Sunday, 1 March 2009

Research merry-go-round up

I've been sitting on a number of research/news snippets which are all interesting but demonstrate how fluid the respective fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational study are. Sometimes it's hard to draw immediately practical inferences. Things are moving so fast that you can move from positions of contradiction, congruence and back to contradiction in a matter of days. This can be confusing, especially when you throw in the usual journalist demand for a sensationalist angle.

These recent headlines are a case in point:

Brain training claims dismissed

A Which? report states the obvious around some popular brain training software such as those from Nintendo, Lumosity and Mindweavers. It's still too early for anyone to claim categorically that their tools can, in isolation, lead to improved cognitive function. Other environmental factors always play a key role, which makes conclusive studies difficult.

Knitting can delay memory loss

A US study supports engaging in a hobby prevents memory problems later in life (by 40%). Keeping physically and mentally active is the key message - again stating the obvious perhaps?

Texting improves language skills

A positive report that "textisms" could be having a beneficial effect on reading development. Also the University of Toronto found instant messaging had a positive effect on teenagers' command of language.

Social websites: bad for kids' brains?

A number of reports alleging that online networking and gaming have health risks. Susan Greenfield weighs in on the debate stating that young brains may be fundamentally altered by internet activity - which is again fairly obvious. Why just young brains? Old brains are (almost) just as plastic. For more on this, Donald Clark does a great job of putting her expert opinion under critical review.

Digging deeper

With all this potential for confusion I find it's important to trace things back to their sources where-ever possible as there are usually more solid nuggets of information to be found. I'll leave you with one interesting piece on a subject I've posted on before - memory and sleep. In this study, it has been found that stages of sleep have distinct influence on the process of learning and memory. Communication between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex appears to change when moving between SWS and REM sleep. When disconnected (as it is during REM sleep) you are more likely to forget newly formed memories, explaining perhaps why most dreams are forgotten.


Sophie Greenfield said...

Hey Lars...did you mean "Susan Greenfield weighs in on the debate stating that young brains may be fundamentally altered by internet activity" Or do you know someone else called Sophie Greenfield? Hope you and yours are thrivin'. Best, Soph.

Lars Hyland said...

Hi Sophie, great to hear from you all the way from Oz! Clearly, you have more to say on the matter than Susan. Would be great to catch up sometime on skype (larshyland) perhaps? Or send me an email on [lars DOT hyland AT].

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