Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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.

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 »

Cognitive training research: MindFit, Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed

The field of computer-based cognitive training (part of what we call “Brain Fitness”) is starting to get traction in the media and becoming an emerging industry, and we are happy to see how a growing number of researchers and science-based companies are leading studies that will allow to better measure results and refine the brain exercise software available.

Published new research

  • Computerized working memory training after stroke-A pilot study. A published study on how Cogmed working memory training may help stroke patients. See the reference at Cogmed Research page (and full article here)
  • The Journals of Gerontology published a series of related papers in their June issue, including this by Karlene Ball, Jerri D. Edwards, and Lesley A. Ross on The Impact of Speed of Processing Training on Cognitive and Everyday Functions, J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2007 62: 19-31.  Abstract: “We combined data from six studies, all using the same speed of processing training program, to examine the mechanisms of training gain and the impact of training on cognitive and everyday abilities of older adults. Results indicated that training produces immediate improvements across all subtests of the Useful Field of View test, particularly for older adults with initial speed of processing deficits. Age and education had little to no impact on training gain. Participants maintained benefits of training for at least 2 years, which translated to improvements in everyday abilities, including efficient performance of instrumental activities of daily living and safer driving performance.”

Ongoing/ starting research

Brain Exercise and Brain Fitness July Monthly Digest

We often are told that we offer too much content for you to read given various time pressures… but it is tough for us to write less given the wealth of areas we cover around cognitive and emotional training.

To make your life easier (and please feel free to give us feedback!), what we will do is to offer a Monthly Digest of Most Popular Blog Posts. Today, August 1st, we will list the most popular July posts. 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).

News you can use

Trading performance psychology and self-talk

Stress Management for Lawyers

Mental Training for Gratitude and Altruism

Brain Fitness/ Training Market News

MarketWatch on Beating forgetfulness and boosting the brain

Nintendo BrainAge, Lumosity, Happy Neuron, MyBrainTrainer…

Brain Health through Serious Games and Brain Exercise

Brain Fitness Workshops

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Brain Fitness class at UC Berkeley

Healthy Aging

Interview with Neuroscientist Yaakov Stern: Build Your Cognitive Reserve

Judson Laipply’s Dancing Brain

Jack and Elaine LaLanne and Brain Health

Exercise Your Brain! Enjoy Learning!

Attention Deficits

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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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