Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Just in: Call for nominations and applications @ Global Teacher Prize 2018


Please join me and the Global Teacher Prize in celebrating teachers and the amazing things they do. Recognize the teachers who have changed your life, and/ or the lives of others around you, by nominating them for a Global Teacher Prize HERE before October 8th, 2017.

Description: The Global Teacher Prize is a US $1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession.  Read the rest of this entry »

Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking

Today’s kids are into multi-tasking. This is the generation hooked on iPods, IM’ing, video games – not to mention TV! Many people in my generation think it is wonderful that kids can do all these things simultaneously and are impressed with their competence.

Well, as a teacher of such kids when they reach college, I am not impressed. College students these days have short attention spans and have trouble concentrating. They got this way in secondary school. I see this in the middle-school outreach program I help run. At this age kids are really wrapped up in multi-tasking at the expense of focus.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study last year, school kids in all grades beyond the second grade committed, on average, more than six hours per day to TV or videos, music, video games, and computers. Almost one-third reported that “most of the time” they did their homework while chatting on the phone, surfing the Web, sending instant messages, watching TV, or listening to music.

Kids think that this entertainment while studying helps their learning. It probably does make learning less tedious, but it clearly makes learning less efficient and less effective. Multi-tasking violates everything we know about how memory works. Now we have objective scientific evidence that Read the rest of this entry »

The brain virtues of physical exercise

Dr. Adrian Preda, our newest Expert Contributor, writes today the first in a series of thought-provoking articles,physical exercise for the brain challenging us to think about physical exercise as the best and most unappreciated form of “brain exercise”. A superb article.

And one thing is clear, he points out: “the brain really likes it when it’s asked to be “active”. Passive audiences, which are spoon fed information, score less well when tested on retention and understanding of the presented material than audiences that were kept engaged through the process.”

So, will you write a comment below and contribute to an engaging conversation? Thoughts? reactions? questions?

Don’t ignore plain old common sense.

Brain Lessons Part 1

— By Adrian Preda, M.D.

Let me start with a list of common biases: expensive is better than cheap, free is of dubious value (why would then be free?), rare is likely to be valuable, and while new is better than old, ancient is always best. Which explains a common scenario that is reenacted about twice a week in my office. It starts like this: a patient shows me a fancy looking bottle of the brain supplement of the week: ancient roots with obscure names mixed together in another novel combination which you can exclusively find in that one and only store (rarity oblige!). And not to forget: it ain’t cheap either! Of course, there it is, the perfect the recipe for success: ancient yet new, rare and expensive. It got to be good! But is it, really?

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Schools (Cognitively) Nutritive for Children’s Complex Thinking?

Today we host a very stimulating essay on the importance of problem-solving and encouraging complex game-playing for children’s complete “cognitive nutrition”. Enjoy!


Children’s Complex Thinking

— By Tom O’Brien and Christine Wallach

Pop over to your neighborhood school and visit some classrooms. Is what’s happening cognitively nutritive? That is, does it satisfy present needs and provide nourishment for the future health and development of children’s thinking?

Or is it punitive, with little concern for present nourishment and future health and development?

The Genevan psychologist and researcher Hermina Sinclair said, Read the rest of this entry »

“Cells that fire together wire together” and Stanford Media X

That is the goal of Stanford University Media X: to foster deep collaborations between industry and academia, as highlighted in Business Week’s recent article The Virtual Meeting Room. The 5th Annual Media X Conference on Research, Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity served its purpose well for the last couple of days: very fun and insightful presentations by Stanford researchers (and a few external experts) and a great list of participants to get to know.

No doubt, a great source of mental stimulation for all of us. Charles House, Media X’s Executive Director, framed the dialogue as an effort to generate the right questions and then engage the best minds in answering them.

Some of (my) main take-aways

  • “The world does not come to us as neat disciplinary problems, but as complex interdisciplinary challenges” (great quote by Dean John Hennessy)
  • Personal Robotics is poised to explode soon-and software will be key (predicted by Paul Saffo)
  • An inconvenient truth: Al Gore had to be convinced to bring his presentation into a movie, since he was very attached to each and every of his X hundred slides. We are happy it happened!
  • Neuroscientists know what patterns in the brain indicate certain intentions-and are starting to use technologies to help immobilized patients communicate with external devices based merely on their thoughts
  • We need to learn to embrace change- a lot of it is coming!

Now, some key points from several presentations (there were more than these, but I couldn’t attend all). I encourage you to visit the website of each presenter if you are interested in learning more about that topic.

a. Paul Saffo on Innovation

  • It usually takes 20 years since basic science until applications reach inflection point and take the world by storm
  • Next big thing: personal robotics. Indicators: Read the rest of this entry »

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