Posts Tagged cognitive therapy

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: 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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