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We Need a Global Consortium For Brain Fitness and Training Innovation

The World Economic Forum asked me to write “an 800 words summary of your most compelling actionable idea on the challenges of aging and gerontology”, in preparation for the Inaugural Summit of the Global Agenda taking place November 7 to 9th in Dubai.

Here you have my proposal to create a Global Consortium for Brain Fitness and Training Innovation and help ensure that “No Brain is Left Behind”:

I. The Context

- Growing Demands on Our Brains: Picture 6.7 billion Primitive Brains inhabiting a Knowledge Society where lifelong learning and mastering constant change in complex environments are critical for productive work, health and personal fulfillment.

Welcome to Planet Earth, 2008.

- Further stretched by increased longevity: Now picture close to 1 billion of those brains over the age of 60 – and please remember that, less than 100 years ago, life expectancy was between 30 to 40 years. The rapidly evolving Knowledge Society is placing new and enormous demands on our “primitive” human brains. And the longer our lifespans, the more obvious the “cognitive gap”. Hence, from a health point of view, the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease and its precursor Mild Cognitive Impairment. And, from a workplace point of view, the perception that older workers can’t learn new tricks, and are to be substituted by younger employees as soon as practical.

- Significance of lifelong neuroplasticity: The good news is that substantive brain research is showing how our brains retain lifelong neuroplasticity (the ability of our brains to rewire themselves responding to experience), how they can physically be strengthened -via the Cognitive/ Brain Reserve- and its functions enhanced, opening the way to slow-down if not reverse the cognitive decline that often comes with age. Use it and Improve It may be more accurate than Use It or Lose It, and help close the growing cognitive gap. Humans can become the gardeners of our own brains by focusing on four pillars: a balanced diet, cardiovascular physical exercise, stress management and brain exercise that incorporates well-directed novelty, variety and challenge.

- Cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology are ready to step up: a growing number of research-based frameworks and applications present clear mainstream opportunities, yet they are often misunderstood, since they are presented in fragmentary and confusing ways. Think about the potential for having an annual “mental check-up” that helps set up a baseline and identify appropriate interventions. Think about being able to pinpoint specific needs and enhance, in non-invasive ways, specific neurocognitive functions, such as visual and auditory processing speed, working memory, executive functions, emotional self-regulation, attention.

II. The Problem

- We need bridges: There seems to be multiple areas of disconnect between gerontology, preventive healthcare overall, cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology. Innovative and collaborative partnerships will be required to transform the growing amount of mainstream interest and research findings into a rational, interdisciplinary, and sustainable approach to neurocognitive fitness.

- Growing confusion among consumers and professionals: there are no “magic pills” or “general solutions”, but very useful tools when used appropriately. Better assessments, taxonomies and integrated research efforts are required for the field to mature. Some brain functions tend to improve as we age, whereas some tend to decline. For example, as executives tackle many difficult situations over time, we grow an “intuition” (or crystallized pattern-recognition) for best approaches. As long as the environment does not change too rapidly, we can continue to accumulate wisdom. But some areas of mental functioning typically decline. We usually see this in areas that test our capacity to learn and adapt to new environments, such as effortful problem-solving in novel situations, processing speed, working memory, and attention. Research has shown that all these areas can be enhanced in older brains. But the priorities are not the same for all individuals, or for all objectives (safer driving, preventing Alzheimer’s symptoms, improving memory…) In summary, the field holds much promise, but the picture is complicated.

III. The Opportunity

- A Global Consortium for Brain Fitness and Training Innovation composed of 100 leading universities, policy-makers, healthcare/ insurance providers and developers of technology-based neurocognitive assessments and training tools can provide the taxonomy, guidance and structure required to guide applications of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology in gerontology and geriatrics -and healthcare overall.

- A transparent online presence could facilitate the engagement of professionals and the public at large. Especially, yes, of brains over 60.

- Outcomes:

1) Best practices: to share best practices in preventive brain health education, seniors housing, hospital-based programs, insurance-led initiatives, public policy efforts.

2) Standards: to define standards for neurocognitive assessments and training tools,

3) Taxonomy: to establish a common taxonomy and language,

4) Education: to engage professionals and the public at large in well-informed “brain maintenance”,

5) Policy readiness: to anticipate policy implications and improve readiness,

6) Research path: to propose a research and applications path.

Copyright (c) 2008 SharpBrains

Dental Assistant Careers – Duties of and Training Required

Dental assistant careers are jam-packed with responsibilities and rewards. And, dental assistant schools make it easy to train for this exciting, well-paid career.

The overall responsibility of a dental assistant is to maximize the efficiency of a dentist’s office. They handle everything from hands-on patient care to back-end office paperwork.

Dental Assistant Careers: An Overview of Education, Duties and Training

Training for this profession requires study of the hard sciences like microbiology, physiology and anatomy. Further coursework is necessary in general dentistry and dental hygiene. In addition, this profession also requires that students develop superb communication skills. This is because they interact with patients on a multitude of levels, eg, scheduling appointments, receiving payments, and doing patient intake.

Dental assistants also order dental and other supplies for the office in which they work, and keep treatment records.

Dental Assistant Careers: Where to Get Your Training

Technical schools normally offer the quickest route to obtaining training as a dental assistant. Usually you can complete a program at a technical college in one year or less. Completion of a program at a technical college allows you to apply for entry-level positions in many cities.

The best technical schools offer externships, which allow you to practice your skills in a real-world setting. This is the best kind of training and is highly desired by potential employers. In many cases, students are hired by employers that they intern with, making a job search unnecessary upon program completion.

Dental Assistant Careers: What’s a Typical Day Like

A typical day in the life of a dental assistant varies. It depends on the setting/practice one works in. For example, some work very closely with their dentist, assisting them with everything from patient intake to laying out instruments. Others may spend a vast majority of their time in a laboratory; while others may take a more administrative role, eg, doing billing, scheduling appointments and updating patient files.

The bottom line is, this is an in-demand healthcare profession. There are always part-time and full-time positions available, making it an ideal choice for those who like career flexibility.

To learn more about Dental Assistant Careers in Colorado Springs and what it takes to enter this exciting field, contact IntellicTec Medical Institute.

Leadership Development and Training – It’s All the Same Isn’t It?

Although nobody will claim the modern world is perfect, it’s probably fair to say that in terms of inter-community awareness, our 21st century nation has come a long way.

Some of the appalling racial stereotyping and attitudes that existed in the past have been significantly eroded through education and awareness – even if there remains much work to be done in that area.

Yet strangely, there has been one undesirable by-product of this increasing transformation of our society and that relates to the siren-like attractions of sentiments such as “we are all the same underneath“.

On the one hand, the self-evident truth of that statement is plain for all to see. All people are capable of emotions such as love, fear, affection, resentment and so on. We all wish to be taken seriously and want to live in a just society where our rights are recognized and protected.

Yet the danger of taking that too far is that when you are considering leadership development and training, you assume that the same developmental approaches will be equally valid for all people, irrespective of their background culture and community values.

In fact, that is a very dangerous assumption.

In the case of the aboriginal peoples and their cultures, there is a double problem here. Firstly, their cultural traditions are substantially different to those imported into the country in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by successive large-scale European and Asian immigration.

Just presuming that the leadership development and training strategies,which may work well in say a European cultural tradition, will simply be transportable seamlessly into an aboriginal context is probably naïve.

Secondly, it cannot be underestimated how much damage was done to the self-confidence and self-value of the indigenous peoples by over 200 years of cultural marginalisation.

The effects of this are now recognized and they parallel similar problems that have arisen in other such populations around the globe, notably including those of the Native Americans.

The fact of the matter is that leadership development and training within the aboriginal cultures need to be undertaken within a framework that shows an awareness of the values and aspirations of the culture itself. In other words, the motivational and confidence-building techniques that might work well with Australians from a European or perhaps Asian cultural background may be far less effective with aboriginal peoples.

This places a huge degree of responsibility on the trainers and developers charged with increasing leadership and self-governance within aboriginal businesses, organisations and even social associations.

There are many techniques used.

Surprisingly, this isn’t just about trying to make sure that people ‘understand where they came from’, as common parlance would put it. It’s about understanding what is important to people from this background and giving them the confidence to drive forward initiatives using those motivators rather than attempting to persuade them to adopt values and objectives that may be significantly alien to them.

Fortunately, the strategies and techniques for leadership development and training in the aboriginal community continue to develop at some speed. It’s worthwhile and rewarding work and one that may yield benefits for all Australians in future.