Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Who Says This is The Classroom of the Future?

The New York Times has recent­ly pub­lished sev­er­al very good and seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed articles…let’s try and con­nect some dots. What if we ques­tioned the very premise behind nam­ing some class­rooms the “class­rooms of the future” sim­ply because they have been adding tech­nol­o­gy in lit­er­al­ly mind­less ways? What if the Edu­ca­tion of the Future (some­times also referred to as “21st Cen­tu­ry Skills”) wasn’t so much about the How we edu­cate but about the What we want stu­dents to learn and devel­op, apply­ing what we know about mind and brain to the needs they are like­ly to face dur­ing the next 50–70 years of their lives? Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Expo Day; Top 15 Articles of 2009

In this Jan­u­ary issue of our eNewslet­ter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlight­en­ing demos that will take place on Wednes­day, Jan­u­ary 20th, as part of the Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, and then present the 15 most stim­u­lat­ing Sharp­Brains arti­cles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and dis­cuss the lat­est pro­grams and tech­nolo­gies for brain fit­ness, pre­sent­ed by Sum­mit Spon­sors, Wednes­day Jan­u­ary 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 min­utes, fol­lowed by 15 min­utes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cog­nic­i­ti will intro­duce the new Memory@Work work­shop, designed to teach what mem­o­ry is, how lifestyle fac­tors such as dis­trac­tion and stress can affect mem­o­ry, and how to enhance mem­o­ry per­for­mance at work with the use of enabling strate­gies.

10am. Cog­niFit will demo Cog­niFit Per­son­al Coach and Cog­niFit Senior Dri­ver, two online pro­grams designed to assess and main cog­ni­tive func­tions for healthy liv­ing and safe dri­ving, respec­tive­ly.

11am. Posit Sci­ence will demo InSight, a soft­ware-based cog­ni­tive train­ing pack­age designed to sharp­en brain’s visu­al sys­tem. This is the pro­gram being test­ed by All­state for safer dri­ving.

Noon. Hap­py Neu­ron will intro­duce HAP­PYneu­ron PRO, a new plat­form for pro­fes­sion­als for the effec­tive deliv­ery and man­age­ment of cog­ni­tive reme­di­a­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams in a patient cen­tric man­ner.

1pm. Sharp­Brains will help nav­i­gate this grow­ing field by dis­cussing The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware 2009 report and The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness con­sumer guide, and sum­ma­riz­ing key Sum­mit take-aways.

Learn more and reg­is­ter HERE. Please remem­ber that reg­is­tra­tion clos­es on Jan­u­ary 17th.

We want to thank our most recent spon­sor, the Arrow­smith Pro­gram, a com­pre­hen­sive suite of cog­ni­tive pro­grams for stu­dents with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties avail­able in pub­lic and pri­vate schools in Cana­da and the U.S. More infor­ma­tion here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stim­u­lat­ing arti­cles of 2009.

The Big Pic­ture

100 is the new 65: Why do some peo­ple live, and well, to 100? Researchers are try­ing to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

Learn­ing about Learn­ing: an Inter­view with Joshua Wait­zkin: Scott Bar­ry Kauf­man inter­views “child prodi­gy” Joshua Wait­zkin on The Art of Learn­ing.

Debunk­ing 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Mag­ic Pill to pre­vent mem­o­ry prob­lems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 com­mon myths.

Why is work­ing mem­o­ry rel­e­vant to read­ing and math­e­mat­ics: A recent large UK study iden­ti­fied 1 in 10 stu­dents as hav­ing work­ing mem­o­ry dif­fi­cul­ties. Dr. Tra­cy Alloway elab­o­rates why this mat­ters.

Change Your Envi­ron­ment, Change Your­self: Dr. Brett Steen­barg­er explains why new envi­ron­ments  force us to exit our rou­tines and active­ly mas­ter unfa­mil­iar chal­lenges.”

Tools

Retool­ing Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fer­nan­dez dis­cuss­es why rou­tine, doing things inside our com­fort zones, is the most com­mon ene­my of the nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge our brains need.

Does cog­ni­tive train­ing work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, dis­sects a cou­ple of recent press releas­es and the under­ly­ing stud­ies to clar­i­fy­ing what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Sup­ports Neu­ro­feed­back Treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabin­er reports the promis­ing find­ings from the first well-designed con­trolled tri­al on the effect of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD.

Do Art Class­es Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers sug­gest so; oth­ers are not con­vinced. Karin Evans offers a  thought­ful review of the evi­dence and asks, “Now, is this the right ques­tion?”

Does cof­fee boost cog­ni­tive func­tions over time? Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon reports good news (long-term effects seem more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so cof­fee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­er­al brain func­tions).

Indus­try

Brain fit­ness heads towards its tip­ping point: How do you know when some­thing is mov­ing towards a Glad­wellian tip­ping point? When insur­ance com­pa­nies and pol­i­cy mak­ers pay atten­tion, Dr. Ger­ard Finnemore reports.

Visu­al Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the State of the Mar­ket 2009: Paul Van Slem­brouck beau­ti­ful­ly presents the main find­ings of our 150-page mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Mar­ket 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fit­ness: neu­ro­sci­en­tist Michael Merzenich dis­cuss­es neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, tech­nol­o­gy, safe dri­ving, men­tal health, and the need for stan­dards, auto­mat­ed assess­ments and “per­son­al brain train­ers”.

Brain Teas­er

Stim­u­late your Con­cen­tra­tion Skills: when one real­ly wants to mem­o­rize a fact, it is cru­cial to pay atten­tion. Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon chal­lenges you to count a few sim­ple let­ters.

Res­o­lu­tion

Final­ly, an arti­cle that may inspire some New Year Res­o­lu­tions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpow­er, Daniel Gole­man dis­cuss­es how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are need­ed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 con­nec­tions to oth­er brain cells. Impli­ca­tion? Med­i­tate, mind­ful­ly, and build pos­i­tive habits.

Wish­ing you a Hap­py and Pro­duc­tive 2010, and look­ing for­ward to meet­ing many of you (200 so far) at the inau­gur­al Sharp­Brains Sum­mit!

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this arti­cle thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

At a time when edu­ca­tors are pre­oc­cu­pied with stan­dards, test­ing, and the bot­tom line, some researchers sug­gest the arts can boost stu­dents’ test scores; oth­ers aren’t con­vinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and nation­al endow­ment for the Arts Chair­man Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Com­mence­ment Address at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, he used the occa­sion to deliv­er an impas­sioned argu­ment for the val­ue of the arts and arts edu­ca­tion.

Art is an irre­place­able way of under­stand­ing and express­ing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as sto­ries, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, con­soles. It edu­cates our emo­tions.”

For years, arts advo­cates like Gioia have been mak­ing sim­i­lar pleas, stress­ing the intan­gi­ble ben­e­fits of the arts at a time when many Amer­i­cans are pre­oc­cu­pied with a market–driven cul­ture of enter­tain­ment, and schools are con­sumed with meet­ing fed­er­al stan­dards. Art brings joy, these advo­cates say, or it evokes our human­i­ty, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daugh­ter, “It cools kids down after all the oth­er hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bol­ster­ing the case for the arts has become increas­ing­ly nec­es­sary in recent years, as school bud­get cuts and the move toward stan­dard­ized test­ing have pro­found­ly threat­ened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment start­ed assess­ing school dis­tricts by their stu­dents’ scores on read­ing and math­e­mat­ics tests.

As a result, accord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion Pol­i­cy, school dis­tricts across the Unit­ed States increased the time they devot­ed to test­ed subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cut­ting spend­ing on non–tested sub­jects such as the visu­al arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB stan­dards, the more time and mon­ey was devot­ed to those test­ed sub­jects, with less going to the arts. The Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion has report­ed that the cuts fall hard­est on schools with high num­bers of minor­i­ty chil­dren.

And the sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to wors­en as state bud­gets get even tighter. Already, in a round of fed­er­al edu­ca­tion cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts edu­ca­tion nation­al­ly was slashed by $35 mil­lion. In 2008, the New York City Depart­ment of Education’s annu­al study of Read the rest of this entry »

Schools: what should they do, and for whom?

We read today how Pan­el Urges Schools to Empha­size Core Math Skills (Wash­ing­ton Post). Now, there is a more fun­da­men­tal ques­tion to con­sid­er: what should the schools oflearning, apple the XXI cen­tu­ry look like and do?.

To cre­ate a much need­ed dia­logue, I asked one the most thought­ful edu­ca­tion blog­gers around to share her (I guess it’s “her”) impres­sions with us. Enjoy!
—————

What do we want our schools to do, and for whom? 

–By edu­won­kette

Schools,” Stan­ford his­to­ri­an David Laba­ree wrote, “occu­py an awk­ward posi­tion at the inter­sec­tion between what we hope soci­ety will become and what we think it real­ly is.” What do we want our schools to do, and for whom?

Schools, like most orga­ni­za­tions, have many goals. These goals often com­pete with and dis­place each oth­er. Rely­ing heav­i­ly on the work of David Laba­ree, I will dis­cuss three cen­tral goals of Amer­i­can schools – social effi­cien­cy, demo­c­ra­t­ic equal­i­ty, and social mobil­i­ty. Through­out the his­to­ry of Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion, these goals have been run­ning against each oth­er in a metaphor­i­cal horser­ace. While they are not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive, the three goals intro­duce very dif­fer­ent met­rics of edu­ca­tion­al suc­cess. More often than not, they sit uncom­fort­ably with each oth­er.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Connection: Eric Jensen on Learning and the Brain

Eric Jensen is a for­mer mid­dle school teacher and for­mer adjunct pro­fes­sor for sev­er­al Eric Jensen Learning and the Brainuni­ver­si­ties includ­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego. He co-found­ed the Learn­ing Brain Expo, a con­fer­ence for edu­ca­tors, and has writ­ten 21 books on the brain and learn­ing. Jensen is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing his PhD course­work. His most recent book, Enrich­ing the Brain: How to Max­i­mize Every Learner’s Poten­tial (Jossey-Bass, 2006), is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for edu­ca­tors and par­ents alike. He wrote this recent arti­cle in Phi Delta Kap­pan in Feb­ru­ary 2008, spark­ing a healthy debate on the val­ue of neu­ro­science applied to edu­ca­tion.Eric, thank you for your time. Can you explain the role that you and your orga­ni­za­tion play?

We act as trans­la­tors between the neu­ro­science and edu­ca­tion fields, help­ing to build a Brain-Based Edu­ca­tion move­ment. We launched the first con­fer­ence that attempt­ed to bridge these two worlds in 1998. The goal of the con­fer­ence, called Learn­ing Expo, was for teach­ers to speak to sci­en­tists, and, equal­ly impor­tant, for sci­en­tists to speak to edu­ca­tors.

Crit­ics say that neu­ro­science research can add lit­tle to edu­ca­tion­al prac­tices. What we say is that, where­as it is true that much needs to be clar­i­fied, there are already clear impli­ca­tions from brain research that edu­ca­tors should be aware of. For exam­ple, four impor­tant ele­ments that are often neglect­ed by edu­ca­tors, giv­en the obses­sive focus on aca­d­e­m­ic scores, are nutri­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, stress man­age­ment, and over­all men­tal enrich­ment.

Read the rest of this entry »

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