Posts Tagged ‘cognitive fitness’

Slow But Steady to Win Brain Health Race?

Making small changes to our daily activities can make a big difference over the years.   Often called lifestyle tuning, this approach can be applied to build brain health and improve your cognitive performance.  We have covered many tunning techniques on the Next Brain Blog.

Posit Science, a leader in brain training software, offers 14 Brain Training Tips. They range in change magnitude from walking on rough surfaces to eating fish and learning to play a musical instrument.  Here are the ones that are easy-to-do lifestyle tuneups:

1.   Eat Dark Chocolate

4.   Exercise Your Peripheral Vision

7.   Turn Down the Television

10. Use Your Other Hand

13. Walk on a Cobblestone Path

Although we don’t have research that proves lifestyle tuneups produce lasting improvements in brain health and cognitive performance, we do have such research for cardiovascular health. For example, taking stairs instead of an escalator or a 10 minute walk does in fact improve heart health. My bet is that analogous lifestyle tuneups for the brain will improve cognitive performance.

Interested to hear about your techniques for taking a slow but steady approach to the changes needed to improve brain function and cognitive performance

15 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - August 25, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Categories: Diet, Lifestyle, Mental Focus, Perception   Tags: , ,

Develop Your MOT – Multiple Object Tracking Skills

CogniSens Athletics is a small company dedicated to translating the latest neurophysics into tools for improving the cognitive performance of athletes. They just announced the release of 3D-MOT a three dimensional (3D) immersive training environment for developing the cognitive skills needed for multiple object tracking (MOT).  It uses a computer and specialized goggles to teach you how to visually track more than one moving object at a time. A key cognitive skill in sports.  To quote a news release:

“D-MOT is a scientifically designed system for improving perceptual tracking skills by expanding an athlete’s capacity to absorb and process complex movement information. … players have shown that just one hour of distributed 3D-MOT stimulation yielded an average of over 50% increase in capacity to track at speed, with greater increases being realized with extended training. ”

Most of us won’t have the opportunity to use such technology but I wonder if there is not more generally available options that produce some of the same effects. My guess is that some video games are an example.

Consider Geometry Wars. Definitely need to be able to track multiple moving objects at once to get anywhere with this game. Indeed, in playing it, I have had to learn to defocus my eyes to increase my score. Most likely a sign that I am learning a new perceptual skill.

I am interested to hear from readers about examples of video games or other methods that can help us develop MOT (multiple object tracking) skills.

8 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - June 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Categories: Mental Focus, Perception, Software, Training   Tags: , , ,

Spas and Storefront Gyms for Your Mind

The Next Brain blog frequently covers software and services that provide online gym-like training for improving brain function and cognitive performance. But there are a growing number of  physical locations opening that offer spa and gym experiences for those interested in cognitive training.  For example, there is the Mind Spa in Sarasota Florida offering everything from neurotherapy to brain games and sensory immersion.

Or there is vibrantBrains in San Francisco that bills itself as a health club for your brain.  They offer a checkup and a variety of circuit training programs using some of the best brain training technology on the market. For a more info on vibrantBrains check out this blog post.

Interested to hear from readers that know about other storefront brain gyms or spas. What is the experience is really like?

4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - June 8, 2010 at 1:50 am

Categories: Software, Training   Tags: , , ,

Tai Chi for Cognitive Training?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice for linking mind and body in a martial art. Today it is a low-impact form of exercise and wellness that may improve a number of cognitive functions including mental focus, memory, managing emotions and perception.

Tai Chi involves a series of fluid, slow-paced motions and stretches that have been described as “meditation in motion”.  The benefits of Tai Chi have just started to be formally studied. An in depth article on the Mayo Clinic website, Tai Chi: Discover the many possible health benefits, reports there is preliminary evidence for these benefits:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance, flexibility and muscle strength
  • Reducing falls in older adults
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness in older adult
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Increasing energy, endurance and agility
  • Improving overall feelings of well-being

Clearly these benefits go beyond improving brain function and cognitive performance.  Getting started in Tai Chi is  not hard. There are many fine resources available for little cost. You can produce results in as little as 8-12 weeks.

Check out this 5 minute free video for a decent introduction.  It won’t make you an expert but it should be enough to determine if you want to try more. There is a product pitch but it is soft.

I am interested in readers’ suggestions for resources for learning Tai Chi, especially those that emphasize improving brain function and cognitive performance.

2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - May 27, 2010 at 2:21 am

Categories: Ancient Ways, Manage Emotions, Memory and Learning, Mental Focus, Perception, Training   Tags: , ,

A Store Just for Your Brain

Marbles is a store just for your brain. They have four locations in Illinois and are looking to expand. Fortunately, their products are available online.

They offer an overview of brain fitness, a free self assessment and products to improve memory, critical thinking, coordination,  word skills and visual perception.  They provide books, brain software, toys and novelty items from many different vendors. Marbles takes the time to make gift bundles for the Wordsmith, Trickster, Creative Genius, Brainetics (whatever that is) and others. They offer some free Brain Coaching and sponsor a number of interesting events.

Marbles could well be a superstore for anyone looking to improve brain function and cognitive performance. They will be the subject of regular posts on the Next Brain Blog. I am interested to hear from readers that have visited one of the store locations.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - April 21, 2010 at 2:35 am

Categories: Books, Cognitive Decline, Decision Making, Memory and Learning, Perception, Software, Training   Tags: ,

Smart Phone Apps for Boosting Your Brain

A reader suggested Brain Boost, a new iPhone app.


Like to hear from readers that use this or other apps designed to improve cognitive performance.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - April 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Categories: Manage Emotions, Mental Focus, Software   Tags: , ,

Double Dip: Take A Ride on the Brain Bike

Physical exercise, especially cardio,  is good technique for improving brain function. There is no doubt about that. So is specially designed cognitive training software that gives your brain a workout by solving problems, meeting perceptual  challenges and even playing games.  Imagine combining the two – exercising while working with cognitive training software – to get a double dose  of brain training in a single session. That is exactly what the NeuroActive Bike does.

Combing their NeuroActive cognitive training software with an exercise bike the Brain Center of America is the first to introduce a brain bike.

They are available in some health clubs in France, the US and Canada.  Here is a list.  A few schools in the US are introducing them.  For example, I found this story and photo (to the right) about Madison School in Naperville, Illinois.

I have not seen any studies on the effectiveness of this type of double dipping but will keep an eye out.  In the meantime I am interested to hear from readers that have taken a ride on the Brain Bike.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - April 6, 2010 at 12:25 am

Categories: Cognitive Decline, Lifestyle, Memory and Learning, Mental Focus, Perception, Software, Training   Tags: , ,

How Fast Do You Think? Should You Care?

The speed at which your brain processes information is a fundamental measure of cognitive efficiency. Faster processing speeds have been linked to more effective intelligence, memory formation and even longevity. In short, the faster you think the smart you are! Happily,  you can easily measure, and with practice improve, your thinking speed. Tools and techniques for increasing the speed of thought will be a frequent topic on the Next Brain Blog.

One way to get started is to take the Thinking Speed Test at Cognitive Labs.  You need to go through a brief registration but it is worth it. They give you a short reaction time test and some handy feedback. You can even track your performance over time.

Try it out and post your results. Especially interested in what techniques you are using to improve it. My initial score was 241 milliseconds.

Source: Image of the Brain

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - April 4, 2010 at 12:21 am

Categories: IQ and EQ, Memory and Learning, Perception, Software, Training   Tags: , , ,

Doing Simple Math Fast is a Major Brain Stimulant

Doing simple calculations  (3 + 5 = ?) very fast is becoming a popular brain training technique.  It was pioneered by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima a Neuroscientist from Japan. He is well-known for the book Train Your Brain: A Better Brain in 60 Days, and BrainAge the Nintendo-based brain fitness system that we have covered on the Next Brain Blog before.

Similar techniques are popping up in many other brain training games and programs, especially those designed for mobile phones. For example, check out the Brain Blast Trainer series of iPhone apps.

The question is, does a daily dose of rapid mental mathematics improve your cognition, and if so in what way?

I have not been able to find literature that deals with this question.  Dr. Kawahima’s research however, seems to clearly indicate (see figure) that doing simple math calculations rapidly stimulates the brain far more than doing hard math problems. Working the brain hard, like working a muscle hard should make it “bigger and stronger”.

I would like to hear from readers that use simple math as part of their brain fitness workout.

Source: Brain scanning images adapted from BrainAge Instruction Booklet

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - March 26, 2010 at 6:13 am

Categories: Books, Cognitive Decline, Problem Solving, Software, Training   Tags: ,

Do You Have You Membership to a Brain Gym?

Over the last five years dozens of companies offering software to “train your brain” have sprung up.   The software is often a structured time-based test or some form of a game. It can run on your PC , game console  or even your smart phone.   The idea is to give your brain a work out much like going to a gym.  To see a brain working out click on the image to your right.

But what are they proven to do for your brain? Many claim to improve memory, visual perception, planning and help avoid cognitive decline as we age.  Most have studies that show you will improve on the tasks in the software but what is less clear is if that transfers to doing similar cognitive tasks in other setting such as those in daily living or at work.

Brain or cognitive training software is rapidly advancing and will be a regular topic on this blog. There is little doubt that it is an important tool for building YourNextBrain!

To give brain fitness software a try, click on this demo of the Personal Coach from CogniFit (you may need to scroll down the page and click the demo button). To get a better understanding of how CogniFit approach brain training works watch a 3-minute video of why it is effective.

I am not endorsing the CogniFit product just offering it as an example. If you are interested in this type of technique for building YourNextBrain! comment on this post and I will reply with a list of leading vendors and products.

Looking forward to hearing about your experiences at the brain gym.


Source for image above of brain exercising can be found here.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mark Clare - January 28, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Categories: Memory and Learning, Other, Perception, Problem Solving, Software, Training   Tags: , , ,