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Neurogenesis and Brain Plasticity in Adult Brains

Back in July, I wrote a post enti­tled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to stu­dents of any age, includ­ing adults, for ide­al­ly adults are still learn­ers. Why is adult learn­ing rel­e­vant in a brain-focused blog, you may won­der:

The short of it

As we age, our brain:

still forms new brain cells
can change its struc­ture & func­tion
finds pos­i­tive stress can be ben­e­fi­cial; neg­a­tive stress can be detri­men­tal
can thrive on nov­el chal­lenges
needs to be exer­cised, just like our bod­ies

The long of it

Adults may have a ten­den­cy to get set in their ways have been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learn­ing & the Brain con­fer­ence, the theme of which was neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, I attend­ed sev­er­al ses­sions on adult learn­ing. Here’s what the experts are say­ing.

Read the rest of this entry »

carnival of the capitalists with a brain- September 17, 2007

                

Wel­come to the Sep­tem­ber 17, 2007 edi­tion of car­ni­val of the cap­i­tal­ists.

First, a puzzle. Why do we have the brains we have? specif­i­cal­ly, why do humans have pro­por­tion­al­ly big­ger and bet­ter con­nect­ed frontal lobes (the blue area behind our foreheads) than any oth­er species? The answer: to be able to learn and adapt to chang­ing envi­ron­ments dur­ing our life­time. Neu­ro­sci­en­tists say that the frontal lobes are the “CEO of the brain”, and that we need that type of frontal lobes to exer­cise our so-called “Exec­u­tive Func­tions” that enable us to 1) Under­stand our envi­ron­ments, 2) Set goals and define strate­gies to accom­plish our goals, 3) Exe­cute those strate­gies well.Frontal Lobes

Now, let’s see how all these car­ni­val con­trib­u­tors are putting their frontal lobes to good use. Giv­en the vol­ume of sub­mis­sions received, we had to be real­ly selec­tive. Enjoy!

 

1) Under­stand­ing our envi­ron­ment: macro­econ­o­my, real estate slow­down, and lob­by­ing.

James won­ders, “Can the Fed begin as it must to cut the tar­get rate and still avoid Tim’s slip­pery slope? I think so, and here’s how.”

Ian presents a force­ful case that No, Greenspan Doesn’t Get To Reha­bil­i­tate His Rep­u­ta­tion, at Fire­doglake. Very time­ly post, giv­en that Greenspan is releas­ing his book today. 

The recent sub-prime mort­gage fias­co and its effect on our invest­ments prompt­ed us to recon­sid­er our portfolio’s risk tol­er­ance capa­bil­i­ty”, says FIRE Finance, out­lin­ing these Invest­ment Risks at a Glance. Along sim­i­lar lines, we can read that “I am not hop­ing for the mar­ket to get worse. I just know it will, because that is the nature of mar­ket cycles” at Is The Hous­ing Cri­sis and Stock Mar­ket Decline Bad Enough Yet?, by My Wealth Builder.

If you won­der what may have con­tributed to the real estate mess grow­ing so big, you may enjoy read­ing Pork: Wha’ss On The Bar­beque In Con­gress Is Your Future. The Ago­nist says: “In the Unit­ed States today, the sim­plest, eas­i­est and safest way to make mon­ey is to Read the rest of this entry »

Executive Functions and Google/ Microsoft Brain Teasers

Inter­est­ing arti­cle: Want a job at Google? Try these brain­teasers first (CNN)

Quote: “Seem­ing­ly ran­dom ques­tions like these have become com­mon­place in Sil­i­con Val­ley and oth­er tech out­posts, where com­pa­nies aren’t as inter­est­ed in the cor­rect answer to a tough ques­tion as they are in how a prospec­tive employ­ee might try to solve it. Since busi­ness­es today have to be able to react quick­ly to shift­ing mar­ket dynam­ics, they want more than engi­neers with high IQs and good col­lege tran­scripts. They want peo­ple who can think on their feet.”

Com­ment: What are those com­pa­nies (Google, Microsoft, Ama­zon) after? Employ­ees with good Exec­u­tive Func­tions. You can try some of the fun teasers in the arti­cle:

1) How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?

  • About 500,000, assum­ing the bus is 50 balls high, 50 balls wide, and 200 balls long

2) You’re shrunk and trapped in a blender that will turn on in 60 sec­onds. What do you do?

Some options:

1. Use the mea­sure­ment marks to climb out

2. Try to unscrew the glass

3. Risk rid­ing out the air cur­rent

3) How much should you charge to wash all the win­dows in Seat­tle?

  • Assum­ing 10,000 city blocks, 600 win­dows per block, five min­utes per win­dow, and a rate of $20 per hour, about $10 mil­lion

 

PS: Enjoy these 50 brain teasers to test your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty. Free, and fun for adults of any age!

 

The Upside of Aging-WSJ

Sharon Beg­ley writes anoth­er great arti­cle on The Upside of Aging — WSJ.com (sub­scrip­tion required)

  • The aging brain is sub­ject to a drea­ry litany of changes. It shrinks, Swiss cheese-like holes grow, con­nec­tions between neu­rons become spars­er, blood flow and oxy­gen sup­ply fall. That leads to trou­ble with short-term mem­o­ry and rapid­ly switch­ing atten­tion, among oth­er prob­lems. And that’s in a healthy brain.”
  • But it’s not all doom and gloom. An emerg­ing body of research shows that a sur­pris­ing array of men­tal func­tions hold up well into old age, while oth­ers actu­al­ly get bet­ter. Vocab­u­lary improves, as do oth­er ver­bal abil­i­ties such as facil­i­ty with syn­onyms and antonyms. Old­er brains are packed with more so-called …”

We dis­cussed some of these effects with Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, who wrote his great book The Wis­dom Para­dox pre­cise­ly on this point, at The Exec­u­tive Brain and How our Minds Can Grow Stronger.

In our “Exer­cis­ing Our Brains” Class­es, we typ­i­cal­ly explain how some areas typ­i­cal­ly improve as we age, such as self-reg­u­la­tion, emo­tion­al func­tion­ing and Wis­dom (which means mov­ing from Prob­lem solv­ing to Pat­tern recog­ni­tion), where­as other typ­i­cal­ly decline: effort­ful prob­lem-solv­ing for nov­el sit­u­a­tions, pro­cess­ing speed, mem­o­ry, atten­tion and men­tal imagery. 

But the key mes­sage is that our actions influ­ence the rate of improve­ment and/ or decline. Our aware­ness that “it’s not all doom and gloom” and that there’s much we can do is important. You may want to learn more with our Exer­cise Your Brain DVD.

You can also learn more on the Suc­cess­ful Aging of the Healthy Brain: a beau­ti­ful essay by Mar­i­an Dia­mond on how to keep our brains and minds active and fit through­out our lives.

 

Brain Workout for Your Frontal Lobes

Your frontal lobes are home to your exec­u­tive func­tions, includ­ing pat­tern recog­ni­tion. Here’s a puz­zle to chal­lenge your abil­i­ty to uncov­er a pat­tern.

In this puz­zle, three num­bers: 16, 14, and 38, need to be assigned to one of the rows of num­bers below. To which row should each num­ber be assigned — A, B, or C?

A: 0 6 8 9 3
B: 5 13 2 10 16
C: 7 1 47 11 17

Why do we care about pat­tern recog­ni­tion skills? Well, if you’re an ath­lete, then you want to con­stant­ly improve your abil­i­ty to see spa­tial pat­terns on the court or field quick­ly so you can act on them — by pass­ing to open space or attack­ing the goal at the right moment. Stock traders look for pat­terns in the mar­ket behav­ior to guide them on buy­ing and sell­ing deci­sions. Chess mas­ters are experts at rec­og­niz­ing com­pli­cat­ed moves. Read­ing is also pat­tern recog­ni­tion.

So, you use pat­tern recog­ni­tion all the time whether you know it or not. But remem­ber, using a skill is great, but you have to keep exer­cis­ing it a lit­tle bit hard­er each time to devel­op it fur­ther.

Have you solved the puz­zle yet? If not, here’s a hint:
It’s not a math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lem. The numer­i­cal val­ues are irrel­e­vant.

Keep read­ing for the answer
Read the rest of this entry »

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