Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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PBS: Secret Life of the Brain and Neuroplasticity

Thanks to our 3‑month-old daugh­ter, my wife and I have been learn­ing much about baby brains. Most­ly learn­ing on the job, as you can imag­ine.

We just watched a very nice PBS series titled Secret Life of the Brain that cov­ers brain devel­op­ment across the lifes­pan: babies, kids, teenagers, adults, seniors. A bit dat­ed (2002) but excel­lent watch­ing even today.

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Posit Science, Nintendo Brain Age, and Brain Training Topics

A few col­leagues referred me over the week­end to a very nice arti­cle at busi­ness pub­li­ca­tion Port­fo­lio.

While the arti­cle does an excel­lent job at intro­duc­ing the read­er to the con­cept and promise of com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive assess­ments, it also con­tributes to the mythol­o­gy of “Brain Age”. MRI scan neuroimaging

Let’s first take a look at the arti­cle How Smart Are You: The busi­ness of assess­ing cog­ni­tion and mem­o­ry is mov­ing from test­ing brain-impaired patients to assess­ing healthy peo­ples’ brains online.

A cou­ple of quotes:

- “Cog­ni­tive Drug Research is one a hand­ful of busi­ness­es, most of them out­side of the U.S., that work with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to test how new drugs for every­thing from nico­tine addic­tion to Alzheimer’s dis­ease affect the mind’s abil­i­ty to remem­ber things, make deci­sions, and ana­lyze infor­ma­tion.”

- “Cog­ni­tive tests have been around for a cen­tu­ry as exam­i­na­tions tak­en with paper and pen­cil. In the 1970s and ’80s the tests shift­ed to com­put­ers, Cog­ni­tive Drug Research founder Kei­th Wesnes says.

So far, so good. In fact, one of the key high­lights from the mar­ket report we released in March was that “Large-scale, ful­ly-auto­mat­ed cog­ni­tive assess­ments are being used in a grow­ing num­ber of clin­i­cal tri­als. This opens the way for the devel­op­ment of inex­pen­sive con­sumer-fac­ing, base­line cog­ni­tive assess­ments.” And we pro­filed a few lead­ing com­pa­nies in the space: Brain Resource Com­pa­ny, Cog­ni­tive Drug Research, CNS Vital Signs and CogState.

Now, the arti­cle is accom­pa­nied by a 5–7 minute quick test that promis­es to give us our “Brain Age”. And this does­n’t come from Nin­ten­do, but from Cog­ni­tive Drug Research, a respect­ed sci­ence-based com­pa­ny.

You can check it out Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health Business Grows With Research and Demand

I wrote this arti­cle for the March/ April edi­tion of the pub­li­ca­tion Aging Today, pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging, and received per­mis­sion to repro­duce it here.

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In recent years, most pro­fes­sion­als in aging have become aware of the grow­ing sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence show­ing that human brains retain the abil­i­ty to gen­er­ate neu­rons and change over a life­time, dis­cov­er­ies that have bro­ken the sci­en­tif­ic par­a­digm preva­lent dur­ing the 20th cen­tu­ry. Fur­ther­more, neu­roimag­ing and cog­ni­tive train­ing stud­ies are show­ing how well-direct­ed exer­cise presents peo­ple major oppor­tu­ni­ties for healthy brain aging.

How can peo­ple use emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to keep their brains healthy and pro­duc­tive as long as pos­si­ble? An emerg­ing mar­ket for brain health– $225 mil­lion mar­ket in 2007, in the Unit­ed States alone, of which con­sumers account for $80 million–is try­ing to address that ques­tion in a way that com­ple­ments oth­er impor­tant more tra­di­tion­al pil­lars (and mul­ti-bil­lion indus­tries) of brain health, such as phys­i­cal exer­cise, bal­anced diet, stress man­age­ment (stress has been shown to actu­al­ly kill neu­rons and reduce the rate of cre­ation of new ones) and over­all men­tal stim­u­la­tion and life­long learn­ing.

2007 AN ACTIVE YEAR

A series of impor­tant events took place in 2007, a sem­i­nal year for the brain health field, begin­ning in Jan­u­ary when many main­stream media pub­li­ca­tions, such as Time Mag­a­zine and CBS News, start­ed to pub­lish major sto­ries on neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and brain exer­cise. This media cov­er­age fol­lowed the pub­li­ca­tion of the long-await­ed results from nation­al clin­i­cal tri­als show­ing that sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­ages of the par­tic­i­pants age 65 and old­er who trained for five weeks improved their mem­o­ry, rea­son­ing and infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing speed. Find­ings from the Advanced Cog­ni­tive Train­ing for Inde­pen­dent and Vital Elder­ly (ACTIVE) Study appeared in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion (Dec. 20, 2006) and revealed that even after five years, par­tic­i­pants in the ACTIVE com­put­er-based pro­gram showed less of a decline in infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing skills than those in a con­trol group that received no cog­ni­tive train­ing.

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Scientific American Partner Network

We are proud to announce that Sharp­Brains has joined the soon-to-be-launched Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can Part­ner Net­work. This won’t change any­thing in our day-to-day oper­a­tions.
Scientific American Partner Network

Also, please vis­it us tomor­row Mon­day to read a superb arti­cle on Sleep and the Brain by Shan­non Mof­fett, author of the superb book The Three Pound Enig­ma: The Human Brain and the Quest to Unlock its Mys­ter­ies. Mof­fett recent­ly appeared on the PBS spe­cial The Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram, which aired nation­wide on PBS.

Have a nice Sun­day!

Brain Management for lawyers

How does this neu­ro fron­tier inside our skulls specif­i­cal­ly inform law firm man­age­ment? By peer­ing inside the brain, we can see how its own­er takes in infor­ma­tion, makes deci­sions, changes and resists change, remem­bers and recalls, and responds to peo­ple. What we are learn­ing about the brain affects three fac­tors crit­i­cal to law firms and to each indi­vid­ual lawyer: con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and com­pe­tence. Let’s take a tour of some of what’s been learned and see how the new infor­ma­tion can be use­ful.”

This is part of the great arti­cle that Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz and Stephanie West Allen have writ­ten for the Feb­ru­ary, 2007 edi­tion of Of Coun­sel: The Legal Prac­tice and Man­age­ment Report, titled “Brain Man­age­ment: Law Firm Lead­er­ship on the Neu­ro Fron­tier” (Not avail­able online.)

You can read a bit more in Stephanie’s blog (a must-read blog for lawyers).   

In short: our actions can change our brains. Actu­al­ly, our thoughts can do so too. We all can ben­e­fit from “self-direct­ed neuroplasticity”-which requires prac­tice, imag­i­na­tion and empa­thy. The arti­cle men­tions spe­cif­ic exam­ples for lawyers.

Learn­ing assumes and induces neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (how the brain changes).

How can you apply this to your occu­pa­tion? what have you learned today?

You can read more on a sim­i­lar top­ic, by Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz and David Rock: check out The Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship.

 

 

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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