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Susana M. Peciña
Associate Professor
Department of Behavioral Sciences
University of Michigan—Dearborn
Brain Workouts: What Helps Cognitive Fitness?

This directed case study follows two college roommates, Darrell and Anthony, who have just returned to school after winter vacation. They share that their ageing fathers are concerned about their declining faculties and are amused by their fathers' efforts to reverse the process.  Darrell's dad plays "brain games" on the computer while Anthony's father believes running will slow his memory decline. Intrigued, the roommates search through their biopsychology class notes to find out whether their fathers are correct. They review the topics of synaptic formation and plasticity, including axonal and dendritic development, and chemical factors in the brain that promote the survival and growth of neurons or stop the genetically programmed death of neurons. Based on research findings, students reading this case will decide whether Darrell and Anthony's fathers are correct in their assertions. The case is appropriate for a wide variety of courses including introductory anatomy or physiology, or for upper-division biopsychology, biology, or neuroscience courses.