Working Your Brain To The Limit

After Brain Injuries, Troops Hit The Mental Gym
May 12, 2011

Working Your Brain To The Limit
The brain fitness programs are a lot like physical rehabilitation, says Katherine Sullivan, a speech pathologist who directs the Brain Fitness Center. The idea is to work your brain to the limit, she says.
“Just like going to a gym, you could stay here for 30 minutes and not really get a great workout,” she says. “But sometimes if you push yourself to that threshold that’s ideal and optimal for training, you’re going to see more benefit.”

But scientists caution that brain training remains experimental.

“These training programs are a work in progress,” says Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus and neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. Merzenich is also a co-founder of Posit Science, a company that makes one of the brain training programs used at Walter Reed and other military and veterans hospitals.

Merzenich says he is confident that brain training, like physical training, is doing something.
“That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be in the tip-top shape they were in before they went over to Afghanistan,” he says. “But most of these people can be substantially better.”
However, the effectiveness of most brain training programs hasn’t been tested scientifically on normal brains, let alone injured ones, Merzenich says.
There are studies under way at Walter Reed and other institutions. The goal is to find out just how much difference a particular program makes and how it compares with other programs, Merzenich says.

“You don’t just evaluate whether or not they improve in the specific task you’re training them on,” Merzenich says. “Of course they improve at those.
The question is whether they improve in their general abilities that reflect their capacities, their operational abilities in everyday life. Because if you don’t improve that, you’ve done nothing useful.”

related link:

Optimal sleep time is 7 – 8 hours

Online games offer trove of brain data
21 June 2013

Study of 35 million users of brain-training software finds alcohol and sleep linked to cognitive performance.

brain-training games

online ‘brain-training’ tools

The study, published this week in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, analysed user data from Lumosity, a collection of web-based games made by Lumos Labs, based in San Francisco, California.

The optimal sleep time was seven hours, with performance worsening for every hour of sleep lost or added.

‘crystallized knowledge’ (such as vocabulary)

fluid intelligence’ (such as the ability to memorize new sets of information)

the sample in this study is also biased: the users of brain-training tools are younger (compared to the typical dementia patients), most of them live in the United States or Europe and, most importantly, they are likely to already be interested in cognitive-training tasks.

brain-training techniques

factors that influence cognition

Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep every night, says Harvard Medical School’s Charles Czeisler, who is chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation.
Any less than that (if it happens regularly) is a “sleep deficiency,”

more on fluid thinking:
This is flexible, fluid thinking — children exploring an unlikely hypothesis.
Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children, says Gopnik.
Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working.
That’s inflexible, narrow thinking. “We think the moral of the study is that maybe children are better at solving problems when the solution is an unexpected one,” says Gopnik.

And that flexibility may disappear earlier than we think.
Gopnik’s lab has also compared toddlers and kindergartners


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