Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Bi-Weekly Update: Preventing Memory Loss and Public Policy

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Brain Fitness News and Events

Upcoming Events: I will be speaking at five Health, Education and Gaming events over the next couple of months to introduce findings from our recent market report. Please introduce yourself if you attend any of these events.

Preventing Memory Loss-Special Issue: Congressional Quarterly Researcher, one of the main publications on Capitol Hill, published an impressive 24-page special issue titled Preventing Memory Loss. Highly recommended if you want to be on top of the latest research trends and their policy implications.

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Memory Improvement Techniques and Brain Exercises

Fitness TrainerA reader (thanks Mike!) sends us this fun article, titled A matter of training, on how to train our memory. Some quotes:

“It’s a skill, not a talent. It’s something anyone could have picked up … I’m not born with this. It’s about training and technique, he says, explaining his unusual ability. Anant holds the Limca Record  the Indian equivalent of the Guinness Record œ for memorising 75 telephone numbers, along with the names of their owners, in less than an hour. He is recognised as “the man with the most phenomenal memory in India.

“Unfortunately, most people think that memorising is very difficult. The moment they see someone demonstrate something like this, they think it’s out of this world.

If you want to remember something, you have to link it to something you already know. Association is the natural principal. For example, if you need directions to a place, a landmark is often used as a point of reference. And if you derive pleasure from something you do, there’s a good chance you’ll remember it. Since the brain already works in this manner, why don’t we take control of it?

“To me, an intelligent person is someone who is able to put together more of his skills to solve a problem. Intelligence is about using strategies.

The key concept here is that memory, as well as other cognitive skills, can be trained through Read the rest of this entry »

Best of the Brain from Scientific American

Best of Brain, Scientific American

The Dana Foundation kindly sent us a copy of the great book Best of the Brain from Scientific American, a collection of 21 superb articles published previously in Scientific American magazine. A very nicely edited and illustrated book, this is a must for anyone who enjoys learning about the brain and speculating about what the future will bring us.

Some essays, like the ones by Eric Kandel (The New Science of Mind), Fred Gage (Brain, Repair Yourself), Carl Zimmer (The Neurobiology of the Self) and that by Steven Hollon, Michael Thase and John Markowitz (Treating Depression: Pills or Talk), are both intellectual feasts and very relevant to brain fitness. And finally starting to percolate into mainstream consciousness.

Let me quote some quotes and reflections as I was reading the book a couple of days ago, in the courtyard of a beautiful French cafe in Berkeley:

1) On Brain Plasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself), Fred Gage says: “Within the past 5 years, however, neuroscientists have discovered that the brain does indeed change throughout life-…The new cells and connections that we and others have documented may provide the extra capacity the brain requires for the variety of challenges that individuals face throughout life. Such plasticity offers a possible mechanism through which the brain might be induced to repair itself after injury or disease. It might even open the prospect of enhancing an already healthy brain’s power to think and ability to feel”

2)  and How Experience affects Brain Structure: Under the section title “A Brain Workout”, Fred Gage says “One of the mot striking aspects of neurogenesis (Note: the creation of new neurons) is that experience can regulate the rate of cell division, the survival of newborn neurons and their ability to integrate into the existing neural circuits…The best way to augment brain function might not involve drugs or cell implants but lifestyle changes.”

3) Biology of Mind: Eric Kandel provides a wonderful overview of the most 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 »

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