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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Education builds Cognitive Reserve for Alzheimers Disease Protection

Giv­en the grow­ing media cov­er­age men­tion­ing the terms Cog­ni­tive Reserve and Brain Reserve, you may be ask­ing your­self, “What exact­ly is my Cog­ni­tive (or Brain) Reserve?”

The cog­ni­tive reserve hypoth­e­sis, test­ed in mul­ti­ple stud­ies, states that indi­vid­u­als with more cog­ni­tive reserve can expe­ri­ence more Alzheimer’s dis­ease pathol­o­gy in the brain (more plaques and tan­gles) with­out devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease symp­toms.

How does that work? Sci­en­tists are not sure but two pos­si­bil­i­ties are con­sid­ered.
1. One is that more cog­ni­tive reserve means more brain reserve, that is more neu­rons and con­nec­tions (synaps­es) between neu­rons. Indi­vid­u­als with more synaps­es would then have more synaps­es to lose before the crit­i­cal thresh­old for Alzheimer’s Dis­ease is reached.
2. Anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty is that more cog­ni­tive reserve means more com­pen­sato­ry process­es. The brain of indi­vid­u­als with more cog­ni­tive reserve would use more alter­na­tive net­works to com­pen­sate for the dam­ages caused by the pathol­o­gy in pre­vi­ous­ly used net­works.

In a new­ly pub­lished study, Roe and col­leagues brain fitness event from Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Louis, used the num­ber of years of edu­ca­tion as a mea­sure of cog­ni­tive reserve. Why years of edu­ca­tion? Because pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that peo­ple who have more edu­ca­tion also exhib­it a greater resis­tance to Alzheimer’s symp­toms, even while patho­log­i­cal changes are occur­ring in the brain (see Ben­nett el al., 2003 or Roe, Xiong, et al., 2008).

Roe and her col­leagues stud­ied 198 indi­vid­u­als whose mean age was 67. Out of these 198 indi­vid­u­als, 161 were non­de­ment­ed and 37 were diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s Dis­ease.

All the par­tic­i­pants in the study took a Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Art Kramer on Why We Need Walking Book Clubs to Enhance Cognitive Fitness and Brain Health

Art KramerDr. Arthur Kramer is a Pro­fes­sor in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy, the Cam­pus Neu­ro­science Pro­gram, the Beck­man Insti­tute, and the Direc­tor of the Bio­med­ical Imag­ing Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois.

I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by try­ing to clar­i­fy some exist­ing mis­con­cep­tions and con­tro­ver­sies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (ref­er­enced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you sug­gest to a per­son who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symp­toms and improve over­all brain health?

First, Be Active. Do phys­i­cal exer­cise. Aer­o­bic exer­cise, 30 to 60 min­utes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments. And you don’t need to do some­thing stren­u­ous: even walk­ing has shown that effect. There are many open ques­tions in terms of spe­cif­ic types of exer­cise, dura­tion, mag­ni­tude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neu­ro­science arti­cle, there is lit­tle doubt that lead­ing a seden­tary life is bad for our cog­ni­tive health. Car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise seems to have a pos­i­tive effect.

Sec­ond, Main­tain Life­long Intel­lec­tu­al Engage­ment. There is abun­dant prospec­tive obser­va­tion­al research show­ing that doing more men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties reduces the risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms.

Let me add, giv­en all media hype, that no “brain game” in par­tic­u­lar has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the main­te­nance of cog­ni­tion across extend­ed peri­ods of time. It is too ear­ly for that-and con­sumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some com­pa­nies are being more sci­ence-based than oth­ers but, in my view, the con­sumer-ori­ent­ed field is grow­ing faster than the research is.

Ide­al­ly, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more inte­grat­ed and inter­est­ing activ­i­ties are, the more like­ly we will do them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Your Trading Brain: Expert or Novice

We had the for­tune to inter­view Dr. Brett Steen­barg­er on Enhanc­ing Trad­er Per­for­mance and The Psy­chol­o­gy of Trad­ing as we launched our Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series.

Below, Expert Con­trib­u­tor Dr. Jan­ice Dorn pro­vides an in-depth brain-based dis­cus­sion of the top­ic, con­clud­ing that “The brain is the most pow­er­ful struc­ture in the known uni­verse and the only trad­ing tool that the trad­er needs to become an expert.”

No mat­ter whether you are a Pro or Ama­teur Trader…this will cer­tain­ly exer­cise your brain! (Dr. Dorn is prepar­ing more arti­cles on trad­ing per­for­mance and the brain…so stay tuned).

This is Your Brain On Trad­ing

– By Dr. Jan­ice Dorn

The open­ing bell sounds, and six­ty mil­lion traders enter the great­est are­na in the world to do bat­tle with each oth­er. They put their mon­ey, beliefs and skills on the line as they make deci­sions to buy and sell. Wel­come to the finan­cial mar­kets where bil­lions of dol­lars are won and lost every day. Volatil­i­ty com­pels all to engage their brains in the con­tin­u­ous process of deci­sion mak­ing. What sep­a­rates the win­ning from los­ing traders is the way they use their most pow­er­ful trad­ing tool—the human brain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Neuroplasticity through Mind Hygiene

Stephanie West Allen, our lawyer-blog­ger friend and Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz, a research psy­chi­a­trist at the School of Med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Ange­les and a neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty expert, have writ­ten a thought-pro­vok­ing arti­cle for The Com­plete Lawyer.

See Arti­cle: Exer­cise Mind Hygiene On A Dai­ly Basis. Excerpt:

- “Here’s an exam­ple of a Gold­en Moment of Choice: You have decid­ed that you are going to keep your promise and get home each evening in time to put the kids to bed. When 7 p.m. rolls around, you rec­og­nize that you can move in one of two direc­tions: you can keep work­ing or get going. Because of your habit of work­ing very late, the synaps­es in your brain have been forged to sup­port your habit, and you feel the urge to stay. This phys­i­o­log­i­cal com­po­nent of your habit­u­al behav­ior is mak­ing your deci­sion dif­fi­cult. Nev­er­the­less, you decide to leave. Now, each time you make this new choice, it will be eas­i­er: You will be lay­ing down “going-home-to-the-kids” synaps­es to sup­port the new behav­ior (and you will be using self-direct­ed neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty).

- Our abil­i­ty to step back and see that we have the choice is key. Often we do not even get that far: 7 p.m. comes and goes with­out our real­iz­ing that it’s a GMC. In order to improve your abil­i­ty to observe your­self and your choic­es, you need to devel­op your self-aware­ness”.

Arti­cle: Exer­cise Mind Hygiene On A Dai­ly Basis

Read­ing this, and with a wife  and 6‑week-old baby start­ing to fall asleep, reminds me of some­thing…

how to say, “Good night, dear Blog!”

Stress and Neural Wreckage: Part of the Brain Plasticity Puzzle

Victoria Crater MarsEdi­tor’s Note: Below you have a very insight­ful arti­cle on stress by Gre­go­ry Kel­let, a researcher at UCSF. Enjoy!

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My brain is fried, toast, fraz­zled, burnt out. How many times have you said or heard one ver­sion or anoth­er of these state­ments. Most of us think we are being fig­u­ra­tive when we utter such phras­es, but research shows that the bio­log­i­cal con­se­quences of sus­tained high lev­els of stress may have us being more accu­rate than we would like to think.

Crash Course on Stress

Our bod­ies are a com­plex bal­anc­ing act between sys­tems work­ing full time to keep us alive and well. This bal­anc­ing act is con­stant­ly adapt­ing to the myr­i­ad of changes occur­ring every sec­ond with­in our­selves and our envi­ron­ments. When it gets dark our pupils dilate, when we get hot we sweat, when we smell food we sali­vate, and so forth. This con­stant bal­anc­ing act main­tains a range of sta­bil­i­ty in the body via change; and is often referred to as allosta­sis. Any change which threat­ens this bal­ance can be referred to as allo­sta­t­ic load or stress.

Allo­sta­t­ic load/stress is part of being alive. For exam­ple just by get­ting up in the morn­ing, we all expe­ri­ence a very impor­tant need to increase our heart rate and blood pres­sure in order to feed our new­ly ele­vat­ed brain. Although usu­al­ly man­age­able, this is a change which the body needs to adapt to and, by our def­i­n­i­tion, a stres­sor.

Stress is only a prob­lem when this allo­sta­t­ic load becomes over­load. When change is exces­sive or 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,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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