Archive for November, 2006

Student Achievement Gap, Stress, and Self-Regulation

Jonah Lehrer dissects and builds on a New York Times article on the education Achievement gap. Quotes from Jonah’s post:

-”most of the research suggests that the “achievement gap” has real neurological roots, which are caused by distinct home environments: Hart and Risley showed that language exposure in early childhood correlated strongly with I.Q. and academic success later on in a child’s life.”

– “This is really important research, but I can’t help but think that part of the equation is missing. While Paul Tough, author of the Times article, focuses on gaps in environmental enrichment – poor kids are exposed to fewer words, have less stimulating conversations, etc. – he ignores what might be an even more potent variable: stress.”

– “Gould’s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain.”

Dave writes How to educate those who seem uneducable, building on Jonah’s post and linking to “research by Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman showing that self-discipline is more important than high IQ in student achievement.”

I agree that the importance of stress management and self-discipline (or emotional self-regulation) are often overlooked, which is precisely why we are focusing there. You can read a Technology & Learning magazine article on Biofeedback for Emotional Management and Peak Performance, and a post on Cognitive Neuroscience and Education Today, where we mentioned

“(new programs help address) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s FreezeFramer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid.”

Good night,


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Carnivals All Around!

We are delighted to report on a number of great carnivals that have recently included articles from SharpBrains.

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Stress Management as part of Brain Fitness Programs

The article Job Stress Fuels Disease reports on the results from a new study of 677 workers that show that ”When work stress becomes unmanageable, job burnout can lead to a combination of three symptoms:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Physical fatigue or exhaustion
  • Cognitive weariness (slow thinking)”

and that “Studies have shown that workplace stress can lead to an increase in rates of heart disease, flu virus, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure.”

Which is why we are equally focused on Mental Stimulation/ Brain Exercise Programs and on Stress Management-both are needed for Brain Fitness. 

You can read more on the topic, and learn some tips:

Brain Coach Answers: I’m a mother of 2, with a career. Are there any quick ways to reduce stress?

Good Stress and Bad Stress

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SharpBrains: we have moved!


We moved to a new location.
Please update your bookmarks and links to our new location at:

We’ll see you there!
-Caroline & Alvaro

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Pattern Recognition Brain Teaser

Here’s a puzzle to test your ability to find a pattern and test it against more data.

In this table, each row across follows the same pattern of numbers. See if you can discern the pattern and fill in the missing number in the bottom row. For added challenge (or competition), time how long it takes you to complete the puzzle. Then, pass it along to someone else and see if they can solve it faster. The slower one has to cook dinner! 

7 4 8
3 9 7
6 5 10
? 8 4

Executive functions, like planning, and spatial processing are handled by your frontal lobes.

Have you solved it yet? If not, here’s a hint:

If you read your figures like words in the West,
then multiply your efforts and subtract the rest.

Click here for the answer and solution.

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Emotional self-regulation and biofeedback: FreezeFramer

Performance FreezeFramer Alvaro

In the post Trader Peak Performance and biofeedback programs we showed the Heart Rate Variability patterns correlated with levels of a) anxiety or b) Peak Performance, “The Zone”. Biofeedback supports our emotional self-regulation: we can visually track what is going on inside us and train ourselves to manage our emotional state. On the left you have an example of my own performance during a 5-minute experiment 4 months ago. At the top, you see my name; at the bottom, the duration of the session. Right axis, for top half, is Heart Rate. (This is only the half left of the screen in the program-the right half would give you more information.) I have highlighted several phases:

A: you can see long waves following a smooth rhythm-that is the physiological “The Zone”, where I can perform at maximum level. I was using breathing and visualization techniques that are sometimes called “The Mental Game” in athletics and sports.

B: I stressed myself. How? well, maybe thinking of a previous boss, or some bad moment in my life. You see that the “waves” dissappear, and narrow erratic patterns appear instead.

C: I quickly go back into “The Zone”, using a Read the rest of this entry »

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Posit Science, Nintendo, Dakim…WebMD on Brain Fitness.

Good WebMD 4-page article on Brain Fitness programs for seniors. Check Keeping Your Brain Fit for Life:Software companies are offering new programs that promise to keep your brain sharp as you get older.

Some quotes:

– “The notion of brain fitness has even invaded popular culture. In April, Nintendo released Brain Age, a Japanese-inspired, handheld video game to help users’ minds stay active. While the game is marketed for all ages, the buyers — now numbering more than 655,000 in the U.S. — have mainly been older people, Nintendo of America spokeswoman Amber McCollom writes in an email.”

– “Players take a nonscientific test that calculates a “brain age” for the purposes of the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Blog Carnivals, Thanksgiving and Mission Accomplishing

Big party today. Carnivals everywhere. 

Caroline and I admit we are quite biased. We see the world through our own lenses. Which, these days, means a lot of passion for the science-based Brain Fitness Revolution. We have been trying hard to combine fun brain teasers with serious posts on how brain research is starting to influence Education, Health and Training, and are thankful that these efforts are starting to pay off-Mission Accomplishing!

The weekend started very well. Kevin from IQ Corner and TickTockBrainTalk had brought great early auspices by introducing a SharpBrains feed box into his blog. A number of trading blogs, including Brett Steenbarger’s and Trader Mike’s, enjoyed our posts on trader performance and biofeedback.

Today has been the full Carnival day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nintendo Wii, emotions and cognitive fidelity

Jonah Lehrer from the Frontal Cortex blog has written a good article on the Nintendo Wii, William James and Antonio Damasio over at, How the Nintendo Wii will get you emotionally invested in video games.

A couple of quotes

– While Sony and Microsoft exercise your thumbs, Nintendo gives you a full body workout. – “This is the irony of the Wii: although it can’t compete with the visual realism of Sony and Microsoft, it ends up feeling much more realistic.”

In a different context, but it reminds me of our conversation with Prof. Gopher about the need for cognitive fidelity in Brain Fitness Programs.


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Trader Peak Performance and biofeedback programs

Brett Steenbarger, the renown expert in Trader Performance and author of the blog TraderFeed: Exploiting the edge from historical market patterns, among many things, just posted a kind note on our Peak Performance/ emotional management solution for traders.

He says: “This is the first biofeedback application that I’m aware of that is uniquely marketed to traders. I’ve used biofeedback to monitor my body’s level of arousal during trading and have found it to be quite useful.”

How does this work?

Frustration vs The Zone

Traders, or anyone involved in very complex and rapidly evolving environments, need to make split second decisions based on sound logic, instead of emotional impulses. It is not easy to deal with frustration, for example, when a trade doesn’t go the way we anticipate. Stress can also cause us to miss new patterns in the market, thereby preventing us from adapting to, and succeeding in, new circumstances.

A biofeedback-based Peak Performance/Stress Management program may be useful, because a tool such as The Freeze-Framer biofeedback system provides real-time visual feedback on our “internal performance” and helps us identify and learn how to manage the emotional arousal that can disrupt executive functions: judgment, planning, analyzing, and reasoning. The graphs above show the difference in our body rhythms between frustration and the smooth target pattern of “The Zone” in an optimal learning process and peak performance.

For more information on Trader Performance, an interview with Brett Steenbarger, or to buy this this program, click on Brain Fitness Program for Traders. You may also want to learn more about finding your trading niche.



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