As I continue my investigations and writing about brain health and brain training, I am interested in “vetting” resources that I think are best evidence-based, rich in fact, and readable. Here are five current favorite resource links.
With aging I have become overly sensitive to the F-word—- “Forgetting.” I meant to sandwich in a chance to have my photo taken with Truman, President Gnadinger’s dog. Was it “forgetting” that resulted in my not following through with my intent — or was it the fact that I was trying to squeeze that event into a time during which I was also proctoring an exam, writing a blog piece about brain health, monitoring email, and making sure that all students had the time they needed for the exam before the next group arrived.
I am well aware that nearly everyone who lives long enough experiences some cognitive decline. I am human. I am also quite familiar with that grey area of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — how to test for it, its relationship to dementia, how to compensate for it, and diagnostic guidelines for it (found here) .
According to Peter Rabins’ (University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health) 2018 White Paper on Memory (found here) it is estimated that 10 to 20% of Americans over 65 years of age have that condition with men more often affected than women and at earlier ages. Welcome, David, to your new reference group norms. Perhaps this is part of my motivation for continuing to surround myself with intellectually stimulating students — and playful, younger relatives.
In their presence I am younger. A number of studies (for example, this one: click here) suggest the preventative value of stimulating mental activities such as playing games, doing crafts, using a computer, and engaging in stimulation-rich social activities. Many studies have also found strong evidence for the value of age-appropriate strength training for global cognitive function (though not for memory). And I may have to start learning to dance ( see this link) or at least take up Tai Chi!
I have two playful partners in mind who always make me laugh when we dance or play together.
At Christmas time one of my nephews gave me some brain challenging puzzles. For a few minutes I was able to fool him (and myself!) by being able to solve two of them in a few minutes. Then my beloved, intellectually curious grand nieces and nephews (ages 5 through 8) proceeded to provide a context for my achievements by taking apart the remaining two puzzles which I had recognized as too difficult for me! Alas, they then lost interest and I still haven’t figured out how to put the puzzles back together!
Later I was invited by one to play a board game “Brain Games for Kids.” My mind was indeed blown away as he outperformed me very quickly. My solace was that he probably had memorized all questions and answers. Also, he had earlier shown me (on “his” computer which he had “built”) a school project he had on his Google-drive account.
Are these additional signs of effects on my aging brain? I must confess I find more of my research time focused on the topics of brain health and aging.
In an earlier blog piece I summarized five preliminary conclusions I had reached as a result of my immersing myself with my research students investigating the claims of brain fitness training companies. I hope to continue that research in the Fall and to build upon what I learned at a Brain Health Virtual Summit.
- “Brain Training” and brain health products is a huge, lucrative and growing industry with very expensive market research reports! Alas, I did not have the $7,150 to purchase such a report. Click this link to read the abstract.
- There exist a number of excellent, current, well-written and understandable science-based guides to maintaining cognitive fitness and brain health (e.g. Click this link to see an example of this Harvard Medical School paper).
- There exist excellent scholarly reviews of the efficacy (and validity of claims made) of “brain fitness” programs. The best such review is by Daniel J. Simons et al. which can be found here: (Click this link to see it in full).
Among the authors’ important conclusions and advice most germane to this blog piece (and the next series i am contemplating writing) are the following:
“Consumers should also consider the comparative costs and benefits of engaging in a brain-training regimen. Time spent using brain-training software could be allocated to other activities or even other forms of “brain training” (e.g., physical exercise) that might have broader benefits for health and well-being. That time might also be spent on learning things that are likely to improve your performance at school (e.g., reading; developing knowledge and skills in math, science, or the arts), on the job (e.g., updating your knowledge of content and standards in your profession), or in activities that are otherwise enjoyable. If an intervention has minimal benefits, using it means you have lost the opportunity to do something else. If you find using brain-training software enjoyable, you should factor that enjoyment into your decision to use it, but you should weigh it against other things you might do instead that would also be enjoyable, beneficial, and/or less expensive.
When evaluating the marketing claims of brain-training companies or media reports of brain-training studies, consider whether they are supported by peer-reviewed, scientific evidence from studies conducted by researchers independent of the company. As we have seen, many brain-training companies cite a large number of papers, but not all of those directly tested the effectiveness of a brain-training program against an appropriate control condition. Moreover, many of the studies tested groups of people who might not be like you. It is not clear that results from studies of people with schizophrenia will generalize to people without schizophrenia, or that benefits found in studies of college students will generalize to older adults. Finally, just because an advertisement appears in a trusted medium (e.g., National Public Radio) or is promoted by a trusted organization (e.g., AARP) does not mean that its claims are justified. Consumers should view such advertising claims with skepticism.”
4. Many cognitive training studies and brain training companies overpromise results, cite the same methodologically faulty studies, cite studies funded by their organization, ignore best practice experimental designs (see point 2 above), and fail to take into consideration placebo effects (Here is a simple, well-designed, study indicating how EXPECTATIONS may cause the outcome attributed to cognitive training.)
5. Many helpful insights into memory loss can be gleaned from literature such as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and from individuals sharing first-hand experiences such as in the beautiful bogging in Sally Remembers.
Over the next few months I plan to focus my writing on expanding upon these points by examining recent claims. I shall take a look at products such as that pictured below that claim their products are backed by “clinical trials.” I actually still have the energy, motivation and developed cognitive skills to find, to read, to reflect upon and to evaluate such claims.
Can you train your brain to drive longer into your golden years? Such was the headline that appeared in my LinkedIn feed today that caught my interest. So I hunted down the original article (rather than trust that which was summarized) AND I contacted the author of the article asking her what she thought of the claims being made for her study.
— Still curious at age almost 69,
I am in the process of deleting apps which are merely cluttering space on my iPhone and iPads. I hope to replace them with those which my students, colleagues, and alumni friends contend are “must haves.” I recognize that what may be considered essential for a nineteen-year-old may differ from that chosen by a sexagenarian!
As a first step I asked my first-year assistant, Kristen R. to share with me her favorite iPhone apps. Here is what she taught me.
Most of the time, I use Twitter as an entertainment. From funny videos to relatable posts, this app never fails in making me laugh. My friends and I love sharing this funny content by easily tagging each other on these posts. Although Twitter can be quite entertaining, it can also be used as a source of current worldwide news. On this app, I follow many reliable accounts (news networks) that provide the same information one would see on TV. I can also follow different individuals, like Elon Musk, who are posting updates on how they are changing history.
Whenever I write an email or post something on social media, I want to be perceived as a professional individual. This app gives me the ability to do this by checking over my grammar. This gives me the opportunity to correctly revise my written work and apply it to my future pieces.
Before I had this app, I was receiving countless spam phone calls every day from all over the world. It seemed like a never-ending nightmare. However, when I downloaded this free app, this problem drastically decreased. This is due to Mr. Number frequently updating; providing current protection from evolving spam. It also provides features that include caller ID, ability to block, and reveals the amount of reported spam on that certain number.
The Weather Channel
Although my phone already has this kind of application, Wisconsin’s weather is always unpredictable. The Weather Channel app provides this in-depth of view of the current predicted weather. It has features that include, but not limited to, the radar, wind-chill, temperature, hourly and daily predictions, and health and activity reports. Due to all of these features, I frequently use this app more than the one my phone provided for me.
The Guides Axiom
When I am not constantly on social media, I am trying to solve this difficult puzzle. The Guides Axiom is an app that consists of challenging intertwined levels that lead to solving one big puzzle (the whole app). The levels, however, do not go in order which makes it even more difficult to solve the app. It can be frustrating at times; however, I enjoy testing my problem-solving skills.
What Ipad Apps should all college and university students be familiar with? I posed that question to my student research team a few years ago and here are the responses they shared with me on Google Drive. What MUST-HAVE apps are they missing? Which apps in your experience are most useful for College/University students? What makes them useful to enhancing student success? Are these tools equally useful to faculty?
Here is the wisdom of one of my seniors, Lizzy, (shared when she was a junior).
Apps I use as a College Student – Lizzy Hoehnke
Pros: Allows one to find new and creative recipes, crafts, fashion ideas, hair ideas, make up tutorials, cleaning ideas, etc. They offer the websites and allows one to save it to their profile and in a certain sub category for future use. In addition, it helps someone find deals on items that could be costly, such as bridesmaid dresses, shoes, flowers, craft supplies, etc. People are able to connect with others as well as that; they may or may not know and be able to see their pages (if not on a privacy setting) for ideas and to see their interest.
Con: Some of the posts that are still up on the site are not available anymore for others to use or have become extinct.
Pros: There are different filters that one is able to use on their photos to show more colors, in black and white, or add where they are from, the time, etc. Snapchat allows people to add filters on their faces of possibly being a dog, a hamster, an old person, with a flower crown, with a lot of makeup, etc. One is able to use these filters with friends as well. People are able to message each other over the app as well as send past pictures they have taken and video chat each other. Another feature, is that Snapchat has a memories folder at the bottom of the app that saves all the pictures or videos you have taken on the app. One is able to delete the memory if they wish or save it to their pictures on their phone settings. Also, if a person wants to screen shot a picture on someone else’s story of them and that friend so they are able to keep it for themselves, they are able to do so.
Cons: Past messages people send to others will delete instantly, so if one forgets what they had said then they will have to ask the other person what they had said or try to remember. In addition, the video chat aspect of the app is difficult to work and takes time to understand it.
Pros: People are able to make many connection with others, get news updates on what is going on in the world, see stories of what is happening in people’s personal lives, see photos and updates as well as add your own photos and updates. One is able to post on people’s profiles, comment on people’s post, like, love, laugh, cry, etc. at other people’s videos and pictures. Able to connect with people from their past as well as people from across the world. Allowed to tag people in a post that makes you think of somebody.
Con: have to upload another app that allows one to message people. It takes up space on your phone, which causes you to have less storage for other apps.
Pros: People are able to cross-reference their post from Instagram to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Instagram allows people to add more filters on their pictures and update the lighting, color contrast, etc. Able to tag people in photos as well as others. Are able to add websites onto your pictures and add stories that allow people to swipe up and go to a different page, such as YouTube. Able to message others and cross-reference a picture on Instagram or a meme.
Cons: Are only able to upload pictures.
Associated Mobile Banking:
Pros: Do not have to go to the bank to check my balance, able to make transfers on my phone, able to call customer care right away and are able to deposit checks off the app, and paying your credit card balance.
Cons: are not able to deposit money on the app, so still have to go to the bank or an ATM of theirs now to deposit cash.
Marcus Movie App:
Pros: Allows me to see what movies are out for the next few days, see the pre sales of the movie before driving all the way there and finding out it is sold out, seeing what the movie times are for the day to plan accordingly with your day, and are able to buy the tickets online if needed.
Cons: are not able to use special passes through the app if you have a free movie pass or something of that source.
Yahoo Mail App:
Pros: Allows me to see my emails right away without logging in to the website. Able to delete emails or star emails right away that I need. Able to move my emails to folders very easily and see updates if needed.
Cons: Slow when deleting emails and sometimes will not refresh.
Too many APPS. Too little time to master them. I’ve struggled with this issue before.
Here (read me) and here and here and here:). I decided to consult with some members of what Howard Gardiner referred to as the “APP Generation”. Here is what several of my other student assistants told me over the past couple of years are “must-have” apps for college/university students.
Tia writes :
As a college student, having access to multiple apps on my smart phone helps make me a more efficient learner by staying organized. The apps I use academically are Gmail, Safari, Notepad, and Calendar. Each of these apps helps me stay on top of all my homework with the heavy course load I have this semester. I use my Gmail frequently on my smart phone because it is faster to check my email from here rather than logging on to my laptop and waiting for the slow Carroll wifi to start up. Instead of a five to seven minute process, I can have my email checked within seconds of opening the app. When I am not able to use my laptop, the Safari app is very convenient when I need to Google a quick question I have. Also, I use the Notepad app when I do not have a pencil or my agenda book to write down my assignments or meetings I have with my professors. This helps me to remain organized and on top of all my assignments, especially now with a month left in the semester. Lastly, I use the Calendar app to put in important dates such as exam dates, final exam dates, or study sessions for a certain course. All of these keep me organized, and I always have them in the palm of my hand.
As a college student, the social life is just as important as the academic life. Some apps I use when I am not studying are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. All of these apps help me stay connected with my friends from other schools, my friends at Carroll, as well as my family members all over the United States. Having multiple forms of staying in contact with these people helps with maintaining social supports, which is extremely important towards the end of the semester when stress is at an all time high. One more app I use is Two-Dots, which is just a random game. It’s a puzzle game kind of like Candy Crush. I play this game in between studying different material to give my mind a little break.
All in all, these are the apps I use on a day to day basis to stay caught up with my social life as well as staying organized academically.
Arianna tells me:
Much like most 20 year olds, I have a smartphone. With a smartphone comes several apps, but which of those apps are a must have? And which must have apps are we missing out on, requiring us to download?
Well, in my opinion, there are eight must have apps. Those apps include Gmail, Reminders, Notes, Safari, Calculator, Find iPhone, Maps, and Camera. As a college student having my Gmail and student email linked straight to my cell phone is a necessity. It allows me to easily stay in contact with professors and students, never showing up to a canceled class, easily noting changes to the syllabus, or getting missed information. Reminders and Notes have saved my life on a number of occasions. I tend to forget things rather often, and rather quickly, thus, being able to set a reminder for a day, a week, or a month from now and being able to create to do lists or grocery lists right on my cell phone has changed my life. I doubt I am alone when I say there are times I cannot think of a word or need information quickly but am on the run, well, that is where Safari comes in use. Being able to quickly surf the internet wherever I am has brought ease to my day to day life. I am able to quickly google anything I would like, especially useful when I am doing my homework far from a computer and need to research a topic or look up an unfamiliar word. The fifth App I find to be a must have is the Calculator. Although most of us can do basic mathematical operations, it is very nice to take the lazy route and calculate out things such as tip money, how much money you will be making this month, or the discounted price that will be applied to the bill you have from shopping online. Find iPhone is an app I have not yet had to use, knock on wood, but I see the potential it has. Should someone be missing, should someone’s iOS device/Mac be stolen, or should you just have misplaced your iPhone, Find iPhone uses remote location-tracking to locate them. Maps, much like the Calculator, is not entirely necessary if you prefer the old school way of paper maps. However, unfamiliar with such resources, I whole heartedly approved of the Maps app. In fact, my first few times driving to and from Carroll University I had to use Maps in order to ensure I would not get lost. In my opinion, if you are alone, Maps is a safer way to travel than a paper map, as Siri will tell you exactly when to turn, which exits to take, and so on, without you ever having to take your eyes off of the road. The last app I find to fall under the “must have” category is the Camera. Recently I traveled to Italy and, of course, I brought my cell phone. Having a feature like the Camera directly on my cell phone made it so I had one less thing to carry on all of my excursions, rather nice when you are backpacking for 10+ miles a day.
For me, these are must have apps, but, depending on the person and his or her day to day life, must have apps could vary wildly. So what are your must-haves?
As I continue the process of winding up and winding down and sorting through 40 years of files, photos, and memories, I have rediscovered a lot of things — like a Hinakaga yearbook photo from 1984 of my two quarter-of-a-century departmental colleagues Virginia and Ralph Parsons. Thank you Ralph and Ginny for sharing your wisdom with me during my “freshman” faculty years.
Four years ago, I wrote the following blog piece in an open letter to the Freshman class of 2018, many of who will be graduating in less than 50 days. I shared this with one of my first-year students, Kristen (whose mother attended Carroll and whose aunt was my research assistant). Here is what I wrote four years ago:
Dear First-year Student,
I may not meet you for a while since I am not teaching first-year courses as often as I used to. I do offer you a heartfelt welcome. You may well be the son or daughter or niece or nephew of one of my former students. That happens a lot.
First-year students have played a very important positive role in my life during my 36+ years of teaching here. You have made me smile, motivated me to learn from your enthusiasm, made me proud as I have seen you grow across your years here, and made me especially happy when we have been able to stay in touch across the years.
You sometimes have been favorably referred to as “the App Generation.” Don’t forget that your best apps are your values and your mind. You, the Class of 2018, do have very different life experiences than I. I look forward to learning from you and with you–if not directly this year, then in subsequent years. Do drop by and say hello in the interim.
Here are a few friendly suggestions I offer based on my years of teaching and learning.
Don’t be too proud to seek help or advice from faculty, staff, administrators, and older students here–especially those who know the campus and our students well.
Take advantage of opportunities to try new things, to meet new people (especially from different cultures) and to learn how to learn better. Let us become a global choir of learning.
Set aside some time for self-reflection.
Let self-discipline enable you rather than imprison you, find the right balance between service and involuntary servitude, between doing a right thing and doing things right. My own freshman year at Oberlin College in 1967 was informative and formative, lonely and elating, value challenging and values affirming. I envy you the learning opportunities that are here.
The last time I taught a first-year seminar (dealing with Internet Learning tools) I asked freshmen to reflect upon their freshman year–and I returned their paper to them when they were seniors. I asked Kristen to share her experiences during her first year at Carroll. Here are her thoughts:
As I start to wrap up my freshman year at Carroll University, Dr. Simpson suggested that I take the time to step back from my busy schedule and reflect on my first year of college.
One of the main things I noticed right away about college was the improved maturity in my peers. In my first semester, I was astonished to see how everyone treated each other with kindness and respect. Not only this, but you can tell the students at this university want to engage in the subject. Even when the content is not pertaining to their major, they still take the subject seriously.
Originally, I thought that taking classes that were not pertaining to my major were a waste of time. However, after taking multiple general education classes, I realized the value of them. One of my favorite classes that I took at Carroll was called Music of the Movies. It was very insightful and focused on how movies and culture changed overtime. I can definitely see how these general education courses can help students who do not know what do to in the future. These classes have helped challenge me in becoming a better overall student and person.
Working with a professor has also challenged me in ways my classes never have. To be able to work with someone who is knowledgeable in my field of study is an incredible unique opportunity. I have not only learned more about my field of study, but I am also challenged in ways I never thought before.
I can also tell I have changed as an individual. Throughout my high school career, I was extremely shy and had a lack of confidence in myself. I would rarely ask for help from my teachers. Although I still struggle with my confidence at times, I am, however, more talkative with my peers and professors. I also contribute in more classroom conversations and never hesitate to ask for help when needed.
Throughout this first year, I have learned more about myself than ever before. Although it can be quite difficult at times to balance between education and sanity, overall, I find college to be an unexpected enlightening experience.