Posts Tagged Brain health

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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Debunking 10 Brain Training/ Cognitive Health Myths

Think about this: How can anyone take care of his or her brain when every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which seem to contradict each other?

Do supplements improve memory? Do you need both physical and mental exercise –or is one of them enough? Which brain training approach, if any, is worth one’s time and money?

We tried to address these questions, and many others, in our recent book, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain FitnessSharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness. The Book (182 pages, $24.95), that we presented at Games for Health Conference last week. The book is the result of over two years of extensive research including more than a hundred interviews with scientists, professionals and consumers, and a deep review of the scientific literature, led by neuropsychologist Elkhonon Goldberg and myself with the help of cognitive scientist Pascale Michelon. As we wrote in the Introduction, what we wanted to do first of all was to debunks these 10 myths on brain health and brain training:

Myth 1. Genes determine the fate of our brains.
Facts: Lifelong neuroplasticity allows our lifestyles and actions to play a meaningful role in how our brains physically evolve, especially given longer life expectancy.

Myth 2. Aging means automatic decline.
Facts: There is nothing inherently fixed in the precise trajectory of how brain functions evolve as we age.

Myth 3. Medication is the main hope for cognitive enhancement.
Facts: Non-invasive interventions can have comparable and more durable effects, side effect-free.

Myth 4. We will soon have a Magic Pill or General Solution to solve all our cognitive challenges.
Facts: A multi-pronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.

Myth 5. There is only one “it” in “Use It or Lose it”.
Facts: The brain is composed of a number of specialized units. Our life and productivity depend on a variety of brain functions, not just one.

Myth 6. All brain activities or exercises are equal.
Facts: Varied and targeted exercises are the necessary ingredients in brain training so that a wide range of brain functions can be stimulated.

Myth 7. There is only one way to train your brain.
Facts: Brain functions can be impacted in a number of ways: through meditation, cognitive therapy, cognitive training.

Myth 8. We all have something called “Brain Age”.
Facts: Brain age is a fiction. No two individuals have the same brain or expression of brain functions.

Myth 9. That “brain age” can be reversed by 10, 20, 30 years.
Facts: Brain training can improve specific brain functions, but, with research available today, cannot be said to roll back one’s “brain age” by a number of years.

Myth 10. All human brains need the same brain training.
Facts: As in physical fitness, users must ask themselves: What functions do I need to improve on? In what timeframe? What is my budget?

Do you have other myths in mind you would like  us to address?

We have started to receive great feedback from the healthcare community, such as this email from a neurosurgeon in Texas:

“I really like the book, it is comprehensive without being too technical. I have recommended it to several patients. There are some other books that I expected would be greeted with enthusiasm, but were too complex for most of my patients. I think this book is right in the sweet spot”.

And this great book review by an Internist Physician and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, titled Is Your Brain A Couch Potato?:

“…a short, sweet, entertaining read of a complex topic, with timely (written in 1/09) reviews of 21 top technology products, as well as informed and expert predictions of where this burgeoning brain-fitness field is headed. More importantly, after you read it, you’ll have a good, detailed sense of where you, personally, can act to improve your own couch-potato brain – and how to keep it fit and flexible your whole life. The SharpBrains Guide To Brain Fitness reminds of us all why books (and not just googling a topic) can be well worth your time and money. Two Stethoscopes Up – check it out. life.”

—Doc Gurley, book review for SFGate.com (06/08/09)

The bookThe SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness (available via Amazon.com Here, review copies available upon request).

Description: While most of us have heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” very few understand what “it” means, or how to properly “use it” in order to maintain brain function and fitness. The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is an invaluable guide that helps readers navigate growing brain research and identify the lifestyle factors and products that contribute to brain health and fitness. By gathering insights from eighteen of the world’s top scientists and offering tools and detailed descriptions of over twenty products, this book is an essential guide to the field of brain fitness, neuroplasticity and cognitive health. An accessible and thought-provoking read, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness educates lifelong learners and professionals in healthcare, education, business, etc., on emerging trends and forecasts of what the future will hold.

Products Reviewed (we reviewed scientific studies published before January 2009, when the manuscript text was closed):

- Overall brain maintenance: Brain Age series (Nintendo), BrainWare Safari (Learning Enhancement Corporation), FitBrains.com (Vivity Labs), Happy-Neuron.com (Scientific Brain Training), Lumosity.com (Lumos Labs), MindFit (CogniFit), (m)Power (Dakim)

- Targeted brain workout: Classic and InSight (Posit Science), Working Memory Training JM and RM (Cogmed), DriveFit (CogniFit), Earobics (Houghton Mifflin), Fast ForWord (Scientific Learning), IntelliGym (Applied Cognitive Engineering), Vision Restpration Therapy (NovaVision)

- Emotional self-regulation: emWave PC and Personal Stress Reliever (HeartMath), Journey to the Wild Divine (Wild Divine), RESPeRATE (InterCure), StressEraser (Helicor)

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Update: Does Cognitive Training Work?

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

Cognitive training (or structured mental exercise) definitely seems to work – as long as we define properly what “work” means, don’t expect magic cures, and help navigate options. Please keep reading…

Interview: Baycrest

Interview with Baycrest’s CEO Dr. William Reichman: Discussing the recent Centre for Brain Fitness at Baycrest, Dr. Reichman suggests that “we have an opportunity to make major progress in Brain Health in the XXI century, similar to what happened with Cardiovascular Health in the XXth, and technology will play a crucial role.” A major obstacle? We need a consensus on “widely accepted standards for outcome measures”.

Does It Work?

Does cognitive training work? (For Whom? For What?): The growing field of cognitive training (one of the tools for brain fitness) can appear very confusing as the media keeps reporting contradictory claims. These claims are often based on press releases, without a deeper understanding of the scientific evidence. Dr. Pascale Michelon, SharpBrains’ Research Manager for Educational Initiatives, analyzes a couple of recent studies, clarifying what they mean – and what they don’t mean.

It Works, and It Doesn’t Work: the IMPACT study (a major, multi-site study on the Posit Science auditory program) will be published at the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in April. Results support that cognitive training works – but doesn’t support the grandiose “brain age” claims we see too often.

Cognitive Training can Influence Brain Biochemistry: Dr. David Rabiner discusses a recent scientific study that “shows that brain biochemistry can be modified by experience”, and that computerized cognitive training (Cogmed working memory training) can provide that experience.

The Big Picture

Making Healthy Choices – Primare Care and Prevention: a panel at the recent World Economic Forum explored why “New markets and industries are arising – “silver industries” such as financial services, health, housing and hospitality geared to senior citizens. Longevity needs to be linked to health – including cognitive health – and lifestyle choices play a major role in health.”

Enrich your environment now and benefit your future offspring: Dr. Robert Sylwester reports that “all sorts of long held-beliefs about our brain and cognition are being re- examined by cognitive neuroscientists” because of fascinating studies such as the one  he reviews (with mice): “The study’s findings seemed to suggest that acquired characteristics can be genetically transmitted…long-term benefits accrue from a stimulating early environment that encourages curiosity and exploration.”

Managing Emotions

From Distress to De-Stress: helping anxious, worried kids: In a detailed 2-part article, (Part 1, Part 2), Dr. Jerome Schulz provides great tips on how to help children learn to self-regulate emotions, adding that “Teachers, occupational therapists, physical education teachers and parents need to actually teach children (of all ages) how to get themselves into a physical state of being relaxed. This doesn’t happen automatically. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many adult yoga classes!”

Lie to Me, Paul Ekman and Biofeedback: You may have watched the new series Lie To Me, with Tim Roth, based on the work of Paul Ekman. The introduction to the second episode shows why what are called “lie detectors” are nothing but biofeedback systems that measure physiological anxiety.

News

Brain Games for Baby Boomers: round-up of other recent news, covering the effects of gaming, cognitive training for driving skills, and brain fitness classes.

Neurocognitive assessments and sports concussions: a new study and a new resource to understand and address the 1.6 to 3.8 million cases of sports-related concussions that occur annually in the United States.

Brain Teaser

How will you, your organization, your neighbors, participate in Brain Awareness Week, March 16th-22nd, organized by the Dana Foundation with the participation of thousands of outreach partners, including SharpBrains? You can find event ideas, excellent resources (yes, including puzzles), and a calendar of events, Here.

Have a great month of March!

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Top 30 Brain Health and Fitness Articles of 2008

Here brain teasers job interview you have SharpBrains’ 30 most popular articles, ranked by the number of people who read each article in 2008. Thirteen Expert Contributors and staff members have written these articles for you, covering a wide range of brain health and fitness topics.

Please note that, since the first article already includes most of our most popular brain teasers, we have excluded teasers from the rest of the ranking.

Blog Channel
Article
1. Top 50 Brain Teasers and Games to Test your Brain
- By Alvaro Fernandez
It is always good to stimulate our minds and to learn a bit about how our brains work. Here you have a selection of the 50 Brain Teasers that people have enjoyed the most.
2. The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Let’s review some good lifestyle options we can follow to maintain, and improve, our vibrant brains. My favorite: don’t outsource your brain (even to us).
3. Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost?
- By Caroline Latham
You’re driving through suburbia one evening looking for the street where you’re supposed to have dinner at a friend’s new house. You slow down to a crawl, turn down the radio, stop talking, and stare at every sign. Why is that? Neither the radio nor talking affects your vision. Or do they?
4. Brain Plasticity: How learning changes your brain
- By Pascale Michelon
You may have heard that the brain is plastic. As you know the brain is not made of plastic! Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to CHANGE throughout life.
5. Top 10 Brain Training Future Trends
- By Alvaro Fernandez
In an emerging market like brain fitness training, it is difficult to make precise projections. But, we can observe a number of trends that executives, consumers, public policy makers, and the media should watch closely in the coming years, as brain fitness and training becomes mainstream, new tools appear, and an ecosystem grows around it.
6. Brain Exercise and Brain Health FAQs
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Answers to 7 most common questions around brain exercise and health, to help you navigate this emerging field.
7. It is Not Only Cars That Deserve Good Maintenance: Brain Care 101
- By Alvaro Fernandez
If we can all agree on the importance of maintaining our cars that get us around town, what about maintaining our brains sitting behind the wheel?
8. Evaluation Checklist for Brain Fitness Software and Training Games
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Unless you have been living in a cave, you have read by now multiple articles about the brain training and brain exercise craze. Now, how do you know which of the new programs can help you more, or whether you need any of them?
9. Brain Training Games: Context, Trends, Questions
- By Alvaro Fernandez
This past Tuesday, the MIT Club of Northern California, the American Society on Aging, and SmartSilvers sponsored an event to explore the realities and myths of this growing field. Here is the summary.
10. Stress Management Workshop for International Women’s Day
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Global consulting company Accenture organized a series of events, and I was fortunate to lead a fun workshop on The Neuroscience of Stress and Stress Management in their San Francisco office, helping over 125 accomplished women (and a few men).
11. Mindfulness and Meditation in Schools for Stress Management
- By Jill Sutie
With eyes closed and deep breaths, students are learning a new method to reduce anxiety, conflict, and attention disorders. But don’t call it meditation.
12. Stress and Neural Wreckage: Part of the Brain Plasticity Puzzle
- By Gregory Kellet
“My brain is…fried, toast, frazzled, burnt out.” How many times have you said or heard one version or another of these statements. Most of us think we are being figurative when we utter such phrases, but research shows that the biological consequences of sustained high levels of stress may have us being more accurate than we would like to think.
13. How can I improve my short term memory? Is there a daily exercise I can do to improve it?
- By Caroline Latham
By choosing to attend to something and focus on it, you create a personal interaction with it, which gives it personal meaning, making it easier to remember.
14. Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play
- By David Elkind
Play is rapidly disappearing from our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages.
15. Judith Beck: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Brain Fitness doesn’t require the use of expensive equipment. Your brain is enough. We were honored to interview Dr. Judith Beck on how cognitive techniques can be applied to develop a number of important mental skills. The latest application of these?. Losing weight.
16. Easy Steps to Improve Brain Health
- By Caroline Latham
We can summarize a lot of research by saying that there are four essential pillars to maintaining a healthy brain that functions better now and lasts longer. Those pillars are: 1) Physical Exercise, 2) Mental Exercise, 3) Good Nutrition, 4) Stress Management.
17. Report: The State of the Brain Fitness/ Training Software Market 2008
- By Alvaro Fernandez
After many months of work, we have just released our inaugural report on the emerging Brain Fitness Software Market, the first to define the brain fitness and training software market and analyze the size and trends of its four customer segments.
18. Improve Memory with Sleep, Practice, and Testing
- By Bill Klemm
There are whole markets (think crosswords, herbal supplements, drugs, brain fitness software) aimed at helping us improve our memory. Now, what is ¨memory¨? and how does the process of memory work?.
19. 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn
- By Laurie Bartels
If you agree that our brains are designed for learning, then as educators it is incumbent upon us to be looking for ways to maximize the learning process for each of our students, as well as for ourselves.
20. Cognitive Training and Brain Fitness: Interview with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg is a clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine. His areas of expertise include executive functions, memory, attention deficit disorder, dementia, traumatic brain injury. Dr. Goldberg was a student and close associate of the great neuropsychologist Alexander Luria.
21. Maximize the Cognitive Value of Your Mental Workout
- By Schlomo Breznitz
Like in the case of physical fitness, cognitive fitness requires deliberate exercising. The main reason for this rests on the fact that our brains are basically lazy. There are in principle two very different modes of activity that our brains engage in whenever faced with a problem.
22. Brain Fitness Program and Neuroplasticity @ PBS
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Information on the PBS special program on neuroplasticity, brain fitness, aging and the brain titled “Brain Fitness Program”.
23. Mindfulness Meditation for Adults & Teens with ADHD
- By David Rabiner
Although medication treatment is effective for many individuals with ADHD, including adolescents adults, there remains an understandable need to explore and develop interventions that can complement or even substitute for medication.
24. Can Intelligence Be Trained? Martin Buschkuehl shows how
- By Alvaro Fernandez
Dr. Martin Buschkuehl is one of the University of Michigan’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab researchers involved in a recent cognitive training study that received much media attention since it was published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
25. How Strong is the Research Support for Neurofeedback in Attention Deficits?
- By David Rabiner
Understanding the extent of available research can help families better understand the strengths and limitations of the existing research on neurofeedback and enable them to make a better informed decision about whether to consider this treatment option for their child.
26. Exercising the body is exercising the mind
- By Adrian Preda
One of the most important development in neuroscience was when the official dogma claiming that there was no neurogenesis (production of new brain cells) in the adult brain was toppled.
27. Brain Evolution and Why it is Meaningful Today to Improve Our Brain Health
- By Larry McCleary
You may feel overwhelmed by the stream of seemingly contradictory suggestions regarding the best way to maintain mental clarity as you age. Based on an analysis of seminal factors in the development of modern brain anatomy, I believe it is possible to make some very compelling recommendations for growing big brains, enhancing their function, and making them resistant to the aging process.
28. Physical Exercise and Brain Health
- By Pascale Michelon
What is the connection between physical and mental exercises? Do they have additive effects on brain health? Are they redundant? Let’s start by reviewing what we know about the effects of physical exercise on the brain.
29. Posit Science, Nintendo Brain Age, and Brain Training Topics
- By Alvaro Fernandez
The concept of having a “brain age” is, itself, profoundly unscientific. It is one thing to have that concept popularized by a game developer such as Nintendo through its popular Brain Age/ Training Series, and another one to have it reinforced by companies that are developing and marketing science-based applications.
30. Sleep, Tetris, Memory and the Brain
- By Shannon Moffet
Sleep is so obvious a physiologic need (from insects to mammals, all animals sleep) that it doesn’t even occur to most of us to wonder why we have to do it.

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Update: Work as a Brain Fitness Program

Here you have the twice-a-month newsletter with our most popular blog posts. Please brainremember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, simply by submitting your email at the top of this page.

There is one type of “brain fitness program” which is not only free but also pays you back. You guessed it, that program is your “job”. Our occupations can provide beneficial mental exercise if they incorporate the key ingredients of novelty, variety, and challenge, and are not a source of chronic stress.

We start today’s newsletter with two articles related to the brain value of having mentally stimulating jobs.

Your Brain At Work

Your Brain At Work Brochure: Aren’t “talent” and “human capital” all about brain fitness and cognitive performance, really? Individuals and Human Resources departments can access excellent cognitive fitness tips, an action plan, and a great brochure provided by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Conference Board for our readers.

ABC Reporter Bob Woodruff’s Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury: Former US presidential contender and Senator John Edwards recently granted an interview to reporter Bob Woodruff. The most remarkable aspect of the interview? Bob Woodruff’s spectacular recovery from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq 2 years ago. You can’t miss this interview with his wife Lee, where we discuss Bob’s recovery process (including making a documentary, co-writing a book and other projects at ABC), the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and the overall challenge of cognitive rehabilitation following traumatic brain injuries.

Research

Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s “Recollections of My Life”: Remarkable and candid views on neuroplasticity, learning, aging and life, straight from the autobiography of one of the founders of modern neuroscience, who once said “Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain.”

Can food improve brain health?: Dr. Pascale Michelon provides an overview of the effects of food on the brain, building on Fernando Gomez-Pinilla’s recent study in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Candidates for “brainy” foods contain: Omega-3 fatty acid, folic acid, flavonoids, anti-oxidant foods. Please note her warning, though: most of the studies showing positive effects have been conducted in mice.

The biology of aging: A monthly virtual gathering of bloggers to discuss Biology of Aging topics including research, policy, lifestyle guidance, and open questions. We are aware that “aging” may not be the sexiest  of words in our vocabulary… unless you consider the most common alternative.

Technology

Brain Fitness Centers in Senior Housing – A Field in the Making: The American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) has released an Special Issue Brief prepared by SharpBrains to provide quality information on market trends, best practices by leading seniors housing and long-term care organizations, lessons from pilot studies, navigational guidance, and more. If you are a professional or executive in the sector, please consider purchasing a copy.

The Future of Computer-assisted Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy is one of the most researched types of brain training, especially in dealing with depression and anxiety. Why don’t more people benefit today from it? The lack of a scalable distribution model may perhaps explain that. We predict that technology will help complement the role of therapists, helping more people better cope with change, life, anxiety, and a range of cognitive and emotional challenges. Without any stigma. Just as naturally as one trains abdominal muscles today.

Brain Teaser
Games for the Brain: Quick, can you identify what is going on in these photographs?

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We hope you enjoyed this edition. As always, you are welcome to share these articles with friends, and to give us feedback, for extra brain workout.

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