Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Before You See It . . .

According to new research done at Duke University, neurons in the brain predict and edit what you see before you see it. And the brain's visual circuits perform "error correction" on the fly. The fMRI study results have led to a new picture of human vision (labeled predictive coding) and challenge the currently held model of sight. The study could change the way in which neuroscientists study the brain. It seems that vision is more complex than scientists previously believed. Apparently, the current picture of human vision (called feature detection) is incomplete. The new data show the brain predicts what it will see and edits those predictions in a top-down mechanism.

http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2010/12/egner_vision.html

Friday, December 24, 2010

And Prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia (sometimes known as face blindness) is a condition that involves an impairment in the ability to recognize faces (e.g., severe difficulty recognizing faces). The ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact. The term originally referred to a condition following acute damage to the brain. Recently, however, a congenital form of the disorder has been proposed, which may be inherited by about 2.5% of the population. The specific brain area usually associated with prosopagnosia is the gusiform gyrus. (Grüter T, Grüter M, Carbon CC (2008). "Neural and genetic foundations of face recognition and prosopagnosia". J Neuropsychol 2 (1): 79–97. doi:10.1348/174866407X231001. PMID 19334306.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brain, Memory, and Rest

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of York and Harvard Medical School: Rest is vitally important for memory and cognitive functions. Your brain is working for you when you're resting during sleep as well as resting while awake. New memories are only really useful if you can connect them to information you already know. This study identified brain activity called Sleep Spindles: brief but intense bursts of brain activity that reflect information transfer between different memory stores in the brain (the hippocampus deep in the brain and the neocortex on the surface of the brain) that apparently help to organize new memories and makes those vital connections with existing knowledge. In another related study, researchers at New York University confirmed that your memories are strengthened during periods of rest even while you are awake. Is your brain getting enough rest?

http://www.physorg.com/news183819123.html
http://www.kurzweilai.net/learning-in-your-sleep?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=f3249d039a-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tarantula and Brain-Based Fear

A recent article published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" reports on a study by Dean Mobbs of the Medical Research Council-Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, United Kingdom. A study participant in a brain scanner (fMRI) watched a Brazilian salmon pink tarantula that appeared to be getting close to the participant's foot (the participant was only viewing pictures of the spider and there was, in fact, no spider anywhere near). Pre-frontal brain regions were activated when the participant thought the spider was further away; limbic emotional layer brain regions were activated when the participant thought the spider was getting closer. (Incidentally, this goes along with my perception of the process of "downshifting.") Researchers also concluded that when human beings have an expectation that something's going to be scary, they tend to prepare themselves for it. Eventually, these types of studies may provide information about how to deal more effectively with phobias (that appear to be associated with the limbic-emotional brain layer).

http://news.discovery.com/human/tarantulas-brain-fear.html

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Viruses and Your Immune System Antibodies

Landmark research from Medical Research Council Lab of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge UK: Viruses are the number one killer of human beings, responsible for twice as many deaths each year as cancer. Viruses are, however, among the hardest of all diseases to treat. Until now it was thought that antibodies could only reduce infection by attacking viruses outside living b ody cells or by blocking the entry of viruses into the cells. Studies by Dr. Leo James has shown that antibodies are able to fight viruses from wtihin infected cells.

(Editor. A Cure for the Common Cold? http://www.kurzweilai.net/a-cure-for-the-common-cold?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=f3249d039a-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email)

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Brain that Changed Everything

When Dr. William Beecher Scoville cut into Henry Molaison's skull to treat him for epilepsy, he inadvertently created the most important brain-research subject of our time — a man who could no longer remember, who taught us everything we know about memory. Six decades later, another daring researcher (Dr. Jacopo Annese - a neuroanatomist)is cutting into Henry's brain. Another revolution in brain science is about to begin. You may find this article by Scoville's grandson (Luke Dittrich) fascinating.

http://www.esquire.com/features/henry-molaison-brain-1110#ixzz144ql8Ot8

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Use it or Lose it!

Anecdotal reports for the past several years have strongly suggested that brain aerobic exercises could help to retard the onset of some mental symptoms of aging. Researched confirmation of this has been slow in coming, but bit by bit evidence is mounting. A recent study by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is one of the first to measure both mental performance and changes in neural activity caused by a cognitive training program. In the study, healthy older participants trained on a computer game designed to boost visual perception. After ten hours of training, they not only improved their perceptual abilities significantly, but also increased the accuracy of their visual working memory by about ten percent – bringing them up to the level of younger adults. Working memory is the ability to hold information in mind for brief periods. It is essential to accomplish immediate tasks, such as engaging in conversation with several people.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/brain-fitness-program-study-reveals-visual-memory-improvement-in-older-adults

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cancer related cognitive dysfunction

Study results presented at the Third AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities included mention that people with a history of cancer have a 40 percent greater likelihood of experiencing memory problems that interfere with daily functioning, compared with those who have not had cancer. After all the back-and-forth discussion, it appears that cancer-related memory issues can be related to treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapies, or to the tumor biology itself, which could change brain chemistry and neurobehavioral function. This makes it all the more important that individuals who experience an episode of cancer take careful steps to keep their brain as healthy and functional as possible.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101003081703.htm

Saturday, October 2, 2010

ADHD - Genetic Brain Disorder

Researchers believe they have found direct evidence that AHDH or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a genetic condition. The child of a parent with ADHD is more likely to have the condition than a child of a parent without ADHD. And if one child of a set of identical twins has ADHD, the other twin has a 75% chance of having ADHD. Children with ADHD were more likely to have small DNA segments duplicated or missing as compared with controls. Researchers found significant overlap between these segments, or copy number variations (CNVs), and those linked to autism and schizophrenia. This type of genetic variation is found to be more common in brain disorders. The most significant overlap of segments, or copy number variations (CNVs), with ADHD and Autism was found at a particular region on chromosome 16. Current conclusions: ADHD is likely caused by a number of genetic changes, including CNVs, interacting with as yet unidentified environmental factors; ADHD is better considered as a neurodevelopmental disorder like autism rather than as a behavioral problem.(Study is First to Find Direct Evidence That ADHD is a Genetic Disorder.)

http://www.docguide.com/news/content.nsf/news/852576140048867C852577AD006D7489?Open&id=48DDE4A73E09A969852568880078C249&count=10)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sports' Brain Injuries

Ouch. New studies about football and head injuries are positively frightening. According to a study of three Division I college teams sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (published in the Journal of Athletic Training), college players sustain more total hits to the head in practices than in games. More research: Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that a college football player participates in about 12 practices for every game played during the full year. No other N.C.A.A.-sponsored sport had a ratio higher than 4 to 1. The risk of all the head trauma? Chronic traumatic encephalopathy. You or a loved one DO want to avoid this!! Check out the article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/17/sports/17concussions.html?_r=1

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Neurons - Differ like Snowflakes

First we hear that your brain is as unique as your fingerprints. Now we hear that much like snowflakes, no two neurons are exactly alike. "But it's not the size or shape that sets one neuron apart from another, it's the way it responds to incoming stimuli." According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, this diversity is critical to overall brain function and essential in how neurons process complex stimuli and code information. Estimates say that the human brain alone has upwards of 100 billion neurons, and that the brain itself is considered to be one of the most sophisticated computers that exists. Now researchers say every neurons (chip?) is unique? Check out the report for yourself.


Crhttp://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-08/cmu-ndm082610.php#

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Michelangelo - Anatomist and Painter

R. Douglas Fields, PhD, is Chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuron Glia Biology and author of "The Other Brain," about glial cells in the brain that do not communicate using electricity but that support neurons. In the Scientific American (May 27, 2010) an article by Fields is entitled, "Michelangelo's secret message in the Sistine Chapel: A juxtaposition of God and the human brain." You may enjoy reading about Michelangelo and "his hidden anatomical illustrations" that have been found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (notably, sketches of brain anatomy.)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=michelangelos-secret-message-in-the-2010-05-26&sc=MND_20100628

Images from "Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo’s Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel," by Ian Suk and Rafael J. Tamargo in Neurosurgery, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 851-861.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Plasticity of Human Brain

Research University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) of commercial brain fitness program from Posit Science Corporation: practising simple visual tasks can improve the accuracy of short-term, or “working” visual memory. Folowing 10 hours of training, participants improved their perceptual abilities significantly (e.g., increased the accuracy of visual working memory by about 10 %) bringing them up to the level of younger adults. psychiatry at UCSF. Findings help to confirm that perceptual improvements with simple discrimination training can transfer to improved working memory in older adults, and that this increase in memory accuracy is linked to changes at the neural level. That is very good news!

http://www.kurzweilai.net/brain-fitness-program-study-reveals-visual-memory-improvement-in-older-adults?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=33d0f9f11f-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Your Brain and Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that uses neuroscience, psychology, and other cognitive science techniques to study consumer responses to marketing stimuli. Some of the responses measured include eye tracking, heart rate, electroencephalography (e.g., EEG, functional magnetic resonance imaging – fMRI, galvonic skin responses). Will you purchase more Campbell's Soup because of this? The company hopes so! An artible by Ilian Brat entitled "The Emotional Quotient of Soup Shopping" outlines some of the neuromarketing techniques that the Campbell Soup Company has employed to warm up customer responses to shelf displays. And here I thought my "thoughts" of Campbell's soup were pretty much based on childhood memories! (smile)

http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704804204575069562743700340.html

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sleep for "Surge"

Journal of Neuroscience report of rat studies: In the initial stages of sleep, energy levels increase dramatically in brain regions found to be active during waking hours. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, was found to surge during non-REM sleep. This surge of cellular energy may replenish brain processes needed to function normally while awake. Sleep appears to be necessary for this energy surge to occur. So, are you making sure your brain receives enough sleep?

http://www.kurzweilai.net/brains-energy-restored-during-sleep-suggests-animal-study

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Snowball, Music, and the Brain

Several years ago, Aniruddh D. Patel, a 44-year-old senior fellow at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, wrote “Music, Language, and the Brain.” Oliver Sacks described this book as “a major synthesis that will be indispensable to neuroscientists.” Recently, Patel was in New York City and was interviewed. A condensed and edited version of that interview was published in the NY Times: "A Conversation With Aniruddh D. Patel - Exploring Music’s Hold on the Mind." Patel talked about "Snowball," for example, the sulfur-crested Cockatoo that can keep time to music (previously believed to be an ability found only in humans). Patel also commented about a neurologist in Boston who has stroke victims learn simple phrases by singing them (which has proved more effective than having them repeat spoken phrases, the traditional therapy). When the language part of the brain has been damaged, you can sometimes recruit the part that processes music to take over. Fascinating!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/science/01conv.html?_r=1&ref=science

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Singing "Sun"

On July 4th I took my Canadian Cousins to the Chabot Science Center up in the Berkeley hills. We were able to view the sun through one of the telescopes and actually saw one of the sun spots and some of the bursts of gasses and whatever else shoots out from the surface. We also "heard" the sun singing and my brain found that intriguing. "The Sun is playing a secret melody, hidden inside itself, that produces a widespread throbbing motion of its surface. The sounds are coursing through the Sun's interior, causing the entire globe, or parts of it, to move in and out, slowly and rhythmically like the regular rise and fall of tides in a bay or of a beating heart." (Kenneth R. Lang) Thanks to Stanford University, you can hear the sun singing. Evidently, the Sun's sound waves are normally at frequencies too low for the human ear to hear. To be able to hear them, the scientists sped up the waves 42,000 times -- and compressed 40 days of vibrations into a few seconds.

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/singing/

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Extraversion and the Brain

Colin DeYoung and colleagues at the University of Minnesota completed brain-imaging studies on 116 volunteers. They found that the medial orbitofrontal cortex – a part of the brain involved with considering rewards that is just above and behind the eyes – was significantly larger in study subjects who exhibited a lot of extraversion. The study also was able to correlate larger brain regions for a number of other traits: conscientiousness, which is associated with planning; neuroticism, a tendency to experience negative emotions that is associated with sensitivity to threat and punishment; and agreeableness, which relates to parts of the brain that allow us to understand each other's emotions, intentions, and mental states. Only openness/intellect didn't associate clearly with any of the predicted brain structures.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-06/afps-bsc062210.php

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heart Neurons

Most people are quite familiar with the concept of neurons in the brain. Fewer seem aware of the fact that there are neurons in the heart. Heart Neurons? Absolutely. For those of you who are interested in this relatively new area of ongoing research, The Institute of Heart Math has published photographs of neurons in the heart--some taken with a confocal microscope. Researchers call it "the little brain in the heart." Amazing!

http://www.heartmath.org/research/research-our-heart-brain.html

Friday, June 18, 2010

According to a Harvard University study of 2,357 males in their 70's for 25 years, just doing five things gave participants a 53% chance of living into their 90's. Those five things were:

1. not smoking
2. maintaining a normal weight
3. exercising regularly
4. having a low blood sugar
5. having a low blood pressure

The good news is that #'s 1-3 are doable for most people. And doing #'s 1-3 really impacts #'s 4 and 5.

(Dr. Laurel Yates and colleagues, Harvard University. Published in Archives of INternal Medicine, 2008.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pulsed Ultrasound and the Brain

William “Jamie” Tyler, a neuroscientist at Arizona State University, and his colleagues have announced the results of a study that used pulsed ultrasound to impact the brain (without surgery or other invasive procedures). For example, pulsed ultrasound:

1. Activated brain waves in the hippocampus known as sharp-wave ripples
2. Stimulated the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
in the hippocampus

According to Tyler, the fact that ultrasound can be used to stimulate action potentials, meaningful brain wave activity patterns, and BDNF leads him to believe that, in the future, ultrasound will be useful for enhancing cognitive performance; perhaps even in the treatment of cognitive disabilities such as mental retardation or Alzheimer's disease.

http://asunews.asu.edu/20100609_neuron

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video Games and Dopamine

Dr. Daniel Amen has recommended to parents that children spend no more than 30 minutes a day playing video games. This is because (according to brain imaging studeis), video games impact the same area of the brain as cocaine and methamphetamine. When you play video games your brain really likes it because the process increases the amount of dopamine being released in the brain. "When you try to take those games away from them )the kids), they get really upset. In fact, some even go through withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t allowed to play.) According to Dr. Amen, this is because playing video games release much dopamine that there isn’t enough of the chemical available for the little things in life. Other activities and relationships that would normally make your children happy leave them feeling nothing at all. (Amen, Daniel, MD)

http://www.amenclinics.com/blog/3500/how-video-games-are-like-cocaine/

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Anti-Aging Strategy

Interest in calorie restriction began in 1935, when scientists made the surprising discovery that rats on a reduced-calorie diet lived longer, provided they were supplemented with sufficient vitamins and minerals. A new "dietary restriction" (not just calorie restriction) theory about how diet affects aging suggests that the drop in calories is not solely responsible for lifespan extension -- in some species at least, perhaps it is also the accompanying drop in dietary protein.

Protein restriction is much less difficult to maintain than calorie restriction and may be more powerful in reducing insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in humans (a promoter of aging), says Luigi Fontana, a professor of medicine at Washington University and head of the Division of Nutrition and Aging at the Italian National Institute of Health. Read the entire article by Laura Cassiday: Eat less, live longer?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627621.100-eat-less-live-longer.html?full=true

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brain Beverages . . .

Robert Valerde and Brenda Im just apprised me of a list of worst American drinks. I was blown away at the totals of calories and sugar! Even if they were only half-right, these beverages would not be good choices to improve one's brain function. Do you know what you are drinking? My beverages of choice are pure water, herb tea, and delta-E that is produced by IMPaXworld.com (you can obtain more information about delta-E at www.realizations.impaxworld.com).

http://worldmysteries9.blogspot.com/2010/05/harmful-drinks-in-america.html

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is there Really an Athlete Brain?

Have you ever wondered if the brain of an elete athlete is different from the brains of non-athletes? So have researchers. Turns out that current studies show there is a difference. Studies have shown that the brain's of athletes emitted stronger alpha waves, which indicate a restful state. This finding suggests that an athlete’s brain is like a race car idling in neutral, ready to spring into action. This means that the brains of athletes are more efficient, so they produce the desired result with the help of fewer neurons. The more efficient a brain, the better job it does in sports. Good genes may account for some of the differences in ability, but even the most genetically well-endowed prodigy clearly needs a great deal of practice to develop the brain of an athlete. As soon as someone starts to practice a new sport, the brain begins to change! Read more . . .


http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/16-the-brain-athletes-are-geniuses

Monday, May 17, 2010

Google? Stupid?

Those are not words that most people think of using together. For some, "stupid google" would be an oxymoron. A recent article by Laura Miller -- "Yes, the Internet is Rotting Your Brains" -- showcases a new book by Nicholas Carr (The Shallows, What the Internet is doing to Our Brains) that expands on his 2008 article entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Some of his points are well taken. Others . . . Google has become my encyclopedia. However, I still read half a dozen hard-copy books each month. How are you programming your brain?



http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/05/09/the_shallows

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brain, Healing, and Perhaps Politics

A recent article published in the New Scientist reported that the "Brain shuts off in response to healer's prayer." Apparently, portions of the brain that are responsible for scepticism and vigilance become less active when the individuals comes under the "spell of a charismatic figure." This has implications for religion but certainly for politics, as well.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627574.200-brain-shuts-off-in-response-to-healers-prayer.html

Sunday, May 2, 2010

3-D Movies and Your Brain

Are you one of the estimated 30+% people who don't perceive 3-D, stuggle with it, or even get sick? Amanda Gardner, a HealthDay Reporter, recently wrote an article that highlights some of these differences. Turns out it has to do with vision and with perception, both of which have to do with your brain. She quotes Dr. James J. Salz, spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as explaining: "In 3-D movies, your eyes have to be working together as a team perfectly. You have to have equally clear images in both eyes.; Then you will get the fusion of the two images." In addition, you need a good fusional mechanism. Turns out not everyone does. It might be helpful to figure this out before you purchase a 3-D television!

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/04/08/some-people-cant-stomach-the-new-3-d-movies.html

Thursday, April 29, 2010

12 Years Older??

According to a recent article by Lindsey Tanner, bad habits can age you by 12 years. Four common “bad” habits were identified: smoking, drinking too much, inactivity, and poor diet. Researchers followed 5000 Britishers for 20 years. “These habits, combined, substantially increased the risk of death and made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group,” said lead researcher Elisabeth Kvaavik of the University of Oslo. Interestingly enough, most people have partial (if not complete) control over these four habits. This is just another indication that your lifestyle can make a big difference in the quality, and perhaps even the quantity, of your life.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jy0bwq51zcpxqE9sw_3JZRBXw5HQD9FAV1S02

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mulitasking and the Brain

People have debated the desirability and efficacy of multitasking for decades. Recently, an article by Rachael Rettner entitled "Why We Can't Do 3 Things at Once" reports on a new study related to the brain and multitasking.

Researchers said that when faced with two tasks, the brain's medial prefrontal cortex (MFC) divides so that half of the region focuses on one task and the other half on the other task. And what happens when you attempt a third task? Things get muddled. Check out the article yourself. It's fascinating!

http://www.livescience.com/health/brain-multitasking-limit-100415.html

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mind-Reading Software

I've always told people that no one can "read your mind, so stop expecting others to to do so. Tell people what you want and what you think. You may not get everything you want, but you have a much better chance if you can articulate it."

Well, things may be a-changing . . .

You may want to check out an article entitled: 'Mind-reading' brain-scan software showcased in NY. Hmm-m-m-m.

http://www.physorg.com/news189919411.html

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time-Space Synesthesia

Science is learning more about synesthesia. Synesthesia is the condition in which the senses are mixed (e.g., a sound or a number has a color, the sense of touch evokes emotions). There is also a strong time-space synesthesia. According to recent studies by David Brang of UC San Diego, Department of psychology, individuals with time-space synesthesia tend to perceive months of the year in circular shapes, usually just as an image inside their mind's eye.

(Hooper, Rowan. New Scientist Life. 2010. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18723-time-lords-discovered-in-california.html)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cultural Neuroscience

Have you been introduced to the new genre of Cultural Neuroscience? Two researchers, Shihui Han and Georg Northoff, wrote an article entitled: "Culture-sensitive neural substrates of human cognition: a transcultural neuroimaging approach." Although abundant evidence exists for diversity of human cognition
and behaviour across cultures, the question of whether the neural correlates of
human cognition are also culture-dependent is often not considered by
neuroscientists. Recent transcultural neuroimaging studies have
demonstrated that one’s cultural background can influence the neural activity
that underlies both high- and low-level cognitive functions. The examples provided about West-East Brains is fascinating. Also, Sharon Begley, writing for Newsweek (http://www.newsweek.com/id/233778) providing additional examples in her article "West Brain, East Brain --What a difference culture makes."

http://dericbownds.net/uploaded_images/han.pdf

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Norepinephrine and Spinning Woman Illusion

The video-based spinning woman illusion (http://flavor8.com/index.php/2007/06/26/spinning-woman-optical-illusion/) has been making the rounds on the internet. Olivia Carter, a neuroscientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and her team, found that people's pupils dilate when they switch between two alternative ways of viewing an optical illusion (e.g., the woman seems to switch direction but in fact does not). The effect results from the viewer swapping how they view her. Eye pupils dilate in stressful situations as part of the "fight-or-flight" response. The reflex is mediated by the release of the hormone noradrenalin. Noradrenalin helps you to cement decisions toward which you are moving. Pupil dilation is an outward sign of this.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527504.000-decisionmakers-betrayed-by-their-wide-eyes.html

Friday, March 26, 2010

My brain and Iceland

Thought your brains might be interested to know -- while I was on a lecture tour to Iceland last week, March 28th had the “Biggest wind in Iceland.“ It was considered to be the worst day of the year so far with 50 m / sec winds. Another brain did the math for me: 1 meter per second = 2.23693629 miles per hour. 50 Meters per Second = 111.84681460272012 Miles per Hour.

What did that wind feel like? The evening before on a 3-hour ferry ride out to Vestmanneyjar (Westham Island) the seas were pretty rough as the wind built up. Many of the passengers were sea sick the entire trip. On Sunday morning, the 28th, I was unable to open the car door from the inside, and a passenger who did manage to get out to take a picture was literally blown to the ground. What an amazing experience! My brain's opinion is that I will "pass" on visiting that island in the winter - - - might muss my hair!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hippocampal Brain Shrinkage

Studies by scientists have led them to believe that wine may be harder on specific areas of the brain, and this effect may be more detrimental to the brains of females. With concerns about Alzheimer's lurking on the horizon, it might be worth your while to evaluate the methods you have been using to manage stress. Wine appears to damage the brain more than beer or spirits, because it particularly affects the hippocampus, a portion of the brain associated with memory and spatial awareness (e.g., "search engine" in the pain-pleasure center and one of the first areas to be impacted by Alzheimer's). The researchers found that wine shrinks the hippocampus and as women tend to drink more wine than beer, they are more likely to be affected


http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/03/17/36353.aspx

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How much can you control rate of aging?

In 1979, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer carried out an experiment to find if changing thought patterns could slow aging. "Everybody knows in some way that our minds affect our physical being, but I don't think people are aware of just how profound the effect actually is," she says. The results of that ground-breaking experiment have resurfaced and are now being fully revealed. Read about it for yourself! Then think about your habitual thought patterns . . .

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8498233.stm

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unconscious -- by whose definition?

A report of research studies that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), is more than attention-getting! Individuals described as being in a "vegetative state" (described as a persistent lack of awareness following brain injury), may be more aware than previously thought. According to the article, one of the patients was able to correctly answer a series of yes or no questions, his responses interpreted via brain imaging. Whoa! This information may eventually impact the way in which vegetative patients are managed . . .


http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/24475/

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rest to Remember

Researchers at New York University have found that your brain is working for you when you're resting. This means "awake rest" is important for memory and cognitive function, something that many don't seeem to understand with today's round-the-clock activities. According to Lila Davachi, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science, "Taking a coffee break after class can actually help you retain that information you just learned. Your brain wants you to tune out other tasks so you can tune in to what you just learned."

http://www.physorg.com/news183819123.html

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Synapses and Memory

Ever wondered how a memory is created--and lasts? with each other. It's all about"strengthening the synapses." Studies at UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute have shown that part of the strengthening process involves making new proteins. Those proteins build the synapse and make it stronger. Just like with exercise, when new proteins must build up muscle mass, synapses must also make more protein when recording memories. In this research, the regulation and control of that process was uncovered.

http://www.physorg.com/news180780161.html

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Synesthesia Revisited

Is synaesthesia a high-level brain power? That’s the title of an article by Ewen Calloway that was posted by NewScientist. Studies by Jamie Ward and colleagues at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, suggest that this phenomenon may be the result of a special ability in the brain areas used for language and attention.

“Earlier, another research group at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, taught 16 colour-grapheme synaesthetes to equate characters from an ancient Slavic script none had seen before with letters and numerals they already associated with colours. “

(http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427393.800-is-synaesthesia-a-highlevel-brain-power.html).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Invictus Revisited

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. –William Ernest Henley (English Poet 1849-1903).

These are the last two lines in an originally untitled poem. The now-familiar title Invictus (Latin for unconquered) reportedly was added by Arthur Quiller-Couch when he included the poem in The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900).

While visiting my cousin in South Africa some years ago, I traveled to Robbins Island and stood in the cell that Nelson Mandela had occupied for so many years. The guide explained how important Invictus had been to Mandela. He reportedly pondered it frequently during his 9,000-plus days of incarnation, especially those last two lines.

That visit was reawakened in memory when I watched the film Invictus. As you no doubt already know, the movie—starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon—is the story of Mandela’s early struggles to unite his country of South Africa. Those challenges are presented through the story of the Springbok team’s preparation for, and eventual winning of, the World Cup in 1995. They were led by rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon).

Brian Moore commented about the movie: “One critic, David Ansen, has written that the story is ‘one that would be hard to believe if it were fiction. The wonder of Invictus is that it actually went down this way.’ It is still too early to assess the true significance of that triumph and the part rugby played in the unification of post-apartheid South Africa, but nobody should doubt that its influence was real.”

I decided to craft my own Invictus for 2010: to remind me to walk my own path, avoid being a victim of circumstance, and live a balanced brain-friendly lifestyle.

I am mentor of my mind, shaman of my soul, and conductor of my life symphony.

Write your own personal Invictus. Read it aloud several times a day. Make this first year in the second decade of the 21st Century the very best yet!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alzheimer's disease

How much television do you watch on a daily basis? Cleveland Clinic studies, 2001: Watching too much television (e.g., 4 hours a day on average) was linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The brain is not active when it is being glued to television.

Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie, PhD. 20/20 Thinking, p. 218-219. NY:Avery Press. 2003.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Biogerontology

I'm intrigued by this word: Biogerontology. A new book by 40 co-authors (The Future of Aging: Pathways to Human Life Extension)is purporting that human life can be extended through the therapeutic use of biogerontology (e.g., sirtuin-modulating pills, new concepts for attacking cardiovascular disease and cancer, mitochondrial rejuvenation, stem cell therapies and regeneration, tissue reconstruction, telomere maintenance, prevention of immunosenescence, extracellular rejuvenation, artificial DNA repair, and full deployment of nanotechnology). Interesting concepts. The book is a bit pricey so I doubt I'll purchase it, at least not right away, as some of these concepts are likely decades in the future. Interesting, however.

http://www.amazon.com/Future-Aging-Pathways-Human-Extension/dp/9048139988/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262451361&sr=8-1