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NPR’s “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook interviews three experts to discuss the best ways to keep our brain sharp as we get older.

Listen to the interview here.

Guests

Melissa Healy, health and science reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (@latmelissahealy)

Sandra Bond Chapman, cognitive neuroscientist. Founder and chief director at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she is also a professor of in brain health and behavioral and brain sciences. Author of “Make Your Brain Smarter.” (@brainhealth)

Kathleen Taylor, expert in adult brain development and learning. Researcher and professor in the Saint Mary’s College of California’s school of education. Author of the forthcoming “Facilitating Brain-Aware Adult Learning,” as well as co-author of “Developing Adult Learners” and “The Neuroscience of Adult Learning.”

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Originally posted in The Science of Learning Blog.

By Martha Burns, Ph.D, Scientific Learning

Neuroscience-based programs

I am sure you have noticed that there are many technology programs out there that claim to “build,” or improve your brain function. Every week I receive emails from companies advertising brain games that promise to train attention and memory skills. You may have wondered, do “brain games” really work? A recent article in The New York Times entitled “Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure,” actually asked that very question as well.

How would a memory brain game that I purchase from a website be different from a card or board game like “Concentration”? How is an attention game different or better than the concentration required to read a good book or play a card game that requires focused and sustained attention to cards played or discarded each round? Do good old fashioned paper pencil activities like crossword puzzles help with brain function? How about Bridge or Chess? Does watching Jeopardy on Television help your memory? Wouldn’t any challenging video game help us with attention if we had to stay focused for long periods of time to get to a new level?

The answers to the above questions are all “yes, to some degree.” The brain is the only organ of our body that changes each day based on our experiences. And if we do any activities that challenge memory or attention for extended periods of time it will likely be beneficial for improving those capacities. If I play bridge, for example, many hours a week, I will likely get better at the game and boost my short term (working) memory as well. But, neuroscientists who study brain plasticity, the way the brain changes with stimulation (or lack of stimulation), have determined there are ways to enhance the beneficial effects of brain exercises to maximize the efficiency and positive outcomes so that children or adults can specifically target some capacities over others in a short period of time. And, controlled research is showing these targeted exercises have benefits on other brain capacities as well. Read More

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Musings on Memory and Aging

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Stanford Center on Longevity

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Beautiful Brain

a website about neuroscience and art that peaked in 2009 but is still going