BrainHealth Research Shows Strategic Thinking Strengthens Intellectual Capacity

Courtesy of Brain Health:

Strategy-based cognitive training has the potential to enhance cognitive performance and spill over to real-life benefit according to a data-driven perspective article by the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. The research-based perspective highlights cognitive, neural and real-life changes measured in randomized clinical trials that compared a gist-reasoning strategy-training program to memory training in populations ranging from teenagers to healthy older adults, individuals with brain injury to those at-risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

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“Our brains are wired to be inspired,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHeath and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas. “One of the key differences in our studies from other interventional research aimed at improving cognitive abilities is that we did not focus on specific cognitive functions such as speed of processing, memory, or learning isolated new skills. Instead, the gist reasoning training program encouraged use of a common set of multi-dimensional thinking strategies to synthesize information and elimination of toxic habits that impair efficient brain performance.”

The training across the studies was short, ranging from 8 to 12 sessions delivered over one to two months in 45 to 60 minute time periods. The protocol focused on three cognitive strategies — strategic attention, integrated reasoning and innovation. These strategies are hierarchical in nature and can be broadly applied to most complex daily life mental activities. Continue reading

Scientists Have Finally Found The First Real Reason We Need To Sleep

Courtesy of Business Insider:

We know we need to sleep. We know our brains and bodies work better after sleep. But what we didn’t know, until now, was why.

Scientists have just reported the first major mechanical reason our brains need to sleep — certain cleaning mechanisms in the brain work better when we shut the brain down. Just like how dump trucks take to the city streets during the pre-dawn hours because there’s less traffic, our brain’s cleaners also work best when there’s less going on.

“This study shows that the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake,” study researcher Maiken Nedergaard, of the University of Rochester said in a statement. “In fact, the restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.”

We’ve known that our brains consolidate memories during sleep and perform other important functions. There are also benefits to the body during sleep — resting allows our muscles, bones, and organs to repair themselves. It also keeps our immune system healthy.

We know that sleep has all of these benefits, but until now we didn’t know any of the specific changes that bring about these sleep benefits.

Charles Czeisler, a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Science Magazine’s Emily Underwood that this is the “first direct experimental evidence at the molecular level” for why we need to sleep.

The paper was published in the journal Science on Oct. 17.

Toxic cells

All of our cells accumulate waste while they are working, and these waste products can be toxic. If they aren’t removed they can build up and kill our cells. Throughout the rest of the body the lymphatic system washes these waste products away, but the brain is cut off from these actions because of the blood-brain barrier.

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