Neuroscience Research

Our understanding of the human brain has changed dramatically over the past few decades.  Until about the 1970s, the scientific community largely believed that the brain was only “plastic,” or changeable in early childhood, and was then “set” for the rest of one’s life. 

However, the world of neuroscience has been flipped on its head.  Decades of research now show that many aspects of the brain remain changeable throughout one's lifetime.  These studies demonstrate that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience.  Neuroscientific research now indicates that experience can actually change both the brain's physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology).

This is GREAT NEWS! 

As a result of this new realization, three terms have emerged as driving concepts in the world of neuroscience:  Neuroplasticity, Cognitive Reserve and Neurogenesis.

  • Neuroplasticity - also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that describes lasting change to the brain throughout an animal's life course.  It is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease, and to adjust their activities in response to new situations, or to changes in their environment.  Simply put, the brain adapts, and changes itself, based on input from the body, and from the environment.

  • Cognitive Reserve - describes the mind's resistance to damage of the brain.  In other words, it is the idea that mental exercise, social interaction, and brain-stimulating activities, like cognitive training, can build up “reserve”, thereby helping to stave off declining memory, thinking, and cognitive function.  Think of it as your brain’s way of paving extra side routes, in case there is an accident on the main highway.

  • Neurogenesis – is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells.  We now know that neurogenesis can occur throughout ones life.  Learning new things, proper diet, some forms of exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can all enhance neurogenesis.

 

What does this mean to you…

  • Your brain is always changing/adapting based on how much, and in what ways, you challenge your brain each day, as well as your exercise and sleep habits, diet, ability to manage stress, and social interactions. 

  • You can help direct the way your brain changes!  Your brain is constantly trying to improve itself.  You can help your brain thrive, by engaging in targeted cognitive exercises, specific physical exercises and a healthy lifestyle.  The choice is yours!

The articles and studies below are just a sampling of the latest research in the world of neuroscience. 

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Heart Rate Variability

Relaxation Techniques: Breathing Helps Quell Errant Stress Response

Harvard Medical School

"We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. ."

The Surprising Connection Between Heart Rate and Wisdom

Dorothy Tengler

"researchers now believe wisdom is a matter of both heart and mind, touting that fluctuations in our heartbeats may, in fact, affect our wisdom."

Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing

Lesley Alderman, NY Times

 "Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system". 

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Proprioceptive Training

Neurocognitive Reaction Time Predicts Lower Extremity Sprains and Strains

Gary Wilkerson, University of Tennessee

"Reaction time measured by a computerized test of neurocognitive function appears to be a good indicator
of elevated risk for lower extremity sprains and strains"

An 8-week Reactive Balance Training Program in Older Healthy Adults

Max Paquette

"A recent review of the literature on risk factors for falls in older adults indicated that gait changes and poor balance ability are among the major fall risk factors."

 

~ Journal of Sport and Health

The Relationship Between Neurocognitive Function and Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries

Charles Buz Swanik, PhD, ATC, Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, David J. Stearne, PhD, ATC, Philip Schatz, PhD

"Neuromuscular control is influenced by sensory information from proprioceptive, kinesthetic, visual, and vestibular sources, as well as cortical and spinal motor commands." 

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3D Visual Tracking

Study: Healthy Older Observers Show Equivalent Perceptual-Cognitive Training Benefits to Young Adults for Multiple Object Tracking

Isabelle Legault, Rémy Allard, and Jocelyn Faubert

"Data support the notion that learning in healthy older persons is maintained for processing complex dynamic scenes." 

Memory Training and Benefits for Quality of Life In The Elderly: Case Study

Dementia & Neuropsychologia

"The results suggest that the use of Neurotracker for training cognitive processes is valid for cognitive rehabilitation programs to promote improvements in quality of life in the elderly."

 

~ Institute of Psychiatry, University of São Paulo

Enhancing Cognitive Function Using Perceptual-Cognitive Training

Parsons B, Magill T, Boucher A, Zhang M, Zogbo K, Bérubé S, Scheffer O, Beauregard M, Faubert

"Results indicate that 10 sessions of 3D-MOT training can enhance attention, visual information processing speed, and working memory, and also leads to quantifiable changes in resting-state neuroelectric brain function."  

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Millisecond Timing

Academic and Behavioral Improvements in 2nd Through 8th Grade Students in the Hardy Brain Camp Program

Jamshid Damooei, PhD, California Lutheran University

"Remarkable improvements where made in academic performance, attitude, ability to process information, and ability to deal with surrounding environment."

The Effectiveness of Interactive Metronome as a Restorative Modality to Improve Cognition and Motor Peformance in Healthy Older Adults

Journal of Neurology and Neuroscience

"Researchers concluded the participants improved scores on cognitive and fine motor dexterity measures might indicate IM could be beneficial in enhancing or maintaining individuals for this senior population"

 

Feeling the beat: Symposium explores the therapeutic effects of rhythmic music

by Emily Saarman

...found that rhythmic therapy could improve cognitive functioning in some elderly people by increasing blood flow throughout the brain

~ Stanford News

Evaluation of Hardy Brain Camp

Hannah Grossman-Mary E. Brenner Gevirtz Graduate School of Education UCSB

"These results of analysis suggest that the Hardy Brain Training provided  moderate improvement in processing speed and smaller improvements in reading  and math fluency, based on statistical criteria."

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Personalized Cognitive Training

10 Brain Exercises That Boost Memory

Linda Melone, Everyday Health-Longevity

"We don’t just lose muscle over time — our brains can atrophy, too. More specifically, your brain's cognitive reserve — its ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging and other factors without showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss — diminishes through the years. That can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks. But just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in your later years, researchers now believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase your brain's cognitive reserve."

Mental Strain Helps Maintain a Healthy Brain

Harvard Health Publications

" Just as your muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise keeps your mental skills and memory in tone." 

"Any brain exercise is better than being a total mental couch potato. But the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable. Playing endless rounds of solitaire and watching the latest documentary marathon on the History Channel may not be enough. “If it’s too easy,” Dr. Fabiny says, “it’s not helping you.”

Five of the Best App to Train Your Brain

Honor Whiteman

"CogniFit is perhaps the most advanced brain training app we reviewed, consisting of a variety of minigames designed to train more than 20 cognitive skills, including short-term memory, planning, hand-eye coordination, and auditory perception."

~Medical News Today, 2017

Computer-Based, Personalized Cognitive Training Versus Classical Computer Games

Peretz C, Korczyn AD, Shatil E, Aharonson V, Birnboim S, Giladi N.

"Personalized, computerized cognitive training appears to be more effective than computer games in improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults. "

 

~ Journal of Sport and Health

Effect of Cognitive Remediation on Gait in Sedentary Seniors

Verghese J, Mahoney J, Ambrose AF, Wang C, Holtzer R.

 "The findings of this pilot trial are promising and suggest that cognitive remediation may improve mobility in sedentary seniors"

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Dexterity-Dextercise

Tripod Pinch Strength and Thumb Opposition are the Major Determinants of Manual Dexterity

Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychology

"Tripod pinch strength and thumb opposition are major determinants of manual dexterity in and should therefore be the focus of intervention strategies that aim to preserve or enhance manual dexterity"

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Neuroplasticity & Brain Training

Improve Memory by Exercising Brain & Body at Same Time

by Sharp Brains

UCLA study shows doing cardiovascular exercise while training your brain enhances cognitive performance more than doing cardio followed by brain training

20 Must-Know Facts to Harness Neuroplasticity and Improve Brain Health

by Alvaro Fernandez

"[Regarding cognitive training] no size fits all, so it's critical to understand and address individual needs, priorities and starting points."  

~ Sharp Brains

Effect of cognitive remediation on gait in sedentary seniors.

"Sedentary seniors with slow gait and falls improved mobility after cognitive training..."
 

~ Based on study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

STUDY: To Improve Brain Health You Need BOTH Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise