Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Sandra Chapman: Using innovative thinking, and brain training, we can rewire the brain at every level

Sandra Bond Chapman

San­dra Bond Chap­man, PhD

What is your cur­rent job title and orga­ni­za­tion, and what excites you the most about work­ing there? 
As the founder and chief direc­tor at the Cen­ter for Brain­Health at UT-Dal­las, what gets me excit­ed every day is being on the fore­front of defin­ing and encour­ag­ing cog­ni­tive brain health fit­ness for peo­ple of all ages. We are iden­ti­fy­ing mea­sures of brain health and what it takes to achieve it for healthy brains, injured brains and dis­eased brains. It is just as impor­tant to care for your brain when it is healthy as when it is dis­eased or injured. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ten Habits of a Sharp Brain

As our final arti­cle for 2011, let us repur­pose one of Sharp­Brains’ most pop­u­lar blog posts since 2006. It may give you a few point­ers to sharp­en those New Years Res­o­lu­tions. Let’s sum­ma­rize some lifestyle guide­lines we can all fol­low to enhance and main­tain a sharp brain through life...

  1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beau­ty as a liv­ing and con­stant­ly-devel­op­ing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synaps­es.
  2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that the brain only weighs 2% of body mass but con­sumes over 20% of the oxy­gen and nutri­ents we intake? As a gen­er­al rule, you don’t need expen­sive ultra-sophis­ti­cat­ed nutri­tion­al sup­ple­ments, just make sure you don’t stuff your­self with the “bad stuff”.
  3. Remem­ber that the brain is part of the body. Things that exer­cise your body can also help sharp­en your brain: phys­i­cal exer­cise enhances neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis.
  4. Prac­tice pos­i­tive, future-ori­ent­ed thoughts until they become your default mind­set and you Read the rest of this entry »

AARP’s Best Brain Fitness Books

We are hon­ored to announce that AARP has includ­ed our very own book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (182 pages; $14.95) in its new List of Best Books on Brain Fit­ness, which will be unveiled dur­ing AARP’s upcom­ing Life@50 Nation­al Event. We hope this list will help many more indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions learn about our resource: giv­en that 80% of respon­dents to a recent AARP sur­vey select­ed “Stay­ing Men­tal­ly Sharp” as their top pri­or­i­ty, we cer­tain­ly know there is a sig­nif­i­cant need for qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion!

AARP’s Best Books Guide

Brain Fitness

The Dana Guide to Brain Health, by Floyd E. Bloom, M. Flint Beal, and David J. Kupfer (Dana Press, 2006).

The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp, by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Elkhonon Gold­berg. (Sharp­Brains Inc., 2009).

Save Your Brain: The 5 Things You Must Do To Keep Your Mind Young and Sharp
, by Paul Nuss­baum. (McGraw-Hill, 2010).

The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Sur­pris­ing Tal­ents of the Mid­dle-Aged Mind, by Bar­bara Strauch (Viking, 2010).

The Mem­o­ry Bible: An Inno­v­a­tive Strat­e­gy for Keep­ing Your Brain Young
, by Gary Small (Hype­r­i­on, 2003).


Also Rec­om­mend­ed:

The Mature Mind: The Pos­i­tive Pow­er of the Aging Brain, by Gene Cohen (Basic Books, 2006).

The Brain That Changes Itself, by Nor­man Doidge (Pen­guin, 2007).

Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary New Sci­ence of Exer­cise and the Brain, by John Ratey and Eric Hager­man (Lit­tle, Brown and Co., 2008).

Think Smart: A Neuroscientist’s Pre­scrip­tion for Improv­ing Your Brain’s Per­for­mance, by Richard Restak (River­head, 2010).

Com­piled by:
Office of Aca­d­e­m­ic Affairs, AARP

The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains — Time for Brain Fitness Resolutions?

Giv­en many of us are start­ing to pre­pare New Year Res­o­lu­tions, let’s revis­it one of Sharp­Brains’ most pop­u­lar-ever arti­cles that can help us all refine our Brain Fit­ness Res­o­lu­tions

The Ten Habits of High­ly Effec­tive Brains

  1. Learn what is the “It” in “Use It or Lose It”. A basic under­stand­ing will serve you well to appre­ci­ate your brain’s beau­ty as a liv­ing and con­stant­ly-devel­op­ing dense for­est with bil­lions of neu­rons and synaps­es.
  2. Take care of your nutri­tion. Did you know that Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Apple Tablet Support or Hinder Users Cognitive Fitness?

Rumor has it that Apple is going to announce a tablet com­put­er, which may well become a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new way for users to read and expe­ri­ence all kinds of edu­ca­tion­al con­tent.

Will it sup­port or hin­der our Cog­ni­tive  Fit­ness?

In this arti­cle, I describe the cri­te­riachecklist that a tablet com­put­er and its tech­no­log­i­cal ecosys­tem must meet in order for the solu­tion to make users more knowl­edge­able and smarter. To achieve these lofty goals, the tablet must be much more than an read­er. The offer­ing must be an inte­grat­ed learn­ing envi­ron­ment with which users trans­form the infor­ma­tion that they read, hear and view on the tablet into their own knowl­edge.

The key con­sid­er­a­tion in design­ing such a sys­tem is that pro­duc­tive read­ing is active read­ing. In oth­er words, learn­ing involves a lot of think­ing, writ­ing, draw­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Learn­ing involves antic­i­pat­ing what the author will say, set­ting learn­ing objec­tives, detect­ing knowl­edge gaps, writ­ing com­ments on the doc­u­ment, draw­ing dia­grams.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, today’s com­put­ers do not make this an easy task. Most browsers, for exam­ple, do not inher­ent­ly allow you to anno­tate text (e.g., to make a note of what is impor­tant or you don’t under­stand). Anno­tat­ing requires an add-on, and the anno­ta­tions are usu­al­ly just text or high­lights that are trapped in soft­ware; they can­not be linked to oth­er doc­u­ments, email or dia­grams.

In order to be a suc­cess­ful learn­ing envi­ron­ment, the Apple tablet must match the incum­bent (paper) and also address the cri­te­ria list­ed below.

Beat The Incum­bent Com­peti­tor — Paper

First, Apple must take into account the major strengths of a tablet’s main com­peti­tor: paper. Despite its many draw­backs com­pared to com­put­ers, paper cur­rent­ly has many advan­tages. Spencer (2006), for exam­ple, has found that her dis­tance edu­ca­tion stu­dents find paper to be more depend­able, flex­i­ble, and ergonom­ic. Spencer’s stu­dents pre­ferred to print com­plex arti­cles than to read them online.

Paper has a pre­dictable struc­ture and lay­out. It is easy to use and it has a def­i­nite start and end point. Most read­ers can very rapid­ly access any page of a book, use the table of con­tents, index to quick­ly nav­i­gate. Read­ers don’t have to wait for a page to load, they can turn it. Also, paper is less busy and less dis­tract­ing: it does not beep while you are con­cen­trat­ing.

More­over, users can write on their own paper to their heart’s con­tent.

These fea­tures present chal­lenges to read­ing and learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

Check­list for a Tablet Com­put­er to Make us Smarter

In this sec­tion I focus on some of the fea­tures that can make a tablet a use­ful learn­ing envi­ron­ment. This goes beyond hard­ware, and deals with cog­ni­tive soft­ware and ser­vices. Read the rest of this entry »

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