Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


New Brain Health Series: The Child, Adolescent, Adult and Aging Brain

Peo­ple of all ages read, so we are prepar­ing a series of arti­cles on Brain Health across the Lifes­pan.

The series will include 4 parts:

  • The Child Brain, pub­lished in Novem­ber 2010
  • The Ado­les­cent Brain, in Decem­ber 2010
  • The Adult Brain, in Jan­u­ary 2011
  • The Aging Brain, in Feb­ru­ary 2011
  • Each part will :

    • Include sur­pris­ing facts on how the brain works
    • Debunk com­mons myths about cog­ni­tion and brain health
    • Link to resources such as books and doc­u­men­taries.

    If you want to read these arti­cles as we pub­lish them via, you can either fol­low us in Face­book and Twit­ter or, if you have not done so already, sub­scribe to our month­ly update (eNewslet­ter).

    Tell your friends and col­leagues about the series!

    Learning & The Brain: Interview with Robert Sylwester

    Robert SylwesterDr. Robert Syl­west­er is an edu­ca­tor of edu­ca­tors, hav­ing received mul­ti­ple awards dur­ing his long career as a mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor of the impli­ca­tions of brain sci­ence research for edu­ca­tion and learn­ing. He is the author of sev­er­al books and many jour­nal arti­cles, and mem­ber of our Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board. His most recent book is The Ado­les­cent Brain: Reach­ing for Auton­o­my (Cor­win Press, 2007). He is an Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Edu­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon.

    I am hon­ored to inter­view him today.

    Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: Let’s start with that eter­nal source of debate. What do we know about the respec­tive roles of genes and our envi­ron­ment in brain devel­op­ment?

    Robert Syl­west­er: Genet­ic and envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors both con­tribute to brain mat­u­ra­tion. Genet­ics prob­a­bly play a stronger role in the ear­ly years, and the envi­ron­ment plays a stronger role in lat­er years. Still the mother’s (envi­ron­men­tal) use of drugs dur­ing the preg­nan­cy could affect the genet­ics of fetal brain devel­op­ment, and some adult ill­ness­es, such as Huntington’s Dis­ease, are genet­i­cal­ly trig­gered.

    Nature and nur­ture both require the sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions of the oth­er in most devel­op­men­tal and main­te­nance func­tions. We typ­i­cal­ly think of envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors as things that hap­pen to us, over which we have lit­tle con­trol.

    Can’t our own deci­sions have an effect in our own brain devel­op­ment? For exam­ple, what if I choose a career in invest­ment bank­ing, vs. one in jour­nal­ism or teach­ing?

    We make our own career deci­sions in life, and most of us make a com­bi­na­tion of good and bad deci­sions, which influ­ence our brain’s mat­u­ra­tion.

    My father was very unusu­al in his career tra­jec­to­ry in that he worked at one place through­out his entire adult life, and died three months after he retired at 91. I’ve always thought that it’s a good idea to make a change every ten years or so and do some­thing dif­fer­ent either with­in the same orga­ni­za­tion or to move to anoth­er one.

    It’s just as good for orga­ni­za­tions to have some staff turnover as it is for staff to move to new chal­lenges. The time to leave one posi­tion for anoth­er is while you and your employ­er are Read the rest of this entry »

    Exercising Your Lexical Recall and Pattern Recognition

    Crossword Puzzle
    I was sent these links to a free online cross­word puz­zle game and sudoko. While we often talk about the excel­lent com­put­er-based brain fit­ness pro­grams avail­able, puz­zles can still be good men­tal exer­cise … they are just not a com­plete work­out for your whole brain.

    Word games like cross­word puz­zles and SCRABBLE® exer­cise your lex­i­cal recall (mem­o­ry for words that name things), atten­tion, mem­o­ry, and pat­tern recog­ni­tion. They can help main­tain your vocab­u­lary and avoid the frus­trat­ing tip-of-the-tongue phe­nom­e­non that all of us expe­ri­ence from time to time. Sudoko is not a math­e­mat­ics game in that you don’t actu­al­ly manip­u­late the num­bers as math­e­mat­i­cal enti­ties, but it is a pat­tern recog­ni­tion game using sym­bols (num­bers). A very legit­i­mate rea­son to play casu­al games is that they can be social and fun — which is good for reduc­ing stress.

    The draw­backs to puz­zles and games is that they are hard to cal­i­brate to ensure increas­ing chal­lenge, and they gen­er­al­ly only exer­cise a lim­it­ed num­ber of brain func­tions.

    So by all means, do puz­zles if you enjoy them! But be sure to push your­self to keep find­ing hard­er ones that fall just short of frus­trat­ing you. Also, just as you cross train your vol­un­tary mus­cles, be sure to cross train your men­tal mus­cles by bal­anc­ing your work­out with oth­er types of men­tal work (motor coor­di­na­tion, audi­to­ry, work­ing mem­o­ry, plan­ning, etc.). The com­put­er­ized pro­grams make it eas­i­er for you in the sense that they are indi­vid­u­al­ly cal­i­brat­ed for you to employ nov­el­ty, vari­ety, chal­lenge, and prac­tice to exer­cise your brain more thor­ough­ly in each ses­sion.

    Fur­ther read­ing on lan­guage pro­duc­tion, com­pre­hen­sion, and goofs:

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    As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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