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 Fitness (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 book: The 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)