Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Rethinking Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment: The Cognitive Shop/ Brain Fitness Center

Editor’s note:
Kenneth S. Kosik, MD, and Ellen Clegg, authors of a recent book on Alzheimer’s Disease prevention and treatment, forcefully propose a new framework and model for brain care: What about setting up “cognitive shops” as “a sort of one-stop shopping for everything from Alzheimer’s disease prevention to guided care for mild or moderate disease”. What follows is the thought-provoking conclusion section from their book “The Alzheimer’s Solution. How Today’s Care Is Failing Millions and How We Can Do Better” (reproduced with permission), not very different from the “brain fitness center” model we have talked about in the past.



Just as the idea of hospice care revolutionized death and dying in America, the idea of bundling many aspects of Alzheimer’s care under one roof in a cognitive shop could change the way we approach this dire disease—one that has no cure and leaves no survivors. Certainly, the scope of the problem poses medical and economic risks for the country. These risks, and potential steps for a solution, were charted by the bipartisan Alzheimer Study Group in the spring of 2009. The report, issued by the Alzheimer Study Group co-chaired by former congressman Newt Gingrich and former senator Bob Kerrey, minces few words. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not

Where does our “Feeling of Knowing” come from? Have you ever felt certain that you knew an answer even though you couldn’t think of it right off? Where does that “feeling of knowing” come from? The answer to this question is the focus of neurologist Robert Burton’s new book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.

I recently reviewed Dr. Burton’s book on the Brain Science Podcast and last week I had the opportunity to interview him for the show. He explained that one of the origins for his book was his experience with patients with conditions like Cotard’s syndrome (where the patient thinks he is dead or does not exist). What Dr. Burton calls the “feeling of knowing” is so strong that people consistently trust it even when their beliefs contradict the evidence. At first it might seem surprising that this feeling is generated at an unconscious level in our brain, yet the same sort of processing creates the world we see and hear. It is well-known that what we see is not what enters our eyes, but Read the rest of this entry »

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