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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Relaxing for your Brain’s Sake

What stress­es you out ?Meditation School Students

What­ev­er it is, how you respond to it may have more con­se­quences than you think. Let me show you how.

Recap­ping from last months arti­cle (see Stress and Neur­al Wreck­age: Part of the Brain Plas­tic­i­ty Puz­zle)…our bod­ies are a com­plex bal­anc­ing act between sys­tems work­ing full time to keep us alive and well. Any change which threat­ens this bal­ance can be referred to as stress. Cor­ti­sol, a key com­po­nent of the stress response, does an excel­lent job of allow­ing us to adapt to most stres­sors which last more than a cou­ple of min­utes. How­ev­er, hav­ing to endure a high stres­sor for longer than about 30 min­utes to an hour neg­a­tive­ly impacts the brain in var­i­ous ways.

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Cognitive Fitness as a New Frontier of Fitness

emWave for Stress ManagementVery good arti­cle in the LA Times today. Like a Stair­Mas­ter for the brain: Can men­tal work­outs improve the mind’s agili­ty? Baby boomer con­cerns stim­u­late an indus­try expan­sion.

The reporter, Melis­sa Healy, reviews the healthy aging seg­ment in the Brain Fit­ness field. A few select­ed quotes:

- “There is plau­si­bil­i­ty, both bio­log­i­cal and behav­ioral, to the claim that these may work,” says Mol­ly Wag­ster, chief of the Nation­al Insti­tute on Aging’s neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy branch. “But it is still a sit­u­a­tion of ‘buy­er beware.’ ”

- “I see this as a new fron­tier of fit­ness over­all,” says Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, founder and chief exec­u­tive of the web­site Sharp­Brains .com, which tracks the busi­ness and sci­ence of brain-train­ing. Amer­i­cans already under­stand the val­ue of phys­i­cal fit­ness as a means of pre­serv­ing the body’s prop­er func­tion and pre­vent­ing age-relat­ed dis­eases, says Fer­nan­dez. He pre­dicts that cog­ni­tive fit­ness will become a goal to which Amer­i­cans equal­ly aspire as we learn more about aging and the brain.
— (Dr. Elkhonon) Gold­berg, who pro­vides sci­en­tif­ic advice on the web­site http://www.sharpbrains.com/, says that as neu­ro­sci­en­tists use imag­ing tech­nolo­gies to “see” the cel­lu­lar changes that come with learn­ing, he grows more con­fi­dent that well-designed train­ing pro­grams can have dis­cernible every­day effects in pre­serv­ing or repair­ing the intel­lec­tu­al func­tion of old­er adults. “This is shared hard­ware” that’s being changed in the brain, “and to the extent you some­how enhance it, that will have wide-rang­ing effects,” Gold­berg says. “It pro­vides a much more com­pelling raison­tre for this whole busi­ness.”

The arti­cle adds that “Amer­i­cans this year are expect­ed to invest $225 mil­lion in these pro­grams — up from just $70 mil­lion in 2003 — in an effort to tune up the brain, strength­en the mem­o­ry and fore­stall or reverse the cog­ni­tive slip­page that often comes with age, psy­chi­atric dis­ease, stroke or med­ical treat­ments.”

Our break­down for those 2007 US pre­dic­tions are as fol­lows: $80m for the Con­sumer seg­ment, $60m in K12 Edu­ca­tion, $50m in Clin­i­cal appli­ca­tions, and $35m in the Cor­po­rate seg­ment. The Con­sumer seg­ment, with a healthy aging val­ue propo­si­tion, is the most recent one but the most rapid­ly grow­ing.

Read the full arti­cle: Like a Stair­Mas­ter for the brain.

PS: the arti­cle also says “In the last three years, these brain­pow­er-boost­ing pro­grams have pro­lif­er­at­ed, with names like Mind­Fit, Hap­py Neu­ron, Brain Fit­ness and Lumos­i­ty.”.. if there are reporters read­ing this, please avoid future con­fu­sion by nam­ing Posit Science’s pro­gram “Posit Sci­ence Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram 2.0”. Brain Fit­ness refers to the full cat­e­go­ry.

Alzheimer’s Disease: too serious to play with headlines

Featured Website, Scientific American Mind, June/July 2007

We just came across an arti­cle titled Best Com­put­er Brain Games for Senior Cit­i­zens to Delay Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. The head­line makes lit­tle sci­en­tif­ic sense-and we observe this con­fu­sion often. The arti­cle men­tions a few pro­grams we have dis­cussed often in this blog, such as Posit Sci­ence and Mind­Fit, and oth­ers we haven’t because we haven’t found any pub­lished sci­ence behind, such as Dakim and MyBrain­Train­er. And there are more pro­grams: what about Hap­py Neu­ron, Lumos­i­ty, Spry Learn­ing and Captain’s Log. Not to talk about Nin­ten­do Brain Age, of course.

Some of those pro­grams have real sci­ence that, at best, shows how some spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills (like mem­o­ry, or atten­tion, or pro­cess­ing) can be trained and improved-no mat­ter the age. This is a very impor­tant mes­sage that hasn’t yet per­co­lat­ed through many brains out there: we know today that com­put­er-based soft­ware pro­grams can be very use­ful to train some cog­ni­tive skills, bet­ter than alter­na­tive meth­ods (paper and pen­cil, class­room-based, just “dai­ly liv­ing”).

Now, no sin­gle pro­gram can make ANY claim that it specif­i­cal­ly delays/ pre­vents Alzheimer’s Dis­ease beyond gen­er­al state­ments such as that Learn­ing Slows Phys­i­cal Pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease (hence the imper­a­tive for life­long learn­ing) and that men­tal stim­u­la­tion-togeth­er with oth­er lifestyle fac­tors such as nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise and stress man­age­ment, as out­lined in these Steps to Improve Your Brain Health- may con­tribute to build a Cog­ni­tive Reserve that may reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of prob­lems. Pro­grams may be able to Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

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