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Tuesday, December 2 at 8 p.m. Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound

(Rochester, NY) Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound, airing Tuesday, December 2 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1), a follow-up to The Brain Fitness Program, which aired on PBS in 2007, is the second program in a series about the power of brain plasticity to transform lives. Actor Peter Coyote hosts and narrates.

Every moment of the day, we make decisions based on information from our senses. What we hear and see tells us to stop or go, helps us connect with loved ones, and defines our world. This sensory data provides the cues we need to survive and thrive. As we age, the information received through our eyes and ears becomes degraded, and our ability to act on this information slows, jeopardizing our independence. But what if we could do something to dramatically improve our abilities? What if our brain ultimately holds the key to independence? Sight and Sound explores these possibilities, taking viewers into the labs of the world’s most innovative neuroscientists, psychologists, and neurobiologists who are discovering the amazing power of the brain to change — regardless of age.

The transformative power of the brain is predicated on the principles of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt as we age. We begin to experience decline in most cognitive functions as early as our 30s and 40s. As we grow older, the rate of decline increases, and the cumulative effects become more noticeable. Our senses dull; sight and sound, which were clear and quick in youth, become muddled and slow. The loss of acuity isn’t the major problem — hearing and seeing really take place in the complex visual and auditory systems of the brain, not the ears and eyes. The fidelity of the signal the brain receives is dependent on the sampling rate of the brain, how quickly and accurately the details of what we see or hear can be understood and acted upon. Our sampling rate degrades as we age, unless we use neuroplasticity to drive brain change in a positive direction, improving our sampling rate and our ability to engage fully in life.

Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound producers traveled around the world to meet the doctors and scientists who are on the front lines of research of visual and auditory processing. Some of the featured stories include:

• Dr. Margaret Livingstone of Harvard Medical School explains her research on artists from da Vinci to Rothko and how they used their knowledge of the visual processing system to create illusions in art. She explains why it’s hard to tell if the Mona Lisa really is smiling.

• Dr. Richard Frackowiak of the Wellcome Trust for Neuroimaging at University College, London, shares his groundbreaking work on the brain’s ability to change and even to grow through mental exercise. He takes viewers through the streets of London with his test subjects — London cab drivers.

• Neuroscientist Aimee Arnoldussen introduces viewers to the BrainPort, a device placed under the tongue that is changing the lives of people with balance problems. The BrainPort sends “bubble”-like impulses to the underside of the tongue, signaling and resetting the portions of the brain that affect balance. The device also has been used with blind patients, sending signals to the visual processing system in their brains, enabling them to perceive visual information.

Also appearing in Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound are familiar faces from the first program: neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich of the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Shannon Moffett of Oakland Children’s Hospital, as well as Sharon Begley, Newsweek senior science editor, and others.

Keep exercising your brain at 9:30 p.m. with an encore presentation of The Brain Fitness Program presenting a workout to help viewers get their brains in better shape. The Brain Fitness Program is based on neuro-plasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt — even rewire itself.

Web site: None

Pictured: Host Peter Coyote
Photo Credit: ©Santa Fe Productions

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WXXI is the essential, life-long educational media resource for the Greater Rochester area. WXXI puts the community first with programming that stimulates and expands thought, inspires the spirit, opens cultural horizons and promotes understanding of diverse community issues. Log on to wxxi.org for more information about our services and programs.