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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Fact: Lifelong neuroplasticity means our 7.5 billion brains can “sculpt” themselves

Much ongo­ing brain health and brain enhance­ment inno­va­tion is enabled by the core fact—called neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty–that the human brain con­tin­u­al­ly changes itself through expe­ri­ence. Neuroplasticity–or brain plas­tic­i­ty– refers to the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself based on expe­ri­ence by gen­er­at­ing new neu­rons and by form­ing new con­nec­tions between neu­rons, among oth­er fac­tors. It was believed for a long time that, after a cer­tain age, the brain became “fixed.” Now we know that the brain nev­er stops chang­ing, and that’s why there’s so much inter­est and hope around ways to har­ness that neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty to lead bet­ter lives, to enhance our brains, to delay brain health decline.

What fol­lows from this fact is that we can strength­en spe­cif­ic cir­cuits of the brain (through edu­ca­tion, our jobs and lifestyles, and also through men­tal exer­cis­esmed­i­ta­tion and neu­rostim­u­la­tion), in order to learn faster, bet­ter and become more resilient.

–> Keep read­ing the arti­cle 5 Facts You Need To Know To Under­stand, Nav­i­gate And Enjoy The Dig­i­tal Brain Health Rev­o­lu­tion over at The Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Neuroplasticity and the Brain That Changes Itself

I first dis­cov­ered Nor­man Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, in a May, 2007 review in the New York Times. Intrigued, but caught up in myr­i­ad end-of-school-year respon­si­bil­i­ties, the book was put out of my mind until lat­er that sum­mer, when our The Brain that Changes Itself - Norman Doidgeschools learn­ing spe­cial­ist emailed to say she had just fin­ished a fas­ci­nat­ing book. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stores of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence, is a com­pelling col­lec­tion of tales about the amaz­ing abil­i­ties of the brain to rewire, read­just and relearn after hav­ing a slice of itself ren­dered dys­func­tion­al. The first sev­en chap­ters cap­ti­vat­ed me for their per­son­al sto­ries; the final four chap­ters for the sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy.

Part of what makes Doidge’s writ­ing so acces­si­ble is he tells sto­ries, and his sto­ries just hap­pen to incor­po­rate brain sci­ence. As a result, his book is easy to digest. The neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, which is the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself. This means that the brain is our intel­li­gence  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing enti­ty. On the face of it, this con­cept should not sound unusu­al, for it is what hap­pens to indi­vid­u­als all the time as we go about the learn­ing process, from infan­cy onwards.

What sep­a­rates the sto­ries in this book from dai­ly learn­ing is that Read the rest of this entry »

The Brain Fitness Program DVD (Michael Merzenich)

The most pop­u­lar ques­tion we got when we announced that PBS had a great spe­cial on Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in Decem­ber was, when will the DVD be avail­able?

Well, final­ly here it comes. You can click on the image or the title to go over to PBS shop to learn more and buy it.

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95, shipped by 02/01/08). “This pro­gram presents a work­out to help view­ers get their brains in bet­ter shape. The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on neu­ro-plas­tic­i­ty, the abil­i­ty of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the brain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cis­co and his col­leagues around the world have been lead­ing this effort; he brings the research find­ings, along with a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es, to PBS view­ers in this inno­v­a­tive and life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote nar­rates. ”

To pur­chase: click Here.

You can watch a 3‑minute trail­er: click here.

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

SharpBrainsGuide_3DIf you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion
“A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS

Update (11/10/10): Have you seen PBS great spe­cials on Brain Fit­ness and Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty ?

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram DVD ($24.95)

The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram is based on the brain’s abil­i­ty to change and adapt, even rewire itself. In the past two years, a team of sci­en­tists has devel­oped com­put­er-based stim­u­lus sets that dri­ve ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cal, phys­i­cal and func­tion­al changes in the Peter Coyote Brain Fitness Programbrain. Dr. Michael Merzenich of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia and his col­leagues share their sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly based set of brain exer­cis­es in this life-alter­ing pro­gram. Peter Coy­ote (pic­tured) nar­rates. ”

PBS aired in Decem­ber 2007 a spe­cial pro­gram on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, brain fit­ness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram”. To watch the 3‑minute trail­er: click here.

In 2008, PBS released a sec­ond DVD:

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight and Sound DVD ($24.95)

This pro­gram, specif­i­cal­ly designed to help peo­ple get the most from their vision and hear­ing as they age, con­sid­ers how these sens­es change through­out life and what peo­ple can do to keep them healthy and ful­ly func­tion­al.”

.

If you do not have time to watch these great doc­u­men­taries, here are a few points one needs to under­stand about neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty:

1.  The human brain is now con­sid­ered to be a high­ly dynam­ic and con­stantly reor­ga­niz­ing sys­tem capa­ble of being shaped and reshaped across an entire lifes­pan. It is believed that every expe­ri­ence alters the brain’s orga­ni­za­tion at some lev­el. The key words in this new approach to the brain are neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time. The lat­ter process is also referred to as synap­to­ge­n­e­sis. This new par­a­digm con­trasts with tra­di­tional ideas of the human brain being a fixed and essen­tially lim­ited sys­tem that only degrades with age.

2. As we age, the rate of change in the brain, or neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, declines but does not come to a halt. In addi­tion, we now know that new neu­rons can appear in cer­tain parts of the brain up until the day we die.

3. Brain plas­tic­ity is cru­cial fol­low­ing head injury. It is the one brain’s abil­ity that allows recov­ery. Brain plas­tic­ity is also the abil­ity that brain train­ing takes advan­tages of to try to slow down the aging process.

To read about evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty in the human brain take a look at Brain plas­tic­i­ty: How learn­ing changes you brain

———-

Note: How can any­one take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new bar­rage of arti­cles and stud­ies which seem to con­tra­dict each oth­er?

Do sup­ple­ments improve mem­o­ry? Do you need both phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise –or is one of them enough? Why is man­ag­ing stress so impor­tant to atten­tion and mem­o­ry? Which brain train­ing approach, if any, is worth one’s time and mon­ey?

If you have these ques­tions, check out this new book, The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness:

“Final­ly, an insight­ful and com­plete overview of the sci­ence, prod­ucts and trends to debunk old myths and help us all main­tain our brains in top shape. A must-read”
Glo­ria Cavanaugh, for­mer Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging and found­ing Board mem­ber of the Nation­al Alliance for Care­giv­ing
“Kudos for an excel­lent resource! This Sharp­Brains Guide is full of top notch infor­ma­tion, pro­vides prac­ti­cal tips and helps sep­a­rate hype from hope in the brain health are­na.”
Eliz­a­beth Edger­ly, Ph.D., Chief Pro­gram Offi­cer, Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion

A mas­ter­ful guide to the brain train­ing rev­o­lu­tion. Promis­es to stim­u­late a much need­ed con­ver­sa­tion that will nudge soci­ety to build a new brain fit­ness cul­ture on sol­id, research-based, foun­da­tions.”
P. Murali Doraiswamy MD, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try, Duke Uni­ver­si­ty and Co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com.
Print Edi­tion, $24.95


SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book Click

Here

to order at Amazon.com,
Kin­dle Edi­tion, $9.99

Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance

There has been an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion about the issues relat­ed to the aging of the legal pro­fes­sion. Stephanie intro­duced us to the arti­cle “the Gray­ing Bar: let’s not for­get the ethics” by David Giacalone.

In short: sta­tis­tics about the increas­ing ratio of lawyers over 70 in active prac­tice, on the one hand, and the gen­er­al inci­dence of Alzheimer’s and oth­er demen­tias, on the oth­er, lead David to point out an increas­ing like­li­hood that some lawyers may be prac­tic­ing in less than ide­al con­di­tions for their clients, beyond a rea­son­able “brain age”. The ques­tion then becomes: who and how can solve this prob­lem, which is only going to grow giv­en demo­graph­ic trends?.

We are not legal experts, but would like to inform the debate by offer­ing 10 con­sid­er­a­tions on healthy aging and job per­for­mance from a neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal point of view, that apply to all occu­pa­tions:

1- We should talk more about change than about decline, as Sharon Beg­ley wrote recent­ly in her great arti­cle on The Upside of Aging — WSJ.com (sub­scrip­tion required).

We dis­cussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, who wrote his great book The Wis­dom Para­dox pre­cise­ly on this point, at The Exec­u­tive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

2- Some skills improve as we age: In our “Exer­cis­ing Our Brains” Class­es, we typ­i­cal­ly explain how some areas typ­i­cal­ly improve as we age, such as self-reg­u­la­tion, emo­tion­al func­tion­ing and Wis­dom (which means mov­ing from Prob­lem solv­ing to Pat­tern recog­ni­tion). As a lawyer accu­mu­lates more cas­es under his/ her belt, he or she devel­ops an auto­mat­ic “intu­ition” for solu­tions and strate­gies. As long as the envi­ron­ment does­n’t change too rapid­ly, this grow­ing wis­dom is very valu­able.

3- …where­as, yes, oth­ers typ­i­cal­ly decline: Read the rest of this entry »

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