Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stroke Risk and Sleep

Do you routinely get more than six (6) hours of sleep per day? I hope so! New research connects  risk of strokes with amount of sleep. Researchers followed 5,666 individuals for up to three years. After adjusting for body-mass index or BMI, studies showed a strong association with daily sleep periods of less than six hours and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for middle-age to older adults, even beyond other risk factors. Study participants were of normal weight and had not sleep apnea. Researchers hope that this information can provide a strong argument for increasing physician and public awareness of the impact of sleep as a risk factor for stroke symptoms. Now you're aware! If you are having difficulties with sleep, see your healthcare professional. Develop new behaviors to help reduce your risk of stroke symptoms.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Brain Mapping

Were you under the impression that the human brain had already been mapped? Only partially. Recently, researchers in Germany (think of them as brain explorers) have found two new brain areas. They're at the front of the brain in a region known as the Frontal Pole, a portion already known to be associated with working memory and with social cognition and emotion processing. These two new brain areas have been named FP1 and FP2 (sounds a bit like Star Wars!). According to researcher Katrin Amunts, it took nearly three years to isolate and identify these two new areas. "Every time it's like a new continent, and it's surprising to find more and more areas," she said. Researchers estimate there may be 200 separate areas of the brain. Their goal is to have most of them identified on a brain map within five years.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Neuron Diversity

The word neuron, as we understand it today, did not exist before 1891. In that year, German anatomist Wilhelm Waldeyer dubbed the discrete cells that form the nervous system neurons. (In 1896, Rudolph Albert von Kolliker coined the term axon to describe the long slender cables that transmit signals away from cell bodies. In 1889, William His named the thin branching fibers that ferry signals toward the cell body dendrites.) Today, more and more is being learned about them. Neurons are not all alike in the way they look or function. In fact, they differ from one another more than cells in any other organ. Some neurons send electrical signals along fibers that stretch several feet; other neurons’ branches extend only a few millimeters from the cell body. Some neurons possess a fractal beauty similar to that of ferns and corals (e.g., Purkinje cells may sport finely branched nets, like a sea fan), while some of their neighbors look more like tangled tumbleweeds. One neuron might appear more or less round under the microscope—like a firework frozen in climax—whereas another might spider through the brain like a daddy longlegs. The brain is a multi-diverse and inclusive universe.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Creating Flashbulb Memories

Did you know that Flashbulb memories may be more likely to form in the presence of specific criteria? For example, the event needs to be novel and surprising, intense enough to trigger an emotional reaction, and important enough to the individual to have a significant impact. In addition, the amount of background information the person has learned prior to the event could impact the quality of the memory, while talking about the event with others and/or frequently hearing media coverage of the event could lead to overlearning of the information.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Smarter with Age

Intelligent or Creative memory is being touted as the new model of the brain. It is one in which analysis and intuition work together in the brain in all modes of thought as the mind processes concepts and ideas. Reportedly, this type of memory can strengthen with age if a person decides to hone it. The Google story is but one of countless examples of this type of whole-brained thinking. Neuroscientist Barry Gordon , with coauthor Lisa Berger, provided an overview of this newer model of the brain in their book Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory That Makes You Smarter.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You a Mnemonist?

As compared with natural memory, some individuals have learned to develop artificial memory through the process of learning and practicing memory techniques. Known as mnemonists, they use specific memory aids (such as mnemonic strategies) to help them recall long lists or groups of information. The mnemonic strategy can be a special phrase, acronym, short poem, or peg words/pictures. While the mind typically has difficulty recalling abstract concepts like numbers, it can often recall visual images quite easily. The mnemonic major system is a common technique for converting numbers into visual images that are then placed along points of an imaginary memory journey in the correct sequence.  When the individual wants to recall a piece of information, he or she just accesses the requisite visual image

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EQ and EQ

Beginning in the mid-ninties with Goleman's book in Emotional Intelligence or EQ, the concept has had some real impact. Until recently, however, it has been viewed primarily as an individual competency. That is changing. Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B.Wolff have been studying the concept of EQ among organizational teams, because the reality is that most work in organizations is done by teams. They believe that an organization can improve by helping teams enhance their EQ—that powerful combination of self-management skills plus an ability to relate to others. To build a foundation for EQ, a group must be aware of and constructively regulate the emotions of individual members, the entire group, and other key teams with whom it interacts. Studies have shown that groups with the highest collective emotional intelligence outperform other groups.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Your Microbes

Did you know that microbes inhabit just about every part of your body? For the first time, a consortium of researchers organized by the National Institutes of Health has mapped the normal microbial make-up of healthy humans. They now calculate that there are more than 10,000 different microbial species and estimate between 81 and 99 percent of all microorganisms have been identified in generally healthy adults. They found that the human body contains trillions of microorganisms that outnumber human cells by 10 to 1. Because of their small size, these microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body's mass (e.g., if you weigh 100 pounds you have 1-3 pounds of microorganisms; if you weigh 200 pounds than 2-6 pounds of microorganisms, and so on).  NHGRI's HMP program manager. "Microbes in the gut break down many of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into nutrients that you can then absorb; and produce beneficial compounds such as vitamins and anti-inflammatories. It appears that the distribution of microbial metabolic activities matters more than the species of microbes providing them (e.g., microbes can pinch hit for each other). The microbe composition changes when you get sick or take antibiotics.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fun, Exercise, and the Brain

It appears that "choice," even in animals, can impact brain function. According to Steven Arnold, a professor of pschiatrhy and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Memory Center, animal studies have shown that the brain makes new cells when animals exercise. However, this appears to happen only when the animals choose to exercise. For example, when a mouse is forced to run on a wheel, the effects to the brain are not as beneficial as when the mouse voluntarily chooses to run on the wheel just for fun. Find a form of physical exerecise that you enjoy and do it just for fun.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dendrimers, BBB, and CP

Have you heard about dendrimers? These synthetic, snowflake-shaped molecules were invented in 1979 by Don Tomalia, director of the National Dendrimer Nanotechnology Center in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently affixed an anti-inflammatory drug to dendrimers and injected the combination into the blood stream of newborn rabbits that showed symptoms similar to those exhibited by children with cerebral palsy. The dendrimers transported the drug across the Blood Brain Barrier and targeted microglia and astrocytes. This stopped further inflammation and improved motor function. Potentially, this could be very good news for individuals with cerebral-palsy symptoms.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory

Did you know that only a handful of individuals have been identified as having extraordinary recall for personal life events? James McGaugh, a memory researcher at UC Irvine, reportedly invented the name hyperthymesia (from the Greek words thymesis meaning remembering and hyper meaning excessive). First described in a 2006 Neurocase article, people with hyperthymesia (who typically are not autistic) exhibit a couple of defining characteristics: they tend to spend a large amount of time thinking about their personal past coupled with an extraordinary capacity for recall. The newer label is Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory or HSAM for short.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Synesthesia and Savant

Julian Asher of Imperial College London and colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford have identified a possible link between ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and synaesthesia (the crossing of sensory systems). 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. They performed a genetic analysis that tracked common "markers” and identified a region on chromosome 2, which has been associated with autism, as exhibiting the strongest link. Of interest, the autistic savant, Daniel Tammet, does have a combination of the two conditions (autism and synaesthesia), as do some other autistic savants.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Odors and Autobiographical Memories

Did you know that odors can trigger autobiographical memories very quickly? Researchers have used a variety of non-verbal cues in an attempt to trigger memories. Study results showed that odors are particular effective in triggering autobiographical memories, more so than other types of non-odor-related cues. Memories for specific events that were triggered by odors were more detailed and more emotionally loaded than memories triggers by verbal, visual, or non-odor-related cues.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Health-Forgiveness Connection

Do you want to be healthier? Think forgiveness. It is the ability to release past hurts, failures, sense of guilt, and loss from your mind. You accept responsibility for your own perceptions, realizing they are a choice and not an objective fact. Forgiveness does not condone negative inappropriate behavior in any person or pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. It is a gift you give to yourself, a way to stop harboring destructive feelings that sap health and happiness. The act of forgiving allows your body to turn down the manufacture of catabolic chemicals and instructs your subconscious to banish negative feelings from your mind. When you say, “I forgive you” you’re also saying, “I choose to be healthy.” Remember, forgiveness has little to do with others and everything to do with you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cerebral Palsy and Dendrimers

Estimates are that approximately 1 in 303 children have cerebral palsy by age 8. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy can result from neurological damage during gestation (e.g., a kink in the umbilical cord that briefly interferes with fetal oxygen supplies, maternal infection). Such neurological damage can lead to the activation of immune cells in the brain known as microglia and astrocytes, which cause further inflammation and exacerbate the damage. Recent research with dendrimers (Kannan, Sujatha, et al., Dendrimer-Based Postnatal Therapy for Neuroinflammation and Cerebral Palsy in a Rabbit Model, Science Translational Medicine, 2012) suggests there may be a role for them in a variety of conditions including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases such as genital herpes and cancer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gender, Decisions, and Stress

Did you know that being under stress appears to increase the differences in how men and women think about risk? When men are under stress, they become even more willing to take risks; when women are stressed, they tend to become more conservative about risk. Mather links this to other research that finds, at difficult times, men are inclined toward fight-or-flight responses, while women try to bond more and improve their relationships. According to Mather, coauthor of an article reported in Current Directions in Psychological Science, it seems likely that how much stress you're experiencing will affect the way in which you make decisions. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228114308.htm

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ASD and Savant Skills

Did you know that according to some reports, individuals with autism spectrum disorders or ASD are more likely than others to possess savant skills? Researchers have suggested that this may occur for a couple of reasons. First, the ASD individual typically has some type of obsessive interest in a constricted areas of interest (central coherence), coupled with a cognitive processing style that involves a focus on local features during the processing. This may aid in the development of savant skills. In the process, however, global processing tends to be sacrificed. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18164320)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Alzheimer's Prevention

Did you know that Alzheimer's may not be inevitble even if you have a genetic predisposition? According to Gary Small MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center, reducing risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, and inactivity by 25% could prevent half-a-million cases annually in the USA. The goal is to stave off the disease long enough so you can live life without ever suffering Alzheimer's symptoms. (Small, Gary MD. The Alzheimer's Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mnemonism and Synesthesia

Are your a mnemonist or a synaesthete? Russian psychologist Aleksandr Luria has been credited with documenting the famous case of a Russian, Solomon Shereshevskii, who was both. He could deliberately memorize virtually unlimited amounts of information and also exemplified an interesting case of five-fold synaesthesia. If Solomon heard a musical tone played he would immediately see a color, touch would trigger a taste sensation, and so on. Some have suggested that superior autobiographical memory may be tied to time-space synaesthesia.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CAD and Forgiveness

Did you know that forgiveness appears to be beneficial to your heart? A study on “The effects of a forgiveness intervention on patients with coronary artery disease” (published in Psychology & Health) assessed the effects of a psychology of forgiveness pilot study on anger-recall stress induced changes in myocardial perfusion, forgiveness, and related variables. Patients assigned to the forgiveness group showed significantly fewer anger-recall induced myocardial perfusion defects from pre-test to the 10-week follow-up as well as significantly greater gains in forgiveness from pre-test to post-test and from pre-test to follow-up compared to the control group. Forgiveness intervention may be an effective means of reducing anger-induced myocardial ischemia in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Autism Risk: Genes-Environment

Did you know that according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia) about one in 88 children in the United States has some type of autism spectrum disorder? Data was provided by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, operational in 14 states. The incidence in boys is said to be about five times higher than in girls. A 2011 study of twins by scientists at Stanford University concluded that genes account for 38 percent of autism risk (not 90 percent as previously believed) and environmental factors for 62 percent. Attempts to identify the environmental factors are the subject of two large studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


How many times a day do you smile? Children smile about 400 times a day. Adults on the other hand, don't. Only a third of adults smile more than 20 times a day. Ron Gutman (he presented a TED talk on the topic) said, "Smiling can reduce the level of stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline while increasing mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins." You may want to increase the number of times you smile today--and every day.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Glial Cells and Your Brain

Ever heard of glial cells? Your brain has lots of them. As their name implies (Latin and\or Greek for glue), they help keep things together. Questions abound regarding the ratio of glial cells to neurons. Some say a 9:1 ratio; others that 80% are glias. Neurophysiologist Suzana Herculano-Houzel and colleagues have developed a new technique for estimating numbers of glial cells. An interesting finding is that rather than an overall constant glia-neuron ratio, the numbers change in different parts of the brain (e.g., there are much higher numbers of glial cells in the cerebral cortex as compared to the cerebellum). Regardless of the true glia to neuron ratio, scientists have already shown that glia are, functionally, the brain’s other half: some watch for bacteria and viruses that infect the brain and then mobilize to fight the invaders, others form myelin insulation to coat neuronal axons, while still others secrete food for neurons. They are indispensible!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Neural Speech Fingerprint

Did you know that speech sounds and voices can be identified by means of a unique 'neural fingerprint' in the listener's brain? The results of studies at Studies at Maastricht University (Netherlands)implied a less hierarchal processing of speech than previously thought. Rather than occurring primarily in the auditory cortex, for example, it appears that decoding of speech sounds may be spread out more across the brain. (http://www.physorg.com/news145535708.html)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Music and Emotion in Sound

Did you know that studying music can enhance your ability related to identify emotion in sound? According to a report in the European Journal of Neuroscience, researchers have discovered biological evidence that musical training enhances an individual's ability to recognize emotion in sound. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, found that the more years of musical experience musicians possessed and the earlier the age the individuals began their music studies the better able they were to process emotion in sound. Being able to accurately identify emotion quickly in sound is a skill that translates across many different arenas.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Exercise and Aging Brain

Did you know that results from MRI studies at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill have correlated physical exercise with blood flow and vessel diameter in the brain? Exercise was found to be associated with an increase in the number of large-diameter vessels in the cerebral region of the brain and with an increase in blood flow in the three major cerebral arteries—in older individuals. The cerebral region is believed to control functions that include consciousness, memory, initiation of activity, emotional response, language,and word associations. Narrowing of and/or loss of small vessels may contribute to cognitive decline. (http://uk.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUKTRE4B16SZ20081202?sp=true)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rain Man and Savant Memory

Savant syndrome involves some exceptional abilities in areas of memory and/or other specialized areas (e.g., specific type of information, specific hobby or event. These abilities may be present even when the individual is not specifically trying to memorize autobiographical data. One of the best-known examples of savant memory is said to be that of the man on which the movie Rain Man was based. Kim Peek reportedly had savant memory for most information, not just specialized pieces. In addition, he was able to memorize large pieces of information from the age of 16 months.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Relationship Equality

Have you struggled with how to define equality in a relationship? According to Knudson-Martin and Mahoney (Will Old Gender Scripts Limit New Millennium Families' Ability to Thrive? 1996), a relationship that is equal encompasses six characteristics. Both partners:

1. Show their true selves to the other

2. Hold equal power

3. Take equal responsibility for the relationship

4. Accommodate equally to each others' needs

5. Pay attention to each other in a balanced way

6. Equally support each other's well-being.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Obesity and Brain Atrophy

Did you know that females who are obese throughout life are more likely to lose brain tissue and that loss of brain tissue has been linked to cognitive decline? Obesity is related to conditions that contribute to an unhealthy vascular system, and therefore, to a higher dementia risk (e.g., ischemia, hypertension, and cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases). Obesity may also increase the secretion of cortisol, which could lead to brain atrophy. http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002482.html

Monday, July 2, 2012

New Neuroscience of "Choking"

Humans sometimes fail under pressurewitness the unexpected catastrophes in the Olympic trials and in almost any high-stakes sports eventalthough the reasons may be worlds apart. In “The Art of Failure,” Malcom Gladwell described the difference between panic (too little thinking and reverting to instinct) and choking (thinking too much and a loss of instinct). Although most people get nervous at times, not everyone chokes. A team of neuroscientist in London used fMRI studies to gain insight into choking. They found that activity in the ventral striatum (a subcortical brain region dense with dopamine neurons) tended to increase as people got more excited about potential rewards. In some, however, striatum activity was inversely related to the magnitude of the reward. Translated, this may mean that some individuals fall apart (choke) under the pressure of the moment because they care too much. The pleasure of the activity has vanished. What remains is the fear of losing, a fear of failure, which can trigger choking.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Neuronal Conversations

Did you know that neurons have “conversations” with each other? The conversations neurons have as they form and recall memories have been decoded by Medical College of Georgia scientists. For their studies, MCG scientists combined new technology and computational methods with century-old Pavlovian conditioning. In CA1 of the hippocampus, researchers used 128 electrodes capable of monitoring a handful of neurons each to simultaneously record the conversations of 200 to 300 neurons as mice learned to associate a certain tone with a mild foot shock 20 seconds later.(http://www.physorg.com/news180162150.html) And remember, my book "Age-Proofing Your Memory" (4 versions) is available on Amazon.com