July 03, 2009
Table of Contents
- SharpBrains for Sharp
Brains (Introduction to special issue)
- The Human Brain (Its organization and functions)
- The Big Four (Pillars of brain maintenance)
- Brain Training (Defined)
- Software, Software, Software (Computer-based brain training)
- Meditate on This (Conclusion)
SharpBrains for Sharp Brains
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is a 166-page soft-cover book that is
discusses society's ever-increasing interest in brain health maintenance, as
well as the prodigious development of brain fitness products in recent years.
This publication will be of particular interest to individuals and
health-fitness providers who are, or soon will be, selecting brain training
software for private or public consumption.
The guide's co-authors are the co-founders of SharpBrains, a market research
and advisory services firm that addresses educational and healthcare
applications regarding the growing body of knowledge emerging from cognitive
science and neuroscience. Alvaro Fernandez holds a master's degree in education
and business from Stanford University, and teaches at the UC-Berkeley Osher
Lifelong Learning Institute. Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, the chief scientific advisor
for SharpBrains, is a clinical professor of neurology at New York University
School of Medicine. He is also the author of The Executive Brain: Frontal
Lobes and the Civilized Mind and The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can
Grow Stronger as Your Brain Grows Older.
"SharpBrains' mission," as defined in the guide, "is to provide individuals,
companies and institutions with independent, high-quality, research-based
information and guidance to navigate the growing cognitive and brain fitness
market. The firm publishes an annual series of market reports, titled the State
of the Brain Fitness Software Market, for executives and investors." For more
information, visit SharpBrains.com.
The Human Brain
The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness begins with a succinct
overview of the major structures of the brain, brain functions, the aging brain,
and neuroplasticity. This material is accompanied by interesting expert
interviews, including Q/A sessions with Drs. Michael Posner, James Zull and
others. Lifelong learning is stressed as a promising means of protecting brain
health over time. Citing Dr. Zull, the guide explains, "...one way to motivate
ourselves to keep learning is to search for meaningful bridges between what we
want to learn and what we already know. When we do so, we cultivate our neuronal
networks. 'We become our own gardeners.'"
The Big Four
SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness emphasizes four lifestyle factors
that can improve the health and functioning of the brain:
Physical exercise, and
While comprehensive older adult health-fitness programs seek to incorporate
all four SharpBrains pillars of brain maintenance, Experience! readers
are sure to take special interest in what the guide has to say about the third
pillar, physical exercise. It states: "As little as three hours a week of brisk
walking has been shown to halt, and even reverse, the brain atrophy (shrinkage)
that starts in a person's forties, especially in the regions responsible for
memory and higher cognition. Exercise increases the brain's volume of gray
matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons)."
Cardiovascular activities -- for example, walking, hiking, swimming and
bicycling -- are highly recommended.
interviews with prominent researchers, including Drs. Arthur Kramer, Elizabeth
Zelinski and others, reinforce the guide's "four pillars" principles. Discussing
the value of staying actively engaged in living, Dr. Zelinski notes: "A typical
misconception about the brain is that there is only one general intelligence to
care about. In reality, we have many different cognitive abilities, such as
attention, memory, language, reasoning, and more, so it makes sense to have
different programs designed to train and improve each of them."
Senior health-fitness professionals have long promoted continued social
engagement as critical to seniors' personal well-being and lasting quality of
life. Indeed, social interaction is also acknowledged by the guide as an
important component for brain health maintenance.
guide distinguishes between brain training and mental activity. Two examples
of mental activity, given in the text, are reading a book and learning a new
language. "Mental exercise or brain training," it differentiates, "refers to the
structured use of cognitive exercises or techniques. Its aim is to improve
specific brain function." Examples of brain training may include cognitive
therapy, meditation, biofeedback, and computer-based brain training software
programs. Further information on those subjects is provided through expert
interviews with Drs. Andrew Newberg, Martin Buschkuehl and others.
Software, Software, Software
Computer-based brain training programs are flying off the shelves.
Aware of this growing trend, The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness
offers consumers assistance in evaluating the claims and scientific rationale
behind the plethora of new products being marketed.
helpful ten-point "Checklist to Evaluate Computer-Based Programs" is provided,
and numerous popular computer and software brain training products are analyzed
in terms of:
Specific brain function targeted,
Clinical validation, and
Meditate on This
The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness explores the widening range
of cognitive health applications proliferating in today's changing world. In
total, it features 18 timely interviews with leading scientists, as well as 21
specific computer-based brain training product reviews. Individual consumers,
work places, and health-promotion service providers will be wise to consult this
publication, especially in connection with choosing brain training computer and
Experience! readers: Thank
you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA
receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the
newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest
to our members.
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