Archive for Stress
1940s IQ tests helping to reveal how lifestyle affects the brain
Scotsman, UK - “Scientists have also discovered a small group of men known as the “elite old” who have defied the logic of ageing and whose IQ and fitness levels have risen throughout their lives and appear to be still rising. Actor Richard Wilson, who played Victor …”
Several recent stories on brain training and SharpBrains:
1) New brain games may improve mind fitness by Kevin Kosterman (U of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Advance-Titan)
“Anytime we learn, we are training, changing, our brain,” Fernandez said. “The three key core elements for effective brain exercise are novelty, variety and constant challenge, similar to increasing the level in machines we find in gyms.”
3) “Train your brain” by Mark Muckenfuss (The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and San Bernardino)
“We cannot promise to people you will only keep getting better until you are 200 years old. But I think people still underestimate how flexible the brain really is.”
The SmartBrains [sic] program combines mental exercises with a stress reduction program. Too much stress, says Fernandez, has been shown to be damaging not only to performance, but to the brain itself.
With all of the available programs for stimulating the brain, he says, it is important to shop carefully. A critical element, he says, is how clients or participants are evaluated.
“Make sure they have a credible assessment that helps you find your strengths and weaknesses and that they have programs that address (those areas),” he says. “Assessments that give you 50 (as an age-equivalent grade) and a week later you’re 32, that’s not a valuable assessment.”
Alvaro and I had the good fortune to attend a great conference last week called Learning & The Brain: Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning. It was a wonderful mix of neuroscientists and educators talking with and listening to each other. Some topics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought – insight on where science and education are headed and how they influence each other.
Using dramatic new imaging techniques, such as fMRIs, PET, and SPECT, neuroscientists are gaining valuable information about learning. This pioneering knowledge is leading not only to new pedagogies, but also to new medications, brain enhancement technologies, and therapies…. The Conference creates an interdisciplinary forum — a meeting place for neuroscientists, educators, psychologists, clinicians, and parents — to examine these new research findings with respect to their applicability in the classroom and clinical practice.
- Humans are a mixture of cognition and emotion, and both elements are essential to function and learn properly
- Educators and public policy makers need to learn more about the brain, how it grows, and how to cultivate it
- Students of all ages need to be both challenged and nurtured in order to succeed
- People learn differently – try to teach and learn through as many different modalities as possible (engage language, motor skills, artistic creation, social interaction, sensory input, etc.)
- While short-term stress can heighten your cognitive abilities, long term stress kills you — you need to find balance and release
- Test anxiety and subsequent poor test results can be improved with behavioral training with feedback based on heart rate variability
- Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a very very enlightening and fun speaker
- Allow time for rest and consolidation of learned material
- Emotional memories are easier to remember
- Conferences like these perform a real service in fostering dialogues between scientists and educators
The sessions were broken into several subtopics:
ENHANCING THE BRAIN, COGNITION & EDUCATION
Topics included: neuroethics, school readiness, “back to basics” versus “discovery learning”, functional neuroimaging, the Six Developmental Pathways of physical, cognitive, language, social, ethical, and psychological skills
Speakers included: Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., Kurt W. Fischer, Ph.D., John D.E. Gabrieli, Ph.D., Linda Darling-Hammond, Ed.D., Daniel L. Schwartz, Ph.D., Jeb Schenck, Ph.D., Ross A. Thompson, Ph.D., Fay E. Brown, Ph.D., and Mariale M. Hardiman, Ed.D.
MOOD, LEARNING & GENDER DIFFERENCES
Topics included: chronic stress, bipolar disorder, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, sex differences in learning, and creativity
Speakers included: Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D., Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D., Bryna Siegel, Ph.D., Kiki D. Chang, M.D., Michael Gurian, M.A., Sam Goldstein, Ph.D., Lawrence H. Diller, M.D., and Terence A. Ketter, M.D.
ENHANCING MEMORY AND EMOTIONS
Topics included: mirror neurons, stress, anxiety, emotions, pharmacologic manipulations of memory, emotional events, sex differences, and “brain-considerate” learning environments, social functioning, decision making, motivation, achievement, positive-emotion refocusing
Speakers included: Kenneth A.Wesson, Ph.D., Kenneth S. Kosik, M.D., Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., Larry Cahill, Ph.D., Mary Fowler, M.A., Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D., Ed.M., and Robert Sylwester, Ed.D.
NEUROSCIENCE, LANGUAGE & READING
Topics included: reading disorders, dyslexia, assessment, instructional strategies, the achievement gap, and integration of visual, auditory, and language information
THE ARTS, MUSIC & COGNITION
Topics included: artistic process versus art content, effects of music on cognitive performance, and the generalizability of of artistic abilities to cognitive abilities
- Stanford University School of Education
- Harvard Graduate School of Education, Mind, Brain & Education Program
- Yale School of Medicine, Comer School Development Program, Child Study Center
- University of California, Santa Barbara, Neuroscience Research Institute
- The Dana Foundation, Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
- Boston University School of Education
- Public Information Resources, Inc. (PIRI)
- National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
- Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg on Brain Fitness Programs and Cognitive Training
- An ape can do this. Can we not? An Interview with Dr. James Zull
- Lifelong learning, literally: neuroplasticity for students, boomers, seniors…
- Cognitive Neuroscience and Education Today
Save the Date! April 28-30, 2007 is the next conference, Learning & The Brain – Molding Minds: How to Shape the Developing Brain for Learning & Achievement, in Cambridge, Mass. We will post more information about this conference shortly.
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 this 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.
Here is question 16 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.
Are yoga and meditation good for my brain?
- Yoga, meditation, and visualization are all excellent ways to learn to manage your stress levels.
- Reducing stress, and the stress hormones, in your system is critical to your brain and overall fitness.
Yes. It’s clear that our society has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with physical, immediately life-threatening crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and illnesses that gnaw away at us slowly, without any stress release.
Read the rest of this entry »
Here is question 15 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.
I don’t want to ever retire. What can I do to remain sharp?
- Provide your brain with regular mental stimulation that is novel and challenging.
- Maintain your social network for both stimulation and stress reduction.
“Research has shown that contrary to popular belief, the brain is constantly undergoing neurogenesis, the development of new neurons and dendrites,” said Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine. “Learning and targeted mental exercise promotes neurogenesis – the creation of new neurons – just as muscle growth is promoted through physical exercise.”
Continuing with the theme of a Week of Science sponsored by Just Science, we will highlight some of the key points in: Appelhans BM, Luecken LJ. Heart Rate Variability as an Index of Regulated Emotional Responding. Review of General Psychology. 2006;10:229–240.
Defining Heart Rate Variability
Effective emotional regulation depends on being able to flexibly adjust your physiological response to a changing environment.
“… heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the continuous interplay between sympathetic and parasympathetic influences on heart rate that yields information about autonomic flexibility and thereby represents the capacity for regulated emotional responding.”
“HRV reflects the degree to which cardiac activity can be modulated to meet changing situational demands.”
The sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) antagonistically influence the lengths of time between consecutive heartbeats. Faster heart rates, which can be due to increased SNS and/or lower PNS activity, correspond to a shorter interbeat interval while slower heart rates have a longer interbeat interval, which can be attributed to increased PNS and/or decreased SNS activity.
The frequency-based HRV analyses are based on the fact that the variations in heart rate produced by SNS and PNS activity occur at different speeds, or frequencies. SNS is slow acting and mediated by norepinephrine while PNS influence is fast acting and mediated by acetylcholine.