Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Improving the world, and one’s brain, at the same time

My wife and I just came back from an inspir­ing Gold­man Prize Award cer­e­mo­ny, where sev­en grass­roots envi­ron­men­tal change­mak­ers were rec­og­nized for their work and resilien­cy, and shared their pas­sion and pur­pose with every­one attend­ing the event. We did hear too from Al Gore, Tra­cy Chap­man, Robert Red­ford, and the founder of the awards 20 years ago, Richard Gold­man.

The BBC recent­ly pub­lished an Op-Ed by Mr. Gold­man on the sto­ry behind the Awards them­selves: arti­cle Here. He explains how…

  • - “One morn­ing in 1989, as I sat with my dai­ly break­fast and news­pa­per, I read about the most recent Nobel lau­re­ates and won­dered if there was a com­pa­ra­ble award for envi­ron­men­tal work.”
  • - “We asked a staff mem­ber at our foun­da­tion to do some research and he found that noth­ing yet exist­ed to recog­nise envi­ron­men­tal work on an inter­na­tion­al stage, thus the Gold­man Prize was born.”
  • - “Our choice to focus specif­i­cal­ly on grass­roots envi­ron­men­tal lead­ers was unique at the time.”

Mr. Gold­man, and the sev­en win­ners, are clear­ly help­ing improve the state of the world.

Now, the “state of the world” does include their very own brains — you may have seen this recent paper on how Vol­un­teer Pro­gram Pro­vides Health Ben­e­fits To Old­er Women

  • - “She and her col­leagues found that EC vol­un­teers showed greater improve­ments in mem­o­ry and exec­u­tive func­tion than those who did not par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram. In fact, the old­er adults with the low­est base­line per­for­mance in these areas — those most at risk for health dis­par­i­ties — demon­strat­ed the most sig­nif­i­cant gains.”
  • - “Both stud­ies high­light­ed above show that every­day activ­i­ty inter­ven­tions (e.g., EC) can appeal to old­er adults’ desires to remain social­ly engaged and pro­duc­tive in their post-retire­ment years. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, these activ­i­ties pro­vide mea­sur­able phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health ben­e­fits.”

Of course, those ben­e­fits do not accrue only for old­er adults (or just for women), but may help all of us grad­u­al­ly build Cog­ni­tive Reserves through the added nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge.

Talk about win/ win!

Relat­ed arti­cles on social entre­pre­neur­ship:

Every­one a Change­mak­er”, Ashoka and Google

Richard Dawkins and Alfred Nobel: beyond nature and nur­ture

Is Intelligence Innate and Fixed?

iq test, intelligenceGiv­en the recent James Wat­son “race and IQ” con­tro­ver­sy, I took on to read Stephan Jay Gould’s clas­sic book The Mis­mea­sure of Man, in which he debunks IQ (and the under­ly­ing “g”) as mea­sure of defined, innate, “intel­li­gence”. Fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing overall, very tech­ni­cal in some areas.

The key take-away? In the last chap­ter, A Pos­i­tive Con­clu­sion, he writes that

- “Flex­i­bil­i­ty is the hall­mark of human evolution…In oth­er mam­mals, explo­ration, play and flex­i­bil­i­ty of behav­ior are qual­i­ties of juve­niles, only rarely of adults. We retain not only the anatom­i­cal stamp stamp of child­hood, but its men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty as well…Humans are learn­ing ani­mals”

He then relates this sto­ry from T.H. White’s nov­el The Once and Future King

- God, he recounts, cre­at­ed all ani­mals as embryos and called each before his throne, offer­ing them what­ev­er addi­tions to their anato­my they desired. All opt­ed for spe­cial­ized adult fea­tures-the lion for claws and sharp teeth, the deer for antlers and hoofs. The human embryo stepped forth last and said: Please God, I think that you made me in the shape which I now have for rea­sons best known to Your­selves and that it would be rude to change. If I am to have my choice, I will stay as I am. I will not alter any of the parts which you gave me…I will stay a defence­less embryo all my life, doing my best to make myself a few fee­ble imple­ments out of the wood, iron, and the oth­er mate­ri­als which You have seen fit to put before me..” “Well done”, exclaimed the Cre­ator in delight­ed tone. “Here all you embryos, come here with Read the rest of this entry »

Clint Eastwood’s fountain of Youth: Learning

See this inter­view today.

Quote: “By 76, most direc­tors have put their heavy lift­ing behind them, their pace slow­ing, the qual­i­ty of their films wan­ing. Not Clint East­wood.”

Clint East­wood: “My father always said you’ve got to keep learn­ing, keep expand­ing or you will decline the oth­er way. I’ve always adhered to that.”

Wise words. I would add that the jour­ney of life means con­stant learn­ing. That is what our brains need.

See some brain images that explain the process of learn­ing a new skill, from what hap­pens when we first encounter it, to what is going on while we are inter­nal­iz­ing it in a tran­si­tion mode, to what hap­pens once it is famil­iar thanks to prac­tice.

And what is Learn­ing? you may enjoy this inter­view with neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gist and edu­ca­tor Dr. James Zull. Good night!

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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