Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Cognitive Fitness @ Harvard Business Review

The Har­vard Busi­ness Review just pub­lished (thanks Cather­ine!) this arti­cle on cog­ni­tive fit­ness, by Rod­er­ick Gilkey and Clint Kilts. We are hap­py to see the grow­ing inter­est on how to main­tain healthy and pro­duc­tive brains, from a broad­en­ing num­ber of quar­ters. With­out hav­ing yet ful­ly read the article…it seems to pro­vide a rea­son­able intro­duc­tion to brain sci­ence, yet could have more beef regard­ing assess­ment, train­ing and rec­om­men­da­tions. In such an emerg­ing field, though, going one step at a time makes sense. What real­ly mat­ters is thet fact itself that it was pub­lished.

The HBR Descrip­tion of the arti­cle:

Recent neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic research shows that the health of your brain isn’t, as experts once thought, just the prod­uct of child­hood expe­ri­ences and genet­ics; it reflects your adult choic­es and expe­ri­ences as well. Pro­fes­sors Gilkey and Kilts of Emory University’s med­ical and busi­ness schools explain how you can strength­en your brain’s anato­my, neur­al net­works, and cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, and pre­vent func­tions such as mem­o­ry from dete­ri­o­rat­ing as you age. The brain’s alert­ness is the result of what the authors call cog­ni­tive fitness–a state of opti­mized abil­i­ty to rea­son, remem­ber, learn, plan, and adapt. Cer­tain atti­tudes, lifestyle choic­es, and exer­cis­es enhance cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Men­tal work­outs are the key. Brain-imag­ing stud­ies indi­cate that acquir­ing exper­tise in areas as diverse as play­ing a cel­lo, jug­gling, speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage, and dri­ving a taxi­cab expands your neur­al sys­tems and makes them more com­mu­nica­tive. In oth­er words, you can alter the phys­i­cal make­up of your brain by learn­ing new skills. The more cog­ni­tive­ly fit you are, the bet­ter equipped you are to make deci­sions, solve prob­lems, and deal with stress and change. Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory Training from a pediatrician perspective, focused on attention deficits

Arthur Lavin Today we inter­view Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice, and one of the first providers of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing in the US (the pro­gram whose research we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg and Dr. Bradley Gib­son). Dr. Lavin has a long stand­ing inter­est in tech­nol­o­gy-as evi­denced by Microsoft’s recog­ni­tion of his paper­less office- and in brain research and appli­ca­tions-he trained with esteemed Mel Levine from All Kinds of Minds-.

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Key take-aways:

- Schools today are not yet in a posi­tion to effec­tive­ly help kids with cog­ni­tive issues deal with increas­ing cog­ni­tive demands.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry is a cog­ni­tive skill fun­da­men­tal to plan­ning, sequenc­ing, and exe­cut­ing school-relat­ed work.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry can be trained, as evi­denced by Dr. Lavin’s work, based on Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing, with kids who have atten­tion deficits.

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Con­text on cog­ni­tive fit­ness and schools

AF (Alvaro Fer­nan­dez): Dr. Lavin, thanks for being with us. It is not very com­mon for a pedi­a­tri­cian to have such an active inter­est in brain research and cog­ni­tive fit­ness. Can you explain the source of your inter­est?

AL (Arthur Lavin): Through­out my life I have been fas­ci­nat­ed by how the mind works. Both from the research point of view and the prac­ti­cal one: how can sci­en­tists’ increas­ing knowl­edge improve kids’ lives? We now live in an tru­ly excit­ing era in which sol­id sci­en­tif­ic progress in neu­ro­science is at last cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve people’s actu­al cog­ni­tive func­tion. The progress Cogmed has achieved in cre­at­ing a pro­gram that can make great dif­fer­ences in the lives of chil­dren with atten­tion deficits is one of the most excit­ing recent devel­op­ments. My col­league Ms. Susan Glaser and I recent­ly pub­lished two books: Who’s Boss: Mov­ing Fam­i­lies from Con­flict to Col­lab­o­ra­tion (Col­lab­o­ra­tion Press, 2006) and Baby & Tod­dler Sleep Solu­tions for Dum­mies (Wiley, 2007), so I not only see myself as a pedi­a­tri­cian but also an edu­ca­tor. I see par­ents in real need of guid­ance and sup­port. They usu­al­ly are both very skep­ti­cal, since Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training: the Art and the emerging Science

Tom alerts us (thanks!) of a fun book review in the New York Times today, by Abi­gail Zuger, titled The Brain: Mal­leable, Capa­ble, Vul­ner­a­ble, on the book The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, $24.95) by psy­chi­a­trist Nor­man Doidge. Some quotes:

  • In book­stores, the sci­ence aisle gen­er­al­ly lies well away from the self-help sec­tion, with hard real­i­ty on one set of shelves and wish­ful think­ing on the oth­er. But Nor­man Doidge’s fas­ci­nat­ing syn­op­sis of the cur­rent rev­o­lu­tion in neu­ro­science strad­dles this gap: the age-old dis­tinc­tion between the brain and the mind is crum­bling fast as the pow­er of pos­i­tive think­ing final­ly gains sci­en­tif­ic cred­i­bil­i­ty.”
  • So it is for­giv­able that Dr. Doidge, a Cana­di­an psy­chi­a­trist and award-win­ning sci­ence writer, recounts the accom­plish­ments of the “neu­ro­plas­ti­cians,”  as he calls the neu­ro­sci­en­tists involved in these new stud­ies, with breath­less rev­er­ence. Their work is indeed mind-bend­ing, mir­a­cle-mak­ing, real­i­ty-bust­ing stuff, with impli­ca­tions, as Dr. Doidge notes, not only for indi­vid­ual patients with neu­ro­log­ic dis­ease but for all human beings, not to men­tion human cul­ture, human learn­ing and human his­to­ry.”
  • Research into the mal­leabil­i­ty of the nor­mal brain has been no less amaz­ing. Sub­jects who learn to play a sequence of notes on the piano devel­op char­ac­ter­is­tic changes in the brain’s elec­tric activ­i­ty; when oth­er sub­jects sit in front of a piano and just think about play­ing the same notes, the same changes occur. It is the vir­tu­al made real, a sol­id quan­tifi­ca­tion of the pow­er of thought.”
  • The new sci­ence of the brain may still be in its infan­cy, but already, as Dr. Doidge makes quite clear, the sci­en­tif­ic minds are leap­ing ahead.”

Here you have some of our inter­views with a few “sci­en­tif­ic minds” that have, for years, been “leap­ing ahead” beyond “pos­i­tive think­ing” into “pos­i­tive train­ing”:

And a cou­ple of relat­ed blog posts:

Cogmed Working Memory Training

Notre Dame Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son, whom we inter­viewed a few months ago (see below) pre­sent­ed the results from his study recent­ly at the Soci­ety for Research in Child Devel­op­ment (SRCD):

Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame Pro­fes­sor and Research Team are First in U.S. to Val­i­date Break­through Study on the Effec­tive­ness of Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing in Improv­ing Atten­tion Deficits in Chil­dren (pdf)

  • Dr. Bradley Gib­son, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame, and his col­leagues (Gib­son, Seroczyn­s­ki, Gon­do­li, Braun­gart-Riek­er, & Grundy, 2007)  will share new find­ings from the first U.S. study on the effec­tive­ness of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing for improv­ing atten­tion abil­i­ties in chil­dren with ADHD. The study val­i­dates pre­vi­ous research from Sweden’s Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute which revealed a fun­da­men­tal break­through in the way atten­tion prob­lems are proac­tive­ly treat­ed. Gib­son will unveil the results of the U.S. study dur­ing the Soci­ety for Research in Child Devel­op­ment (SRCD) bi-annu­al con­fer­ence in Boston. Cogmed is a pio­neer in neu­rotech­nol­o­gy and a devel­op­er of soft­ware-based work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing prod­ucts.”

Our inter­view with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gib­son

  • AF: Tell us about ADD/ ADHD and devel­op­ment tra­jec­to­ries.
  • BG: There is a very insight­ful study by Wal­ter Mis­chel on pre-school­ers aged 4 and 5. Some of them had a Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health Newsletter, March Edition

We hope you are enjoy­ing Brain Aware­ness Week this week and hope­ful­ly think­ing a lit­tle more about your brain and brain fit­ness! Below you have the Brain Fit­ness Newslet­ter we sent a few days ago. You can sub­scribe to this month­ly email update in the box on the the top of this page.

We have had anoth­er busy month behind us, and we’re look­ing for­ward to Brain Aware­ness Week March 12–18. Keep read­ing for the details (includ­ing a spe­cial offer in hon­or of Brain Aware­ness Week) …

I. Press Cov­er­age
II. Events
III. Pro­gram Reviews
IV. New Offer­ings
V. Web­site and Blog Sum­ma­ry, includ­ing brain teasers

Read the rest of this entry »

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