Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Our culture seems obsessed with violent sports…Don’t mess with a brain!”

Ques­tion by Janet:
Giv­en the grow­ing con­cern about sports-relat­ed con­cus­sions, what do you think schools should be doing? abol­ish or severe­ly reduce var­si­ty teams? spon­sor only “safe” sports? Is there research on how con­cus­sions may inter­fere with learn­ing and aca­d­e­m­ic results?


Answer by Dr. Robert Syl­west­er:
I don’t know how to respond respon­si­bly to your ques­tion, except that I share what I think are your con­cerns. Our cul­ture seems obsessed with vio­lent sports (and per­haps mak­ing sports that aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly vio­lent into becom­ing vio­lent). To be frank, as much as I enjoy watch­ing sports, I’m pleased that none of our grand­chil­dren have got­ten into any of the more vio­lent school-lev­el sports.

I expect that changes will occur, and they’e over­due. Don’t mess with a brain!

> Read full tran­script of Q&A with Prof. Syl­west­er
> Read full Q&A series
> Read The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness

Brain Training News Digest

Here is a news digest on brain train­ing to start your stim­u­lat­ing New Year:

Brain train­ing games: Do they work? This piece explores the world of com­put­er­ized brain train­ing soft­ware: Who uses them? Are they worth the expense? You can also check out Sharp­brains Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion check­list to learn about the 10 ques­tions to ask when choos­ing a brain fit­ness pro­gram.

Pro­tect your brain: The new issue for ath­letes. Learn more about ImPACT (Imme­di­ate Post-Con­cus­sion Assess­ment and Cog­ni­tive Test­ing), the com­put­er­ized clin­i­cal report which is quick­ly becom­ing the norm for high schools and col­leges Read the rest of this entry »

Football: Even “minor” hits can cause brain damage

Today the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Neu­rol­o­gy (AAN) “is call­ing for any ath­lete who is sus­pect­ed of hav­ing a con­cus­sion to be removed from play until the ath­lete is eval­u­at­ed by a physi­cian with train­ing in the eval­u­a­tion and man­age­ment of sports con­cus­sion.”

At the same time, an arti­cle in Sports Illus­trat­ed reports a new study in which Pur­due researchers put sen­sors (accelerom­e­ters) in the hel­mets of 23 seniors from Jef­fer­son High in Lafayette, Ind. Results are sur­pris­ing and con­cern­ing: Hits that do not even lead to con­cus­sions can have a much big­ger impact on the brain than we thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Head Games and neuropsychological assessments

You may have seen this insigh­ful OpEd last Fri­day in the New York Times, by clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Ger­ald Tra­mon­tano:

Head Games

- “CHILDREN aged 5 to 18 suf­fer at least 96,000 sports-relat­ed con­cus­sions every year in the Unit­ed States, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion esti­mates. Even more trou­bling, as many as 20 per­cent of all high school foot­ball play­ers sus­tain con­cus­sions annu­al­ly, stud­ies show.”

- “The only way to know for sure whether a con­cus­sion vic­tim’s brain has returned to nor­mal is to com­pare the results of neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests con­duct­ed before and after the injury. That requires prepar­ing ath­letes for the sea­son by putting them through base­line test­ing.”

Com­ment: Great OpEd, rais­ing aware­ness of a prob­lem with grow­ing impor­tance — not only in terms of sports con­cus­sions, but also car acci­dents, strokes, and a vari­ety of life-events that may pro­voke brain dam­age — and intro­duc­ing read­ers to the need for cog­ni­tive base­lines for spe­cif­ic indi­vid­u­als.

Now, we will prob­a­bly need to go fur­ther than the author of the OpEd sug­gests. There are sim­ply not enough neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists in the whole plan­et to test one-per­son at a time for 4‑hours each, and the cost of try­ing so would be astro­nom­i­cal.

The more real­is­tic route is to com­bine a) ful­ly-auto­mat­ed com­put­er-based assess­ments as a base­line, b) the involve­ment of a neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist when need­ed, prob­a­bly both to super­vise the whole assess­ment pro­gram for a sports team, for exam­ple, and then to super­vise the post-dam­age reha­bil­i­ta­tion process.

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