Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Brain and Taste, 3

Taste buds are able to sense five distinct tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami or savory. Each on is linked to specific chemicals in foods. Generally, most human beings find salty, sweet, and umami foods quite pleasant. Sour and bitter tastes may register as being rather unpleasant. Three cranial nerves are responsible for carrying the chemicals that your taste buds pick up from food to the brain. Taste is ultimately decoded as flavor in the brain (not in the taste buds):

·         The facial nerve carries signals from the front two-thirds of the tongue
·         The glossopharyngeal nerve transmits signals from the back portion of the tongue
·         The vagus nerve conveys signals from the soft palate and epiglottis

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Brain and Taste, 2

Each taste bud, formed from a group of 50–150 receptor cells, is embedded in the surface of the tongue and makes contact with what you eat and drink via a taste pore. Different tongues have differing numbers of taste buds, ranging from 8,000-10,000 on average. Some individuals may have only a few hundred taste buds per square centimeter on the tip of their tongue, while others may have a thousand. Taste sensations produced within an individual taste bud also vary, since each taste bud typically contains receptor cells that respond to distinct chemical stimuli. This means that differing tastes are diverse in a single taste bud. Taste buds have sensitive microscopic hairs called microvilli that are direct chemoreceptors. They must come into contact with food and then they translate chemical signals in food into electrical signals that travel to the brain via the nervous system. Taste buds replace themselves every 10-14 days so if you decide to start eating healthier foods you can get accustomed to them quite quickly. More tomorrow.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Brain and Taste

Recently I overheard a group of people complaining about the aging of their brains and bodies. Yes, everyone alive is aging. Your brain and body is absolutely amazing, however, although it can be easy to lose sight of everything it does for you on a daily basis. As one person put it, there are miracles going on in your brain and body every second of your life—and you might want to thank them for everything they make possible. As you look ahead to the holidays, anticipation of familiar foods may come to mind. Taste and smell are two senses that not only are quite complex but also have a major impact on behavior, perception, obesity, dementia, depression, overall health, memories, and some chronic illnesses. No surprise, they also influence your enjoyment of a great many things including the romantic impact of your partner along with the pleasure you receive from foods and beverages. Taste and smell work together hand-in-hand to create flavors in the brain. More tomorrow.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Zeigarnik Effect

Have you gotten stuck with a song replaying itself over and over in your head? A Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik (1900-1988) reportedly first described what is now known as the Zeigarnik Effect in her doctoral thesis in 2917, which may help to explain that. It is a tendency for the brain to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than those that have been completed. In a similar way, you may have found yourself thinking again and again about some task that is only partly done and you know you need to finish it. Back to the song replaying endlessly inside your head. What can you do? If you know the song well enough, repeat or sing or hum the last verse or the last chorus and immediately choose to think about something else. This sends a signal to your brain that the song (the task) is finished and it is time to move on to something else. There have been times I had to repeat this action two or three times but it usually works—my brain moves on to something else.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Superman Stance and Cortisol

By now there have been enough studies to show that there is a link between your behaviors and how your feel. For example, just curving your lips into a smile alters your brain’s neurochemistry. In a similar way, some believe that the Superman Stance can positively impact the immune system. What does that look like? Stand with your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches apart. Place your hands on your hips, pull your shoulders back, and hold your head up high. Hold this pose for 1 minutes while brain breathing (inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 12, breathe out through pursed lips for a count of 8). Reportedly this may drop your cortisol levels by 20-30%. Whenever I feel tense for some reason, using the Superman Stance accompanied by 10-15 brain breaths is immensely helpful—for me. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Brain and Ice Cream, 3

It’s important to be clear about what any study is ‘studying’ and what the results actually mean. While ice cream may be better than nothing for the brain, you may want to look at the big picture before choosing ice cream for breakfast. One source of nutritional data on ice cream described a typical scoop this way: one 3.5-ounce serving of vanilla ice cream contains 125 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar. Fourteen grams of sugar is likely to trigger a blood-sugar high in the brain followed by a corresponding blood-sugar low that pushes the brain to want to reverse the blood-sugar low. And it will often do this by grabbing a donut, sweet roll, sugary drink or candy bar. A roller-coaster of blood sugar levels are unhelpful for overall and long-term brain function. This study reaffirms, in my brain’s opinion, that the brain does better when it gets breakfast after waking from a night’s sleep—and will likely do better yet with foods that contain healthier proteins and carbs. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Brain and Ice Cream, 2

Some perceived the study results as implying that ice cream improves brain function, period, and wrote to say they were going to allow their kids to have ice cream for breakfast after all. What may be happening here? A couple of things. First, the brain is ‘fasting’ while you sleep (unless you’re hooked up to some type of nutritional source). It needs some nutrition first thing in the morning to help it ‘boot up’ and function well. After all, that’s the definition of breakfast: giving the brain some food to break the fast. According to Katie Barfoot, a Nutritional Psychology Doctoral Researcher at Reading University, a possible explanation for the increased alertness observed in the study may simply eating breakfast versus not eating breakfast. Secondly, the brain needs water to function and it works better when the ambient temperature is cooler rather than hotter. Drinking cold water may help to cool the brain but it doesn’t trigger the same level of increased alertness, since water doesn’t provide nutrition in the form of calories. More tomorrow.