Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Virtual Reality Games Help Stroke Patients Recover Motor Functions

A new study sug­gests that vir­tu­al real­i­ty and oth­er video games involv­ing motion can enhance motor improve­ment after a stroke. The improve­ment seems to be greater than the one observed with tra­di­tion­al ther­a­py.

This result is quite promis­ing since 55 to 75% of stroke sur­vivors expe­ri­ence motor prob­lem in their arms.

The study was a meta-analy­sis that looked at 12 pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished stud­ies, for a total of 195 patients. Most were obser­va­tion­al stud­ies in which the patients used a vari­ety of vir­tu­al (e.g., Wii) and non-vir­tu­al  (e.g., Glasstron) games dur­ing ther­a­py. In the 5 ran­dom­ized stud­ies, a group of patients was assigned to stan­dard ther­a­py and anoth­er to vir­tu­al real­i­ty ther­a­py. Patients in vir­tu­al real­i­ty ther­a­py had 4.89 times high­er chance of improve­ment in motor strength com­pared to patients in stan­dard ther­a­py.

Why would vir­tu­al real­i­ty ther­a­py be more effi­cient?

It seems that vir­tu­al real­i­ty ther­a­py stim­u­lates neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty more than stan­dard ther­a­py. Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Memory and Enhance Post-Stroke Rehab with Exercise

A cou­ple of recent stud­ies have rein­forced the life­long poten­tial for brain plas­tic­i­ty (the Brain Health Newsabil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence) and the impor­tance of phys­i­cal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive vital­i­ty. One study focused on 1) adults over 50 with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment, the oth­er one on 2) stroke sur­vivors.

1)  Mem­o­ry prob­lems: Adults 50-years-old and over with mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (an advanced form of mem­o­ry prob­lems, but pre-demen­tia) were asked to exer­cise for three 50-minute ses­sions per week for 24 weeks (a total of 60 hours). Results: there were small, but mea­sur­able, cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits even 18 months after Read the rest of this entry »

Physical and Mental Exercise: Why Pitch One Against the other?

Read­er There­sa Cerul­li just for­ward­ed this Let­ter to the Edi­tor that she had sent to the New York Times and went unpub­lished. The let­ter address­es the OpEd men­tioned here (pitch­ing phys­i­cal vs. men­tal exer­cise), and refers to the Cogmed work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing pro­gram, whose results have been stud­ied in mul­ti­ple papers pub­lished in top med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals.


Dear Edi­tor:

I applaud San­dra Aamodt and Sam Wang for throw­ing some cold water on the cur­rent brain fit­ness craze in their recent New York Times Mag­a­zine Opin­ion Edi­to­r­i­al “Exer­cise on the Brain.”  They are cor­rect in label­ing the host of “men­tal fit­ness” prod­ucts that tar­get aging baby boomers as “inspired by sci­ence ”  not to be con­fused with actu­al­ly proven by sci­ence. For the last 30 years, terms like “brain plas­tic­i­ty” have been wide­ly and casu­al­ly used, cre­at­ing hype that risks drown­ing out the real break­throughs that brain researchers are mak­ing in this area.

How­ev­er, I would like to dis­tin­guish the “men­tal fit­ness” trend that Aamodt and Wang right­ly crit­i­cize from actu­al researched-based cog­ni­tive train­ing such as the Cogmed pro­gram devel­oped in Swe­den. Unlike “men­tal fit­ness” pro­grams, cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams focus very nar­row­ly on spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tions that research has shown to be plas­tic. This is in stark con­trast to com­pil­ing a smat­ter­ing of exer­cis­es or activ­i­ties that are gen­er­al­ly thought to be Read the rest of this entry »

Best practice for top trading performance: biofeedback (EmWave personal stress reliever)

Brett N. Steen­barg­er , Ph.D. Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences at SUNY Upstate Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty, active trad­er for over 30 years, for­mer Direc­tor of Trad­er Devel­op­ment for Kingstree Trad­ing, LLC, author of The Psy­chol­o­gy of Trad­ing and the new Enhanc­ing Trad­er Per­for­mance, and of the blog Trader­Feed: Exploit­ing the edge from his­tor­i­cal mar­ket pat­terns, is writ­ing a great col­lec­tion of best prac­tices for traders (many of which are very rel­e­vant for all high-pres­sure occu­pa­tions).

He wrote a great arti­cle a few weeks ago on the val­ue of biofeed­back in achiev­ing self con­trol, and now deep­ens the dis­cus­sion with this best prac­tice for traders.

Both arti­cles are a fun read-here go some quotes from the most recent one

  • This best prac­tice describes biofeed­back as a tool for per­for­mance enhance­ment among traders. It empha­sizes that the role of biofeed­back is to keep us in touch with our (implic­it) knowl­edge, not to elim­i­nate emo­tion from the deci­sion-mak­ing process.”
  • we want to con­trol the lev­el of cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal arousal so that we retain access to exper­tise that is already present. Biofeed­back is a pow­er­ful tool for achiev­ing such cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal con­trol.”
  • Through struc­tured prac­tice, peo­ple can learn to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly improve their abil­i­ty to enter and remain in states of calm focus. Such abil­i­ty is impor­tant to trad­ing (and many oth­er per­for­mance activ­i­ties), not because it elim­i­nates emo­tion, but because it pre­serves our access to the somat­ic mark­ers that rep­re­sent our mar­ket feel. The heart rate vari­abil­i­ty feed­back is par­tic­u­lar­ly user friend­ly, because it is com­put­er based and can track progress both in prac­tice ses­sions and in real time per­for­mance.”
  • Using the Freeze-Framer pro­gram, audi­ble sig­nals tell the user when he or she is expe­ri­enc­ing high, medi­um, or low “coher­ence”, which is a mea­sure of emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion. On-screen games require the user to keep a float­ing bal­loon in the air, for instance, based upon sus­tained medi­um and high read­ings. I recent­ly had an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence dur­ing one feed­back ses­sion: I sus­tained a high lev­el of the bal­loon, but then clicked a wrong but­ton on the screen and erased my data acci­den­tal­ly! After that frus­tra­tion, it was *much* hard­er for me to keep the bal­loon in the air. It was a nice illus­tra­tion of the impact of frus­tra­tion even sev­er­al min­utes after an event.”

You can learn more about this best prac­tice for Traders and oth­er high-pres­sure occu­pa­tions where learn­ing how to iden­ti­fy and man­age our emo­tions and lev­els of stress is crit­i­cal for per­for­mance.

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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