Archive for the ‘Brain Exercises’ Category

OK, Brain Training, And What Else?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

One of the questions I get asked most often by MindSparke trainees is what else they can or should be doing to maximize their brain power.  Research shows that regular exercise is not only good for the body but good for the brain as well. This Time magazine piece summarizes evidence from several studies demonstrating the benefits of regular aerobic exercise.

Now, before you turn off your computer and head to the gym I should stress that exercise can’t do for your brain what working memory training can. But combining regular exercise with your brain training regimen is phenomenal.  We’ve found that the best approach is to do some physical exercise before brain training for a boost in score and efficacy.  This is also a great way to take advantage of the mood-enhancing impact of aerobic exercise.

Working Memory And Mental Movies

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Peter Carruthers is a philosopher with a particular interest in the philosophy of the mind. Recently he’s turned his attention to the nature and function of working memory in humans, writing a paper on the “Evolution of Working Memory“.  He concludes that while working memory in humans is similar to working memory in primates and other animals, it seems to be used more intensively and more abstractly.  In this interview with Scientific American, Carruthers emphasizes just how important it is for us to be able to consciously hold and manipulate information in order to strategise, reflect, and act.   He likens working memory to a mental movie.

Brain Training is The Bomb

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

nuclear explosionIt turns out that those mushroom clouds from atomic bomb tests in the 1950s and 60s brought a boon to researchers of brain development. Using carbon dating, researchers from the lauded Karolinska Institute in Sweden have determined that a staggering 1/3 or more of brain cells in the brain’s hippocampus are renewed during our lifetime.  This refutes the often-heard criticism of brain training that our brain power is essentially fixed.  The hippocampus houses all of the critical brain functions that govern memory, comprehension, and decision-making.

“We provide the first evidence that there is substantial neurogenesis in the human hippocampus throughout life, suggesting that the new neurons may contribute to human brain function,” said senior study author Jonas Frisén of the Karolinska Institute.

The relatively brief period during which above-ground nuclear tests were permitted gave the researchers the opportunity to trace the path of the Carbon-14 isotope (a by-product of nuclear testing) through the cells of people who lived during that era.  The findings showed that about 1,400 new neurons are being made each day, and the rate of neurogenesis doesn’t decrease with age.

Not seeing results: Anyone here didn’t see beenfits for a while, but did eventually?

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Any late-bloomers out there? If you didn’t see any benefits with initial training ( by “initial” i mean completing a full 19 day program, at least), but stuck with it and eventually saw some?

Training not working for me thus far. I finished the 19 sessions, took a five day break, and just did another sessions. I was training in a single -n mode, and also doing practice exercises in dual-mode in the final five days (levels 1 and 2 only as not to go against recommendation). I did not notice any improvement in my daily life in terms of memory, concentration, or processing speed. I reached N4.7 (3rd level) at the end of my 19 days. My N went up slightly to 4.9 today, but even that is not very impressive since I had higher averages at 2 previous sessions. Furthermore, I took a makeshift iq test ( I used the logical reasoning section from an LSAT book. In my opinion, it’s a much more reliable test of fluid intelligence than the internet iq tests, and has more real-life correlation than plugging through a bunch of visual patterns) and scored the same as I did a few years ago.

It would be encouraging to see if others have been in this situation. I feel like I might just end up quitting if I continue not seeing results

I want to give it one more shot and plan to train for 19 more days in dual-mode. I will even try to do two sessions a day. If that doesn’t work, than that’s that.

Mindfulness as Brain Training

Monday, April 1st, 2013
mindfulness for brain training


A team from UC Santa Barbara has shown that just two weeks of mindfulness training can significantly improve reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and focus.

Published in Psychological Science and led by Michael Mrazek, the study, “Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering” surprised the researchers with its clear-cut results: “What surprised me the most was actually the clarity of the results,” said Mrazek, “We found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it.”

Mindfulness is another term for full conscious engagement or presence of mind on the task at hand. When the mind wanders our performance on tasks requiring our attention declines.

Mrazek and his colleagues randomly assigned undergraduate students to either a mindfulness class or a class on nutrition. Before the classes started the students took a test of verbal reasoning from the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and a working memory capacity (WMC) test. The researchers also measured mind-wandering during the tests.

After the classes the students re-took the tests.  Those who had taken the mindfulness class scored significantly better on both the verbal GRE test and the working memory capacity test. Their mind-wandering during testing had also diminished. For those who had taken the nutrition class, the researchers measured no such improvement.

“This is the most complete and rigorous demonstration that mindfulness can reduce mind-wandering, one of the clearest demonstrations that mindfulness can improve working memory and reading, and the first study to tie all this together to show that mind-wandering mediates the improvements in performance,” said Mrazek.

Brain Training with MindSparke’s Brain Fitness Pro is already a great mindfulness booster.  Here are three more that would be wonderful adjuncts to the training:

1. RAIN.

To be used when a strong feeling comes up:

R – recognize what you’re feeling.

A – acknowledge it.

I – investigate its various aspects, and

N – non-identify; “it’s not me, it’s something I’m feeling.”

2. STOP.

Give yourself room to breathe when you’re thoughts are racing:

S - Stop what you are doing.

T - Breathe normally and be mindful of your breath entering and leaving your body.

O - Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Don’t try to keep thoughts or feelings out, just acknowledge them and move on.

P - Proceed by giving yourself you need to feel supported; reach out to someone who can listen, for instance, or deliberately put your current thoughts and feelings into a broader perspective.

3. Walk.

Not an acronym this time. Just a great activity for helping us practice mindfulness.  Rather than walking in a state of distraction, though, focus on the physical and mechanical aspects of the act of walking, your legs and feet moving, your balance shifting, your breath supporting your movements. Likewise you can turn your mindful attention to the world around you.  The sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the places you’re walking through.


Brain Training & Magnetic Fields Help Alzheimer’s Patients

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

A trial in the UK is using a combination of brain training and magnetic pulses to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

“The treatment stimulates key regions of the brain involved in memory and learning, enhancing patients’ ability to make new memories.

“The scientists behind the technique say it can allow Alzheimer’s patients to live far more independently than they otherwise would and extends the time they can spend with their families before suffering the devastating mental decline associated with the disease.”

As reported in the Telegraph.


Brain Food: Omega 3 Boosts Cognitive Performance

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

In a study of young adults, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh found that a dietary increase of Omega-3 supplements boosted working memory.

“We found that [young people] can enhance their working memory performance even further, despite their already being at the top of their cognitive game,” said Bita Moghaddam, professor of neuroscience on the team.

The researchers used n-back training to determine working memory performance prior to a 6 month period of Omega-3 supplementation.

“What was particularly interesting about the presupplementation n-back test was that it correlated positively with plasma Omega-3,” said Moghaddam. “This means that the Omega-3s they were getting from their diet already positively correlated with their working memory.”

“So many of the previous studies have been done with the elderly or people with medical conditions, leaving this unique population of young adults unaddressed,” said Matthew Muldoon, project coinvestigator and associate professor of medicine at Pitt. “But what about our highest-functioning periods? Can we help the brain achieve its full potential by adapting our healthy behaviors in our young adult life? We found that we absolutely can.”

(For anyone interested in taking an Omega-3 supplement, our colleagues at Zortho have an excellent multi-omega product Super Critical PEO.)

Upgrade Coming – MindSparke v3.1

Monday, January 7th, 2013

We’re upgrading the Brain Fitness Pro training system later today, adding some exciting new features:

Facebook integration: Connect your training account to your Facebook account through the Account panel and you can login with Facebook and share your training progress and blog posts with your Facebook friends.

Focus Helper: In the training panel you’ll see the “Focus Helper” audio player.  Listen to this background audio while training and it will help you focus.

We’re taking steps to make sure that the upgrade goes smoothly, but if you notice any odd behavior please log out, close your browser and log back in.

If you have questions or comments on the upgrade, please let us know.

Martin Walker
CEO, Founder

Brain Training for Chemobrain

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

A new study gives hope to those suffering from cognitive impairment after chemotherapy (so-called “chemobrain”). The research paper presented in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, found that brain training for breast cancer patients lead to better memory and improved cognition as well as a reduced tendency to anxiety and depression.

Cognitive problems after chemotherapy affect as many as three-quarters of breast cancer patients and the impact can last up to 10 years. The study gives the first glimpse of hope for addressing this problem. “It is exciting that the computerized brain training program improved both memory and information processing speed,” said Diane Von Ah, PhD, RN, lead researcher and assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing.

After two months of brain training the participants displayed marked improvements in memory, processing speed, depression, and fatigue; benefits that held two months later, at which point anxiety symptoms also showed improvement.


Piano Tuners And The Plastic Brain

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Tuning a piano by ear requires a great deal of skill. Piano tuners need to remember and compare complex sound patterns which vary across the piano keyboard. This led researchers from UCL and Newcastle University to target the brains of piano tuners for a study investigating changes in brain structure associated with brain use. (We’ve written before about a similar study on the brain structure of London cabbies.)

The study found that the piano tuners’ brains showed marked differences in white and gray matter in the hippocampus when compared to non-piano tuners. What’s more, the degree of difference corresponded to how long the tuners had been at their profession.

“Perhaps surprisingly, the changes related to tuning experience that we found were not in the auditory part of the brain. In fact, they actually occurred in the hippocampus, a part of the brain traditionally associated with memory and navigation,” says Dr Sukhbinder Kumar from Newcastle University, joint first author.

Study lead Dr Tim Griffiths (Newcastle University,) added: “There has been little work on the role of the hippocampus in auditory analysis. Our study is consistent with a form of navigation in pitch space as opposed to the more accepted role in spatial navigation.”