Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cyber-Disinhibition


Have you ever been guilty of cyber-disinhibition? Sometimes referred to as "flaming," cyber-disinhibition is a phenomenon that can occur when a person is upset and sends an angry or other type of emotionally-charged (and often unfortunate message) via e-mail. A disconnect between a computer monitor and the social brain, which appears to have been designed for face-to-face interaction, results in a lack of emotional cues. These are typically picked up in person-to-person communications or even via telephone calls from the tone of the person’s voice. Before you send off a communication you might later regret, count to ten, ask a trusted colleague to read the message, or even sleep on it for a night.

Friday, June 29, 2012

ASD and C3 Protein

Did you know that researchers in Sweden and Iran have succeeded in identifying specific peptides in individuals with a diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)? The peptides consist of fragments of the complement factor C3 protein, whose natural function is in the immune system. Previous studies have already identified a known connection between this protein and ASD, which further reinforces these new findings. The hope is that this new set of biomarkers ultimately will lead to a reliable blood-based diagnostic tool for ASD. (http://www.kurzweilai.net/biomarkers-for-autism-discovered)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

AJ and HSAM

AJ (Jill Price) is reportedly the first documented case of hyperthymesia or HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory). She had an exceptional ability to recall autobiographical information along with events she had read about or personally seen on the news. Interestingly, she apparently was not very good at memorizing arbitrary information. HSAMers or hyperthymestic (former label) individuals sometimes appear to have poorer than average memory for arbitrary information.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emotional Memories

Did you know that in order for your brain to consolidate an experience as an “emotional memory,” the experience or event must be very arousing to your brain? Naturally, these types of experiences are more likely to be stored in long-term memory and to be recalled (as compared to memories of events that were nor very arousing such as yet another uneventful trip to the grocery store). The arousal can be positive or negative. A very positive or a very negative arousal can cause a memory to be strongly retained.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PTSD and Flashbulb Memory

Have you ever wondered the reason some people develop Post traumatic Stress Disorder with very vivid flashbacks of traumatic events while others, who experienced the same or similar event, do not? It may have something to do with the type of memory the individual possesses. Those who have a long-lasting extremely vivid and detailed type of memory, especially for negative events, may be more prone to experience a great deal of anxiety along with an increased tendency to have flashbacks of traumatic events with great clarity.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flashbulb Memory

Do you have a flashbulb memory? Likely everyone does for some event or other. Brown and Kulik reportedly coined the term flashbulb memory to describe the way in which the brain can store and then recall a shocking event, often with very accurate details even years later. One of my flashbulb memories is that of walking into a patient’s room on 9-11 and seeing a plane crash into one of the twin towers—on television. My first thought was of close friends who lived in New York City and who worked across the street from the towers. I can still pull up that picture in my mind’s eye and clearly recall the emotions that were generated by my brain and body.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More Synaesthesia

Julian Asher of Imperial College London and colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford have done studies to investigate genetic components of synaesthesia, a condition that seems to run in families. Researchers took genetic samples from 196 individuals of 43 families. They found 121 individuals who exhibited the synaesthetic trait of seeing a color in response to a sound. "When I hear a violin, I see something like a rich red wine," says Asher, who is a synaesthete himself. "A cello is more like honey." The team performed a genetic analysis that tracked common "markers,” specific sets of base pairs that are repeated throughout the genome and which vary from person to person. They identified a region on chromosome 2, which has been associated with autism, as exhibiting the strongest link. Of interest, the autistic savant, Daniel Tammet, has a combination of the two conditions (autism and synaesthesia), as do some other autistic savants.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Calendrical Calculation



Are you familiar with the term calendrical calculations? It's a term that describes an ability to name the day of the week for a specific date. Being able to name the day of the week for any date in the distant past or future is a fairly common savant ability. Interestingly, studies have shown that individuals who have calendrical calculation skills often have IQs that are below average, but not always. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289699000288)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Memories: Episodic and Semantic



Did you know that Declarative Memory or Explicit Memory refers to one of two types of long-term human memory? These labels refer to memories that you can consciously recall and tell (declare) to others should you choose to do so. Declarative/Explicit memory can be divided into two categories: Episodic memory that stores specific personal experiences (where you went on vacation last year); Semantic memory that stores factual information (your name and birthdate) and reflects the general knowledge you have gained about the world. For most people, these types of memory eventually tend to weaken with age.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

CTE - Pugilistic Encephalitis


Are you protecting your brain from trauma? I hope so! Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative condition perhaps best-known for affecting individuals who endure repeated blows to the head (e.g. boxers, football players, other athletes). According to Dr. Daniel Amen, a 27-year old former Marine is the first Iraq veteran that was found to have CTE. Reportedly, an abnormal form of a protein accumulates and eventually destroys cells throughout the brain in areas that regulate impulse control, judgment, multitasking, memory and emotions. As compared with returning Vietnam veterans, Afghan and Iraq veterans are much more likely to have been exposed to blasts, whose shock waves send the brain crashing into the skull.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adolescent Depression

According to a report published in the journal Translational Psychiatry: in a pilot study of 28 adolescents, a blood test of 11 genetic markers was able to accurately predict which teens were experiencing normal teenage angst versus clinical depression. If larger studies confirm these results, it may eventually be possible to screen for clinical depression as is currently done for some other conditions such as Diabetes. The open question is whether or not this relates specifically to early onset depression or if researchers would be able to get similar results with older individuals. (http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/17/11232468-a-blood-test-for-depression-new-research-points-the-way?lite)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baboons and Reading

Did you know that even though baboons do not use language they can learn to distinguish real words from nonsense? The baboons probably identified the English words by using orthographic information—the identity and position of the letters within the word. Based on these studies by Jonathan Grainger of CNRS and Aix-Marseille University in France, the ability to read may involve simple object-identification skills rather than on more advanced linguistic skills. The hope is that this and similar studies may help to uncover the causes of reading disabilities such as dyslexia.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Do you have more than one "father" to honor on this Father's Day? A "dad" may be your biological father, a step-father, a role-model father, or a nurturing father. Fatherhood is an important role. According to anthropologist Maurice Godelier, the parental role assumed by human males is a critical difference between human society and that of humans' closest biological relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—who appear to be unaware of their "father" connection. Active "dads" can offer many benefits to their offspring. They can play a key role in reducing behavior and psychological problems in young men and women and can help them develop greater problem-solving skills. An increased amount of father–child involvement may help increase a child's social stability, educational achievement, and their potential to build solid relationships in adulthood. Affirm your "dads" today. Each one gave you something to learn.





Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nik Wallenda's Brain

My brain loves seeing another realize a cherished goal, My congratulations to Nik Wallenda on his safe and successful tight-rope walk across the Niagara Falls. I visited this famous horseshoe wonder often in childhood, having lived on both the Canadian and American sides, at different times of course. Watching Nic progress one step at a time, my brain took me back in memory to the feel of spray biting my skin, the deafening roar from underneath the falls, rides on the Maid of the Mist, and wind that virtually snatched away all speach. I, too, know what it feels like to finally accomplish something you've wanted since you were age seven. Not coming from generations of acrobats as Nik does, my goal involved keeping my feet firmly planted on terra ferma, but in all seven continents one after the other--Antarctica finally being the last! What has your brain dreamed of doing? Go for it. Get started today!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Serotonin in Your Gut

Did you know that a big part of your emotions are probably influenced by the neurons, neurotransmitters, other chemicals, and nerves in your gastrointestinal system? Serotonin, for example. Estimates are that about 95% of your body’s Serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal system or gut. Serotonin is an extremely important neurotransmitter, a well-known contributor towards feelings of well being. Sometimes it is also called a “happiness hormone”. Part of how well you feel emotionally on any given day partially reflects what is going on in your gut. And, of course, how your gut is feeling based on what you have eaten or not eaten . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Heart Em Energy

Did you know that the heart and brain communicate through electromagnetic energy? Research studies have shown that the heart communicates information to the brain and throughout the body via electromagnetic field interactions. The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. The heart’s magnetic component is at least 500 times stronger (and some studies have estimated 5,000 times stronger) than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body. McCraty and colleagues have proposed that this heart field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

10% Brain Myth

Did you know that “you only use 10 percent of your brain” is a myth? According to Eric Chudler, Director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington, studies by both EEG and PET scans have shown that the brain is constantly occupied in running brain-body systems and in thinking. (This myth of using only 10 percent of your brain likely originated in studies of damaged brains during the last half of the 20thCentury.) Having said that, most people have room for improvement by developing skills through practice—very different from the notion that they use on 10 percent of their brains.






Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Benefit Yourself

Did you know studies have shown that the one who forgives, benefits more than the one who is forgiven? Forgiving is a sensible choice, for avoiding painful living, reducing tension and depression, and developing a peaceful normal life by gradual change. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but it is also not a once in a life time event. It is a skill and an attitude that only creates good will. It begins with your feelings of pain (for which you have a right) and the understanding that the incident was and will remain unfair. In forgiving, you have a right to give up your anger as an act of mercy even though the perpetrator may not deserve mercy. The motivation for forgiving is that you should feel better by healing your suffering.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sports Fans and Cortisol

Did you know that watching a big game can trigger the adrenal glands to release two hormones, especially in the bodies of young male fans? Studies at the university of Valencia in Spain showed that testosterone and cortisol increased in the bodies of fans watching a big game. Fifty Spanish soccer fans were examined using 5-milliliter saliva samples. Researchers found no sex differences in testosterone levels of the fans examined; the amount of cortisol was generally much higher in the males than in the females, however. The levels of cortisol (typically released during stress) were higher in younger males than in senior males. Overall, watching the match appeared to be more stressful for males than for females.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stress and the Female Brain

Studies by NIMH grantee Rita Valentino PhD: Women are twice as vulnerable as men to many stress-related disorders, such as depression and PTSD. Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), which acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, appears to be a key player. Researchers used antibodies and an electron microscope to see how the CRF receptor responds in the brains of male versus female rats — both unstressed and after exposure to a stressful swim. In the male brain under stress, many of the hormone's receptors retreated into the cell, making the brain less stress reactive. Even in the absence of any stress, the researchers found the female stress signaling system to be more sensitive from the start.
(http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2010/stress-hormone-receptors-less-adaptive-in-female-brain.shtml?WT.mc_id=twitter&sms_ss=email)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Physical Activity and Alzheimer's

Did you know that your level of activity can impact your risk for developing Alzheimer's? A study of individuals, average age of 82, showed that those in the bottom 10% of intentisy of physical activity were 2.8 times as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to those in the top 10%.  An actigraph, a watch-sized device worn on the wrist, was used to measure physical activity. Interestingly, much of the recorded movements came from regular activities of daily living rather than formal exercise. The bottom line? Stay active!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Social Networking

Did you know that friends and family serve as conduits for you to be influenced by hundreds or even thousands of other people? According to the book “Connected,” as part of a social network, humans transcend themselves, for good or ill, and become a part of something much larger. You may want to be grateful for the people with whom you are connected, those who make a positive difference in your life.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Use the Quieting Reflex

Did you know that and the six-second Quieting Reflex or QR can be used as a key strategy to interrupt the stress cycle? Along with exercise, brain breathing, meditation, massage, change of activities, and humor, the QR was developed by Charles F. Stroebel, MD, in the 80s. It was designed to break the stress cycle by substituting opposite body reactions. It can even be used to help break patterns involving everyday stressful thoughts. As soon as you recognize any tension, respond immediately by using the steps of the QR: 1. Smile to counter facial tension and alter the brain’s neurochemistry 2. Tell your brain and body to be alert but calm and even amused 3. Breathe deeply and easily to increase the level of oxygen at the cellular level 4. Exhale and allow your body muscles go limp as you feel warmth flowing through body to toes 5. Resume your normal activity

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Electromagnetic Energy and Like/Dislike

Have you ever wondered the reason you sometimes quickly (if not instantaneously) like or dislike another person? There is now evidence that a subtle yet influential electromagnetic or energetic communication system operates just below your conscious awareness. Energetic interactions possibly contribute to the magnetic attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social relationships. It was also found that one person’s brain waves can synchronize to another person’s heart. The studies were published in the book Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Your Genome

Did you know that a tenant of 21st Century preventive medicine involves strengthening a person's immune system by design, using a personalized approach? In an article entitled, "My Genome, My Self," author Steven Pinker wrote: "Like the early days of the Internet, the dawn of personal genomics promises benefits and pitfalls that no one can foresee. It could usher in an era of personalized medicine, in which drug regimens are customized for a patient’s biochemistry rather than juggled through trial and error, and screening and prevention measures are aimed at those who are most at risk. It opens up a niche for bottom-feeding companies to terrify hypochondriacs by turning dubious probabilities into Genes of Doom." (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Magnificent Mind

Did you know that according to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of "Magnificent Mind at Any Age," a magnificent mind starts with a balanced brain? Keeping your brain in balance is so important that I included a section on balance in my book, "Age-Proofing Your Brain." Use every option available to you to balance your brain. Strategies include obtaining sufficient sleep, engaging in mental and physical exercise, using appropriate natural supplements, honing your thinking strategies, and if needed, medication. Optimize your brain! Positive changes can change your life . . .

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Self-control and Religion

Did you know that religious people may have more self-control than do their less religious counterparts? The conclusion of studies by University of Miami professor of Psychology, Michael McCullough, is that religious people may be better at pursuing and achieving long-term goals that are important to them and their religious groups. This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives. One potential implication? Religion may have evolved because of its ability to help people exercise self-control. (http://www.physorg.com/news149861062.html)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Obesity-Autism Correlation

Did you know that studies at the University of California Davis MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute have uncovered a possible correlation between obesity during pregnancy and offspring with an autism spectrum disorder? Researchers found that obese women were 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder (as compared with healthy-weight mothers). Is it the obesity itself, or the food that contributed to the obesity, or obesity-linked inflammation, or other obesity-related conditions during pregnancy? That will require more research. It does add another reason for women to maintain optimal weight—especially during pregnancy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Education and Alzheimer's

Did you know that your level of education may relate to whether or not your brain develops Alzheimer’s later in life? Studies in Finland found that teens who don't finish high school are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease many years later as compared to those who get their diplomas and go on to further study. You may want to think about going back to school and challenge your brain with additional education. (Article: Warning for High-School Dropouts. http://www.alzinfo.org/newsarticle/templates/newstemplate.asp?articleid=248&zoneid=10)