Training the brain is possible because of neuroplasticity. Our daily experiences can trigger neuroplastic changes in the brain, such as the growth of new brain cells (neurons) and new connections (synapses) between neurons. Plasticity is observed at all ages but is at its peak during brain development, as a baby and then a child learns basic knowledge and skills necessary to survive. We should thus expect that the brain of a baby could be easily trained. This is what Wass and his colleagues recently demonstrated in a new study with 11-month-old babies. [Read more…] about Brain Training for Babies: Hope, Hype, Both?
What stresses you out ?
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.
One of the many Sharp Brains around, who is up to date of everything related to brain health and fitness (yes, Jeanne, that’s you! thanks for being such a great bureau chief!) has sent us a very interesting press note on how brain fitness and training can be applied in the sports performance world. I haven’t been able to track down the research behind the specific programs mentioned in the article, but the theoretical rationale makes sense based on similar programs we are familiar with: you can see below a summary of our interview with Prof. Daniel Gopher, scientific mind behind computer-based cognitive simulations for military pilots and for basketball players.
The note Sports Vision Training Takes Athletes to New Frontiers explains how
- “Specialty sports vision facilities are helping athletes train skills that many believed were “untrainable”; skills like anticipation, field vision, timing, sport intelligence, game tempo, reaction speed, focus and concentration.”
- “What has everyone all worked up is the knowledge that they can actually train athletic skills that many believed were “untrainable.” We’re talking about intangibles like anticipation, field vision, timing, sport intelligence, game tempo, reaction speed, focus and concentration. “One of the worst mistakes an athlete can make is to believe that you’re either born with or without these kinds of skills, and that they’re consequently not trainable, says Brian Stammer, editor of SportsVision Magazine. “If you want to be the best athlete you can be, you must do exercises to condition and sharpen your sensory system, including visual, auditory and brain-processing speed.
- This is the link to the magazine they mention: SportsVision Magazine
And here is the summary of my (AF) interview with Prof. Daniel Gopher (DG) on Cognitive Simulations and cognitive training:
- “AF: …Can you summarize your research findings across all these examples and fields, and how you see the field evolving?
- DG: In short, I’d summarize by saying that
- - Cognitive performance can be substantially improved with proper training. [Read more…] about The new Mental Game: sport psychology, coaches, get ready!