The featured blog is ‘On the Brain‘ by Professor Michael Merzenich who’s work has included sensory mapping in the cortex and the development of cochlear implants.The blog began in February 2007 and is focused on brain plasticity although covering a number of other neuroscience related issues also. Here for instance he looks at evidence pointing towards a cognitive benefit of certain types of physical exercise.He argues that immersive gaming environments are not sufficient in themselves but need to be paired with movements as this is consistent with our evolutionary heritage.
He also asks the question of training programs need to address the different types of injuries that can produce cognitive losses with reference to sensory processing and signal-to-noise ratios. Here he discusses the potential benefits of intensive computerised training in children and it would be interesting to see the results of trials in this area. Here he considers the possible medicalisation of excessive computer game playing. In this article, Merzenich considers preventing cognitive decline by building up cognitive reserve. The issues surrounding cognitive reserve are complex with many confounders including the effects of physical exercise and also the larger decline that has been noted in one study in those with higher educational reserve when it does occur (albeit delayed). However there is a lot of support for the cognitive reserve hypothesis.
Merzenich also writes about some interesting misconceptions about the neurobiological basis of age related cognitive decline and formulates age related cognitive decline as a longitudinal adaptation to age related changes in brain structure….and more importantly ‘there are a…lot of processes to fix‘. Here he interviews the author of a book on the effects of plasticity on culture – Dr Bruce Wexler.
Merzenich’s blog is recommended for those with an interest in plasticity in the brain (which is important for neurodegenerative conditions amongst others) and who would look forward to reading an established neuroscientist with an impressive track record.
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