Update: Know Thyself, Know How Your Brain Works

What is work­ing mem­ory, and why it mat­ters? Can we multi-task as good as we seem to assume? What should we all know about how our brains work, and why?

We hope you enjoy this August eNewslet­ter, fea­tur­ing six dis­tin­guished con­trib­u­tors who answer those ques­tions, and more. Please remem­ber that you can sub­scribe to receive this free Brain Fit­ness eNewslet­ter by email.

Know Thy­self

Why work­ing mem­ory mat­ters in the knowl­edge age: As Dr. Tracy Alloway points out, one way to visu­al­ize work­ing mem­ory is as the brain’s “Post-it Notes” — we make men­tal scrib­bles of bits of infor­ma­tion we need to remem­ber and work with. With­out enough work­ing mem­ory we can­not func­tion as a soci­ety or as indi­vid­u­als. Learn more by par­tic­i­pat­ing in this study launched by Dr. Alloway’s team in con­junc­tion with the British Sci­ence Festival.

What should every­one learn about the brain?: Dr. Jo Ellen Rose­man and Mary Kop­pel from the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Sci­ence (AAAS) dis­cuss recent rec­om­men­da­tions on what all stu­dents should know. Not just the basics of brain struc­ture and func­tion, but also a good under­stand­ing of men­tal health—such as the mind/body rela­tion­ship, fac­tors that shape behav­ior, ways of cop­ing with men­tal dis­tress, and the diag­no­sis and treat­ment of men­tal disorders.

News

Pool­ing data to accel­er­ate Alzheimer’s research: A good arti­cle in the New York Times presents the rea­sons behind grow­ing research of how to detect Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. A pilot study shows how com­put­er­ized cog­ni­tive train­ing may help reduce falls among elderly. Amazon.com rec­om­mends The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness in a thought-provoking mix.

Beyond News

Needed: fund­ing for inno­v­a­tive research on slow­ing cog­ni­tive decline via cog­ni­tive train­ing: Sharp­Brains reader and UK researcher Nick Almond shares a note debunk­ing the so-called BBC brain train­ing exper­i­ment  and out­lin­ing the type of research he and col­leagues at Leeds Uni­ver­sity deem necessary.

Long-term effects of neu­ro­feed­back treat­ment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reviews the 6-month follow-up of a sci­en­tific study on whether neu­ro­feed­back can help kids with atten­tion deficits, find­ing that ben­e­fits indeed remained 6 months after treat­ment had ended. Given, how­ever, that only around 50% of chil­dren showed ben­e­fits, it is impor­tant to regard this tool as part of a mul­ti­modal treat­ment program.

Brain Teaser

Test your atten­tional focus and multi-tasking: How often do you read a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a client? Or think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his home­work? Human atten­tion is lim­ited, and we need to man­age it well, as shown in this teaser pre­pared by Dr. Pas­cale Mich­e­lon.

Have a great Sep­tem­ber. And, should you hap­pen to be in Barcelona, Spain, on Sep­tem­ber 14th, make sure to attend Alvaro Fer­nan­dez talk there titled “How and Why Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy Will Trans­form Edu­ca­tion, Train­ing and Brain Health”.

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Beware: “Lifetime Brain Fitness” Expo

Dear readers and colleagues,

You may have received one or several unsolicited email communications from a group called “Lifetime Brain Fitness”, now presumably organizing a “Brain Fitness Expo” in San Francisco. You may have wondered how they got your email address in order to send unsolicited messages. I need to apologize, since I am partially responsible.

Based on feedback from many 2010 SharpBrains Summit participants who wanted to be in touch with other participants, we decided to share the list of participants – including email info. We shared, only with Summit participants (which included one of “Lifetime Brain Fitness” founders), a protected PDF document that could be printed but not copied and displayed this very visible Terms of Use at the top of the document:

“Terms of Use: this List of Participants can be used for one-on-one communications among registered Summit participants. Information may not be reproduced,  duplicated, copied, sold, resold, or otherwise exploited for any commercial purpose. Complaints about inappropriate use will result in exclusion from future Summits.”

Shortly afterwards, the group “Lifetime Brain Fitness” started sending unsolicited emails to that same list of SharpBrains Summit participants (we have documentation to prove it), and we received puzzled messages from a number of you. Further, we have also received complaints from individuals affiliated with SharpBrains that some of their recent magazine material published by “Lifetime Brain Fitness” suspiciously resembles, and without any attribution, our own published materials.

In light of this repeated inappropriate behavior, we have decided not to invite the team behind “Lifetime Brain Fitness” to any future SharpBrains event, and not to collaborate with them in any shape or form. This may be unfortunate, because there’s certainly much work to do, but I believe that, above all, the DNA of an emerging field needs to reflect professionalism and integrity.

If you want to share any views, please feel free to email me. Since our minds are already immersed in preparing the agenda for the 2011 SharpBrains Summit, please feel free to share any suggestions too.

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Update: Innovation to Upgrade Brain Care

Here you have the July107px-gray1197thumbnail edition of our monthly eNewslet ter covering cognitive health and brain fitness topics. Please remem ber that you can subscribe to receive this free Brain Fitness eNewsletter by email, using the box in the right column.

Technology to upgrade brain care: In this extensive interview, Dr. John Docherty helps connect the dots on why new frameworks and tools are a must to put recent brain research to good use. A must read for all professionals in the field.

Research

Findings from NIH Expert Panel: The American Society on Aging asked Alvaro Fernandez to comment on the findings from a major cognitive health research review by the National Institutes of Health. Lifestyle still matters, and protective factors against cognitive decline are led by cognitive training, physical activity and cognitive engagement.

Scientific critique of BBC brain training experiment: Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski shares her concerns about the April 2010 BBC study, which included substantial and unexplained dropout rates, and questionable outcome measurement and interpretation.

The value of being bilingual and building a Cognitive Reserve to preserve learning and memory even in the face of brain damage are explored in recent studies.

San Francisco Bay Area study seeks participants: The Gazzaley Lab at UCSF is looking for participants aged 20-59 to explore the impact of distraction and multitasking on performance across the lifespan.


Innovation

What impressed Innovation Awards Judging Panel: Get some insight into what most impressed the Judging Panel about each Winner and Finalist of the 2010 Brain Fitness Innovation Awards.

New – SharpBrains’ 2010 Market Report: SharpBrains’ flagship, 207-page, third annual market report finds continued growth for digital technologies to assess, enhance and treat cognition.

To manage brain fitness through life, we need to put puzzle pieces together: innovative tools to help us better monitor our cognitive health and take informed action are badly needed….and already emerging.

The internet will fry your brain. Sure: In his latest book, Nicholas Carr does a great job highlighting the implications of lifelong neuro­plasticity, but picks the wrong enemy.

“Serious Games”: Can video games inspire people to perform acts of altruism? Kyle Smith reports.

Teasers

Yahoo Optical Illusions and teasers: Yahoo! has created an expanded section of illusions and teasers, and we were glad to contribute to it. Enjoy…and have a great summer!

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Brain Fitness Update: Man is a Tool-Making Animal

Here you have the February edition of our monthly eNewsletter covering cognitive health and brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, by visiting http://www.SharpBrains.com and subscribing there.

The recent SharpBrains Summit witnessed the convergence of Benjamin Franklin’s words (”Man is a Tool-Making Animal”)  with neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s  (”Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.”) The neuroplasticity revolution that may well transform education, training, healthcare, aging, is under way.

New Tools

Will the Apple iPad Be Good for your BrainProf. Luc Beaudoin lays out key criteria to assess Apple iPad’s potential value for our cognitive fitness, and judges the iPad against a comprehensive checklist.  His verdict? Thumbs-up.

Is Working Memory a better predictor of academic success than IQ?Dr. Tracy Alloway summarizes  a recent landmark study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, which  tracked children over a six-year period. Key finding: Working memory can be a more powerful predictor of academic success than IQ scores.

Old Tools

Building Fit Minds Under Stress: According to Science Daily’s take on a just published study, “a high-stress U.S. military group preparing for deployment to Iraq has demonstrated a positive link between mindfulness training, or MT, and improvements in mood and working memory”.

The Evolution of Empathy: Empathy is not a uniquely human trait, explains primatologist Frans de Waal in this Greater Good Magazine article. Apes and other animals feel it as well, suggesting that empathy is truly an essential part of who we are.

Reflections

Reflections on Creativity – Interview with Daniel Tammet:  Scott Barry Kaufman recently interviewed Daniel Tammet, known for vividly describing autistic savantism from the inside. Their in-depth conversation made Scott reflect that “Daniel Tammet’s feeling of a great loneliness and isolation growing up spoke to me, for sure. But I’m sure it also spoke to a great many people reading the interview.”

Summit Reactions

The SharpBrains Summit took place January 18-20th, helping engage over 250 participants in 15 countries. Here are a couple of reactions from participants:

5 Key Reflections on “Neurocentric Health”: Institute For The Future researcher Jake Dunagan summarizes his main take-aways, including this overall assessment – “Although the conference was virtual, aside from the rigors of travel and a basket of bagels on the hallway table, my level of intellectual stimulation (and fatigue) mirrored most of my face-to-face conference experiences. It was a technical success and the content was first-rate.” (Thanks, Jake!)

The Future of Cognitive Enhancement: Neuroethics researcher Peter Reinerponders,  “Will brain fitness software dominate the world of cognitive enhancement?”.  His take: “Prior to this conference I was quite skeptical, but the overall impression that I was left with was that brain fitness software may turn out to have some distinct advantages over pharmacological approaches.” Read his article to discover why.

Community

Network for Brain Fitness Innovation (private LinkedIn group):  Members are engaging in many good discussions, including most surprising things learned during the SharpBrains Summit, how to deal with conflicts of interest in industry and academia, resources and conferences relevant to education and children, and ways to elicit a wider interest in brain health.

Looking for Speakers: We are always looking for best practices and research-based innovation. If you are interested in speaking at future SharpBrains events (including Games for Health brain tracks), please Contact Us and tell us about 1) your innovation or research, 2) its measured and/ or potential impact, 3) recent coverage in general, trade, or scientific media, 4) the typical audience you talk to, and a couple of descriptions of recent talks, 5) what you propose talking about.

Offer

Brain Fitness Information Package for Libraries:  libraries of all kinds can now  order a copy of our main report, The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009, at 50% off price.  Using discount code sharplibrary leaves this premium report at $645 (offer valid until March 31st, 2010). Offer is  valid for individuals and organizations who commit to donating their copy to a library, in good shape, after consulting it.

Finally, a reminder that Brain Awareness Week (March 15-21, 2010) is approaching soon!

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Update: Expo Day at SharpBrains Summit, 15 Top Brain Fitness Articles of 2009

In this January issue of our eNewsletter, we will first neuronsbrief you on the enlightening demos that will take place on Wednesday, January 20th, as part of the SharpBrains Summit, and then present the 15 most stimulating SharpBrains articles of 2009.

Expo Day

If you want to see and discuss the latest programs and technologies for brain fitness, presented by Summit Sponsors, Wednesday January 20th is your day. Each demo will last 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.

9am. Baycrest/ Cogniciti will introduce the new Memory@Work workshop, designed to teach what memory is, how lifestyle factors such as distraction and stress can affect memory, and how to enhance memory performance at work with the use of enabling strategies.

10am. CogniFit will demo CogniFit Personal Coach and CogniFit Senior Driver, two online programs designed to assess and main cognitive functions for healthy living and safe driving, respectively.

11am. Posit Science will demo InSight, a software-based cognitive training package designed to sharpen brain’s visual system. This is the program being tested by Allstate for safer driving.

Noon. Happy Neuron will introduce HAPPYneuron PRO, a new platform for professionals for the effective delivery and management of cognitive remediation and rehabilitation programs in a patient centric manner.

1pm. SharpBrains will help navigate this growing field by discussing The State of the Brain Fitness Software 2009 report and The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness consumer guide, and summarizing key Summit take-aways.

Learn more and register HERE. Please remember that discount code sharp2010 gives you 15% off, and that registration closes on January 17th.

We want to thank our most recent sponsor, the Arrowsmith Program, a comprehensive suite of cognitive programs for students with learning disabilities available in public and private schools in Canada and the U.S. More information here.

And now, let’s review the (in our view) 15 most stimulating articles of 2009.

The Big Picture

100 is the new 65: Why do some people live, and well, to 100? Researchers are trying to find out, reports Meera Lee Sethi at Greater Good Magazine.

Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin: Scott Barry Kaufman interviews “child prodigy” Joshua Waitzkin on The Art of Learning.

Debunking 10 Brain Health Myths: Does your brain have a “Brain Age”? Is a Magic Pill to prevent memory problems right around the corner?  Check out the facts to debunk 10 common myths.

Why is working memory relevant to reading and mathematics: A recent large UK study identified 1 in 10 students as having working memory difficulties. Dr. Tracy Alloway elaborates why this matters.

Change Your Environment, Change Yourself: Dr. Brett Steenbarger explains why new environments  force us to exit our routines and actively master unfamiliar challenges.”

Tools

Retooling Use it or lose it: Alvaro Fernandez discusses why routine, doing things inside our comfort zones, is the most common enemy of the novelty, variety and challenge our brains need.

Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?): Dr. Pascale Michelon, dissects a couple of recent press releases and the underlying studies to clarifying what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

New Study Supports Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD: Dr. David Rabiner reports the promising findings from the first well-designed controlled trial on the effect of neurofeedback treatment for ADHD.

Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers suggest so; others are not convinced. Karin Evans offers a  thoughtful review of the evidence and asks, “Now, is this the right question?”

Does coffee boost cognitive functions over time? Dr. Pascale Michelon reports good news (long-term effects seem more positive than negative, so coffee leads to no clear harm) and bad ones (no clear beneficial effects on general brain functions).

Industry

Brain fitness heads towards its tipping point: How do you know when something is moving towards a Gladwellian tipping point? When insurance companies and policy makers pay attention, Dr. Gerard Finnemore reports.

Visual Representation of the State of the Market 2009: Paul Van Slembrouck beautifully presents the main findings of our 150-page market report, The State of the Brain Fitness Market 2009.

Michael Merzenich on brain fitness: neuroscientist Michael Merzenich discusses neuroplasticity, technology, safe driving, mental health, and the need for standards, automated assessments and “personal brain trainers”.

Brain Teaser

Stimulate your Concentration Skills: when one really wants to memorize a fact, it is crucial to pay attention. Dr. Pascale Michelon challenges you to count a few simple letters.

Resolution

Finally, an article that may inspire some New Year Resolutions. In Yes, You Can Build Willpower, Daniel Goleman discusses how the brain makes about 10,000 new cells every day, how they migrate to where they are needed, and how each cell can make around 10,000 connections to other brain cells. Implication? Meditate, mindfully, and build positive habits.

Wishing you a Happy and Productive 2010, and looking forward to meeting many of you (200 so far) at the inaugural SharpBrains Summit!

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Retooling Use It or Lose It at New York Public Library

Here you have the September edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health Brain Fitnessand brain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

In the current edition of The Journal on Active Aging, I discuss why we need to Retool “Use it or lose it”, and why routine, doing things inside our comfort zones, is the most common enemy of the novelty, variety and challenge our brains need. You can read the full article for free Here.

Book Tour

We are glad to report that The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness continues to obtain excellent endorsements:

“This is the only book that I know of that seamlessly integrates latest information about cognitive health across the lifespan. Very useful to anyone interested in brain care.”

–Arthur Kramer, Ph. D., Professor of Psychology at University of Illinois

“…we now have a rock solid primer on brain health that we can recommend with confidence…I found it particularly effective to start the book with a list of ten brain myths that need debunking.”
–Michael C. Patterson, former Manager NRTA/ Staying Sharp at AARP

The official book tour starts this week, and includes New York Public Library!
09/08: Club One Fitness Center, Petaluma, CA
09/09: San Francisco State University OLLI
09/11: ASA Brain Health Day, Oakland, CA
09/23: New York Public Library, Bronx Library Center
09/25: New York Public Library, Stephen Schwarzman Building
10/06, SmartSilvers MIT Northern California, Palo Alto, CA
10/14: UC-Berkeley OLLI, CA

You can find all the details here. If you haven’t read the book yet, you can order it via Amazon Here (print book) or Here (Kindle edition). Or ask your local bookstore or library.

Brain Reserve

Education AND Lifelong Cognitive Activities Delay Memory Loss: Dr. Pascale Michelon reports how a recent follow-up to the Bronx Aging Study, where 488 initially healthy adults have been tracked over 20 years, shows that every additional cognitive “activity day” (participating in one activity for one day a week) helps delay for about two months the onset of rapid memory loss as we grow older.
Need ideas for extra activities?

Changing our Minds…by Reading Fiction: What about getting a novel in your hands (or writing one)? By imagining many possible worlds, argues psychologist Keith Oatley, fiction gives us the surprise which can help expand our understanding of ourselves and the social world.

SharpBrains Fan Page in Facebook: What about participating in our new Fan Page at Facebook? You can not only receive latest updates but comment on your favorite articles and teasers, and discuss your own ideas and resources.

Medication and Training

Cognitive Enhancement via Pharmacology AND Neuropsychology: our co-founder Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg integrates three apparently separate worlds -cognitive enhancement via drugs, brain fitness training software, computerized neurocognitive assessments-, in a much updated new edition of his book The Executive Brain.

Comparing Cognitive Training & Medication Treatment for ADHD: a recent study shows that working memory training improves working memory more than stimulant medication treatment-and benefits persist longer. Does this matter?, Does this mean training is better than medication for kids with attention deficits?  Dr. David Rabiner dissects the study searching for answers.

Innovation

AAA to deploy DriveSharp: Peter Kissinger, CEO of the AAA Foundation, explains why the current system of driver licensing is inadequate and inconsistent, why AAA is recommending older drivers use a new cognitive training program, and why he believes insurance companies will soon start to offer brain training to their members.

SharpBrains Network for Brain Fitness Innovation: in order to help leaders of the brain fitness and cognitive health community learn, connect and collaborate, SharpBrains has created a virtual LinkedIn network for clients. The network will be formally launched with a webinar on September 29th that will discuss The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market in 2009. For organizations that want to order the report, attend the webinar, and join the network, more information is available Here.

Brain Teaser

Brain Quiz: Do You Have a Brain?: Dr. Pascale Michelon dares you to answer these 10 questions correctly to prove that you have a brain.

Enjoy!

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Update: Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age, and Industry Webinar

Here you have the August edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

Scientific publication Frontiers in Neuroscience recently published a special issue on Augmenting Cognition, and invited me to contribute with an article titled Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age. Groundbreaking brain research has occurred over the last 20 years. The opportunity to improve brain health and performance is immense, but we need to ensure the marketplace matures in a rational and sustainable manner, both through healthcare and non-healthcare channels. Click Here to read my article.

Announcements

In May 2009 SharpBrains published The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009, the main industry report for leading organizations preparing their members, their clients, and their patients for the cognitive age. 150-pages long, the report includes a market survey with 2,000+ respondents, detailed analysis of 20+ vendors, research briefs written by 12 leading scientists and data and trends for 4 major customer segments.webinar

Below we share the full Executive Summary of the report and announce an exclusive webinar on September 29th to discuss the State of the Market in more depth with buyers of the report.

To order the report and access both the report and the webinar, you can click Here. (Only $975 -a 25% discount- using Discount Code Frontiers2009 before September 28th).

State of the Market

The brain fitness field holds exciting promise for the future while presenting clear opportunities and challenges today. The good news is that there are more tools available than ever before to assess and train a variety of cognitive skills. The bad news is that there are no magic pills and that consumers, while satisfied overall, seem confused by competing claims on how to reduce one’s “brain age.” We do see signs that this early-stage market can mature in a more rational, structured manner; but there is much work to be done. We estimate that the size of the U.S. brain fitness software (i.e., applications designed to assess or enhance cognitive abilities) market in 2008 was $265M – growing 18% from $225M in 2007, and representing an annualized growth rate of 38% since 2005. Growth came in roughly equal Read the rest of this entry »

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