Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


The Best Way to Learn: Taking a Test?

What do you think is the best way to learn: Studying the material repeatedly, drawing detailed diagrams of what you are learning, or taking a test in which you recall what you have read?

A recent study published in Science and summarized in this New York Times article found out that taking a test was the best method!

students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used [the] two other methods. Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Memory with Sleep, Practice, and Testing

There are whole markets (think crosswords, herbal supplements, drugs, brain fitness software) aimed at helping us improve our memory.

Now, what is “memory”? how does the process of memory sleep and memorywork?

Dr. Bill Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, explains a very important concept below.

– Alvaro


Getting from Here to There:
Making Memory Consolidation Work

By Bill Klemm,  Ph. D.

Until consolidation has occurred, a short-term memory is very vulnerable, as all of us have experienced from looking up a phone number only to have some distraction cause us to lose the number before we can get it dialed.

What is “consolidation”?

Brain researchers use the term “consolidation” for the process whereby short-term memory gets made more permanent.

Here, I would like to discuss some aspects of consolidation that many people may not know about: why sleep is so important, why memory must be practiced, and how testing promotes consolidation. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brain Fitness Vacation

San PedroA year ago we wrote a Glossary where we defined Brain Fitness as “the general state of good, sharp, brain and mind, especially as the result of mental and physical exercise and proper nutrition” and a Brain Fitness Program as a “structured set of brain exercises, usually computer-based, designed to train specific brain areas and functions in targeted ways, and measured by brain fitness assessments.”

Now, thanks to this recent article Alvaro and Lisa’s Brain Vacation, we can add Brain Fitness Vacation: “A brain fitness vacation is like a regular vacation, only you attend events, do exercises, and arrange for experiences that address the aspects of good brain health: physical exercise, mental exercise, good nutrition, and stress management.”

Dave Bunnell, the founder and editor of new magazine ELDR (and previously editor of PC World, PC Magazine, Upside, and many other magazines) met Dr. Goldberg and myself after our speech in SFSU last May. When he showed an interest in writing a story, and I mentioned half-jokingly that it would have to wait a few weeks since my wife and I were about to take a much needed “brain fitness vacation”, he said, well, maybe that’s the story!.

You can read the full article here. For the benefit of the attendants to my lectures this week, who may be looking for some additional brain exercises, here go some quotes:

  • Guesstimation. Lisa asks Alvaro a question, “How many trees are there in San Francisco?” To come up with an answer, Alvaro first tries to guess how many trees, on average, there are in a city block. He then calculates approximately how many blocks there are in a square mile, followed by how many square miles there are in San Francisco, and so on.
  • Number Series. Alvaro says, “Two, three,” and Lisa replies, “four, six.” Alvaro then says, “Six, nine,” and Lisa replies, “Eight, twelve.” He says,”Ten, fifteen,” and the sequence goes on as long and as fast as you can keep doing it.
  • Haiku. During the entire vacation, Alvaro and Lisa composed haiku for each other every morning. The rule was they couldn’t write them down. They had to create them in their heads and remember them.
  • Sensory training. Lisa puts a piece of chocolate into Alvaro’s mouth while his eyes are closed. He lets it melt completely without chewing and without opening his eyes. Next, he puts a grape in Lisa’s mouth.
  • Visualizations. Alvaro and Lisa sit quietly for about 15 minutes, breathe deeply using their diaphragms, and visualize special moments from their past, such as the most beautiful view they’ve ever seen, or a loving personal moment.


Pic credit: San Pedro de Alcantara, Spain (Wikipedia)

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