Sunday, March 28, 2010

Norepinephrine and Spinning Woman Illusion

The video-based spinning woman 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.

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