Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Top 10 Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness Books

Here you have The 10 Most Pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness & Cog­ni­tive Health Books, based on book pur­chas­es by Sharp­Brains’ read­ers dur­ing 2008.

Enjoy!

Brain Rules-John Medina
1. Brain Rules: 12 Prin­ci­ples for Sur­viv­ing and Thriv­ing at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)
- Dr. John Med­i­na, Direc­tor of the Brain Cen­ter for Applied Learn­ing Research at Seat­tle Pacif­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, writes an engag­ing and com­pre­hen­sive intro­duc­tion to the many dai­ly impli­ca­tions of recent brain research. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Rules: sci­ence and prac­tice for Sharp­Brains read­ers.
2. The Beck Diet Solu­tion: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Per­son (Oxmoor House, March 2007)
- Dr. Judith Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research, con­nects the world of research-based cog­ni­tive ther­a­py with a main­stream appli­ca­tion: main­tain­ing weight-loss. Inter­view notes here.
3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence (Viking, March 2007)
- Dr. Nor­man Doidge, psy­chi­a­trist and author of this New York Times best­seller, brings us “a com­pelling col­lec­tion of tales about the amaz­ing abil­i­ties of the brain to rewire, read­just and relearn”. Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the book review here.
Spark John Ratey
4. Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary New Sci­ence of Exer­cise and the Brain(Lit­tle, Brown and Com­pa­ny, Jan­u­ary 2008)
- Dr. John Ratey, an asso­ciate clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­ical School, sum­ma­rizes the grow­ing research on the brain ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exer­cise. Lau­rie Bar­tels puts this research in per­spec­tive here.
5. The Art of Chang­ing the Brain: Enrich­ing the Prac­tice of Teach­ing by Explor­ing the Biol­o­gy of Learn­ing (Sty­lus Pub­lish­ing, Octo­ber 2002)
- Dr. James Zull, Direc­tor Emer­i­tus of the Uni­ver­si­ty Cen­ter for Inno­va­tion in Teach­ing and Edu­ca­tion at Case West­ern Reserve Uni­ver­si­ty, writes a must-read for edu­ca­tors and life­long learn­ers. Inter­view notes here.
6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves (Bal­lan­tine Books, Jan­u­ary 2007)
- Sharon Beg­ley, Newsweek’ excel­lent sci­ence writer, pro­vides an in-depth intro­duc­tion to the research on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty based on a Mind & Life Insti­tute event.
7. Thanks: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pi­er (Houghton Mif­flin, August 2007)
- Prof. Robert Emmons, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at UC Davis and Edi­tor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy, writes a sol­id book that com­bines a research-based syn­the­sis of the top­ic as well as prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions. Inter­view notes here.
8. The Exec­u­tive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civ­i­lized Mind (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, Jan­u­ary 2001)
- Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing per­spec­tive on the role of the frontal roles and exec­u­tive func­tions through the lifes­pan. Inter­view notes here.
Brain Trust Program 9. The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­o­ry (Perigee Trade, Sep­tem­ber 2007)
- Dr. Lar­ry McCleary, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, cov­ers many lifestyle rec­om­men­da­tions for brain health in this prac­ti­cal book. He wrote the arti­cle Brain Evo­lu­tion and Health for Sharp­Brains.
10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Per­cep­tion, Atten­tion, and the Four The­aters of the Brain (Pan­theon, Jan­u­ary 2001)
— In this book (pre­vi­ous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey pro­vides a stim­u­lat­ing descrip­tion of how the brain works. An excel­lent Brain 101 book to any­one new to the field.

Brain Research Interview Series

We are work­ing on improv­ing sev­er­al sec­tions of our web­site, espe­cial­ly our Resources sec­tion. It will look much bet­ter in a few days. Our first step has been to re-orga­nize our Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series, and below you have how it looks today.

Dur­ing the last 18 months I have had the for­tune to inter­view over 15 cut­ting-edge neu­ro­sci­en­tists and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists on their research and thoughts. Here are some of our favorite quotes (you can read the full inter­view notes by click­ing on the links):

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Plasticity, Health and Fitness Books

As you may have noticed, we just changed a few things in our site, includ­ing prepar­ing a more sol­id Resources sec­tion. Please take a look at the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top.

One of the new pages, that we will update often, is an expand­ed Books page. Here are the books that we are rec­om­mend­ing now.

Fas­ci­nat­ing books on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence):

Sharon Begley: Train Your Mind, Change Your BrainTrain Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Sci­ence Reveals Our Extra­or­di­nary Poten­tial to Trans­form Our­selves — by Sharon Beg­ley.

 

The Brain That Changes Itself - Norman DoidgeThe Brain That Changes Itself: Sto­ries of Per­son­al Tri­umph from the Fron­tiers of Brain Sci­ence — by Nor­man Doidge.

 

Great pop­u­lar sci­ence books by Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

Over the last months, thanks to the traf­fic growth of SharpBrains.com (over 100,000 unique vis­i­tors per month these days, THANK YOU for vis­it­ing today and please come back!), a num­ber of proac­tive book agents, pub­lish­ers and authors have con­tact­ed us to inform us of their lat­est brain-relat­ed books. We have tak­en a look at many books, wrote reviews of The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review‚ and Best of the Brain from Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, and inter­viewed sci­en­tists such as Judith Beck, Robert Emmons and James Zull.

Brain Trust ProgramNow we are launch­ing a new Author Speaks Series to pro­vide a plat­form for lead­ing sci­en­tists and experts writ­ing high-qual­i­ty brain-relat­ed books to reach a wide audi­ence. We are hon­ored to start the series with an arti­cle by Lar­ry McCleary, M.D, for­mer act­ing Chief of Pedi­atric Neu­ro­surgery at Den­ver Children’s Hos­pi­tal, and author of The Brain Trust Pro­gram: A Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Mem­o­ry, Ele­vate Mood, Enhance Atten­tion, Alle­vi­ate Migraine and Menopausal Symp­toms, and Boost Men­tal Ener­gy (Perigee Trade, 2007).

With­out fur­ther ado, let’s enjoy Dr. McCleary’s arti­cle:

Brain Evo­lu­tion and Why it is Mean­ing­ful Today to Improve Our Brain Health

You may feel over­whelmed by the stream of seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry sug­ges­tions regard­ing the best way to main­tain men­tal clar­i­ty as you age. Based on an analy­sis of sem­i­nal fac­tors in the devel­op­ment of mod­ern brain anato­my, I believe it is pos­si­ble to make some very com­pelling rec­om­men­da­tions for grow­ing big brains, enhanc­ing their func­tion, and mak­ing them resis­tant to the aging process. These may be loose­ly cat­e­go­rized as fac­tors per­tain­ing to the men­tal or phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es of the brain. Although they are not tru­ly inde­pen­dent enti­ties, such a con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion pro­vides a basis for the gen­er­a­tion of brain healthy pre­scrip­tions. Diet, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and stress reduc­tion enhance neu­ronal resilience. Sleep and men­tal stim­u­la­tion are vital for cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty, learn­ing, and mem­o­ry.

Diet: Fol­low a mod­ern shore-based/­ma­rine diet includ­ing seafood in its most gen­er­al sense, non-starchy veg­eta­bles of all col­ors, berries, and eggs. Oth­er sources of lean pro­tein con­tain­ing long-chain omega 3 fat­ty acids such as free range beef, chick­en, bison, or elk are nutri­tious alter­na­tives.

Phys­i­cal exer­cise (Think fight or flight — activ­i­ty.): Include all types. Aer­o­bic activ­i­ties such as swim­ming, bicy­cling, walk­ing, or hik­ing for pro­mo­tion of vas­cu­lar health and weight con­trol; resis­tance train­ing for pro­mo­tion of neu­rotroph­ic fac­tors, nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring com­pounds that make brain cells more resis­tant to aging, such as IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth fac­tor-1) and BDNF (Brain-derived neu­rotroph­ic fac­tor); and bal­ance, coor­di­na­tion, and agili­ty train­ing such as ping-pong, bal­ance beam, tram­po­line, and jump­ing rope to enhance cog­ni­tive speed and motor skills.

Stress Con­trol: From an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, stres­sors (such as meet­ing a cave bear) and intense phys­i­cal activ­i­ty (run­ning or fight­ing) were brief in dura­tion and usu­al­ly occurred togeth­er. Mod­ern stres­sors (psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tion­al stress) tend to be unremit­ting and are gen­er­al­ly uncou­pled from the phys­i­cal (fight or flight) com­po­nent, mean­ing stress devel­ops with­out any asso­ci­at­ed phys­i­cal activ­i­ty. Such intense phys­i­cal pur­suits are now called exer­cise. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, exer­cise is a per­fect phys­i­o­log­ic anti­dote for stress due to its ben­e­fi­cial impact on cor­ti­sol (the stress hor­mone) and blood pres­sure and should be incor­po­rat­ed into any pro­gram of stress reduc­tion.

Ade­quate sleep: The body needs rest, but the brain requires sleep. Acute or chron­ic sleep depri­va­tion caus­es dev­as­tat­ing short and long-term con­se­quences to brain anato­my (synap­tic loss) and func­tion (mem­o­ry and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties). Off-line infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and mem­o­ry con­sol­i­da­tion are addi­tion­al sleep-relat­ed ben­e­fits.

Men­tal stim­u­la­tion: Brain-train­ing, a cog­ni­tive­ly chal­leng­ing lifestyle, nov­el­ty, and social­iza­tion are vital for the pro­mo­tion of neu­ronal plas­tic­i­ty and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the for­ma­tion of new nerve cells and neu­ronal con­nec­tions), the enhance­ment of spe­cif­ic brain func­tions such as mem­o­ry, and the devel­op­ment of cog­ni­tive reserve — addi­tion­al men­tal pro­cess­ing poten­tial that may be brought online when need­ed.

The com­bi­na­tion of these rec­om­men­da­tions, each of which was instru­men­tal in the trans­for­ma­tion from prim­i­tive to mod­ern ner­vous sys­tems, pro­vides a tem­plate for the most log­i­cal approach for enhanc­ing men­tal func­tion and resist­ing neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion as we trav­el through life.

The Evo­lu­tion­ary Ratio­nale

The human brain clear­ly has the genet­ic poten­tial for dra­mat­ic expan­sion. This was illus­trat­ed about Read the rest of this entry »

Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons

Robert Emmons Thanks(Dear read­er: Here you have a lit­tle gift to con­tin­ue the Thanks­giv­ing spir­it. Enjoy the inter­view, and thank you for vis­it­ing our site.)

Prof. Robert Emmons stud­ies grat­i­tude for a liv­ing as Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at UC Davis and is Edi­tor-In-Chief of the Jour­nal of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy. He has just pub­lished Thanks: How the New Sci­ence of Grat­i­tude Can Make You Hap­pi­er, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary book that pro­vides a research-based syn­the­sis of the top­ic as well as prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Wel­come. Prof. Emmons, could you please pro­vide us an overview of the Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy field so we under­stand the con­text for your research?

Robert Emmons: Sure. Mar­tin Selig­man and col­leagues launched what was called “pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy in the late 90s as an anti­dote to the tra­di­tion­al near­ly exclu­sive empha­sis of “neg­a­tive psy­chol­o­gy” focused on fix­ing prob­lems like trau­ma, addic­tion, and stress. We want to bal­ance our focus and be able to help every­one, includ­ing high-func­tion­ing indi­vid­u­als. A num­ber of researchers were inves­ti­gat­ing the field since the late 80s, but Selig­man pro­vid­ed a new umbrel­la, a new cat­e­go­ry, with cred­i­bil­i­ty, orga­nized net­works and fund­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the whole field.

And where does your own research fit into this over­all pic­ture?

I have been research­ing grat­i­tude for almost 10 years. Grat­i­tude is a pos­i­tive emo­tion that has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the realm of human­ists and philoso­phers, and only recent­ly the sub­ject of a more sci­en­tif­ic approach. We study grat­i­tude not as a mere­ly aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­pline, but as a prac­ti­cal frame­work to bet­ter func­tion­ing in life by tak­ing con­trol of hap­pi­ness lev­els and prac­tic­ing the skill of emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion.

What are the 3 key mes­sages that you would like read­ers to take away from your book?

First, the prac­tice of grat­i­tude can increase hap­pi­ness lev­els by around 25%. Sec­ond, this is not hard to achieve — a few hours writ­ing a grat­i­tude jour­nal over 3 weeks can cre­ate an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cul­ti­vat­ing grat­i­tude brings oth­er health effects, such as longer and bet­ter qual­i­ty sleep time.

What are some ways to prac­tice grat­i­tude, and what ben­e­fits could we expect? Please refer to your 2003 paper in the Jour­nal of Per­son­al­i­ty and Social Psy­chol­o­gy, where I found fas­ci­nat­ing quotes such as that “The abil­i­ty to notice, appre­ci­ate, and sav­ior the ele­ments of one life has been viewed as a cru­cial ele­ment of well-being.

The most com­mon method we use in our research is to ask peo­ple to keep a “Grat­i­tude Jour­nal”  where you write some­thing you feel grate­ful for. Doing so 4 times a week, for as lit­tle as 3 weeks, is often enough to cre­ate a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in one lev­el of hap­pi­ness. Anoth­er exer­cise is to write a “Grat­i­tude Let­ter” to a per­son who has exert­ed a pos­i­tive influ­ence on one’s life but whom we have not prop­er­ly thanked in the past, and then to meet that per­son and read the let­ter to them face to face.

The ben­e­fits seem to be very sim­i­lar using both meth­ods in terms of enhanced hap­pi­ness, health and well­be­ing. Most of the out­comes are self-report­ed, but there is an increas­ing empha­sis on mea­sur­ing objec­tive data such as cor­ti­sol and stress lev­els, heart rate vari­abil­i­ty, and even brain acti­va­tion pat­terns. The work of Richard David­son is exem­plary in that respect, show­ing how mind­ful­ness prac­tice can rewire some acti­va­tion pat­terns in Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

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.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.