Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Method for adaptive training of short term memory and auditory/visual discrimination within a computer game: Key Neurotech Patent #13

adaptive-training

– Illus­tra­tive image from U.S. Patent No. 6,599,129

Today we are shar­ing a 2003 cog­ni­tive train­ing patent assigned to Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Corp.

U.S. Patent No. 6,599,129: Method for adap­tive train­ing of short term mem­o­ry and auditory/visual dis­crim­i­na­tion with­in a com­put­er game

  • Assignee(s): Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing Corp.
  • Inventor(s): William M. Jenk­ins, Michael M. Merzenich, Steven L. Miller, Bret E. Peter­son, Paula Tal­lal
  • Tech­nol­o­gy Cat­e­go­ry: Neu­roCog­ni­tive Train­ing
  • Issue Date: July 29, 2003

SharpBrains’ Take:

The ‘129 patent builds on Sci­en­tif­ic Learn­ing’s port­fo­lio relat­ing to lan­guage train­ing and devel­op­ment.   Read the rest of this entry »

Use and misuse of ADHD drugs and nootropics among teenagers and toddlers

Human-brain-pillsRital­in may pose brain risks for young peo­ple with­out ADHD, study shows (Fox News):

Smart” drugs, like Rital­in, also known as nootrop­ics, are known to increase a person’s atten­tion span, mem­o­ry and abil­i­ty to stay alert. As a result, they have become increas­ing­ly abused by stu­dents seek­ing an extra edge in their stud­ies. Accord­ing to a report from The Part­ner­ship at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foun­da­tion, approx­i­mate­ly 1.3 mil­lion Amer­i­can teenag­er Read the rest of this entry »

Test your Short-Term Memory: How many letters can you memorize?

Mem­o­ry is more com­plex that we usu­al­ly think. Cog­ni­tive sci­ences have iden­ti­fied dif­fer­ent mem­o­ry sys­tems, each sup­port­ed by dif­fer­ent brain regions. One major dif­fer­ence is between long-term and short-term mem­o­ry (also called work­ing mem­o­ry).

Long-term mem­o­ry is an unlim­it­ed stor­age of mem­o­ries dat­ing as far back as you can remem­ber to a few min­utes ago. For instance, when you remem­ber your first day in high-school or what you said to your col­league two min­utes ago, you are using your long-term mem­o­ry sys­tem. This sys­tem depends most­ly on parts of the tem­po­ral (in blue here) and frontal (in green) regions of the brain.

Short-term or work­ing mem­o­ry is a lim­it­ed stor­age used to briefly keep the infor­ma­tion need­ed for the task at hand. For instance, when you keep in mind a phone num­ber while you are dial­ing it or when you do some men­tal cal­cu­la­tion you are using your work­ing mem­o­ry sys­tem. This sys­tem depends most­ly on parts of the frontal (in green) and pari­etal (in yel­low) regions of the brain.

Work­ing mem­o­ry is cru­cial for most of the tasks we per­form dai­ly. It is also quite vul­ner­a­ble to the aging process. Two good rea­sons to try to main­tain this func­tion! Ready to test and sharp­en your short-term mem­o­ry?

Fol­low this link to mem­o­rize series of let­ters. The first 2 tri­als are very easy but the test gets quite chal­leng­ing after that!

New Interview Series (Part 1 of 10): Why Care About Brain Fitness Innovation?

Every Mon­day dur­ing the next 10 weeks we’ll dis­cuss here what lead­ing indus­try, sci­ence and pol­i­cy experts –all of whom will speak at the upcom­ing 2011 Sharp­Brains Sum­mit (March 30th — April 1st, 2011)– have to say about emerg­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges to address, over the next 10 years, the grow­ing brain-relat­ed soci­etal demands.

With­out fur­ther ado, here you have what four Sum­mit Speak­ers say…

Alvaro Pas­cual-Leone is the Direc­tor of the Beren­son-Allen Cen­ter for Non-Inva­sive Brain Stim­u­la­tion at Har­vard Med­ical School.

1. How would you define “brain fit­ness” vs. “phys­i­cal fit­ness”?

Phys­i­cal fit­ness can refer to an over­all or gen­er­al state of health and well-being. How­ev­er, it is also often used more specif­i­cal­ly to refer to the abil­i­ty to per­form a giv­en activ­i­ty, occu­pa­tion, or sport.

Sim­i­lar­ly brain fit­ness might be used to refer to a gen­er­al state of healthy, opti­mized brain func­tion, or a more spe­cif­ic brain-based abil­i­ty to process cer­tain, spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion, enable cer­tain motor actions, or sup­port cer­tain cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. Impor­tant­ly though, I would argue Read the rest of this entry »

Comparing Working Memory Training & Medication Treatment for ADHD

Work­ing mem­o­ry (WM) is the cog­ni­tive sys­tem respon­si­ble for the tem­po­rary stor­age and manip­u­la­tion of infor­ma­tion and plays an impor­tant role in both learn­ing and focus­ing atten­tion. Con­sid­er­able research has doc­u­ment­ed that many chil­dren and adults with ADHD have WM deficits and that this con­tributes to dif­fi­cul­ties asso­ci­at­ed with the dis­or­der. For an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to the role of WM deficits in ADHD, click here.

A sim­ple exam­ple illus­trates the impor­tance of WM for par­tic­u­lar aca­d­e­m­ic tasks. Try adding 3 and 9 in your head. That was prob­a­bly easy for you. Now try­ing adding 33 and 99. That was prob­a­bly more dif­fi­cult. Final­ly, try adding 333 and 999. This is quite chal­leng­ing for most adults even though each cal­cu­la­tion required is triv­ial­ly easy. The chal­lenge occurred because you need to store infor­ma­tion — the sum of 3+9 in the one’s col­umn and then ten’s col­umn — as you process the remain­ing part of the prob­lem, i.e., 3+9 in the hun­dred’s col­umn, and this taxed your WM. If your WM capac­i­ty was exceed­ed, you could not com­plete the prob­lem suc­cess­ful­ly.

This sim­ple prob­lem also illus­trates the dif­fer­ence between short-term mem­o­ry (STM) and WM. Short-term mem­o­ry sim­ply involves retain­ing infor­ma­tion in mind for short peri­ods of time, e.g., remem­ber­ing that the prob­lem you need to solve is 333+999. Work­ing mem­o­ry, in con­trast, involves men­tal­ly manip­u­lat­ing — or ‘work­ing’ with — retained infor­ma­tion and comes into play in a wide range of learn­ing activ­i­ties. For exam­ple, to answer ques­tions about a sci­ence chap­ter, a child not only has to cor­rect­ly retain fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion but must men­tal­ly work with that infor­ma­tion to answer ques­tions about it. Thus, when a child’s WM capac­i­ty is low rel­a­tive to peers, aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance is like­ly to be com­pro­mised in mul­ti­ple areas.

Because WM deficits play an impor­tant role in the strug­gles expe­ri­enced by many indi­vid­u­als with ADHD, it is impor­tant to con­sid­er how dif­fer­ent inter­ven­tions address this aspect of the dis­or­der. In this study, the authors were inter­est­ed in com­par­ing the impact of Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing and stim­u­lant med­ica­tion treat­ment on the WM per­for­mance of chil­dren diag­nosed with ADHD.

Par­tic­i­pants were 25 8–11 year-old chil­dren with ADHD (21 boy and 4 girls) who were Placebo effect, mind hacksbeing treat­ed with stim­u­lant med­ica­tion. Chil­dren’s mem­o­ry per­for­mance was assessed on 4 occa­sions using the Auto­mat­ed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Assess­ment (AWMA), a com­put­er­ized test that mea­sures ver­bal short-term mem­o­ry, ver­bal work­ing mem­o­ry, visuo-spa­tial short-term mem­o­ry, and visuo-spa­tial work­ing mem­o­ry.

At time 1, the assess­ment was con­duct­ed when chil­dren had been off med­ica­tion for at least 24 hours. The sec­ond assess­ment occurred an aver­age of 5 months lat­er and when chil­dren were on med­ica­tion. The third assess­ment occurred after chil­dren had com­plet­ed 5 weeks of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing using the stan­dard train­ing pro­to­col (see below). The final assess­ment occurred approx­i­mate­ly 6 months after train­ing had end­ed. This design enabled the researchers to make the fol­low­ing com­par­isons:

- WM per­for­mance on med­ica­tion vs. off med­ica­tion (T1 vs T2)
— WM per­for­mance on med­ica­tion vs. after train­ing (T2 vs. T3)
— WM per­for­mance imme­di­ate­ly after train­ing end­ed vs. 6 months fol­low­ing train­ing (T3 vs. T4)

This final com­par­i­son pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion on whether any ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed by the train­ing had endured.

In addi­tion to mea­sur­ing STM and WM at each time point, mea­sures of IQ were col­lect­ed at times 1, 2, and 3.

- Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing -

WM train­ing was con­duct­ed using the stan­dard Cogmed train­ing pro­to­col with each child Cogmed working memory trainingcom­plet­ing 20–25 train­ing ses­sions with­in a 25 day peri­od. The train­ing requires the stor­age and manip­u­la­tion of sequences of ver­bal, e.g., repeat­ing back a sequence of dig­its in reverse order, and/or visuo-spa­tial infor­ma­tion, e.g., recall­ing the loca­tion of objects on dif­fer­ent por­tions of the com­put­er screen.

Dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el is cal­i­brat­ed on a tri­al by tri­al basis so the child is always work­ing at a lev­el that close­ly match­es their per­for­mance. For exam­ple, if a child suc­cess­ful­ly recalled three dig­its in reverse order, on the next tri­al he had to recall four. When a tri­al was failed, the next tri­al was made eas­i­er by reduc­ing the num­ber of items to be recalled. This method of ‘adap­tive train­ing’ is thought to be a key ele­ment because it requires the child to ‘stretch’ their WM capac­i­ty to move through the pro­gram.

- Results -

- Impact of Short-Term Mem­o­ry and Work­ing Mem­o­ry -

Med­ica­tion vs. no med­ica­tion — When test­ed on med­ica­tion, Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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