What experts say about children’s screen time!

The amount of time children spend in front of screens should be curbed to stave off development and health problems, an expert says.

Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman says children of all ages are watching more screen media than ever, and starting earlier.

The average 10-year-old has access to five different screens at home, he says.

And some are becoming addicted to them or depressed as a result, he warns.

Writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, Dr Sigman says a child born today will have spent a full year glued to screens by the time they reach the age of seven.

He adds: “In addition to the main family television, for example, many very young children have their own bedroom TV along with portable hand-held computer game consoles (eg, Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox), smartphone with games, internet and video, a family computer and a laptop and/or a tablet computer (eg iPad).

“Children routinely engage in two or more forms of screen viewing at the same time, such as TV and laptop.”

Dr Sigman cites from a string of published studies suggesting links between prolonged screen time and conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

But he suggests the effects go further than those simply associated with being sedentary for long periods.

He says prolonged screen time can lead to reductions in attention span because of its effects on the brain chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is produced in response to “screen novelty”, says Dr Sigman.

It is a key component of the brain’s reward system and implicated in addictive behaviour and the inability to pay attention.

“Screen ‘addiction’ is increasingly being used by physicians to describe the growing number of children engaging in screen activities in a dependent manner,” Dr Sigman says.

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Can brain training boost self control and help you lower your Body Mass Index?

I’m someone who when sat in front of a fast food menu will always make a beeline for the most artery-clogging burger and a large fries. At the same time, I’m fascinated by those around me who will happily order “regular” or “small” servings (or even the dreaded “healthy” alternative). How do they resist temptation? What distinguishes these intriguing individuals from the rest of us – and, by the way, where can I get some more of that prized self-control?

I’m not alone. Understanding what self-control is and how it works has fascinated cognitive psychologists for decades, and more recently has led to the idea that perhaps we can harness our knowledge of cognition to temper compulsive behaviours.

Now an ambitious new study by Dutch psychologist Harm Veling and colleagues has done just this, asking whether training has benefits on actual weight loss. Over a four-week period, 113 participants took part in an internet trial in which they could be exposed to different forms of training.

Reassuringly, brain training methods worked when compared against various control conditions, leading to an average weight loss of about 1 kg per person. The results also revealed some interesting effects of individual differences. Go/no-go training worked best in people with a higher body mass index, whereas implementation intentions were most effective in people who already had strong goals about losing weight. This suggests that by tailoring the training to individual characteristics, we may be able to make it more effective.

Losing 1 kg in a month may not sound like much, but what Veling’s study contributes is a proof of principle that cognitive control training can be taken outside the lab and produce measurable benefits. That alone provides a strong motivation for continuing this line of research, both inside the lab and beyond.

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4 Tips to Strengthen Reading Comprehension at Home

There are lots of things you can do at home to help strengthen your child’s reading comprehension – even before they’re old enough to read!

For younger children that you’’ll be reading to, start by choosing a book that’s age appropriate. Anything too advanced may come across as boring or confusing. You want to hold their interest and ensure they understand most of the book, even if you’ll be introducing a few new words or concepts.

Next, skim the book for words or phrases that you’ll need to explain. No picture of a constellation? Print a picture off the Internet or take them outside the night before you read the book. Reading a book about shapes? Have some Play-Doh on hand to mold some triangles and ovals.

Encourage your child to use important brain skills like deductive reasoning, problem solving and memory by asking questions before during and after the reading. For example: “This book is called ‘The Case of the Missing Sandwich.’ Looking at the picture on the cover, the boy and the girl seem to be looking for the sandwich, but the dog is just sitting still by the empty plate. What do you think could have happened to the sandwich?” Or after you’ve finished the book: “Do you remember the first place they looked for the sandwich?”

As kids get older, the books tend to get longer and more complex. Teenagers might be expected to read multiple lengthy chapters in one night. Increasing comprehension at this level begins with these four steps:

Step No. 1: Pre-read the material. This is as simple as skimming the table of contents, reading the first page of the introduction (to the book or chapter), and reading the chapter titles and headings.

Step No. 2: Review the questions you want the text to answer. These might be questions on a take-home quiz, questions at the end of a chapter, or questions that need to be answered to create the outline for a term paper.

Step No. 3: Take notes. Write them down. Take audio notes. Highlight the text online. Use computer apps that work as sticky notes.

Step No. 4: Review your answers to Step No. 2. Did you get everything answered to your satisfaction? If not, go back and find the answers based on the mental map you created in Step No. 1.

Most importantly, remember that reading is to be enjoyed, not dreaded. Set an example for your children by choosing books over TV and computer time as often as possible. Designate family “screen-free” time just as you would a family meal or movie and give your kids a taste for reading that they can savor for life!

For a dramatic boost in reading comprehension, consider enrolling your child or teen in brain training at The Brain & Learning. Our programs incorporates the research and personal brain training techniques that have made us one-on-one brain training company in the Middle East.

Posted in Education, Parenting, Resources for Educators & Parents, Uncategorized | 890 Comments

Young Blood May Hold Key to Reversing Aging By CARL ZIMMER

Two teams of scientists published studies on Sunday showing that blood from young mice reverses aging in old mice, rejuvenating their muscles and brains. As ghoulish as the research may sound, experts said that it could lead to treatments for disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

“I am extremely excited,” said Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. “These findings could be a game changer.”

The research builds on centuries of speculation that the blood of young people contains substances that might rejuvenate older adults.

After linking the GDF11 protein to the rejuvenation of skeletal muscle and the heart, Dr. Wagers and her colleagues studied whether the protein was also responsible for the changes in the brain. They injected GDF11 alone into the mice and found that it spurred the growth of blood vessels and neurons in the brain, although the change was not as large as that from parabiosis.

“There’s no conflict between the two groups, which is heartening,” said Dr. Richard M. Ransohoff, director of the Neuroinflammation Research Center at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Ransohoff and others hope the experiments on mice will lead to studies on people to see if the human version of GDF11, or other molecules in the blood of young people, has a similar effect on older adults.

“We can turn back the clock instead of slowing the clock down,” said Dr. Toren Finkel, director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “That’s a nice thought if it pans out.”

This reversal could occur throughout the body, the new research suggests. “Instead of taking a drug for your heart and a drug for your muscles and a drug for your brain, maybe you could come up with something that affected them all,” Dr. Wagers said.

But scientists would need to take care in rejuvenating old body parts. Waking up stem cells might lead to their multiplying uncontrollably.

“It is quite possible that it will dramatically increase the incidence of cancer,” said Irina M. Conboy, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley. “You have to be careful about overselling it.”

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Does Suffering Make Us Stronger and Lead to Success? By MICHAEL GONCHAR

The writer Alfie Kohn challenges the drumbeat of critics who contend that kids these days get too many rewards, from stickers to trophies, without truly earning them. He disputes the commonly held notion that suffering and conditionally granting awards (e.g., trophies only for the winners) prepare children for real life and teach them resilience.

What do you think? Does experiencing frustration and defeat help us develop grit? Does suffering make us stronger and eventually lead to success? Or are those just myths?

In “Do Our Kids Get Off Too Easy?,” Alfie Kohn writes:

The conventional wisdom these days is that kids come by everything too easily — stickers, praise, A’s, trophies. It’s outrageous, we’re told, that all kids on the field may get a thanks-for-playing token, in contrast to the good old days, when recognition was reserved for the conquering heroes.

But seriously, has any child who received a trinket after losing a contest walked away believing that he (or his team) won — or that achievement doesn’t matter? Giving trophies to all the kids is a well-meaning and mostly innocuous attempt to appreciate everyone’s effort.

Even so, I’m not really making a case for doing so, since it distracts us from rethinking competition itself and the belief that people can succeed only if others fail.

Rather, my intent is to probe the underlying cluster of mostly undefended beliefs about what life is like (awful), what teaches resilience (experiences with failure), what motivates people to excel (rewards) and what produces excellence (competition).

… But when you point out the absence of logic or evidence, it soon becomes clear that trophy rage is less about prediction — what will happen to kids later — than ideology: — how they ought to be treated now. …

Posted in Education, News, Parenting, Resources for Educators & Parents, Self Control | 947 Comments

Early Fitness Can Improve the Middle-Age Brain By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

The more physically active you are at age 25, the better your thinking tends to be when you reach middle age, according to a large-scale new study. Encouragingly, the findings also suggest that if you negligently neglected to exercise when young, you can start now and still improve the health of your brain.

Those of us past age 40 are generally familiar with those first glimmerings of forgetfulness and muddled thinking. We can’t easily recall people’s names, certain words, or where we left the car keys. “It’s what we scientists call having a C.R.S. problem,” said David R. Jacobs, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and a co-author of the new study. “You can’t remember stuff.”

But these slight, midlife declines in thinking skills strike some people later or less severely than others, and scientists have not known why. Genetics almost certainly play a role, most researchers agree. Yet the contribution of lifestyle, and in particular of exercise habits, has been unclear.

This study did not examine why exercise may increase brainpower. But, Dr. Jacobs said, other studies, including some that have used the same data from the Cardia study, suggest that out-of-shape young people have poor cholesterol profiles and other markers of cardiovascular health that, over time, may contribute to the development of plaques in the blood vessels leading to the brain, eventually impeding blood flow to the brain and impairing its ability to function.

“The lesson is that people need to be moving throughout their lives,” Dr. Jacobs said.

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The Science of Happiness

What better way to celebrate Brain Awareness Week than to explore and unravel the secrets to the ultimate human desire…HAPPINESS

Does money make you Happy? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?

Hear from Daniel Gilbert and other experts in the field of positive psychology on the secrets to happiness in the movie HAPPY.

HAPPY, the movie, sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

The Happiness Advantage

Pooneh Roney, Director and Founder of The Brain & Learning will take you on a journey of some highlights in the field of science dedicated to the quest for Happiness.

Join us in taking The Happiness Pledge and follow 5 easy steps toensure happiness in every aspect of your life!

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7 habits of highly ineffective people by Robert Kelsey

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the one of the most famous self-help books ever written. Yet, like many in the genre, it makes one mistake, that we’re pure potential – a malleable human blob capable of absorbing effective and sustainable habits.

Too often we’re anything but malleable. We’re damaged goods, misshapen through poor conditioning and deeply ingrained negative self-beliefs. So here, from bitter experience, and in the interests of self-awareness, are the seven habits of highly ineffective people

1. Procrastination

Procrastination is inaction despite prompts and impulses. It isn’t neutral, like a car waiting to start, it’s a broken-down vehicle that others try and push uphill, meaning that it rolls back down the second the pressure’s off. So think of yourself as a car going downhill – generating the momentum to run once sparked into life.

2. Avoiding direction

Resisting others’ direction can be the mark of an individualist. Refusing your own direction, meanwhile, is self-sabotage. The ineffective are poor planners. Life is something that just happens, which can be presented as a positive – that they’re “laid back” or “take life as it comes”. However, it is a state of mind that can exact a heavy price. Developing a decade-long vision of your future self is the best response to avoiding direction; make short-term plans part of a bigger life-changing campaign.

3. Blaming others

Many avoid making plans due to an inner-belief that someone’s coming to their rescue. Worse, this someone is often perceived as owing them, perhaps someone they blame such as a parent or sibling. They may even blame anonymous groupings such as “the rich” for their poor progress, which simply outsources their future to the people least likely to help them. Instead, take responsibility – recognise that you’re the master of your own fate.

4. Obsessing about others’ impact on us

The ineffective tend to focus on the impact others have on them – a disabling perspective as they’ve become reliant on others for encouragement, although they’re also sensitive to others’ negativity. Effective people, meanwhile, focus on their impact on others. This is a trait that could become manipulative so be aware of how you apply it.

5. Having a fixed mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck says that those with a fixed mindset assume their attributes and their skills set are hard-wired, which means they spend their lives proving to others their worth or hiding their self-perceived inadequacies. Those with a growth mindset, meanwhile, acknowledge they’ve “everything to learn” and see all situations or encounters as opportunities to develop knowledge or skills.

6. Ignoring progress

Ineffective people retain negative self-beliefs no matter what their progress – perhaps seeing promotion as “too little, too late”. Just as often, they view good fortune as a random event, bringing with it no improvement in outlook, just a conviction it’ll somehow be lost. They may inwardly assume it’s incorrectly or even fraudulently acquired, and therefore unsustainable – resulting in the inevitable “reality check”.

7. Being derailed by every setback

Of course, each “reality check” is treated as a total derailment: the final and absolute confirmation that, yes, we’re a rubbish person. Indeed, this can be our most ineffective trait, though one revealing that it’s our low self-esteem generating such poor habits: meaning it’s here where our efforts at redemption must start.

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Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters? By MICHAEL GONCHAR

Parents want all their children, whether they are boys or girls, to be happy and successful. Yet a recent study of Internet search data suggests that American parents do in fact hold different expectations for their children based on sex. For one, they want their boys to be smarter and their girls skinnier.

What is your experience? Do mothers and fathers have different hopes and standards for their sons than for their daughters?

In the Opinion article “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?,” Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes:

More than a decade into the 21st century, we would like to think that American parents have similar standards and similar dreams for their sons and daughters. But my study of anonymous, aggregate data from Google searches suggests that contemporary American parents are far more likely to want their boys smart and their girls skinny.

It’s not that parents don’t want their daughters to be bright or their sons to be in shape, but they are much more focused on the braininess of their sons and the waistlines of their daughters.

Start with intelligence. It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited at the thought that their child may be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”

Are parents picking up on legitimate differences between young girls and boys? Perhaps young boys are more likely than young girls to use big words or otherwise show objective signs of giftedness? Nope. If anything, it’s the opposite. At young ages, when parents most often search about possible giftedness, girls have consistently been shown to have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. In American schools, girls are 11 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls.

What are your thoughts on this?

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Brain training really does work: Effects can be seen TEN YEARS after doing exercises

  • Largest ever study of brain training found long-lasting effect on over 3,000 over 74s

  • Trialists took part in 10 to 12 sessions lasting 60 to 75 minutes each

  • Effects were still obvious ten years after initial training

  • Brain training exercises really do work – and can make a difference to cognitive abilities for a decade, American researchers have found.

    A US Government study found that over 74s were able to improve their reasoning and processing skills using brain training exercises, and that the effects were still detectable 10 years later.

    Participants in largest study ever on cognitive training were given 10 to 12 sessions lasting 60 to 75 minutes each.

    The findings, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, offer welcome news in the search for ways to keep the mind sharp as 76 million baby boomers in the United States advance into old age.

    People in the study had an average age of 74 when they started the training.

    After five years, researchers found, those with the training performed better than their untrained counterparts in all three measures.

    Posted in Brain Training, Newsletter, Parenting, Resources for Educators & Parents | 491 Comments