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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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.

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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.

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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 »

Looking inside the Brain: is my Brain Fit?

MRI scanner neuroimaging

Today we have the plea­sure to have Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, one of our new Expert Con­trib­u­tors, write her first arti­cle here. Enjoy, and please com­ment so we hear your thoughts and engage in a nice con­ver­sa­tion.

(Btw, if you notice some sim­i­lar­i­ty between the col­ors in the fMRI scan below and the look & feel of this site…well, the rea­son is that those orange-grey fMRI col­ors were our inspi­ra­tion! the orange col­or denotes the most brain acti­va­tion).

- Alvaro

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You have prob­a­bly heard about CAT and MRI scans (pro­duced thanks to machines like the one to the top right). So you know that these are tech­niques that doc­tors and sci­en­tists use to look inside the brain.

You have prob­a­bly also heard about brain fit­ness and how impor­tant it is to keep a healthy brain to be pro­tect­ed against age-relat­ed and dis­ease-relat­ed brain dam­ages.

The ques­tion we ask here is the fol­low­ing: Can we use brain scans to eval­u­ate how fit the brain is? Before we try to answer this ques­tion let’s start with the basics and try to under­stand how brain scans work.

Brain imag­ing, also called neu­roimag­ing, allows one to Read the rest of this entry »

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