Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Scientia Pro Publica: Answers to 28 popular and not-so-popular questions

Wel­come to the XL edi­tion of Sci­en­tia Pro Pub­lica (or, since we are try­ing to speak Eng­lish, the 40th edi­tion of “Sci­ence for the Peo­ple”), the rotat­ing blog car­ni­val that show­cases the finest sci­ence, med­ical and envi­ron­ment writ­ing pub­lished in the blo­gos­phere.

Quick now — ask a ques­tion, any ques­tion, that comes to mind. Chances are some­one in this excel­lent ros­ter of sci­ence blog­gers has antic­i­pat­ed it and pro­vid­ed an answer below. Enjoy!

About our­selves

  1. Why do I feel bet­ter after I exer­cise (pic: brain­blog­ger)
  2. Can thought­ful blog­ging and read­ing build brain reserve and delay demen­tia
  3. What’s the bor­der­line between high and low func­tion­ing — autism research exam­ples
  4. Can we learn to mul­ti-task more effec­tive­ly
  5. Should you mind your brain

About our bod­ies Read the rest of this entry »

UCSF study looks for Bay Area participants

We often hear inter­est from peo­ple of all ages in being par­tic­i­pants in the cog­ni­tive research we are doing in our UCSF lab. How­ev­er, all of our exper­i­ments to date have been focused on under 20 year olds and the over 60 age group, and many peo­ple fall in between. Well, we have just launched our first exper­i­ment aimed at explor­ing the impact of dis­trac­tion and mul­ti­task­ing on per­for­mance across the lifes­pan, with a large enough num­ber of par­tic­i­pants to allow for gen­der com­par­isons. So, we are reach­ing to peo­ple of all ages with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be par­tic­i­pate in this cool new exper­i­ment.

This is a behav­ioral study using a video game that we cre­at­ed and devel­oped to eval­u­ate these skills. It sets the stage for both a brain train­ing and brain record­ing exper­i­ment to fol­low. Tak­ing part requires an approx­i­mate­ly two-hour study at our lab at the UCSF Mis­sion Bay cam­pus (mul­ti­ple days/times avail­able for the test­ing). We are look­ing for right hand­ed indi­vid­u­als that are not col­or­blind, and not on any med­ica­tion for a neurological/psychiatric dis­or­der. Read the rest of this entry »

New Research Partnership in Cognitive Aging

via Press release:

The Research Part­ner­ship in Cog­ni­tive Aging, a pub­lic-pri­vate effort NY62434LOGOto pro­mote the study of brain func­tion with age, will award up to $28 mil­lion over five years to 17 research grants to exam­ine the neur­al and behav­ioral pro­files of healthy cog­ni­tive aging and explore inter­ven­tions that may pre­vent, reduce or reverse cog­ni­tive decline in old­er peo­ple.

The part­ner­ship, led by the Nation­al Insti­tute on Aging (NIA), part of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, and the McK­night Brain Research Foun­da­tion (MBRF), is seek­ing ways to main­tain cog­ni­tive health — the abil­i­ty to think, learn and remem­ber — into old age.

Hodes point­ed out that emerg­ing evi­dence sug­gests that cer­tain inter­ven­tions — such as exer­cise, envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment, diet, social engage­ment, cog­ni­tive train­ing and stress reduc­tion — should be stud­ied more inten­sive­ly to deter­mine if they might pre­vent or reduce declines in cog­ni­tive health.

All the stud­ies are fas­ci­nat­ing, and a few of them may have sig­nif­i­cant impact in the near-term giv­en mar­ket trends:

  • Ellen F. Binder, M.D., and Mark A. McDaniel, Ph.D., Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, St. Louis: Com­bin­ing Exer­cise and Cog­ni­tive Train­ing to Improve Every­day Func­tion. A pilot tri­al in 90 old­er adults will eval­u­ate whether cog­ni­tion improves when aer­o­bic exer­cise is com­bined with cog­ni­tive enrich­ment pro­vid­ed by a spe­cif­ic research-based video game. The ran­dom­ized tri­al is aimed at find­ing an inter­ven­tion to improve day-to-day cog­ni­tive func­tion.
  • Mark D’Esposito, M.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley: A Brain-Based Approach to Enhanc­ing Exec­u­tive Con­trol Func­tions in Healthy Aging
  • Patri­cia A. Boyle, Ph.D., Rush Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter, Chica­go: Char­ac­ter­iz­ing the Behav­ior Pro­file of Healthy Cog­ni­tive Aging
  • Randy L. Buck­n­er, Ph.D., Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, Boston: Neur­al Process­es Under­ly­ing Cog­ni­tive Aging
  • Joe Z. Tsien, Ph.D., Med­ical Col­lege of Geor­gia, Augus­ta: Hip­pocam­pal Net­work Pro­files of Mem­o­ry Aging.
  • Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, New York: Com­bined Exer­cise and Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Inter­ven­tion in Nor­mal Aging

For more infor­ma­tion

My two cents:

  • Why $28 mil­lion and not, say, $300m (one dol­lar per liv­ing Amer­i­can who tomor­row will be one day old­er than he or she is today)?
  • Why the main empha­sis on “pre­vent, reduce or reverse decline” and not on “devel­op, build, main­tain func­tion­al­i­ty”?

ETech09: on Life Hacking and Brain Training

Here you have the pre­sen­ta­tion I deliv­ered on Tues­day at ETech 2009 (this year’s O’Reilly Emerg­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Con­fer­ence):

Emerg­ing Research and Tech­nol­o­gy for Life Hacking/ Brain Train­ing

(click to open pre­sen­ta­tion in new win­dow)

Descrip­tion: Life hack­ing. Brain train­ing. They are one and the same. The brain’s frontal lobes enable our goal-ori­ent­ed behav­ior, sup­port­ing exec­u­tive func­tions, such as deci­sion-mak­ing, atten­tion, emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion, goal-set­ting, and work­ing mem­o­ry. These func­tions can be enhanced with tar­get­ed prac­tice  such as life hack­ing. This ses­sion will pro­vide an overview of the cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science under­pin­ning life hack­ing, and review the state-of-the-art of non-inva­sive tools for brain train­ing: neu­ro­feed­back, biofeed­back, soft­ware appli­ca­tions, cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions, Tran­scra­nial Mag­net­ic Stim­u­la­tion, and plain-old med­i­ta­tion.

It was great to meet fel­low blog­gers and pre­sen­ters, such as Shel­ley Batts of Of Two Minds and Chris Patil of Ouroboros, and very inquisite and through­ful audi­ence mem­bers. Get­ting ready to speak at ASA/ NCOA and IHRSA next week!

Brain Fitness Newsletter: Premium Research Sponsors

Here you have the twice-a-month newslet­ter with our most pop­u­lar blog posts. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Have you ever won­dered how we can main­tain Sharp­Brains’ web­site, blog and newslet­ter with­out sell­ing any prod­ucts and with only lim­it­ed adver­tis­ing? The answer is, we offer mar­ket research to orga­ni­za­tions such as health­care providers, research cen­ters, tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ers, ven­ture cap­i­tal firms, con­sult­ing and train­ing com­pa­nies, and more.

Our new Pre­mi­um Research Spon­sors pro­gram will allow pio­neer­ing orga­ni­za­tions to col­lab­o­rate with us to shape the future of the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health field, by spon­sor­ing and access­ing the most up-to-date infor­ma­tion on the sci­ence and best prac­tices to assess and improve cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing across the lifes­pan. You can learn more about the Pre­mi­um Research Spon­sors pro­gram Here.

Mar­ket News

All­state: Can we Improve Dri­ver Safe­ty using Com­put­er­ized Cog­ni­tive Train­ing?: Insur­ance com­pa­ny All­state and brain fit­ness soft­ware devel­op­er Posit Sci­ence just announced a very intel­li­gent ini­tia­tive, and Tom War­den, Assis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent and Leader of Allstate’s Research and Plan­ning Cen­ter, explains to us why cog­ni­tive train­ing may be the new safe­ty fea­ture fol­low­ing seat belts and airbags.

The Cog­ni­tive Health and Fit­ness Mar­ket On The Move: As you have prob­a­bly seen, the Cog­ni­tive Health and Brain Fit­ness field is rapid­ly evolv­ing. Here we high­light some of the main devel­op­ments affect­ing the field over the last 6-months: pub­lic pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives in Cana­da and the US, the grow­ing role of com­put­er­ized assess­ments, sev­er­al ven­ture cap­i­tal rounds, major ini­tia­tives by insur­ance com­pa­nies, and sig­nif­i­cant research find­ings.

The Big Pic­ture

Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket: Let’s step back and ask our­selves, “Why is the field evolv­ing in such a fast way? What is hope, what is hype, what is real­i­ty?” A spate of recent glob­al news cov­er­age on brain fit­ness and brain train­ing reflects a grow­ing inter­est in nat­ur­al, non drug-based inter­ven­tions to keep our brains sharp as we age. This inter­est is very time­ly, giv­en an aging pop­u­la­tion, the increased preva­lence of Alzheimer’s rates, and soar­ing health care costs in the US that place more empha­sis than ever on pre­ven­tion and lifestyle changes. This arti­cle sum­ma­rizes the main mar­ket dynam­ics, open ques­tions, and top trends to watch for.

Nour­ish­ing Our Brains and Minds

Teach­ing is the Art of Chang­ing the Brain: Lau­rie Bar­tels promis­es, “I have read a num­ber of books that trans­late cur­rent brain research into prac­tice while pro­vid­ing prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions for teach­ers to imple­ment. This is the first book I have read that pro­vides a bio­log­i­cal, and clear­ly ratio­nal, overview of learn­ing and the brain.” Go and enjoy her review of a very inter­est­ing book by James Zull, Direc­tor Emer­i­tus of the Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Inno­va­tion in Teach­ing and Edu­ca­tion at Case West­ern Reserve.

Phi­los­o­phy as the Miss­ing Link in School Cur­ric­u­la: Kim­ber­ly Wick­ham answers pro­vides some good answers to the ques­tion, “Why would any­one want to teach phi­los­o­phy to pre-ado­les­cent chil­dren? that will engage your crit­i­cal think­ing skills.

A User’s Guide to Life­long Brain Health: Drs Simon Evans and Paul Burghardt hope (as we do) that the emerg­ing empha­sis on cog­ni­tive exer­cise and fit­ness helps com­ple­ment -not sub­sti­tute- oth­er lifestyle fac­tors impor­tant for the “phys­i­cal health of the brain and all the sys­tems it com­mu­ni­cates with”. Think: nutri­tion, exer­cise, sleep.

Exer­cis­ing Our Brains

Excel­lent Read­er Com­ments: Our last newslet­ter gen­er­at­ed a round of excel­lent  com­ments by read­ers on cog­ni­tive train­ing, Posit Sci­ence and Alzheimer’s Aus­tralia, geron­tol­ogy and the brain, and the val­ue of videogames. Come enjoy this col­lec­tive wis­dom and par­tic­i­pate as you wish.

Brainy Haikus:
riv­er with haikus
flow­ing in since the sum­mer
keep­ing  us afloat

The Chal­lenges of Geron­tol­ogy?: The World Eco­nom­ic Forum has asked me, as one of the 16 mem­bers of the Glob­al Agen­da Coun­cil on the Chal­lenges of Geron­tol­ogy, for “an 800 word sum­ma­ry of your most com­pelling action­able idea on the chal­lenges of geron­tol­ogy.” Feel free to help me out by offer­ing your own action­able ideas, either relat­ed to the dis­ci­pline of geron­tol­ogy itself or on ways to best engage the grow­ing num­ber of brains over the age of 60 in our plan­et.


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