Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Is Intelligence Innate and Fixed?

iq test, intelligenceGiv­en the recent James Wat­son “race and IQ” con­tro­ver­sy, I took on to read Stephan Jay Gould’s clas­sic book The Mis­mea­sure of Man, in which he debunks IQ (and the under­ly­ing “g”) as mea­sure of defined, innate, “intel­li­gence”. Fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing overall, very tech­ni­cal in some areas.

The key take-away? In the last chap­ter, A Pos­i­tive Con­clu­sion, he writes that

- “Flex­i­bil­i­ty is the hall­mark of human evolution…In oth­er mam­mals, explo­ration, play and flex­i­bil­i­ty of behav­ior are qual­i­ties of juve­niles, only rarely of adults. We retain not only the anatom­i­cal stamp stamp of child­hood, but its men­tal flex­i­bil­i­ty as well…Humans are learn­ing ani­mals”

He then relates this sto­ry from T.H. White’s nov­el The Once and Future King

- God, he recounts, cre­at­ed all ani­mals as embryos and called each before his throne, offer­ing them what­ev­er addi­tions to their anato­my they desired. All opt­ed for spe­cial­ized adult fea­tures-the lion for claws and sharp teeth, the deer for antlers and hoofs. The human embryo stepped forth last and said: Please God, I think that you made me in the shape which I now have for rea­sons best known to Your­selves and that it would be rude to change. If I am to have my choice, I will stay as I am. I will not alter any of the parts which you gave me…I will stay a defence­less embryo all my life, doing my best to make myself a few fee­ble imple­ments out of the wood, iron, and the oth­er mate­ri­als which You have seen fit to put before me..” “Well done”, exclaimed the Cre­ator in delight­ed tone. “Here all you embryos, come here with 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 »

Brain Awareness Week

When is Brain Aware­ness Week?

March 12–18, 2007

What Will Happen

The Brain Aware­ness Week is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn more about how the brain func­tions and how to cul­ti­vate a healthy brain. The Dana Foun­da­tion and mul­ti­ple part­ners, such as Sharp­Brains, will lead out­reach events world­wide.

In the blog of the Dana Foun­da­tion we can read today that “To my knowl­edge, the brain is the only organ in the human body that is cel­e­brat­ed and hon­ored for an entire week. This year, 2,000 orga­ni­za­tions in 69 coun­tries will observe Brain Aware­ness Week with activ­i­ties, exhibits and com­pe­ti­tions, most from March 12 through 18.”

SharpBrains-Related Activities During Brain Awareness Week

Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning — Learning & The Brain Conference

Alvaro and I had the good for­tune to attend a great con­fer­ence last week called Learn­ing & The Brain: Enhanc­ing Cog­ni­tion and Emo­tions for Learn­ing. It was a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of neu­ro­sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors talk­ing with and lis­ten­ing to each oth­er. Some top­ics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought — insight on where sci­ence and edu­ca­tion are head­ed and how they influ­ence each oth­er.

Using dra­mat­ic new imag­ing tech­niques, such as fMRIs, PET, and SPECT, neu­ro­sci­en­tists are gain­ing valu­able infor­ma­tion about learn­ing. This pio­neer­ing knowl­edge is lead­ing not only to new ped­a­go­gies, but also to new med­ica­tions, brain enhance­ment tech­nolo­gies, and ther­a­pies.… The Con­fer­ence cre­ates an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary forum — a meet­ing place for neu­ro­sci­en­tists, edu­ca­tors, psy­chol­o­gists, clin­i­cians, and par­ents — to exam­ine these new research find­ings with respect to their applic­a­bil­i­ty in the class­room and clin­i­cal prac­tice.

Take-aways

  • Humans are a mix­ture of cog­ni­tion and emo­tion, and both ele­ments are essen­tial to func­tion and learn prop­er­ly
  • Edu­ca­tors and pub­lic pol­i­cy mak­ers need to learn more about the brain, how it grows, and how to cul­ti­vate it
  • Stu­dents of all ages need to be both chal­lenged and nur­tured in order to suc­ceed
  • Peo­ple learn dif­fer­ent­ly — try to teach and learn through as many dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties as pos­si­ble (engage lan­guage, motor skills, artis­tic cre­ation, social inter­ac­tion, sen­so­ry input, etc.)
  • While short-term stress can height­en your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, long term stress kills you — you need to find bal­ance and release
  • Test anx­i­ety and sub­se­quent poor test results can be improved with behav­ioral train­ing with feed­back based on heart rate vari­abil­i­ty
  • Dr. Robert Sapol­sky is a very very enlight­en­ing and fun speak­er
  • Allow time for rest and con­sol­i­da­tion of learned mate­r­i­al
  • Emo­tion­al mem­o­ries are eas­i­er to remem­ber
  • Con­fer­ences like these per­form a real ser­vice in fos­ter­ing dia­logues between sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors

Read the rest of this entry »

Dana Alliance’s Brain Awareness Week for Brain Health

The Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives is keep­ing up its great out­reach ini­tia­tives:

1- Check their blog with posts such as Resolve to be good to your brain, too. Tip: “Brain change takes time; allow your brain time to get used to new cir­cum­stance” (from the Dana Guide to Brain Health). 

You can read our The Dana Guide to Brain Health book review.

2- The Brain Aware­ness Week 2007, March 12–18th, with many activ­i­ties around the world to “advance pub­lic aware­ness about the progress and ben­e­fits of brain research. The Dana Alliance is joined in the cam­paign by part­ners in the Unit­ed States and around the world, includ­ing med­ical and research orga­ni­za­tions; patient advo­ca­cy groups; the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, and oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies; ser­vice groups; hos­pi­tals and uni­ver­si­ties; K-12 schools; and pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions.”

Learn how you can participate! 

 

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.