Dana Press Offers Cerebrum Anthology 2014

Cerebrum cover“What makes us human?” asks Barbara Culliton in the Foreword of the new Cerebrum: Emerging Ideas in Brain Science 2014, an anthology of the articles and book reviews featured each month during 2014 on the web. As the editor of Cerebrum, the online journal published by the Dana Foundation, I’m confident in saying that this year’s stories strive to answer that question from a neuroscience perspective.

The book’s twelve articles and five book reviews cover the science behind the much-hyped cognitive training and brain games industry; the latest in brain-machine interfaces, the role that socioeconomic status plays in brain development, and individual sex differences in the human brain. From understanding induced pluripotent stem cells to the causes and effects of spatial awareness, the latter written by last year’s Nobel prize winners Edvard and May-Britt Moser, the goal of Cerebrum is to take complex research and explain the importance in simple and understandable language.

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Manhattan Student Triumphant in NYC Regional Brain Bee

For the two weeks leading up to the NYC Regional Brain Bee competition, Mary Zhuo Ke studied twenty pages of her textbook every day. She modestly mentioned several times that she was not expecting to win, but it was clear that her hard work paid off. “When preparing for this competition, I realized that in order to truly succeed, I had to understand what I was reading. I had to make connections so I would be able to make intelligent guesses if I was not familiar with the answer of a question. During the Brain Bee, I relied on inferences several times.”

Mary Zhuo Ke, First Place winner of the 2015 NYC Regional Brain Bee. Photo credit: Jacqueline Silberbush

Mary Zhuo Ke, First Place winner of the 2015 NYC Regional Brain Bee. Photo credit: Jacqueline Silberbush

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Brain Games: Ten Years Away

When I first became editor of Cerebrum two years ago, I pitched an article about the effectiveness of brain games to my advisory board. Too soon, they suggested, because there aren’t enough good studies to support one.

That struck me as curious, since a look on Lumosity’s website revealed nine peer-reviewed studies, 36 university collaborators, and testimonials galore. Lumosity is the largest company in a brain-game business that is estimated at $1.3 billion a year.K-November-Brain Games

Three months ago the board finally greenlighted the idea for an article, on the condition that I could find a recognized authority with a track record in cognition and aging to write it. I invited Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D., director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & technology and the Swanlund Chair and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois. He accepted and suggested he collaborate with research colleague Walter R. Boot, Ph.D., an associate professor at Florida State University. The result is this month’s Cerebrum article, “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Training Really Sharpen the Mind?” (A Q&A with the authors will post on the Dana Foundation website on Monday).

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Learning is Fun on Brainy Kids Online

School may be out, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop! Check out the Fun section (“fun” being the key word) in the Dana Foundation’s Brainy Kids Online, a science resource for students, teachers, and parents.

Kid can explore the science of light at Optics for Kids, a website run by the Optical Society of America. The website hosts a great gallery of optical illusions and information about the work of scientists or “Optic celebs.” There are also a number of at-home activities, with varying levels of difficulty.

For something more interactive, kids can help the Super Crew save the world of Vearth from the science-distorting computer virus, Deep Delete. This game and more on Kinetic City, a production of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Engaging the Next Generation of Neuroscientists

A major part of the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week campaign is to engage young students in activities and discussions about the brain. To aid in this endeavor, Dana publishes a few brainy booklets specifically geared toward kids – some of which are offered in multiple languages, as well as games and puzzles. We’re always keen to find new kid-friendly brain resources to add to our Brainy Kids section, and the other day my colleague found a cool new brain resource from the Wellcome Trust in London. The glossy publication offers students and teachers an overview of what imaging research has taught us about the brain, addressing different types of imaging, neuro-myths, and reflections from doctors and patients on the role their brains play in their lives. Check it out!

–Ann L. Whitman


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