Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Information Overload? Seven Learning and Productivity Tips

We often talk in this blog about how to expand fundamental abilities or cognitive functions, like attention, or memory, or emotional self-regulation. Think of them as muscles one can train. Now, it is also important to think of ways one can use our existing muscles more efficiently.

Let’s talk about how to manage better the overwhelming amount of information available these days.

Hundreds of thousands of new books, analyst reports, scientific papers published every year. Millions of websites at our googletips. The flow of data, information and knowledge is growing exponentially, stretching the capacity of our not-so-evolved brains. We can complain all day that we cannot process ALL this flow. Now, let me ask, should we even try?

Probably not. Why engage in a losing proposition. Instead, let me offer a few strategies that can help manage this flow of information better.

1. Prioritize: strategic consulting firms such as McKinsey and BCG train their staff in the so-called 80/20 rule: 80% of effects are caused by the top 20% of causes. In a company, 80% sales may come from 20% of the accounts. Implication: focus on that top 20%; don’t spend too much time on the 80% that only account for 20%.

2. Leverage a scientific mindset. Scientists shift through tons of data in efficient, goal-oriented ways. How do they do it? By first stating a hypothesis and then looking for data. For example, an untrained person could spend weeks “boiling the ocean”, trying to read as much as possible, in a very fragmentary way, about how physical exercise affects our brain. A trained scientist would first define clear hypotheses and preliminary assumptions, such as “Physical exercise can enhance the brain’s ability to generate new neurons” or “Those new neurons appear in the hippocampus”, and then look specifically for data that corroborates or refutes those sentences, enabling him or her to refine the hypotheses further, based on accumulated knowledge, in a virtuous learning cycle.

3. Beat your enemies-like excessive TV watching. Watching TV five hours a day has an effect on your brain: it trains one’s brain to become a visual, usually unreflective, passive recipient of information. You may have heard the expression “Cells that fire together wire together”. Our brains are composed of billions of neurons, each of which can have thousand of connections to other neurons. Any thing we do in life is going to activate a specific networks of neurons. Visualize a million neurons firing at the same time when you watch a TV program. Now, the more TV you watch, the more those neurons will fire together, and therefore the more they will wire together (meaning that the connections between them become, physically, stronger), which then creates automatic-like reactions. A heavy TV-watcher is making himself or herself more passive, unreflective, person. Exactly the opposite of what one needs to apply the other tips described here. Continue Reading

On The Brain

neuronsVery intense week, and very fun. I will be writing more about this week’s 3 speaking events, but let me say now that our key messages

1) our brains remain flexible during our lifetimes,

2) we can refine our brains with targeted practice,

3) good brain exercise, or “mental cross-training”, requires novelty, variety, and increasing level of challenge (but without creating too much stress),

are being very well accepted from both healthy aging and workplace productivity points of view. We have ONE brain: health and productivity are 2 sides of the same coin.

If you want to make sure we learn more about our brains, you can help fellow blogger Shelley Batts get a college scholarship by voting here. She has a great neuroscience blog, is now finalist in a competition to win a nice scholarship, and needs out help.

Have some more time? You can watch this excellent 90-second video of cognitive neuroscientist Dr Lisa Saksida doing yoga in front of the fire while explaining the nature of Brain and Mind (via MindHacks). Quotes:

“I wish people understood that there is no mind/brain duality. Specifically, I wish people understood that there is no such thing as a purely psychological disorder. Every event in your psychological life, and therefore every psychological change, is reducible in theory to events and changes in your brain. We should therefore not judge people differently, according to whether they are considered to have a ‘psychological’ as opposed to a ‘neurological’ problem.”

“Of course, a lack of mind/brain split does not mean that we should abandon all talk of psychology. Psychology and neuroscience are two ways of studying the same thing, and both are essential for understanding the human condition.”

For more, check the posts in these always great blog carnivals (selected collections of blog posts by a number of bloggers around specific topics)

Tangled Bank (science in general)

Encephalon (neuroscience)

Credit: Photo of Neurons by symphanee via flickr

Brain Exercise and Fitness: September Monthly Digest

Crossword PuzzleFollowing our July and August editions, here you have our Monthly Digest of the Most Popular Blog Posts. Today, October 2nd, we will list the most popular September posts. You can consider it your monthly Brain Exercise Magazine.

(Also, remember that you can subscribe to receive our RSS feed, check our Topics section, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter at the top of this page).

Market News

Education, Training, Health events: some events I will blog about/ speak at over the next 2-weeks.

Brain Fitness and in the Press: including a great Washington Post article.

Brains Way Smarter Than Ours (and yours, probably): roundup of relevant news, including some Awards.

News you can use

10 (Surprising) Memory Improvement Tips: on the relationship between stress and memory.

Judith Beck: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person: a cognitive therapy pioneer tells us about the latest application of brain training: diets.

Brain Wellness: Train Your Brain to Be Happier: our essay to participate in LifeTwo’s Happiness week.


11 Neuroscientists Debunk a Common Myth about Brain Training: summary of our 11 original interviews with leading neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists.

Neuroplasticity 101 and Brain Health Glossary: no one is born knowing it all…check this summary of concepts and keywords that can help navigate through the brain fitness field.

Working Memory: an image that says much: bad and good news.

Best of the Brain from Scientific American: review of this great book.

An online application system is now open for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships.

Corporate Training & Leadership

Carnival of the capitalists with a brain: we hosted this business blog carnival with a brain spice.

Executive Functions and Google/ Microsoft Brain Teasers: examples of what our executive functions are.

Software Product News

MindFit by CogniFit, and Baroness Susan Greenfield: a brain fitness program starting to get traction in Europe.

Penn Treaty First To Offer Brain Fitness Program: today’s press release on another brain training software (Posit Science)’s deal with an insurance provider.

Visualization Software of IBM for the Future of Medicine: Interview: “It’s like Google Earth for the body”. Hopefully it will include the brain.

Brain Teasers

Brain Teasers with a Neuroscience angle: enjoy.

SharpBrains Announcements

Services: we will formally announce soon how we “help companies, health providers, investors, and policymakers understand and profit from the emerging brain fitness field.” But now you know.

Speaking: if your organization needs a good speaker and brain fitness expert, please contact us.

Finally, we are starting to look for qualified guest bloggers to add their perspective. If you are interested, please contact us and let us know about what you would like to write about, and include a brief bio or links to samples. Thank you.

MindFit by CogniFit, and Baroness Susan Greenfield

We are glad to see that MindFit is finally making it into the popular press, at least in the UK. The program is making big news in the UK (BBC, Times, Daily Telegragh, Guardian…) because Baroness Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution and a well-respected neuroscientist, is endorsing it. We evaluated it last year andTwo In One Task liked what we saw, based on our 10-Question Checklist. Now, remember that no program is “best”, but that different programs can be more appropriate for specific people and specific goals, so read the checklist first and take a lot at other programs too if you are in the market for “brain training”.

MindFit is a software-based assessment and training program for 14 cognitive skills important for healthy aging. We typically recommend it for people over 50 (up to any age, you simply need to know how to use a computer and a mouse) who want a novel and varied mental workout.

The program has Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Exercise & Fitness Articles and Custom Content

Over the months we have received many requests for good articles that could be reused in a variety of places, from a hospital newsletter to a corporate wellness e-newsletter and a number of websites. We want to reach as many people as possible, so tomorrow we are launching a free Content “Brain Feed”, and also custom content services.

In short, we are going to offer a weekly article in the new SharpBrains free content feed. This feed is designed to help website and newsletter publishers disseminate good information on brain exercise and fitness. 20 articles are available immediately (check them in our Articles section), building on the content we have written in this blog.

And, if an organization wants good content on brain health/ training/ fitness to distribute internally or externally, we can help.

On a related note, we just joined the BlogBurst network to offer our blog content to a variety of newspapers. Let’s see how these initiatives work!

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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 and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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