Whitepaper: 10 Myths Debunked

Brain Health and Fitness whitepaper
Sub­scribe to our free month­ly newslet­ter and receive your com­pli­men­ta­ry copy.

We are offer­ing a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of our new whitepa­per, which will be made avail­able to you via email with­in 24 hours of sub­scrip­tion to our free Sharp­Brains Month­ly Newsletter .
The 40-page whitepa­per “11 Sharp Brains Debunk 10 Myths on the Sci­ence Behind The Nascent Brain Fit­ness Indus­try”, fea­tures 11 in-depth inter­views with lead­ing neu­ro­sci­en­tists, psy­chol­o­gists and experts in the field of cog­ni­tion, con­duct­ed by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez dur­ing the last 12 months. The quotes below come from those interviews.
Health and Medicine

Myth 1: It’s all in our genes.

Real­i­ty: A big com­po­nent of our life­long brain health and devel­op­ment depends on what we do with our brains. Our own actions, not only our genes, influ­ence our lives to a large extent. Genes pre­dis­pose us, not deter­mine our fates.

Indi­vid­u­als who lead men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing lives, through edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion and leisure activ­i­ties, have reduced risk of devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s. 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 Colum­bia University.

Myth 2: The field of Cognitive/ Brain Fit­ness is too new to be credible. 

Real­i­ty: The field rests on sol­id foun­da­tions dat­ing back more decades — what is new is the num­ber and range of tools that are now start­ing to be avail­able for healthy individuals.

Rig­or­ous and tar­get­ed cog­ni­tive train­ing has been used in clin­i­cal prac­tice for many years. Exer­cis­ing our brains sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly is as impor­tant as exer­cis­ing our bod­ies. — Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist, Frontal Lobes fMRIclin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­o­gy at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, and dis­ci­ple of Alexan­der Luria.

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 Beck, Direc­tor of the Beck Insti­tute for Cog­ni­tive Ther­a­py and Research.

Myth 3: Med­ica­tion is and will remain the only evi­dence-based inter­ven­tion for a num­ber of brain-relat­ed problems.

Real­i­ty: Cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­grams are start­ing to show val­ue as com­ple­ments to drug-based interventions.

Cog­ni­tive train­ing rests on sol­id premis­es, and some pro­grams already have very promis­ing research results”- Pro­fes­sor David Rabin­er, Senior Research Sci­en­tist and Direc­tor of Psy­chol­o­gy and Neu­ro­science Under­grad­u­ate Stud­ies at Duke University.


Myth 4: We need to buy very expen­sive stuff to improve our brains. 

Real­i­ty: Every time we learn a new skill, con­cept or fact, we change the phys­i­cal com­po­si­tion of our brains. Life­long learn­ing means life­long neuroplasticity.neurons

Learn­ing is phys­i­cal. Learn­ing means the mod­i­fi­ca­tion, growth, and prun­ing of our neu­rons, con­nec­tions called synaps­es and neu­ronal net­works, through experience…we are cul­ti­vat­ing our own neu­ronal net­works. — Dr. James Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­o­gy and Bio­chem­istry at Case West­ern University,

Myth 5: Schools should just focus on basic skills like Read­ing and Math. 

Real­i­ty: “Men­tal mus­cles, such as work­ing mem­o­ry, are fun­da­men­tal to aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance and are cur­rent­ly over­looked by the school system.

I 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.

Cor­po­rate Train­ing

Myth 6: On-the-job train­ing is the only way to train one’s mind. 

Real­i­ty: Com­put­er-based pro­grams can be more effec­tive at train­ing spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive skills.

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, Pro­fes­sor of Human Fac­tors Engi­neer­ing at Tech­nion Insti­tute of Science.

Myth 7: Brain exer­cise is only for seniors. And, only about memory. 

Real­i­ty: Peo­ple of all ages can ben­e­fit from a vari­ety of reg­u­lar brain exer­cis­es. For active pro­fes­sion­als, Working memoryman­ag­ing stress and emo­tions is often a good first step.

The 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. Steen­barg­er, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Behav­ioral Sci­ences at SUNY Upstate Med­ical Uni­ver­si­ty, and author of the book Enhanc­ing Trad­er Performance.

Myth 8: This all sounds too soft to be of real val­ue to man­agers and professionals. 

Real­i­ty: There is noth­ing soft about the hard sci­ence-based train­ing of spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al skills.

I can eas­i­ly see the rel­e­vance in high­ly com­pet­i­tive fields, such as pro­fes­sion­al sports and mil­i­tary train­ing. — Dr. Bradley Gib­son, Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame.

Seri­ous Games

Brain Health and Fitness whitepaper
Sub­scribe to our free month­ly newslet­ter and receive your com­pli­men­ta­ry copy.

We are offer­ing a com­pli­men­ta­ry copy of our new whitepa­per, which will be made avail­able to you via email with­in 24 hours of sub­scrip­tion to our free Sharp­Brains Month­ly Newsletter .

Myth 9: Videogames are always a waste of time. 

Real­i­ty: Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-designed, com­put­er-based pro­grams can be a good vehi­cle for train­ing spe­cif­ic skills. For exam­ple, it has been shown that short term mem­o­ry can be expand­ed by such programs.

We have shown that work­ing mem­o­ry can be improved by train­ing.”  Dr. Torkel Kling­berg, Direc­tor of the Devel­op­men­tal Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science Lab at Karolin­s­ka Institute.

Myth 10: This means kids will spend more time play­ing videogames. 

Real­i­ty: In Japan  the world’s ear­li­est adopter of brain-relat­ed videogames- over­all home videogame sales have declined, with chil­dren play­ing less over time. Inter­est­ing­ly, adults in Japan have start­ed to play brain-relat­ed video games more, and we are start­ing to see the same trend with adults in the US and Europe.

The sales of soft­ware on home game machines have declined (in Japan) from its peak of 533 bil­lion yen in 1997 to 53% of that amount, 315 bil­lion yen in 2005” — Go Hira­no, Japan­ese executive.