Archive for the ‘brain exercises’ Category

Researchers Still Don’t Know If Cognitive Benefits of Playing Brain Games are Long-Term

January 9, 2015

Brain research has been a very active field in recent years and we continue to learn new things about our brains all the time.

braingames1Scientists now know, for example, that the brain remains malleable even into old age, taking in new information, processing it and sparking new neurons. We also know that any mental workout—from learning a new language to playing computer games—produces changes in the neural systems that support acquisition of the new skill.

But while there is data to support that people who play brain games, for example, get better and faster at playing them the longer they participate, what is not yet known is whether or not these abilities are able to be transferred to everyday, real-world tasks.

As researchers continue to study whether or not activities such as playing brain games have long-term cognitive benefits, it’s good to know that if you find brain games enjoyable, playing them certainly can’t hurt. The best way to keep minds sharp is to remain active and engaged—and that includes physical activity, reading and socializing with friends.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Games That Help Enhance Cognitive Skills

December 9, 2014

inchimalsResearch shows that learning skills can be taught—and therefore improved. So if you are looking for some ideas this Christmas for games that will help your children’s learning skills while providing hours of entertainment, here a few affordable ideas to get you started:

For ages three years and older:
Inchimals—Good for teaching young children basic addition, subtraction and measurement skills while reinforcing their ability to count. Includes 12 wooden blocks and a spiral-bound, dry-erase notebook with 100 puzzles.

For ages seven years and older:
Kanoodle—two brain-twisting solitaire games in a pocket-sized case. Kids use combinations of colored connected beads to construct designs from the enclosed puzzle book. Because the game is portable, kids can Kanoodle anywhere.

Double Bananagrams—This award-winning word game needs no pencil, paper, or board. It’s great for travel and with 288 tiles, this version of Bananagrams can be played with up to 16 people.

For ages eight years and older, one or more players:
Bop It—This modern-day, handheld version of “Simon Says” stimulates social interaction plus thinking and motor skills. It also helps children listen and follow directions. Comes in many versions and makes an excellent family or travel game.

Looking for a tutor in the metro Detroit area? Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Alzheimer’s Update

May 16, 2014

seniorcomputer1Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease.

Alzheimer’s is especially hard on women. Of the 5 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.8 million are men. A woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these staggering figures, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 2050.

A lifestyle that focuses on physical activity and a healthy diet may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. You may also want to take advantage of Optiminds’ customized brain training programs for seniors. A mix of mental/emotional exercises, visualization techniques and computerized drills, these programs are designed to increase mental capacity and help you process information better and more quickly.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And visit our website at optiminds.com to learn more about us.

Brain Exercises for Families on the Go

December 16, 2013

Keeping children occupied and happy while you are driving can be a challenge for busy parents.

Following are some suggestions for engaging the kids mentally, whether you are making the rounds in town or on an extended road trip. Obviously, it’s better and safer if some of the games are conducted by the adult who isn’t the driver.

  • Have your children write down the license plate numbers, make and model, and color of passing cars. Two or more kids can compare who has the most entries in 10 minutes.
  • Ask your children say the alphabet backwards, spell their full name (first, middle, and last) backwards, or recite the pledge of allegiance backwards.
  • Try “category” games. For example, have the kids list—in one minute—all of the colors they know. Try other categories such as breeds of dogs, words that mean red, words that mean small, etc. Make the task harder by having them clip paperclips together while listing things in a category.
  • Make several lists of common words. At first, only one word and ask your children to repeat it. Give them two words and ask them to repeat both words. Keep adding additional words until it looks like the children have reached their capacity for remembering.
  • Keep two or more identical U.S. maps in the car. Starting with your home state, give your kids directions and ask them to follow on the map. Then move to the two states to the east, west, etc. Ask them to find the capital city of the state you are traveling to.
  • Using paper and a pencil, give your children a time on the clock, such as 11:15 am. Ask them to draw that time on a traditional clock face with minute and hour hand, and then show how the same time would appear on a digital clock.  Next tell them to draw the clock as it would appear in 6 hours and thirty minutes. Draw the clock as it appeared 2 hours and 10 minutes ago.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

The “BRAIN” Initiative

September 5, 2013

BRAIN3This past April, President Obama unveiled the “BRAIN” Initiative—a bold new research effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.

The BRAIN Initiative is short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. Extending beyond mere mapping of the brain, the BRAIN Initiative is aimed at producing an array of tools that are needed to establish an integrated theory of how a healthy brain functions over an organism’s life. This theory will provide a fundamental framework for interpreting new information on brain science and will change existing paradigms for explaining “who we are.”

It promises to accelerate the invention of new technologies that will help researchers produce real-time pictures of complex neural circuits and visualize the rapid-fire interactions of cells that occur at the speed of thought. Such cutting-edge capabilities will open new doors to understanding how brain function is linked to human behavior and learning, and the mechanisms of brain disease.

According to John Wingfield of the National Science Foundation—one of the key organizations leading the initiative: “When scientists do ultimately figure out how the brain works–however long it takes, this accomplishment will probably be considered the greatest scientific achievement in all of human history.”

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Optiminds’ programs are comprised of exercises, individually customized to your needs and designed to stimulate targeted areas of your brain. Learn more about Optiminds’ tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Everyday Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Brain

March 25, 2013

Spring is here and it’s a great time to sweep out the mental cobwebs and get your brain in shape. Here are some tips you can implement every day to keep you and your brain on track.

  • Appreciate your brain as a living, constantly changing entity.
  • Nourish your brain with good food. The brain weighs only 2 percent of body mass but consumes over 20 percent of the oxygen and nutrients we take in. The benefits of eating well extend to your brain as well as your body.
  • Your brain benefits from physical activity. Physical exercise enhances neurogenesis, which is the growth of new neurons in the brain.
  • Think positive, future-oriented thoughts. Eventually, they will become your default mindset. Stress and anxiety can kill neurons and subdue the growth of new neurons.
  • Challenge yourself mentally. The point of having a brain is to learn and adapt to new environments. Once you grow new neurons, where and how long they survive in your brain depends on how you use them.
  • Aim high. Always keep learning. The brain keeps developing , no matter your age, and it reflects what you do with it.
  • Be an explorer and traveler. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment and make new decisions.
  • Don’t outsource your brain to media personalities, politicians or other people. Make your own decisions and your own mistakes—and learn from them.
  • Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. Humans are social animals and need social interaction to thrive.
  • Laugh often, especially to cognitively complex humor.

Above all, practice. Practicing these suggestions every day will turn them into internalized, unstoppable habits.

Concerned about maintaining your mental capacity? Check out our Optiminds Brain fitness programs that take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, plus improving cognitive and concentration power. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Call us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

Try These Mind Games for Mental Fitness

February 15, 2013

brainexercising1If, like many of us, you are a little nervous about your ability to remember things or stay focused on a project or activity, here are a few exercises you might want to try to keep your brain’s cognitive functions—memory, attention, language, visual/spatial skills and executive function—in good shape.

  • When listening to music, choose a song you don’t know and memorize the lyrics. This boosts the level of acetylcholine, the chemical that helps build your brain.
  • Shower or get dressed in the dark, or use your opposite hand to brush your teeth. These changes help build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.
  • Change your route to work or reorganize your desk. These simple changes will force your brain to wake up from habits and pay attention again.
  • Combine activities like listening to an audio book with jogging, or doing math in your head while you drive. This will force your brain to work at doing more in the same amount of time
  • Walk into a room and pick out five items and their locations. When you exit the room, try to recall all five items and where they were located. Wait two hours and try to remember those items and their locations.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at www.optimindsct.com.

Is Physical Exercise Better Than Mental Activity for Keeping Your Cognitive Edge?

November 15, 2012

Many people believe that doing crossword puzzles can keep the brain sharp, and even prevent Alzheimer’s. That may be well and good, but researchers are finding that regular physical exercise in old age may protect the brain from age-related decline better than engaging in more intellectual pursuits.

Researchers examined the medical records of 638 people from Scotland born in 1936. At age 70, the participants filled out questionnaires detailing their exercise habits as well as how often they engaged in stimulating mental and social activities. When they turned 73, the scientists took MRIs of their brains and matched their size, as well as any changes in the volume of white matter, which makes up the web of nerves that connect various brain regions, to the volunteers’ questionnaire answers.

The participants reported a range of physical activity, from household chores to heavy exercise or playing competitive sports several times a week. Over the three years, those who exercised the most had the largest brains, and showed the least shrinkage in white matter compared to those who were the least active. The study  showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year timeframe.

Additionally, four studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver also found that elderly adults who exercised regularly, including taking walks, working with light weights and aerobic training, had fewer “senior moments” and improved memory than those who were more sedentary.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds recommends a combination of physical and mental activity for optimal cognitive health. Optiminds specializes in helping people of all ages improve their cognitive skills. For more information on Optiminds programs, contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And visit the Optiminds website at: www.optimindsct.com

Cognitive Training May Make Seniors More Open to New Experiences

October 22, 2012

In addition to declines in cognitive abilities, including working memory and inductive reasoning, aging is often accompanied by changes in personality, such as shifts in openness or willingness to seek out new and cognitively challenging experiences. While a number of interventions have been designed to enrich cognitive functioning in older adults, little has been done to develop openness.

A study conducted on older adults involving 16 weeks of training in inductive reasoning demonstrated that participants were more willing to try new activities than a control group. The intervention consisted of a classroom-based inductive reasoning training program that focused on novel pattern recognition. Participants also did home-based Sudoku and crossword puzzles. Puzzle sets were matched to each person’s skill level based on his performance during the previous week, and increased in difficulty when appropriate.

Participants underwent personality trait and inductive reasoning tests before, during, and after the study. The authors reported that post-test openness scores were higher for the training group than for the control group.

The “use it or lose it” tag is often attributed to these types of studies and the results of the study suggest that “using it” also can lead people to view themselves as more open; openness to experience is linked to better health and decreased mortality risk.

The brain is a muscle and responds to strengthening and conditioning just like any other muscle in the body. If it doesn’t get exercise, it gets out of shape. At Optiminds, our focus is on helping you maintain your mental capacity as you grow older. Our brain fitness programs for seniors take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive and concentration power. This helps you to get your life back so you can start living again.

Ask us about our Senior Brain Fitness Classes, every Tuesday at 1:00 at our Southfield location.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.

Brain Plasticity

October 8, 2012

You may have heard that the brain is “plastic.” Actually, brain plasticity or neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. Our brains have the amazing ability to reorganize by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons).

Factors that play a role in plasticity include genetic factors, the environment in which we live and our actions.

Neuroplasticity occurs in instances such as: the beginning of life when the immature brain organizes itself; in the case of brain injury when the brain compensates for lost functions or to maximize remaining functions; and throughout adulthood when we learn and memorize new things.

One of the consequences of neuroplasticity is that the brain activity associated with a given function can move to a different location, such as when the functions of brain areas killed as the result of a stroke transfer themselves to a healthy region of the brain. The brain compensates for damage by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons, usually when the neurons are stimulated through activity.

Research shows that the brain never stops changing through learning. And when you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas in your brain that deal with this type of skill will grow. Examples: the left inferior parietal cortex is larger in people who are bilingual than in people who speak only one language; the cortex volume is larger in professional musicians compared to non-musicians.

It’s never too late to boost your brain’s plasticity. Dr. Stewart and staff help students of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills—now at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.


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