Book Review: The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Many people believe that the brain is hardwired in childhood and, as we grow older, cognitive decline is inevitable; we becoming more forgetful, less inclined to seek new experiences and more set in our ways. During the late 1990s, the work of early childhood advocates to focus on learning during the first three years of life had a dramatic impact public opinion and social policy that has lasted almost a decade. Indeed, the importance of learning during a child’s first three years of life was widely accepted as a fact of early neurological development. Unfortunately, advocacy efforts actually countered what neuroscientists were discovering about the brain and its development [1].

Scientific research in the late 1990s was finding that the adult brain had a much greater capacity for neuroplasticity — the ability to change structure and function in response to thought, learning and experience — than was previously believed [2-3]. Neuroscientists found that the adult brain was capable of growing new dendrites, branched projections from a neuron or nerve cell that conduct electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells toward the cell body of the neuron, which are often damaged as a result of traumatic head injury or stroke. In adult macaques, researchers found that new neurons were produced in brain regions important for congitive function [4]. The view that aging was equivalent to ubiquitous and rapid cognitive decline thus gave way to a recognition that, for some people, mental acuity continues well into old age. Today, it’s common to hear about “brain fitness” and/or “brain training” products that can help to maintain and/or rebuild cognitive performance. However, in this rapidly evolving field, it’s difficult to discern fact from fiction.

Brain Toniq Review: The Science Behind the Think Drink

The ability to multitask and mentally juggle multiple demands is essential in today’s fast-paced world. At the same time, we’re bombarded with information that can both distract and overload our focus and attention.

Many of us need a caffeine “boost” in the morning or throughout the day to maintain mental focus. However, drinking too much coffee or tea leaves you feeling like you need to do a couple of laps around the building.


And although coffee consumption offers a number of potential health benefits, many of us drink more than enough of it on a daily basis. Energy drinks are an alternative option. However, their effects on cognitive performance are principally related to the presence of caffeine [1].

Enter Brain Toniq

Brain Toniq bills itself as the world’s first and only botanical-based, non-caffeinated functional “think drink”, specifically designed to increase mental focus, function and clarity. According to the Brain Toniq website:

Formulated out of plant extracts and natural compounds, the ingredients in Brain Toniq have a long, proven history for their effects on increasing brain power and cognition.

I’d previously heard about Brain Toniq and was intrigued at the idea of an energy drink designed to increase cognitive performance. Additionally, the Brain Toniq website references peer-reviewed research studies that examine many of the ingredients. When I contacted the company, they were kind enough to send me a sample to review.

Encephalon #58 – Decision Making

Welcome to the 58th edition of Encephalon, where we highlight some of the best neuroscience and psychology blog posts from around the blogosphere. This edition includes 20 articles on a variety of interesting topics, including intelligence, belief, neurodegeneration, multi-tasking, memory, grief and consciousness.

There’s a revolution occurring on the Web: those “authoritative” articles written on traditional, static websites are being replaced with blogs, wikis and online social networks. In the sphere of health, medicine and information technology, this “real-time Web” consists of many who are professionals in the field; their posts are listed below.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.

This edition of Encephalon coincides with the historic 44th U.S. Presidential election. As with every election, voters had to decide which candidate for whom to cast their ballot. Although a recent brain-imaging study found that voting decisions are more associated with the brain’s response to negative aspects of a politician’s appearance than to positive ones [1], many other sources of information come into play when we make important and complex decisions. Indeed, studies have shown that decision making is largely an unconscious process [2], in which a set of attributes, including needs, preferences, values and emotions, shape our response to sensory input.

Will there be engaging and thought-provoking articles below? Will each of us learn something new as we read through the posts? Will this edition of Encephalon be successful?

Let’s move through each of the attributes and shape our response to these questions.

Mapping Connections in the Human Brain

The first high-resolution structural connection map of the human cerebral cortex was published earlier this month in the journal PLoS Biology. The study reveals regions that are highly connected and central, forming a structural core network [1]. Intriguingly, this core network consists of many areas that are more active when we’re at rest than when we’re engaged in a task that requires concentration.