Cognitive skills Category - Archive

iStock_000017348857_LargeThe holidays provide a great opportunity for developing an important part of your child’s brain. And, no, we’re not talking about filling winter break with hours of extra homework. Between family gatherings, meals, shopping, gift wrapping, scheduling, and everything else, the last thing you want to do is carve aside time for extra math or reading—and the good news is that you don’t have to! In fact, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is the very thing you can use to help develop the frontal lobe of your child’s brain.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that thinks, plans, makes decisions, controls emotions, pays attention and gets things done. And the more opportunity your child has to exercise that area of the brain, the stronger and more efficient those skills become. You can give your child these kinds of opportunities by involving him or her in tasks like planning meals, creating and following a gift-giving budget, prioritizing holiday tasks, following a recipe, writing the family holiday newsletter, or planning a dinner party.

Holidays offer another brain benefit, and it has to do with all the socializing that often takes place.
Studies show that social interaction improves brain functioning, so encourage your child to put down that smartphone and interact with family friends and relatives during gatherings. What might help? Prepare your child with interesting questions he can ask an eccentric aunt, or give her a list of little known facts and tell her to discover which fact goes with which relative.

So the next time things get crazy and you’ve got a million things to do, delegate some of the fun to your kids. You will be developing their frontal lobes and possibly giving them stronger social skills, as well. At the very least, you’ll benefit from the extra helping hands.

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How Temperature Affects Decision-Making Skills

cold dayDid you know that temperature affects complex decision making?

Say you’re vacationing in Texas in the dead of summer and you run to the store to buy something you need. There are two choices: one is a more familiar option and the other is unfamiliar and a little more complicated. Studies say you’re more likely to buy the familiar product on that particular day than you would in the dead of winter. This is because on a hot day you may not have the cognitive resources to make a more complex decision.

The thought that temperature can influence decision-making skills may seem far-fetched, but it’s backed up by science. Our brains, like any other organ, need energy to function, and that energy comes in the form of glucose. We not only need glucose to walk, talk, breathe, and perform daily activities, we even need it to perform mental functions, such as practicing self-control, making decisions, suppressing emotional responses, and solving problems. Yet, glucose is a limited resource. On hot days, our bodies use a lot of glucose simply maintaining our internal temperatures, and that means less glucose for mental processes like evaluating new information to make a decision. When temperatures are higher, studies show that we also give up more easily, make more mistakes, and even avoid complex decisions in the first place.

If you live in a warm climate, don’t worry! These results do not mean that you consistently make poorer decisions than people who live in cooler parts of the world. Humans are adaptive and are able to acclimate over time, performing just as well in various temperatures. If you’re visiting someplace new, however, with temperatures different from what you’re used to experiencing, your decisions may be impacted. You may not be able to control the temperature in your new environment, but you can be aware of how the change can affect your decisions throughout the day.

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LearningRx Announces New Reading Comprehension Program

ComprehendRx

We read for meaning. But for some kids (and even adults), reading comprehension is a struggle. 

For some, decoding the words on the page takes so much energy that fully comprehending the meaning of the words takes a back seat. For others, the meaning is grasped but not retained. In fact, research by the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that one out of four eighth grade students, when asked to read age-appropriate material, can’t understand what they just read.

After several years in development, LearningRx is releasing a groundbreaking reading comprehension program called ComprehendRx. ComprehendRx incorporates the research and personal brain training techniques that have made LearningRx the largest one-on-one brain training company in the world. ComprehendRx begins where typical reading programs (which focus on decoding) leave off, targeting seven core skills critical for reading comprehension. Students not only read faster, they have stronger tools to grasp, analyze and retain content. The result? Dramatically improved understanding, retention and application.

For readers who lack reading speed, who read well but can’t remember what they’ve read, or who have to read something more than once to grasp the meaning, ComprehendRx offers a proven, life changing solution. Click on the link to read more about how ComprehendRx improves reading comprehension.

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Homeschooling Moms Find Help at LearningRx

Meet guest blogger Julie Worthy. Julie, who homeschools her four children, has already put three of her children through LearningRx brain training (with plans for number four!). In this post, Julie tells the story of another homeschooling mom she met at the LearningRx Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

After successfully homeschooling her daughter from kindergarten through ninth grade, Elizabeth discovered that her daughter was struggling with her schoolwork.  It was the first time ever!

It seems a common thread among homeschool moms to question our decisions when we hit a bump in the road.  The questions buzz like a swarm of bees.  “Did I do something wrong?” “If she were in public school would she be struggling like this?” “Did I choose the appropriate curriculum?”

I think, for most homeschool moms, our default mode is to question ourselves when we stumble.  However, looking back on my own homeschooling adventure I believe there is always a purpose in the stumbling.

Elizabeth began to search online for answers. That’s where she learned about one-on-one brain training at LearningRx. When I met Elizabeth at the LearningRx Center in Jacksonville, FL I was touched by her story.  Many people have never even heard of brain training, but Elizabeth could see right away that it held the solution to whatever her daughter was facing.

I had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth on her first day at the center.  Her daughter was shy and a bit nervous as they waited for their trainer.  I encouraged them both by sharing that one of my children had been skeptical about brain training as well.  All it took was one day of training, however, and he loved it!

Toward the end of that same week I met Elizabeth in the lobby once again.  I asked how the week had gone.  She told me her daughter enjoyed it and was excited to return.  When Elizabeth had realized her daughter was struggling, she was naturally concerned. Now—just a few weeks later—this mom was filled with hope and anticipation. In fact, as we talked, she was smiling as she popped a Hershey’s Kiss into her mouth.

Now that’s happiness!!

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Mother Enrolls Three of Her Children in LearningRx Brain Training

“What if I hate it?”

Ten-year-old Luke waved the question like a bright red flag. His mom, Julie, had just told him he’d be starting brain training at LearningRx and he was dubious about the idea, even though his brother and sister were in the same program and loved it!

His first day at the LearningRx Center, Luke frowned as he headed off with his trainer for their first session. Waiting in the reception area, Julie thought about the crazy journey that had led her family to try brain training in the first place.

Two years earlier, Julie’s oldest son Joshua, then 11, had been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Searching for answers, Julie visited internet bulletin boards and consulted doctors. Once she paid $800 for testing that provided labels but no solutions.

Hearing about LearningRx, Julie was curious. Could targeted mental exercise really stimulate the brain to strengthen neural pathways, to the point of raising a kid’s IQ and giving him better skills for school and for life? If so, could it help Joshua? It was worth a try.

Within weeks of starting the program, Joshua was focusing better than ever. Math tests that used to take 90 minutes were now taking 20 minutes or less. And while Joshua’s oppositional behavior still  flared, Julie realized that LearningRx was removing her son’s frustration with learning so other issues could be isolated and dealt with more effectively.

So when they noticed similar behaviors in their seven-year-old daughter, Julie and her husband didn’t hesitate. They enrolled Danielle at LearningRx, too.

A week into the program, Danielle—who had always struggled with reading and writing—sat down and wrote a beautiful story about a family of horses. She also  performed in a Christmas musical, another first! By now, Joshua was taking more initiative around the house, washing dishes, vacuuming and organizing. Julie realized that brain training was giving her children confidence and motivation they’d never had before. Now she wanted the same for Luke, and then for their third son, Caleb. Julie could see that even she and her husband could benefit from brain training!

Julie’s thoughts were interrupted as Luke, done with his session, approached her. He was wearing a huge grin and carrying his LearningRx backpack filled with brain training times, cards and tools. “Mom!” he said, “I loved it!”

Yes, life is an crazy journey, alright. Julie thanked God she and her husband had found the right partners to help them equip their kids for the trip.

 

Photo credit: Julie Worthy

 

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Once a Struggling Student, Now a Lover of Books!

“Logan, you’re a smart kid. C’mon. Make some sort of effort!”

Laura pleaded with her 13-year-old son as he sulked over the books strewn across the kitchen table.

Every night Laura and her husband, Ted, worked with Logan for hours on reading and homework. Logan was a great kid with a great heart, but he seemed to have given up. Luckily, his parents weren’t willing to do the same.

The first thing that attracted Laura and Ted to brain training was how different it was from tutoring. Laura explains, “The last thing Logan needed was to go to Sylvan® and have them do another three hours of what had just been done in school that hadn’t worked!”

The second thing they loved was the testing. They’d had Logan tested before, but the LearningRx assessment was the first to explain what was actually happening in Logan’s brain and why he was struggling—and then offer a solution!

“When the LearningRx director here in West Des Moines told us Logan had weak skills in auditory processing, everything started making sense,” his mother remembers. “And because auditory processing is foundational for reading, no wonder Logan hated books!”

But the bigger surprise was that Logan actually looked forward to LearningRx brain training. After every session, he couldn’t wait to tell his parents everything he had learned and accomplished.

His grades improved, and when the opportunity arose to transfer to a more academically challenging private school, Logan was actually excited.

Then there were the books. Discovering a new love for words, Logan read Treasure Island with enthusiasm. He talked about insights gleaned from things he’d read. He even asked for books for Christmas. The day Laura walked through the family room and found her son lounging in a chair with his nose buried in a book—for fun!—she knew a transformation had truly taken place.

That was three years ago, and Logan is still benefiting from the changes brought about through LearningRx. “When it comes to thinking and learning for the rest of his life, Logan has tools and motivation now that he didn’t have before,” his mother says. “To this day, my husband and I will watch Logan accomplish something new, look at each other and say, ‘Brain training made that possible.’” 

Sylvan® is a registered trademark of Sylvan Learning, Inc. LearningRx, Inc. is not affiliated in any way with Sylvan Learning Centers or Sylvan Learning, Inc. The use of the servicemarks owned by Sylvan Learning, Inc. is not intended and should not be taken to imply any relationship between LearningRx and Sylvan. The opinion expressed in this quote is merely the opinion of the individual quoted. 

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Ten-Year-Old Gymnast Wins National President’s Day Contest

Ten-year-old Taylor Peterson didn’t want to compete in gymnastics this year. She started gymnastics when she was three, and loved it, but after seven years it was time to start competing, and she just didn’t have the confidence to continue.

“It was so hard,” says her mom Kim Peterson. “You have this little girl that you know is awesome, but she doesn’t know it. She couldn’t see what we could see – all that potential and just how good she really was. She just said she felt horrible and didn’t want to compete.”

Then Taylor started a personalized, one-on-one brain training program at LearningRx to help with her school work. Taylor had always worked incredibly hard in school, yet she always struggled too, even with extra help.

“Her teachers always just told me to be patient – that it would click,” says Kim. “They would tell me that she was the hardest worker in the class, and that eventually she’ll get it because she’s a really smart kid.” But when it still hadn’t clicked by fourth grade, Taylor’s teacher warned the Petersons that they needed to find the problem and fix it soon to avoid a future of escalating struggles and learning problems.

Cognitive skills testing found the problem and confirmed the Petersons’ suspicion that Taylor had never developed the phonemic awareness skills necessary to be a strong reader. Brain training at LearningRx changed all that. Homework is now easier and faster, Taylor’s getting better grades, and for the first time ever she’s performing at grade level.

“LearningRx brain training helped me so much,” says Taylor. “I used to study spelling words so much every single night, and now I just study one night and get good grades. I like school more now that it’s easier.”

At the end of training, testing confirmed impressive improvements in Taylor’s cognitive skills, equating to a general IQ increase of 18 points. But the Petersons didn’t need the test results to confirm the improvements. They noticed the first big change within weeks of starting the program when Taylor’s confidence soared and she came to her Mom and said, “I’m ready to compete!”

Taylors’ newly strengthened attention skills gave her such intense focus under pressure that other moms marveled at it. Her stronger memory skills helped her quickly remember new routines during one practice instead of writing them down and reviewing dozens of times at home. And at the end of the season, Taylor claimed the top spot on the podium – first place at state in the all-around for level four gymnastics.

“It’s so emotional,” says Kim. “She’s there because of LearningRx. You changed her little life. I fear that she would’ve turned into a lost little soul, and now she’s so confident and excelling in so many different areas. It’s such a relief that she’s not struggling in school anymore. It’s just been awesome.”

Taylor demonstrates her improved attention and memory skills and her champion-level gymnastics talent in this winning video for the annual LearningRx President’s Day Video Contest. Taylor recites all 44 U.S. presidents, forward and backward, in the 31-second clip and won an iPad, and another title, for the effort.

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LearningRx Makes School and Life Easier

What’s not to like about easier homework, better grades, a new love for reading plus results within weeks? Check out one mom’s reflection on how LearningRx made school—and life—easier for her daughter. Click on Learning Rx Real-Life Comments to read her review.

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Workaholics Run Greater Risk of Developing Dementia

Workaholics work longer hours. That means their brains are active more hours of the day, right? That must mean they have sharper mental skills, right?

Wrong.

In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Research has linked longer work hours with weaker mental skills. In fact, one study of 2,214 middle-aged civil servants concluded that employees working more than 55 hours a week had poorer mental skills than their 40-hour-work-week counterparts.

Brain imaging specialist Dr. Daniel Amen reminds us to think of the brain as a computer that needs to hibernate, shut down and re-boot on a regular basis to prevent brain fatigue. Quoting the conclusions of a different study—this one tracking 7000 workers over more than a decade—Dr. Amen says that working 11 hours a day or more not only increases your risk of heart attack by 67 percent, it also increases your chances of developing dementia later in life.

While researchers aren’t sure exactly why people who work longer hours have weaker mental skills and are at greater risk of dementia, they say factors may include getting less sleep, experiencing more stress, and/or embracing a less healthy lifestyle. In one study, employees who worked longer hours also reported sleeping less, having more symptoms of depression, and using more alcohol than people who worked a normal 40 hour week.

“This study should give pause for thought to workaholics,” reflected Harriet Millward of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. “We already know that dementia risk can be reduced by maintaining a balanced diet, regular social interactions and exercising both our bodies and minds. Perhaps work-life balance should be accounted for, too.”

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Get a Bigger Brain

In a recent study, people who learned to juggle grew bigger brains.

And if you think we’re clowning around, we’re not.

German researchers took 24 non-jugglers and divided them into two groups. One group was asked to do nothing; the other group was asked to practice juggling for three months. The researchers took brain scans of both groups before and after the three month experiment. What they discovered was that the dozen people who had learned how to juggle had grown more brain!

The extra brain cells were in the areas of the brain responsible for visual processing and motor skills (which makes sense when you think about the hand-eye coordination necessary for juggling).

The researchers were scanning for brain volume, rather than brain activity. As a result, while they can see that the new jugglers grew more brain cells, they don’t know the purpose of the increase. At least not yet. They’re still looking into the neural connections and brain activity related to those new cells.

The other interesting development was that, when the new jugglers stopped practicing for three months, the bigger parts of their brains decreased in size. In other words, when it comes to your brain, you snooze, you lose. To get the most out of your brain, you gotta keep using it.

 So the next time you go to the circus and see a clown wearing a big hat, you’ll know why. With a bigger brain, he probably needs the extra space.

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