Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness at New York Public Library

A few weeks ago I had the plea­sure to give a talk to one hun­dred or so staff mem­bers at New York Pub­lic Library. As you would expect, it was a very stim­u­lat­ing group, and one of the par­tic­i­pants, Brigid Caha­lan, just wrote a fun blog post on her impres­sions from the event:

Brain Fit­ness at New York Pub­lic Library:

- “After attend­ing a recent staff train­ing ses­sion offered by the library’s Office of Staff Devel­op­ment, I decid­ed to return to a habit of my childhood–eating sar­dines.”
— key pil­lars for brain health …are… “1) A bal­anced diet; 2) Car­dio­vas­cu­lar phys­i­cal exer­cise; 3) Stress man­age­ment; and 4) Brain exer­cise: Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, Chal­lenge (as long as it doesn’t stress us out).”

Read full arti­cle: here.

Com­ment: A very inter­est­ing trend of observe — the grow­ing role of pub­lic libraries in pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty brain health infor­ma­tion and even, why not, becom­ing com­mu­ni­ty-based brain fit­ness des­ti­na­tions. After all, is it not men­tal stim­u­la­tion of all sorts, incor­po­rat­ing Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety, and Chal­lenge, what they tru­ly offer?

Towards a Healthy Living & Cognitive Health Agenda

Here you have the Novem­ber edi­tion of our month­ly newslet­ter cov­er­ing cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness top­ics. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this Newslet­ter by email, sim­ply by brain fitness and health newslettersub­mit­ting your email at the top of this page.

Thank you for your inter­est, atten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in our Sharp­Brains com­mu­ni­ty. As always, we appre­ci­ate your com­ments and sug­ges­tions.

Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da

How can we per­suade busi­ness lead­ers, pol­i­cy-mak­ers and researchers of the urgency to devel­op and pro­mote an inte­grat­ed “Healthy Liv­ing” agen­da focused on main­tain­ing life­long phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive health, vs. the usu­al mind­set focused on deal­ing with spe­cif­ic dis­eases and prob­lems once they arise?

In The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Cap­i­tal?, I sum­ma­rize some of the key themes dis­cussed at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum event in Dubai on Novem­ber 7–9th. The world is aging — and in health­i­er ways. But our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on track to go bank­rupt — their premis­es are out­dat­ed. The cur­rent dis­ease-based research agen­da com­pounds the prob­lem. Solu­tions? 1) Pro­mote Healthy Lifestyles that help Main­tain Phys­i­cal and Cog­ni­tive Func­tion­al Abil­i­ties, 2) Redesign Envi­ron­ments to Fos­ter Health, Engage­ment and Finan­cial Secu­ri­ty, 3) Devel­op an Inte­grat­ed Healthy Liv­ing & Aging Research Agen­da. Specif­i­cal­ly, we could work with the UN and Glob­al 2000 com­pa­nies to move for­ward a new agen­da.

Plan­et Earth 2.0: A New Oper­at­ing Sys­tem: Imag­ine see­ing a top sheik in Dubai, wrapped in tra­di­tion­al Arab cloth­ing, exclaim “Yes We Can (a la Oba­ma) in front of the 800 glob­al experts, adding that “we build the future with our own hands. Some of the atten­dants of the World Eco­nom­ic Forum’s Sum­mit of the Glob­al Agen­da urged us to “reboot” the sys­tem. More than a “reboot”, we may have to upgrade to a new glob­al “Yes We Can” oper­at­ing sys­tem.

Brain Fit­ness Research

Train­ing Atten­tion and Emo­tion­al Self-Reg­u­la­tion: Dr. Michael Pos­ner, a promi­nent  cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist and first recip­i­ent of the Dogan Prize, grants us a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view on what atten­tion, self-reg­u­la­tion, and effort­ful con­trol are, and how to improve them using soft­ware, med­i­ta­tion, and par­ent­ing. In his words, “we have found no ceil­ing for abil­i­ties such as atten­tion, includ­ing among adults. The more train­ing (…) the high­er the results.”

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and the Brain That Changes Itself: Lau­rie Bar­tels reviews the excel­lent book by Nor­man Doidge, explain­ing that “the neu­ro­science behind Doidge’s book involves neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, which is the brain’s abil­i­ty to rewire itself. This means that the brain  is our intel­li­gence,  is not some­thing fixed in con­crete but rather a chang­ing, learn­ing enti­ty.”

Can We Pick Your Brain re: Cog­ni­tive Assess­ments?: In our view, a crit­i­cal com­po­nent in the matu­ri­ty of the brain fit­ness mar­ket will be the avail­abil­i­ty of inex­pen­sive, valid and reli­able objec­tive cog­ni­tive assess­ments,  to help mea­sure how our brain func­tions change over time and iden­ti­fy pri­or­i­ties for tar­get­ed improve­ments. Dr. Joshua Stein­er­man asks if you would be up for them?

Use It (Prop­er­ly) or Lose It

Mem­o­ry Prob­lems? Per­haps you are Mul­ti-task­ing: Dr. Bill Klemm tells us that “Mul­ti-task­ing vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­o­ry works.” He explains that “(mul­ti-task­ing) prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clear­ly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effec­tive.”

Phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise to pre­vent cog­ni­tive decline: The Amer­i­can Med­ical News, a week­ly news­pa­per for physi­cians pub­lished by the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, just pub­lished an excel­lent arti­cle on the impor­tance of phys­i­cal and men­tal exer­cise. We are very hap­py to see efforts like these to train physi­cians and health pro­fes­sion­als in gen­er­al,  giv­en that most of them were trained under a very dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of the brain than the one we have today.

Brain Fit­ness 2: Sight & Sound: PBS recent­ly announced the sec­ond install­ment of their pop­u­lar Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram show, to start air­ing soon.

MetaCar­ni­val #1: a con­ver­sa­tion across the blo­gos­phere: We often insist on “Nov­el­ty, Vari­ety and Chal­lenge” as key ingre­di­ents for good “brain exer­cise”. There are many ways to mix those ingre­di­ents — you may enjoy this one, the first inter­dis­ci­pli­nary gath­er­ing of blogs and blog car­ni­vals cov­er­ing health, sci­ence, anthro­pol­o­gy, gen­er­al advice and more.

Brain Teasers

Top 15 Brain Teasers and Games for Men­tal Exer­cise: Over the last 2 years we have pub­lished close to 100 puz­zles, teasers, rid­dles, and every kind of men­tal exer­cise (with­out count­ing our in-depth inter­views with top neu­ro­sci­en­tists). Which ones have proven most stim­u­lat­ing for you. Let us know. Here is a selec­tion of our Top 15 teasers.

Final Details

That’s all for now. Next month, we will be offer­ing anoth­er great selec­tion of arti­cles: Dr. Andrew New­berg will dis­cuss the brain val­ue of med­i­ta­tion,  Dr. David Rabin­er will review a recent study on how neu­ro­feed­back may assist in the diag­nos­tic of atten­tion deficits, and much more.

Please share this newslet­ter with your friends and col­leagues if you haven’t done so already.

Have a Hap­py Thanks­giv­ing!

Travel and Engagement as Good Brain Exercise

University of Namibia

Neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty is defined as “the abil­i­ty of the brain to rewire itself through expe­ri­ence”.

We typ­i­cal­ly sum­ma­rize a lot of brain research by encour­ag­ing Sharp­Brains read­ers is to seek for nov­el­ty, vari­ety and chal­lenge, as guide­lines for “brain exer­cise” that will help build new con­nec­tions in the brain, force one to be mind­ful and pay atten­tion, improve abil­i­ties such as pat­tern-recog­ni­tion, and in gen­er­al con­tribute to life­long brain health.

A friend just sent an update on her amaz­ing expe­ri­ence in Namib­ia (the pic on the right shows the entrance to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Namib­ia) that shows how Trav­el and Engage­ment with mean­ing­ful projects can pro­vide superb men­tal stim­u­la­tion, or “brain exer­cise”. This is rel­e­vant at all ages, and we are encour­aged to see orga­ni­za­tions such as Civic Ven­tures and Elder­hos­tel that offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for baby boomers and old­er adults who want to main­tain active minds.

Try pic­tur­ing in your mind, as you read this, all her dif­fer­ent brain areas that are get­ting need­ed stim­u­la­tion through her Namib­ia expe­ri­ence.

UPDATE: my friend just wrote to expand on the “be mind­ful” angle by say­ing that “it def­i­nite­ly requires pur­pose­ful pro­cess­ing of the infor­ma­tion that you are con­sum­ing in order to make it a use­ful brain exer­cise. For exam­ple, I always try to jour­nal or write thought­ful emails about my expe­ri­ence in order to try to best under­stand it.” Great point.

With her per­mis­sion, here you have:

———————————-

Dear Friends,

I am just return­ing from Namib­ia and am buzzing with excite­ment about all of the oppor­tu­ni­ties for us to make an impact there when we return with our stu­dents next Spring.

Namib­ia is very dif­fer­ent than I expect­ed. It was the last coun­try in Africa to gain inde­pen­dence from colo­nial­ism, gain­ing inde­pen­dence just 20 years ago. Thus, it is much more devel­oped than any African coun­try that I have vis­it­ed, with rel­a­tive­ly good infra­struc­ture and no exist­ing debt. That said, the lega­cies of apartheid can still be felt in today’s soci­ety, and the peo­ple are very clear­ly deal­ing con­stant­ly with issues of race and iden­ti­ty. One of the most inter­est­ing expe­ri­ences that I had was attend­ing a “braai” (the Namib­ian ver­sion of a bar­be­cue which basi­cal­ly con­sists of Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health and Fitness Workshops

Today I have an announce­ment to make. You prob­a­bly are seeing all the arti­cles about Brain Fit­ness in the press and wondering, “What is this all about?”, “Can some­one help me nav­i­gate through all the pro­grams out there?”, “How is Brain Fit­ness rel­e­vant to me in my per­son­al life or at work?”. Well…we are deliv­er­ing a series of work­shops to com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions com­bin­ing mod­ules -includ­ing sci­en­tif­ic overview, the indus­try trends and key play­ers, fun team-build­ing exer­cis­es- that can be tai­lored to each organization’s spe­cif­ic needs. Ses­sions last from 1 to 6 hours, depend­ing on the group’s com­po­si­tion and agen­da and are deliv­ered either in per­son or via web con­fer­ence.

We want to be able to reach more orga­ni­za­tions, so please let us know of any ideas!

Some recent examples

1. Man­ag­ing Stress for Peak Per­for­mance (we men­tioned some notes on an Accen­ture ses­sion)

New and chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions – such as tak­ing on new respon­si­bil­i­ties– can trig­ger reac­tions in our brain and body that lim­it or even block our deci­sion-mak­ing abil­i­ties. These reac­tions may also harm our long-term brain pow­er and health. Although we can­not avoid change and stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, we can learn how to man­age our stress lev­els to ensure peak per­for­mance-even in tough moments. The lat­est neu­ro­science research proves that stress man­age­ment is a train­able “men­tal mus­cle.” This is true for any high pres­sure pro­fes­sion, be it trad­ing, sports, or sim­ply mod­ern life.

2. The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness (sim­i­lar to what I will teach at UC Berke­ley OLLI)

Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have shown how the human brain retains neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty (the abil­i­ty to rewire itself) and neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons) dur­ing its full life­time, lead­ing to a new under­stand­ing of Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Health through Serious Games and Brain Exercise

Eliane writes a great post esti­mat­ing the size of the Seri­ous Games Mar­ket, build­ing on the over­all Price­Wa­ter­house­C­oop­ers report that seemed to indi­cate that the Glob­al Video Game Mar­ket is Set to Explode.

Some quotes

  • “The over­all gam­ing audi­ence con­tin­ues to expand and become some­what more female and old­er than in the past thanks to casu­al games and games becom­ing an “impor­tant part of cul­ture” — which in my view would embed the Seri­ous Games seg­ment.”
  • “Where­as the mil­i­tary was one of the first cus­tomers of Seri­ous Games, it has been joined by a long line of users, includ­ing oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies, health­care providers, schools (both K-12 and uni­ver­si­ties) and For­tune 500 com­pa­nies (for team build­ing, lead­er­ship train­ing, sales train­ing and prod­uct edu­ca­tion, among oth­ers).”
  • “This is my con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mate: the Seri­ous Games mar­ket would be rang­ing between $200 — 400 mil­lion per year only in US, in 2007. ”
  • “There is now an emer­gent sup­ply chain for Cor­po­rate Seri­ous Games, with a num­ber of cor­po­ra­tions tak­ing Read the rest of this entry »

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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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