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Top 10 Cognitive Health and Brain Fitness Books

Here you have The 10 Most Popular Brain Fitness & Cognitive Health Books, based on book purchases by SharpBrains’ readers during 2008.

Enjoy!

Brain Rules-John Medina
1. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)
– Dr. John Medina, Director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, writes an engaging and comprehensive introduction to the many daily implications of recent brain research. He wrote the article Brain Rules: science and practice for SharpBrains readers.
2. The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person (Oxmoor House, March 2007)
– Dr. Judith Beck, Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, connects the world of research-based cognitive therapy with a mainstream application: maintaining weight-loss. Interview notes here.
3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Viking, March 2007)
– Dr. Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of this New York Times bestseller, brings us “a compelling collection of tales about the amazing abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn”. Laurie Bartels reviews the book review here.
Spark John Ratey
4. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain(Little, Brown and Company, January 2008)
– Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, summarizes the growing research on the brain benefits of physical exercise. Laurie Bartels puts this research in perspective here.
5. The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning (Stylus Publishing, October 2002)
– Dr. James Zull, Director Emeritus of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University, writes a must-read for educators and lifelong learners. Interview notes here.
6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves (Ballantine Books, January 2007)
– Sharon Begley, Newsweek’ excellent science writer, provides an in-depth introduction to the research on neuroplasticity based on a Mind & Life Institute event.
7. Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, August 2007)
– Prof. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, writes a solid book that combines a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions. Interview notes here.
8. The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (Oxford University Press, January 2001)
– Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, provides a fascinating perspective on the role of the frontal roles and executive functions through the lifespan. Interview notes here.
Brain Trust Program 9. The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory (Perigee Trade, September 2007)
– Dr. Larry McCleary, former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, covers many lifestyle recommendations for brain health in this practical book. He wrote the article Brain Evolution and Health for SharpBrains.
10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain (Pantheon, January 2001)
– In this book (previous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey provides a stimulating description of how the brain works. An excellent Brain 101 book to anyone new to the field.

Enhance Happiness and Health by Cultivating Gratitude: Interview with Robert Emmons

Robert Emmons Thanks(Dear reader: Here you have a little gift to continue the Thanksgiving spirit. Enjoy the interview, and thank you for visiting our site.)

Prof. Robert Emmons studies gratitude for a living as Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and is Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He has just published Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, an interdisciplinary book that provides a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions.

Alvaro Fernandez: Welcome. Prof. Emmons, could you please provide us an overview of the Positive Psychology field so we understand the context for your research?

Robert Emmons: Sure. Martin Seligman and colleagues launched what was called “positive psychology in the late 90s as an antidote to the traditional nearly exclusive emphasis of “negative psychology” focused on fixing problems like trauma, addiction, and stress. We want to balance our focus and be able to help everyone, including high-functioning individuals. A number of researchers were investigating the field since the late 80s, but Seligman provided a new umbrella, a new category, with credibility, organized networks and funding opportunities for the whole field.

And where does your own research fit into this overall picture?

I have been researching gratitude for almost 10 years. Gratitude is a positive emotion that has traditionally been the realm of humanists and philosophers, and only recently the subject of a more scientific approach. We study gratitude not as a merely academic discipline, but as a practical framework to better functioning in life by taking control of happiness levels and practicing the skill of emotional self-regulation.

What are the 3 key messages that you would like readers to take away from your book?

First, the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Second, this is not hard to achieve – a few hours writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more. Third, that cultivating gratitude brings other health effects, such as longer and better quality sleep time.

What are some ways to practice gratitude, and what benefits could we expect? Please refer to your 2003 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, where I found fascinating quotes such as that “The ability to notice, appreciate, and savior the elements of one life has been viewed as a crucial element of well-being.

The most common method we use in our research is to ask people to keep a “Gratitude Journal”  where you write something you feel grateful for. Doing so 4 times a week, for as little as 3 weeks, is often enough to create a meaningful difference in one level of happiness. Another exercise is to write a “Gratitude Letter” to a person who has exerted a positive influence on one’s life but whom we have not properly thanked in the past, and then to meet that person and read the letter to them face to face.

The benefits seem to be very similar using both methods in terms of enhanced happiness, health and wellbeing. Most of the outcomes are self-reported, but there is an increasing emphasis on measuring objective data such as cortisol and stress levels, heart rate variability, and even brain activation patterns. The work of Richard Davidson is exemplary in that respect, showing how mindfulness practice can rewire some activation patterns in Read the rest of this entry »

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