Dakim Blog

January 12, 2009

Brain Gyms?

Written by: Dakim

As more and more people realize that brain fitness is the natural, logical partner to physical fitness, new business models are being born.

For instance, an article in the Calgary Herald titled ” ‘Brain gyms’ a new industry” (January 2009) notes that:

From video games that claim to sharpen concentration to brain gyms offering mental circuit training, consumers are jumping on the “use it or lose it” notion of brain health in an effort to stave off the effects of aging.

New “brain gyms” are springing up, using both traditional analog cognitive exercises (better known as cross-word puzzles, sudoku, and board games) and digital solutions, like Dakim’s BrainFitness System. As Alvaro Fernandez, of Sharp Brains notes:

“Right now, everyone understands the body has different muscles, there are different things we can do to keep those muscles in shape—you have health clubs, you have coaches, you have machines, you have a whole industry around it,” Fernandez says. “We believe that brain fitness can evolve in the same way.”

People are beginning to realize that regular exercise is just as good for our brains as our bodies. And with the Baby Boomers creeping up the ladder of age, there’s no better time to start a regular regime of new, stimulating, brain exercises. Find something challenging, stimulating, and fun, that requires new skills and integrating new learning with old.

You might find a brain fitness gym, like vibrantBrains, a brain gym in San Francisco that opened a year ago, in your own neighborhood.

Or just check out the soon to be released Dakim BrainFitness System Home edition. It provides a constant stream of new, stimulating, media-rich, compellingly fun games.

January 9, 2009

Announcement: The Dakim BrainFitness System — Home Edition!

Written by: Dakim

Dakim has made a formal, public announcement about The Dakim BrainFitness System / Home Edition.

This is really, really, cool. I’ve seen the home unit–it’s enticing, easy to set up, and use. It’s as close to plug-and-play as Dakim could make it, and it’s attractive looking. You won’t be ashamed to have this in your living room. It’s easy to set up, it automatically talks to Dakim every night and gets new games and does a systems check on a regular basis. Best of all, it’s a touch screen; no mouse or keyboard needed.

Plus, The Dakim BrainFitness System / Home Edition comes with a subscription to Dakim’s media-rich games for brain fitness across the spectrum.

And honestly? The games are the best part. There are hundreds of different kinds of games, each of which exercises one or more of long-term and short term memory, calculation, critical thinking, language, or visuospatial skills. They’re fun, they use images, audio, music and video. Some of the music was specially commissioned by Dakim, with live musicians, and it’s lovely enough that I used to just play the music for fun. There are trivia games, language games— and more content is being created everyday. They’re fun, so fun that twenty minutes a day, five days a week seems easy, and enjoyable, and it’s exercising your brain the whole time.

I’ll see if I can get some pictures posted soon . . .

January 7, 2009

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Brain "Superfood"

Written by: Dakim

Traditionally, we’ve been told to avoid fat for our health, particularly for cardiovascular health. But there’s new research that tells us that some fats are not only good for us, our bodies require them. In particular, our bodies need the omega-3 fatty acids, often simply referred to as “omega-3.” These are substances our bodies can’t produce, but must obtain from our food. They’re found in a number of foods, including walnuts, some fruits and vegetables, and coldwater fish like as anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, and sturgeon. Omega-3s help maintain the containing membranes around every cell in our body. Other benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin problems. There are studies that suggest that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease. Most of these are because omega-3s help reduce all sorts of inflammation.

In addition, omega-3s reduce the negative impact of yet another kind of equally essential fatty acid known as omega-6s. Omega-6s are found in eggs, poultry, cereals, vegetable oils, baked goods, and margarine. Omega-6s have profound effects on skin health, they lower cholesterol, and, most importantly, affect the ability of blood to clot. But omega-6s can have unpleasant side effects if they aren’t balanced with sufficient amounts of omega-3s.

Another factor to consider is that there are several kinds of omega-3s; there’s the particularly important omega-3s known to chemists and nutritionists as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). They’re mostly found in cold-water fish. Then there’s Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid); two of the best sources are soybean oil, and flaxseed. Others are broccoli, spinach, canola oil, cantaloupe, kidney beans, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, and walnuts; even a handful of walnuts has about 2.5 grams of omega-3 ALA. The ideal balance between the two omegas is roughly 4 parts omega-3s to 1 part omega-6s, according to experts.

Bottom line? Eat lots of walnuts, and tofu, and whole foods naturally containing ALA, but be particularly sure to eat fish, especially cold water fatty fish. You could do worse than follow the American Heart Association’s suggestion to eat fatty fish at least twice weekly, at three or four ounces a serving. The Association suggests that patients with coronary heart disease should include 1,000 milligrams of DHA plus EPA daily in their diet.

January 5, 2009

Moderate Drinking May Help Prevent Dementia

Written by: Dakim

Moderate drinkers often have lower risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive loss when compared to non-drinkers.

Researchers who reviewed 44 studies published since the 1990s discovered that in more than half of the studies, moderate drinkers had less risk of dementia than nondrinkers. The study cites “significantly reduced risks of cognitive loss or dementia in moderate, nonbinge consumers of alcohol (wine, beer, liquor).” In a scant handful of the studies moderate drinkers had higher risks. The study, published in the current issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, defines “moderate alcohol consumption” as 1 drink or less per day for women and 1-2 drinks or less per day for men.

One of the authors of the study, Michael Collins, a Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine professor and neuroscientist, observed that “Alcohol is a two-edged sword. Too much is bad. But a little might actually be helpful.” The study speculates about “neuroprotective” effects of moderate amounts of alcohol against some of the damaging proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, because the moderate alcohol triggers “mild stress-associated, anti-inflammatory mechanisms in the heart, vasculature, and brain that tend to promote cellular survival pathways.”

The study authors don’t suggest those who don’t drink should begin drinking, but they note that moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy diet rich in omega-3, antioxidants, a regular physical exercise program (and naturally, cognitive fitness activities that emphasize new experiences and learning), are all important in preserving quality of life, and warding off dementia.

Brain Fitness Resolution

Written by: Dakim

It’s the time of year when we’re all thinking about resolutions for the year ahead. An awful lot of resolutions are about things that are “good for us,” but, quite honestly, not much fun, like quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol consumption, spending less, working out more . . . you know the sorts of things I’m talking about.

I’ve got a different idea for 2009′s resolution. A resolution that’s not only good for us, but that’s fun— and best of all, it’s within everyone’s reach.

Here it is:

A resolution to spend twenty minutes, five days a week, on brain fitness.

What’s that, you ask?

Just as our bodies have an optimal state of health and condition, so do our brains. Brain fitness means keeping our brain in the best possible condition for our age by exercising it in a variety of activities—including new activities, and learning new skills.

Variety, and fun, are both important here; Dakim’s cognitive software provides a workout for six cognitive areas; those six sorts of brain activities are a good start in terms of picking fun, but brain-stretching activities.

  • Long term memory
  • Short term memory
  • Language
  • Calculation
  • Visuospatial-orientation
  • Critical thinking

Now, you’ll see things like Sudoku, and Scrabble, and crossword puzzles mentioned all the the time in articles about cognitive fitness—and it’s true—they’re all helpful. But it’s also important to try new things, new skills, new activities, as well as those you know. So if you’re a killer bridge player, try jigsaw puzzles. If you’re a master of Sudodu, why not try Scrabble. Try a couple of activities that you do with others— trivia games, or knitting, or ball room dancing, for instance.

Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, is really not that much, especially if you pick a variety of activities that are fun, as well as brain-stretching. It’s part of the reason that Dakim’s brain fitness system works; it’s fun, it’s a variety of activities, and there’s always something new.