Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Promising Cognitive Training Studies for ADHD

As not­ed in our Mar­ket Report, we expect the field of cog­ni­tive train­ing (or “brain fit­ness”) soft­ware to grow in a vari­ety of edu­ca­tion and health-relat­ed areas over the next years. One of the most promis­ing areas in our view: help­ing chil­dren and adults with atten­tion deficits improve brain func­tion to reduce ADHD symp­toms.

I am glad to present this in-depth dis­cus­sion on the results of two recent high-qual­i­ty sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies. Let me start with Dr. Rabiner’s con­clu­sion:

Results from these two cog­ni­tive train­ing stud­ies high­light that cog­ni­tive train­ing inter­ven­tions may pro­vide an impor­tant com­ple­ment to tra­di­tion­al med­ica­tion treat­ment and behav­ior ther­a­py. Both stud­ies includ­ed appro­pri­ate con­trol groups, employed ran­dom assign­ment, and had out­come mea­sures pro­vid­ed by indi­vid­u­als who were “blind” to which con­di­tion chil­dren were assigned to. They are thus well-designed stud­ies from which sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound con­clu­sions can be drawn. They add to the grow­ing research base that inten­sive prac­tice and train­ing focused of key cog­ni­tive skills can have pos­i­tive effects that extend beyond the train­ing sit­u­a­tion itself.”

With­out futher ado…enjoy the arti­cle!

- Alvaro

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Two New Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Stud­ies for ADHD Yield Promis­ing Find­ings

– By Dr. David Rabin­er

Although med­ica­tion treat­ment is effec­tive for many chil­dren with ADHD, there remains an impor­tant need to explore and devel­op inter­ven­tions that can com­ple­ment or even sub­sti­tute for med­ica­tion. This is true for a vari­ety of rea­sons includ­ing:

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness @ Education, Training, Health events

Brain Fitness eventsIn what cat­e­go­ry does Brain Fit­ness fit? Edu­ca­tion, Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and Train­ing, Health? Most of the inter­est so far has come from a Healthy Aging angle, but we are start­ing to see broad­er inter­est, as in the events below. After all, isn’t work­ing on our brains rel­e­vant to all those mar­kets?.

2 busy weeks: I am attending/ speak­ing at a vari­ety of events. I will make sure to blog at least the take-aways from the main events dai­ly, and Car­o­line will also add her per­spec­tive as much as pos­si­ble.

A) Octo­ber 3–6th: The Aspen Health Forum at the Aspen Insti­tute

B) Octo­ber 9th: First ses­sion of my class The Sci­ence of Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness at the UC-Berke­ley Osh­er Life­long Learn­ing Insti­tute (OLLI)

C) Octo­ber 10th: Teach­ing Brain Fit­ness in Your Com­mu­ni­ty, work­shop at an Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging (ASA) con­fer­ence for health pro­fes­sion­als

D) Octo­ber 10th: Sci­ence at Work, Inter­view at the event The Future of Work: Ampli­fied Indi­vid­u­als, Ampli­fied Orga­ni­za­tions, orga­nized by the Insti­tute for the Future

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A) Octo­ber 3–6th: The Aspen Health Forum at the Aspen Insti­tute. This promis­es to be a fas­ci­nat­ing event. See below the pan­els I am attend­ing-I will make sure to write some notes every day to keep you in the dis­cus­sion.

Wednes­day Octo­ber 3rd:

Great Expec­ta­tions: Amer­i­can Atti­tudes toward Per­son­al Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Med­i­cine

Health­care Re-Imag­ined: Learn­ing from Olympic Ath­letes

Thurs­day 4th:

The Dam­aged Brain: The Fight Against Neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion

The Human Ele­ment: A Can­did Con­ver­sa­tion about Pio­neers of Mod­ern Med­i­cine

The Last Fron­tier: The Mind

Glob­al Sci­en­tif­ic Invest­ment

Sci­ence Ver­sus the Bio­log­i­cal Clock Read the rest of this entry »

Working Memory: an image that says much

Working memory

(Graph Source: Kling­berg et al, 2005)

Work­ing mem­o­ry is a key cog­ni­tive func­tion that allows you to hold sev­er­al units of infor­ma­tion in mind “online” for brief peri­ods of time, typ­i­cal­ly a few sec­onds, and man­age them.

For exam­ple, if I tell you the 7 dig­its of my tele­phone num­ber, would you remem­ber them? and, could you tell them back to me…in reverse order?

Ques­tions:

- What if that curve could be moved upwards?

- What activ­i­ties may help kids and youth expand work­ing mem­o­ry?

- What activ­i­ties can help adults over 30 reduce that rate of decline?

- And what is the rela­tion­ship between work­ing mem­o­ry and the brain?

To Be Con­tin­ued…

Brains Way Smarter Than Ours (and yours, probably)

Brain Health NewsRoundup of recent arti­cles:

1) Awards

-Very smart brains: Fun Slate arti­cle, Sev­en Inge­nious Rules: How to become a MacArthur genius, once the 24 new MacArthur Fel­lows were announced (Dear read­er: if you are a past, present or future win­ner, please for­give me for the title).

-The Tech Muse­um of Inno­va­tion Announces 2007 Awards (we had been nom­i­nat­ed, didn’t win).

2) Encour­ag­ing for the whole field: NASDAQ and Neu­roIn­sights Launch­ing Neu­rotech Index.

3) Cog­ni­tive Train­ing Prod­ucts: Hype or Hope for Main­tain­ing Inde­pen­dence?.

Great June arti­cle we had missed, includ­ing a link to a 23-page PDF overview: Intel­lec­tu­al Func­tion­ing in Adult­hood: Growth, Main­te­nance, Decline and Mod­i­fi­a­bil­i­ty by K. Warn­er Shaie & Sher­ry L. Willis (San Fran­cis­co: Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging, 2005).

4) Mil­i­tary Backs Reforms: “The mil­i­tary will expand psy­cho­log­i­cal screen­ing for both new recruits and active-duty ser­vice mem­bers, and will make safe­guard­ing men­tal health part of the core train­ing for lead­ers”.

5) Ed Boy­den, who leads the MIT leads the Neu­ro­engi­neer­ing and Neu­ro­me­dia Group, has a new neu­rotech­nol­o­gy blog.

6) More blog car­ni­vals: Edu­ca­tion, Tan­gled Bank (Sci­ence).

11 Neuroscientists Debunk a Common Myth about Brain Training

Last Mon­day, NPR (very good US-based radio sta­tion) had a pro­gram on “do brain train­ing pro­grams work?” that reflect­ed very old-fash­ioned think­ing. In short, the guest speak­ers talked and talked about the impor­tance of nutri­tion and phys­i­cal exer­cise (both very impor­tant, as we have cov­ered in this blog mul­ti­ple times), and expressed skep­ti­cism about the con­cept of exer­cis­ing our brains to improve atten­tion, mem­o­ry and oth­er skills…I guess it takes a while to change old men­tal par­a­digms (And yes, some pro­grams work bet­ter than oth­ers).

Neu­ro­sci­en­tists have final­ly debunked that old think­ing that our brains decline inex­orably after a cer­tain age with lit­tle each of us can do to “exer­cise” or “train our brains”. But don’t trust me. Dur­ing the last year I have had the for­tune to inter­view 11 cut­ting-edge neu­ro­sci­en­tists and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists on their research and thoughts. Here are some of my favorite quotes (you can read the full inter­view notes by click­ing the links):

Judith Beck “Today, thanks to fMRI and oth­er neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, we are start­ing to under­stand the impact our actions can have on spe­cif­ic parts of the brain.”- Dr. Judith S. Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research, and author of The Beck Diet Solu­tion: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Per­son. Full Inter­view Notes.

James ZullLearn­ing is phys­i­cal. Learn­ing means the mod­i­fi­ca­tion, growth, and prun­ing of our neu­rons, con­nec­tions called synaps­es and neu­ronal net­works, through experience…When we do so, we are cul­ti­vat­ing our own neu­ronal net­works. We become our own gar­den­ers — Dr. James Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­o­gy and Bio­chem­istry at Case West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. Full Inter­view Notes.

Dr. Elkhonon GoldbergExer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies. In my expe­ri­ence, “Use it or lose it” should real­ly be “Use it and get more of it”.- Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of the great neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Alexan­der Luria. Full Inter­view Notes.

Picture of Daniel Gopher What research has shown is that cog­ni­tion, or what we call think­ing and per­for­mance, is real­ly a set of skills that we can train sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. And that com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive train­ers or“cognitive sim­u­la­tions are the most effec­tive and effi­cient way to do so. — Dr. Daniel Gopher, Direc­tor of the Research Cen­ter for Work Safe­ty and Human Engi­neer­ing at Tech­nion Insti­tute of Sci­ence. Full Inter­view Notes.

Yaakov SternIndi­vid­u­als who lead men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s symp­toms. Stud­ies sug­gest that they have 35–40% less risk of man­i­fest­ing the dis­ease- Dr. Yaakov Stern, Divi­sion Leader of the Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Divi­sion of the Sergievsky Cen­ter at the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, New York. Full Inter­view Notes.

Go HiranoIt is hard­ly deni­able that brains enchant Japan­ese peo­ple. We love brain train­ing. Dentsu, the biggest adver­tis­ing agency, announced the No.1 Con­sumer-cho­sen 2006 Prod­uct was game soft­ware and books for brain train­ing.”- Go Hira­no, Japan­ese exec­u­tive, founder of NeuWell. Full Inter­view Notes.

Picture of Brett Steenbarger Elite per­form­ers are dis­tin­guished by the struc­tur­ing of their learn­ing process. It is impor­tant to under­stand the role of emo­tions: they are not “bad”. They are very use­ful sig­nals. It is impor­tant to become aware of them to avoid being engulfed by them, and learn how to man­age them. — Dr. Brett Steen­barg­er, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chi­a­try and Behav­ioral Sci­ences, SUNY Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty, and author of Enhanc­ing Trad­er Per­for­mance. Full Inter­view Notes.

torkel_s.jpgWe have shown that work­ing mem­o­ry can be improved by train­ing…I think that we are see­ing the begin­ning of a new era of com­put­er­ized train­ing for a wide range of appli­ca­tions.  Dr. Torkel Kling­berg, Direc­tor of the Devel­op­men­tal Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Lab at Karolin­s­ka Insti­tute. Full Inter­view Notes.

Bradley S. Gibson, Ph.D.Train­ing is very impor­tant: atten­tion­al con­trol is one of the last cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties to devel­op in nor­mal brain development…I can eas­i­ly see the rel­e­vance in 2 fields. One, pro­fes­sion­al sports. Two, mil­i­tary train­ing.  Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son is the Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame. Full Inter­view Notes.

Arthur LavinI don’t see that schools are apply­ing the best knowl­edge of how minds work. Schools should be the best place for applied neu­ro­science, tak­ing the lat­est advances in cog­ni­tive research and apply­ing it to the job of edu­cat­ing minds. — Dr. Arthur Lavin, Asso­ciate Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Pedi­atrics at Case West­ern School of Med­i­cine, pedi­a­tri­cian in pri­vate prac­tice. Full Inter­view Notes.

David RabinerCog­ni­tive train­ing rests on sol­id premis­es, and some pro­grams already have very promis­ing research results. Some of the most are promis­ing areas are: neu­ro­feed­back, which as a whole is start­ing to present good research results, and work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing. — Pro­fes­sor David Rabin­er, Senior Research Sci­en­tist and the Direc­tor of Psy­chol­o­gy and Neu­ro­science Under­grad­u­ate Stud­ies at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty: Full Inter­view Notes.

There is much we can do every­day to lit­er­al­ly exer­cise our brains. No mat­ter our age. So much to Learn…so Good to Learn! Let’s see when this sto­ry makes it into NPR.

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