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?


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!


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.