­gist, social work­er, phys­i­cal ther­a­pist, and dietit­ian,” says Dr. Pas­cual-Leone.”

To learn more:

To improve memory, enhance attention and other cognitive abilities

Memory_attentionRemem­ber­ing, as en Extreme Sport (The New York Times):

We found that one of the biggest dif­fer­ences between mem­o­ry ath­letes and the rest of us,” said Hen­ry L. Roedi­ger III, the psy­chol­o­gist who Read the rest of this entry »

Changing our Minds…by Reading Fiction

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

Chang­ing our Minds

By imag­in­ing many pos­si­ble worlds, argues nov­el­ist and psy­chol­o­gist Kei­th Oat­ley, fic­tion helps us under­stand our­selves and oth­ers.

-By Kei­th Oat­ley

For more than two thou­sand years peo­ple have insist­ed that read­ing fic­tion is good for bookyou. Aris­to­tle claimed that poetry—he meant the epics of Homer and the tragedies of Aeschy­lus, Sopho­cles, and Euripi­des, which we would now call fiction—is a more seri­ous busi­ness than his­to­ry. His­to­ry, he argued, tells us only what has hap­pened, where­as fic­tion tells us what can hap­pen, which can stretch our moral imag­i­na­tions and give us insights into our­selves and oth­er peo­ple. This is a strong argu­ment for schools to con­tin­ue to focus on the lit­er­ary arts, not just his­to­ry, sci­ence, and social stud­ies.

But is the idea of fic­tion being good for you mere­ly wish­ful think­ing? The mem­bers of a small research group in Toronto—Maja Dji­kic, Ray­mond Mar, and I—have been work­ing on the prob­lem. We have turned the idea into ques­tions. In what ways might read­ing fic­tion be good for you? If it is good for you, why would this be? And what is the psy­cho­log­i­cal func­tion of art gen­er­al­ly?

Through a series of stud­ies, we have dis­cov­ered that fic­tion at its best isn’t just enjoy­able. It mea­sur­ably enhances our abil­i­ties to empathize with oth­er peo­ple and con­nect with some­thing larg­er than our­selves.

Pos­si­ble selves, pos­si­ble worlds

Peo­ple often think that a fic­tion is some­thing untrue, but this is wrong. The word derives from the Latin fin­gere, to make. As some­thing made, fic­tion is dif­fer­ent from some­thing dis­cov­ered, as in physics, or from some­thing that hap­pened, as in the news. But this does not mean it is false. Fic­tion is about pos­si­ble selves in pos­si­ble worlds.

In terms of 21st-cen­tu­ry psy­chol­o­gy, we might best see fic­tion as a kind of sim­u­la­tion: one that runs not on com­put­ers, but on minds. Such men­tal sim­u­la­tion unfolds on two lev­els.

The first lev­el involves sim­u­lat­ing the minds of oth­er peo­ple: imag­in­ing what they are think­ing and feel­ing, which devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gists call “the­o­ry of mind.” The the­o­ry-of-mind sim­u­la­tion is like a watch, which is a small mod­el that sim­u­lates Read the rest of this entry »

When Empathy moves us to Action-By Daniel Goleman

Daniel Gole­man requires no intro­duc­tion. Per­son­al­ly, of all his books I have read, the one I found most stim­u­lat­ing was Destruc­tive Emo­tions: A Sci­en­tif­ic Dia­logue With the Dalai Lama, a superb overview of what emo­tions are and how we can put them to good use. He is now con­duct­ing a great series of audio inter­views includ­ing one with George Lucas on Edu­cat­ing Hearts and Minds: Rethink­ing Edu­ca­tion.

We are hon­ored to bring you a guest post by Daniel Gole­man, thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine, a UC-Berke­ley-based quar­ter­ly mag­a­zine that high­lights ground break­ing sci­en­tif­ic research into the roots of com­pas­sion and altru­ism. Enjoy!

- Alvaro

——————–

Hot To Help: When can empa­thy move us to action?

By Daniel Gole­man

We often empha­size the impor­tance of keep­ing cool in a cri­sis. But some­times cool­ness can give way to detach­ment and apa­thy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mental Health News: NYT, Mind Hacks

Brain Health NewsA few very inter­est­ing New York Times arti­cles over the last cou­ple of days, plus a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for clin­i­cians and researchers in Latin Amer­i­ca.

- Well: When a Brain Sci­en­tist Suf­fers a Stroke

Dr. Tay­lor recounts the details of her stroke and the amaz­ing insights she gained from it in a riv­et­ing 18-minute video of her speech at the Tech­nol­o­gy, Enter­tain­ment, Design Con­fer­ence in Mon­terey, Calif., last month.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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