Archive for Brain health

Debate: Should candidates to high office should pass a cognitive/ mental fitness test?

Wow, that was a couple of very insightful discussions, via social media no less.

#1. The first one was about whether heads of state and candidates to high office should pass a cognitive/ mental fitness test. Click HERE to read and discuss some of the sharpest comments, such as…

  • I wonder what brought this up.”
  • Definitely. We routinely screen applicants for a wide range of jobs.”
  • Then the balance of political power would shift towards the designers of those tests.”
  • That’s what debates are for.”
  • Yes, but probably nobody would pass it.”
  • No, because if we can’t judge that for ourselves, then what business do we have voting at all?”

#2. The second debate centered on the future of mental health: In ten years, will we see DSM‑6 or Something Much Better (SMB‑1)? Would you say “Something better hopefully” or “Well considering we approach mental health from a disease model.…that’s the first problem” or “DSM is a tool, and a very useful one. As any other tool it depends on the use you make of it,” or something else.

Welcome to a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring as always new thinking, research and tools for lifelong brain health and mental fitness.

#3. Study: Across all ideological groups, higher cognitive ability and intellectual humility predicts support for free speech

#4. Let’s understand how to increase resistance to tau and amyloid proteins so we can all become “super-agers.”  Brain scans show lower accumulation of tau and amyloid pathology among cognitive “super-agers”

#5. For example: Jobs with low physical stress and good working conditions linked to larger hippocampus and better memory

#6. Wanted: 30,000 volunteers! Large UC study to investigate when and how brain training transfers (or does not) to broader cognitive and health benefits

#7. Timely questions: “How common are neurological and psychiatric complications in patients with COVID-19? What proportion of neurological and psychiatric complications affect the (central nervous system) versus the peripheral nervous system, and are novel syndromes emerging? And who is most at risk?” Survey finds ischaemic stroke and altered mental status as most common neurological complications in severe COVID-19 cases

#8. “Our mind is one of the only things that we cannot consistently measure and quantify. And humans do remarkable things when we can measure something.”  Kernel raises $53 million to ease access to rich neural data and market Neuroscience as a Service (NaaS)

#9. “We are taking proven cognitive behavioral therapies and fully automating them to deliver the care scalably and consistently as drugs.” Startup Big Health raises $39M to universalize access to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety and poor sleep

#10. Building on Bill Gates’ original goal of ‘a computer on every desk,’ perhaps it’s time for ‘real-time mental health support on every phone.’ Microsoft announces support for three innovative mental health services harnessing artificial intelligence (AI)

#11. Resonance. Empathy. Awareness. Compassion. Hope. And our favorite… Humor. Six tips to help regulate stress levels in our organizations

#12. Finally, a fun brain teaser. What do you see, rectangles or circles?


Wishing you a good and safe August,

The SharpBrains Team

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eNews: Repetitive negative thinking seen to increase (or perhaps be caused by) Alzheimer’s pathology


Time for a new edition of SharpBrains’ e-newsletter, featuring this month 13 research findings, resources and brain teasers for lifelong brain and mental health.

#1. “We found that people who exhibited higher repetitive negative thinking patterns experienced more cognitive decline over a four-year period. They also had specific declines in memory (which is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease), and had more amyloid and tau deposits in their brain … There’s increasing evidence that chronic stress is both harmful to your body – and your brain. But more research is needed to understand this link.” Repetitive negative thinking may increase (or perhaps be caused by) cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s pathology

#2. “…even simple cognitive processes like making a shopping list now require more brainpower. “Now, rather than thinking, ‘I’ll just run to the store’, you’re thinking about what you need, what stores are open and whether it’ll be safe to go there. Let’s say your brain can do four tasks at once. Now all of a sudden there are 10, and you can’t do any of them” … rebooting your working memory may also mean cutting down on your news consumption and considering a break from social media. But the most effective thing to do might simply be to convince yourself it’s OK to be struggling.” Why stress regulation and working memory are core building blocks of lifelong resilience

#3. Ten years from now, will we see DSM-6 or Something Much Better (SMB)-1? The way we approach Mental Health today is broken beyond repair. The question is, what comes next, and how fast can we get there?

#4. Now, please draw the letter J in your mind. Then, draw the letter D. Turn it 90 degrees to the left and put it in top of the J. What does this shape resemble? Enjoy these three quick brain teasers to exercise your working memory

#5. “Reading science fiction and fantasy can help readers make sense of the world. Rather than limiting readers’ capacity to deal with reality, exposure to outside-the-box creative stories may expand their ability to engage reality based on science … With increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and mental health issues for youth in the past two decades, it may be the case that young people, no different from American society generally, are suffering from reality overload.” — Esther L. Jones, Ph.D Reading science fiction can help children build critical thinking and resilience

#6. “For decades, use of biofeedback to help sufferers of anxiety, among other psychological conditions, has largely been limited to clinical settings with expensive—and somewhat tedious—medical equipment. Now, with an assist from developers of virtual-reality games, effective therapeutic biofeedback is becoming more affordable, accessible and engaging.” Virtual-reality gaming + affordable biofeedback = Anxiety therapy for all?

#7. Now comes the real challenge: getting doctors to prescribe it, insurers to pay for it, kids to use it and hopefully see significant improvements in daily life. FDA clears first videogame to be prescribed to kids with ADHD: EndeavorRx by Akili Interactive Labs

#8. Hope you enjoy this overview by Dr. Ricardo Gil-da-Costa at Neuroverse and our very own Alvaro Fernandez: Explore The State of Noninvasive Neurotechnology in 37 minutes and 1 image

#9. Here with neuroscientist Mara Dierssen, in Spanish: Cómo minimizar el impacto del Covid-19 en nuestro cerebro

#10. Ignoring problems doesn’t typically solve them — good to see serious attempts to understand, detect and address chemo brain. Growing research shows how two of the major cancer treatments, radiation and chemotherapy, can lead to long-term cognitive impairment

#11. “… COVID-19 may lead to anywhere from 27,644 to 154,037 additional U.S. deaths of despair, as mass unemployment, social isolation, depression and anxiety drive increases in suicides and drug overdoses.” Time to reimagine brain & mind care: Four immediate priorities to flatten the mental distress curve

#12. Moving beyond Either/ Or Thinking: Antidepressant vortioxetine combined with cognitive training may help delay cognitive decline

#13. Not the worst week to leave Earth, but still plenty of mental health challenges in space. Request for proposals to help astronauts combat behavioral health challenges such as stress and isolation


Have a good and safe summer,

The SharpBrains Team

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What’s New in Brain Health and Mental Well-being, plus a few fun Brain Teasers

Time for a new edition of SharpBrains’ e-newsletter.

#1. First of all, it’s not all bad news this month. Study finds that moderate lifetime drinking may lead to lower Alzheimer-related beta amyloid deposits in the brain

#2. And, talk about personalized medicine! This fascinating study showing how brain imaging (fMRI) + machine learning + intensive, non-invasive neurostimulation = targeted treatments that can maximize efficacy and minimize side effects: Reinventing depression treatment via transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS)

#3. Also, not a minute too soon … Meditation apps have gone mainstream in the covid-19 era and Digital health start-ups raised a record $3.1 billion in Q1; focus will likely evolve from providers to consumers and employers

#4. Fyi, a very timely virtual event coming Tuesday April 28th, online: Explore strategies and tools to boost mental wellbeing during (and after) Covid-19

#5. Now, “While Pear has an advantage over the competition in that its products are backed by randomized clinical trials, physicians and health plans are still working out how to prescribe and pay for digital therapeutics.” The FDA clears Somryst, Pear’s digital therapeutic to treat chronic insomnia

#6. Net net, now is the time for individual and collective action to shift to a healthier “new normal” for all: 3 ways to protect your mental health during –and after– COVID-19 (in Spanish: Tres hábitos de higiene mental para vencer al COVID-19 y crear un futuro más saludable). Want more? Enjoy these Three tips for wise minds to calm coronavirus anxiety

#7. A small but important study for that hopeful near future when universities and colleges reopen their doors: Study finds mixed results of Adderall as cognitive enhancer (seems to boost emotion more than cognition)

#8. But, first things first. “The Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” reached #1 on the pop charts in 1977. Maybe it was the beat, maybe it was John Travolta’s dancing. Or maybe it’s that the Gibb brothers’ central lyric is quite literally always playing in our head. Keeping us safe —that is, “stayin’ alive ”— is the primary mission of the brain”

Enough with coronavirus outbreak. Anything else going on? Yes!

#9. The Right to Personal Identity. The Right to Free Will. The Right to Mental Privacy. The Right to Equal Access to Mental Augmentation. The Right to Protection from Algorithmic Bias. Will these five NeuroRights help harness emerging neurotechnologies for the common good?

#10. “Today, the scientific investigation of transcendent experiences is, in my view, one of the most exciting frontiers in the science of well-being.” Transcending Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” through Maslow’s own research on Peak Experiences

#11. You CAN have your cake and eat it too: Here’s a brain teaser to stimulate your mental imagery, spatial rotation … and appetite

#12. Question: My first thought after congratulating myself on being so clever about something? Tease your brain with these eight fun riddles


Wishing you and yours a great month of May,


The SharpBrains Team

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How to practice good mental hygiene during the coronavirus outbreak


It’s time for a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring this time 14 timely news and resources for mental health and brain health innovation.

First of all, let’s remain safe, healthy, and centered during the current health crisis by following these tips provided by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley:

1. Stay calm and focused
2. Pay attention to those doing the right thing
3. Show gratitude
4. Remember our common bonds

1) “Of course, all of these guidelines don’t supplant the importance of practicing good hygiene. We need to continue to frequently wash our hands and avoid touching our faces, so that we can lessen the chance of infecting ourselves and others. But we also should remember our mental hygiene—staying calm ourselves, being grateful especially to those doing the right thing, and remembering our common humanity. In this way, we can help to make the world safer for all of us.” Four tips to practice good mental hygiene during the coronavirus outbreak

2) “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
–Alexander Graham Bell

Thankfully, neurotech pioneer Tan Le outlines several areas where we can take a practical approach to address changes already underway and lay the groundwork for a more seamless transition to a new era. Fast Forward to 2040: How to prepare for the new era in brain enhancement that will change the way we think, work, and heal

3) Here’s a beautiful way to explore the anatomy of brain regions and brain functions. The Virtual Brain Web Atlas: How the Mind emerges from the Brain

4) “Before students decide to slip in their earbuds, though, they should carefully consider both their musical selection and the nature of the task” … because “We found that (1) music generally impaired complex task performance, (2) complex music facilitated simple task performance, and (3) preference for external stimulation moderated these effects. Therefore, the data suggest that music’s effects on task performance depend on the music, the task, and the performer” Does music facilitate or impair cognitive task performance? It depends…

5) Because learning cannot, must not, ever stop: Meet the Top 50 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2020

6) Any plans for the summer? Four ways hiking promotes cognitive and emotional health

7) Harnessing tech to promote social connectedness: Every Wednesday starting today we can join scientist/ entrepreneur Rana el Kaliouby online to discuss her new book! Virtual book tour to explore the frontier of Emotional Intelligence and Technology

8) On-field or off-field, training goes on: Sports teams find creative ways to cross-train the brain off-field

9) “You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure” hasn’t yet reached public health … but it will. To screen, or not to screen (for dementia), that is still the question

10) Summarizing a recent study, “children’s sleep should be evaluated as part of an ADHD evaluation as sleep difficulties are more common … addressing sleep issues in children with ADHD is a feasible and relatively low-cost approach that can be a valuable treatment component for many children.” Study: A brief sleep intervention can bring measurable and sustained benefits to children with ADHD

11) Some may and will disagree, but net net this offers a major opportunity to harness smartphone use data for good: Verily and LivaNova accelerate efforts to detect and treat depression

12) Potential big news in the neuromodulation market; coronavirus or not we all have awesome brains and will experience brain/ mental health needs in the future: Medtronic might acquire LivaNova’s neuromodulation business

13) What if “An employer wants to reduce the risk of on-the-job disability, so it screens applicants for neurological markers that they are predisposed to chronic pain and depression…” Let’s anticipate the potential misuse of neurological data to minimize the risks–and maximize the benefits

14) The first brain teaser/ test here is especially relevant these days … Seven fun brain teasers to honor our unique Brains and Minds during Brain Awareness Week 2020


Have a good and healthy Spring,

The SharpBrains Team

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Latest brain research, tools and teasers to think outside the mental health status quo box

Time for a new edition of SharpBrains’ e‑newsletter, featuring a range of  research findings, resources, brain teasers and riddles to help translate emerging neuroscience into real-world applications and improve our collective brain & mental health.

New thinking:

New research:

New tools:

Fun brain teasers:


Have a great month of March,


The SharpBrains Team


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Update: Humankind’s evolving quest to enhance the brain and the mind

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Study: Trained older brains can outperform untrained younger ones at demanding cognitive tasks

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Final 24 Hours for Brain Health Start-ups to Submit Pitches @ 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit

Heads-up: The Brainnovations Pitch Contest, to be hosted at the 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit, will highlight 8 startups worldwide working on ways to harness brain research and emerging technologies to help every person thrive in the digital age.

Startups submit their ideas and solutions to pitch in front of our expert Judges and Summit participants for a chance to get feedback, boost industry recognition and win a prize package that could give a boost to their venture and solution. The period for submissions is open till Tuesday, April 30th, and the 8 Finalists will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd.

You can learn more about the first edition of the Brainnovations Pitch Contest and about the upcoming second Brainnovations editioncheck page for Guidelines, FAQs and Submission Form.

We’re looking forward to hearing about many innovative ideas, products and services!


Learn More & Register:

2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: The Future of Brain Health (May 7–9th)

–-This will be the Brainnovations Judging Panel…our very own “Sharp Tank”

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Let’s discuss how to Outsmart Smart Technology to Reclaim our Health and Focus

I’m excited to share that the upcoming 2019 SharpBrains Virtual Summit will feature, on May 8th, a fascinating presentation and discussion with Dr. Margaret Morris, who spent 13 years as a researcher at Intel and recently wrote a very timely book — Left to Our Own Devices: Outsmarting Smart Technology to Reclaim Our Relationships, Health, and Focus (MIT Press, 2018).

Please learn more about the fantastic Summit Agenda and consider joining us!

To better understand Dr. Morris’ work and insights you can read this great book review over at Psychiatric Times:

Morris is a skillful storyteller and takes that challenge to task. Across eight easy-to-read chapters, she illustrates how people, most likely younger users, “hack” technologies to foster connection, mindfulness, and well-being. The chapters are centered around a collection of personal narratives from people who personalized their digital devices and experience positive results. Morris records these stories with a gentle, engaging, and upbeat tone that requires no formal background in either mental health or technology … This book is a good read for today’s digital health initiatives and for clinicians hoping to keep up to date in current trends in mental health technology. It reminds us that putting a device in a patient’s hands will often lead to outcomes that we could never have imagined. It also pokes holes in the once reigning view that robotics and chatbots are dehumanizing and antisocial. If anything, the narratives suggest that technology can help patients monitor their emotional states and improve sharing and connections. The book underscores how useful it is to study how patients use apps in real-world settings and to learn from their lived experiences.

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El Cerebro que Cura: Descubre la mejor forma de mantener un cerebro sano como fuente de salud By: SharpBrains

Para tener una vida plena y feliz, lo más importante es tener un cerebro sano. Esta es la premisa que defienden los autores: cómo una mente sana puede dar lugar a un cuerpo igualmente saludable. Read the rest of this entry »

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