Brain in the News

The internet has made information accessible in ways it never was before, and the Dana Foundation certainly takes advantage, publishing content on its website daily. At the same time, print has become a forgotten medium. Not at Dana, where Brain in the News boasts an impressive subscriber list.

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Lauren Hill: Raising Brain Cancer Awareness

Sports are great for many reasons, perhaps none more so than when they have positive effects off the field. On November 2nd, Lauren Hill scored the first points of the college basketball season when she made a basket for Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. She was on the court for less than a minute total, but her impact will last for years. Hill, 19 and a college freshman, has terminal brain cancer. Since being diagnosed shortly after committing to play college ball last October, her dream has been to play in a college game. A week ago Sunday, the dream became a reality and, in the process, awareness and money were raised.

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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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Design a Brain Experiment Competition Reminder

The January 16 deadline for the Dana Foundation’s annual Design a Brain Experiment Competition will be here before you can say amygdala. If you haven’t started working on your submission, it’s time to get busy! The 2014 competition featured some incredible submissions, led by the winning proposal, “Investigating the implications of specific inhibition of ß-amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease,” from Gopika Hari of Cupertino High School in Cupertino, California.

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Scientific Community Comes Out Against ‘Brain Game’ Marketing

Guest post by science writer Kayt Sukel

A few years ago, I was asked to write an article about the science behind “brain games,” or computer games designed to help improve cognitive function, for a popular magazine. I spoke with a variety of scientists—including those involved with companies that were marketing these games—and also examined the (quite small number) of studies that had been published on brain game efficacy. Taken together, my piece concluded that was that there was no hard and fast evidence, to date, that brain games worked as advertised. Citing the lack of a magic bullet for aging-related cognitive decline, the editor of the magazine killed my story, saying that it felt “too negative.”  The magazine’s readership, she told me, wanted to be able to “do something” about keeping age-related memory and attention problems at bay.

Who wouldn’t? Many brain training companies make bold claims about the games’ effects–suggesting that just a few minutes on the computer each day could slow cognitive decline and keep neurodegeneration at bay. With that kind of messaging, it’s easy to see why the programs have become so popular. Yet, while these supposedly “scientific” claims lack evidentiary basis, few scientists have come out publicly against them.

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