Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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

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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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