Friday, December 30, 2011

Glia Cells and Plasticitiy

Every neuron in your brain is believed to have at least nine special assistants around the clock. Named Glia cells (Greek for “glue”), they help hold the brain’s neurons together and protect them, making neurotrophic food and helping to discard waste products. However, it appears Glia cells do much more than that. Researchers at Tel Aviv University believe that these Glia cells are central to the brain's plasticity. Rather than neuronal assistants they're much more like neuronal supervisors, controlling the transfer of information between neurons and impacting how the brain processes information and learns. A mechanism inside the Glia cells appears to regulate the synapses and sorts information for learning purposes. According to Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob, the brain functions much like a social network. Messages may originate with the neurons, which use the synapses as their delivery system, but the Glia serve as an overall moderator, regulating which messages are sent on and when. Happy New Year to you and your Glia Cells!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Brain and TV

U of Virginia studies: psychologists tested 4-year-old children immediately after they had watched nine minutes of SpongeBob SquarePants and found that their executive function (pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior) had been severely compromised when compared to 4-year-olds who had either watched nine minutes of Caillou, (a slower-paced, realistic public television show) or had spent nine minutes drawing. Lead investigator, Angeline Lillard, suggests that parents consider these findings when making decisions about what to allow their young children to watch on TV – if they watch television at all. Since executive function is extremely important to children's success in school and in everyday life, she recommends that parents use creative learning activities, such as drawing, using building blocks and board games, and playing outdoors to help their children develop sound behaviors and learning skills.

Brains and Economics

Have you ever thought about the impact your brain's rate of aging can make to your country's economics? According to a study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (ILASA), cognitive function of older brains in a given country is a better indication of the impact of aging on that country's economy than age-distribution. Stands to reason. If the population of brains is "functionally" younger than the average for that chronological age, there will be less of a social and economic burden placed on that economy. This will impact families, communities, social services, and you name it. Looking at the big picture, this is just another reason to do everything you can to keep your brain functioning younger as you grow older. If you're not already spending TEN minutes a day reading aloud and THIRTY minutes a day doing brain aerobic exercises, start now. Use the free ones on my website as a start.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Handedness and the Brain

Are you left handed? Know someone who is? You might enjoy some of the information in an article that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal. For example:

• On average there is no significant difference in IQ between righties and lefties

• There is some evidence that lefties are better at divergent thinking, or starting from existing knowledge to develop new concepts,

• Lefties have an advantage in sports such as tennis, fencing and baseball, when up against a righthanded competitor, but not in noninteractive sports such as gymnastics.

Check it out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Abuse Changes a Child's Brain

fMRI tudies at the University College of London: The brains of children raised in violent families resemble the brains of soldiers exposed to combat. As adults, children who were abused in childhood tend to exhibit high levels of aggression, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral problems. Exposure to family violence is estimated to impact a significant minority of children (physical abuse range from 4% to 16%). Intimate partner violence affects between 8% and 25% of children.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brain and Low Back Pain

Individuals who complain of chronic low back pain may also experience some changes to their brain's activity. A recent study at McGill University associated chronic pain with reduced brain gray matter and impaired cognitive ability. This just might lend some credence to comments by pain sufferers (e.g., when my back hurts I just can't think straight). It certainly might provide impetus for those who do struggle with chronic back pain to take another look at strategies that could reduce the pain. The good news, according to the researchers, was that brain activity seemed to normalize after successful treatment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Your Brain's Happiness

Several of you have asked where you could find information about the Life Index Map. The Satisfaction with Life Index was created by Adrian G. White, an Analytic Social Psychologist at the University of Leicester. It is an attempt to show life satisfaction in different nations. Wikipedia lists 100 countriesm rankedm along with a copy of the map.

Happy Thanksgiving! And choose to be thankful for something. Your brain will likely function better in that state.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Your Brain's GPS

Yes, it apparently has one. Studies by Ruhr University neuroscientists using mice have shown that the cerebellum contributes to a cognitive map of the environment that is created in the hippocampus. It does this through the integration of multisensory inputs combining external information (such as visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile cues) and inputs generated by self-motion (optic flow, proprioceptive, and vestibular information). This all contributes to helping you navigate successfully in a given environment.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fight-Flight and Tend-Befriend

Studies by Shelley E. Taylor, et al: Males are more likely to use physical aggression in struggles for power within a hierarchy or to defend territory against external enemies. Females reliably show less physical aggression than males but they display as much or more indirect aggression in the form of gossip, rumor-spreading, and enlisting the cooperation of a third party in undermining an acquaintance. When confronted with acute stress, both males and females may initiate a fight-flight response. Behaviorally, however, females appear to move rather quickly to a tend-befriend pattern. Tending involves nurturing activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Your Divided Brain

Iain McGilchrist has prepared and filmed a piece about the two cerebral hemispheres. Approximately eleven minutes long and released in October, it provides an informative and cleverly interesting presentation. Check it out. You just might enjoy it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Autistic Brain

Studies at the University of Montreal Centre for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders: In the autistic brain, it appears that more brain resources are concentrated in areas associated with visual detection and identification. By comparison, fewer brain resources are concentrated (and regions show less activity) in areas used to plan and control thoughts and actions. Put another way, the autistic brain exhibits more activity in the temporal and occipital regions and less activity in the frontal cortex as compared with non-autistic brains. The stronger engagement of the visual system, whatever the tasks, is believed to be the first physiological confirmation that enhanced perceptual processing is a core feature of neural organization in autistic brains.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Too Busy to Die

People often mention to me that they are afraid of death or are worried about dying. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Steve Lopez turned the spotlight on Hedda Bolgar. She recently received an Outstanding Oldest Worker Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. In her speech, she talked about how there’s dignity and purpose in work, and grace in aging. At age 102, this Brentwood Therapist is still seeing clients. You may want to check out the article--and her picture. (Oh, yes, greetings from Seoul, S. Korea -- where I am having the great privilage of making several presentations in a variety of venues.),0,5869414.column

Sunday, October 9, 2011

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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Magic as Brain Artistry

It was painters, not scientists, who first figured out the rules of visual perspective and occlusion. Knowing these rules permitted painters to make pigments on a flat canvas appear like a beautiful landscape, rich in depth. Magicians are just a different type of artist. Instead of using color and form, they manipulate the brain’s attention and cognition. Try viewing a magic show from this perspective. Obviously there are magic presentations that your brain will prefer, much as it prefers some types of paintings.

(Macknik, Stephen L. PhD and Susana Martinez-Conde PhD. Sleights of Mind. P 4-6. NY:Henry Holt and Company, 2010.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Brain's Imaginary Playmates

Some brains do create them. Mine did. I had one for several years, although I learned quickly it was something I needed to keep private. Little John Deerfoot was the recipient of a great deal of my childhood chatter about life. I was home schooled (alone) for K - Grade Five. No surprise, my imaginary First Nation child was very helpful in that one-person school. One of these days I'll write a book about our "adventures of the mind." Even today as I write this, he is as clear is my mind as if he was standing right in front of me, with his jet black hair, beaded headband, single feather stuck in the back, and buff deer-skin clothing. With lots of fringe! Actually, it's been decades since I thought to call up his memory picture. I did last week when a parent asked me, with obvious concern, how to "make a child stop lying about a pretend friend." I suggested the parent let it go, perhaps making a comment now and then about the difference between seeing and touching a person in real life and accomplishing that in the brain. The reality principle--even knowing the difference between imagining and pretending versus what is tangible and concrete--appears to kick in some time after the age of four. The power of imagination is a mental faculty built into the brain (likely in the right frontal lobe). If it has been developed, imagination can help you to plan, envision, create, innovate, invent, set and achieve goals, and so on. Without it, I believe a brain can be handicapped in thinking ahead and figuring out what something may be like and what the person will need to do or bring with them.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Brain and Bottom-Up Learning

I was pleased to read this article and notice that someone is at least talking about a different way of helping the brain to learn information. Schools traditionally emphasis top-down education at the expense of bottom-up strategies (or perceptual learning). Now some researchers are saying that if millions of children can develop a trained eye for video combat games and doctored Facebook photos, they can surely do the same for graphs and equations. The concept isn't new in and of itself (e.g., the brain registers subtle patterns subconsciously, well before a person knows he or she is learning) but applying to education certainly is. One can only hope!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Secrets of the "Oldest Old"

Apparently, Stephen Coles(MD and PhD)is offering an extension course in gerontology through UCLA, beginning September 6th, 2011. If you live within driving distance, you might want to check it out. As some of you may already know, Dr. Coles is a lecturer, UCLA Molecular Biology Institute, and co-founder of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group. How I wish I could attend!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brain Model recently launched a free interactive “Human Brain in 3D” tool that you may be interested in. You can find it at:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Objects in Mind

Studies by neuroscientists at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory: Adult humans can retain only about four items “in mind” at a time. Using monkeys as subjects, researchers recorded simultaneously from neurons in two brain areas related to encoding visual perceptions (the parietal cortex) and holding them in mind (the prefrontal cortex. Results showed that the monkeys (and supposedly humans, as well) have a capacity of two objects in each hemisphere. If the object to remember appears on the right side of the visual space, it does not matter how many objects are on the left side; as long as the right side contains only two, the monkeys can easily remember an object on the right side. Or if the right side contains three objects and the left side only one, their capacity for remembering the key object on the right is exceeded and so they may forget it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your Brain and the Gorilla

Several have written asking about the "gorilla" research by Simons and Chabris, especially the now famous video. Here is the address so you can experience "the experience" yourself. Copy and paste into your browser. Yes, humans are not nearly as attentive as many think they are . . .

Can you trust your memory?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brain and Apes

You may find this clip interesting: about apes from Emery University

Copy, paste, and enjoy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Brain, Braking, and Intention

Studies by researchers at the Technical University of Berlin (as reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering): Research using a driving simulator indicating that the driver's intention to perform emergency braking can be detected based on muscle activation and cerebral activity prior to any actual behavioral response. Electrical signals from the brain were detected 130 milliseconds before drivers actually hit the brakes. Reviewing EEG and EMG data, researchers were able to identify signals in the brain that occurred consistently during emergency brake response situations. Identical levels of predictive accuracy were attained using electroencephalography (EEG), which worked more quickly than electromyography (EMG), and using EMG, which worked more quickly than pedal dynamics. This is another indicating that the brain is "thinking" before those thoughts come to conscious awareness and before any action response occurs.

It will be interesting to follow results of any additional studies. This opens up speculation about what "pre-meditation" may involve and what it may mean . . .

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meditation and the LEFT Frontal Lobe

EEG studies (11 subjects) at University of Wisconsin: The subjects who practiced meditation over a five-week period were found to have increased activity in the left frontal region of the brain. (Fascinating, since meditation is usually associated--or at least has been--with activity in the right frontal activity.) Earlier research has found that this pattern of brain activity is associated with positive moods. (

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meditation and Brain Connectors

UCLA studies: using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a relatively new imaging mode that provides insights into the structural connectivity of the brain, researchers found differences between the brain of people who meditate and controls. The subjects reported a variety of styles of meditation. Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain at large. People who meditate have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. Stronger connections influence the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. Significantly, these effects are evident throughout the entire brain, not just in specific areas. Studies showed increased structural connectivity in meditators throughout the brain’s pathways. The greatest differences were seen within the corticospinal tract (axons that connect cerebral cortex and spinal cord), the superior longitudinal fasciculus (long bundles of neurons connecting front and back of the cerebrum), and the uncinate fasciculus (white matter that connects parts of the limbic system, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, with the frontal cortex).


Monday, July 11, 2011

Brain Region Volume and Criminality?

Studies by Adrian Raine, University of Pennsylvania, suggest a connection between reduced amygdala function at age three and possible later criminal activity. As an aside:

Adult psychopaths appear to have an 18% reduction of the volume of the amygdala compared with non-psychopaths.

The orbital frontal cortex tends to be associated with being antisocial when its volume is smaller; as a group, men have a smaller orbital frontal cortex than women, which may help explain why men as a whole tend to commit more crimes than women.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Breastfeeding and the Brain

fMRI studies at Yale University have pointed to a connection between breast feeding and bonding between mother and child. This, in turn, may have implications for increased maternal sensitivity as infants enter their social world. Brain imaging of breastfeeding mothers showed there was greater activations in the superior frontal gyrus, insula, precuneus, striatum, and amygdala while the women listened to their own baby-cry (as compared to formula-feeding mothers). And at 3-4 months post partum, greater activations in the right superior frontal gyrus and amygdala were associated with higher maternal sensitivity. In the past, breastfeeding was associated with benefits to the infant. These studies suggest that some of those benefits may be due to changes in the maternal brain. Were you a breast-fed baby?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brain and Magic

Ever wonder how the Oracle in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi communicated? Ventriloquism. Ever wonder how faith healers, psychics, mediums, or charlatans appear to defy the laws of nature? Illusion. At least that's the perspective of neuroscientists at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. According to Drs. Macknik and Martinez-Conde, "Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable." And because of their work, these neuroscientists are now also members of the Academy of Magical Arts, the Society of American Magicians, and the International Brotherhood of Magicians. They're also on speaking terms with performers such as Penn and Teller, Mac King, and others. If you are as interested as I have been in these types of topics, the book "Sleights of Mind" just might make your day . . .

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heart Health and Your Brain

Researchers recently looked at the association between psychological well-being—specifically, emotional vitality and optimism—on Coronary Heart Disease in middle-aged men and women. The participants were 7,942 British civil servants in the Whitehall II study measured at baseline and five years later. Emotional vitality was defined as active engagement with the world, effective emotional regulation, and an overall sense of well-being. Optimism was assessed by participants rating themselves on expectations for more positive or negative experiences in the upcoming years. A variety of cardiovascular risk factors were measured (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, fruit and vegetable consumption, and blood pressure/metabolic factors). The researchers found that greater emotional vitality and optimism both were protective factors against CHD. (Metabolic factors did not alter this finding, which was similar for men and women, and for individuals younger and older than 55). Positive psychological well-being is a potential health asset that may have far-reaching consequences for cardiovascular health. And the correlation between heart health and brain health? Your brain's receiving a blood supply (including oxygen, macro and micronutrition, and elimination of waste products) is totally dependent on your heart. (

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brain and High-Fat Diet

How much fat is in your typical daily food intake? Studies at the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence, University of Washington have reported that obesity among people who eat a high-fat diet may involve injury to neurons. Within the first three days of consuming a typical American diet in terms of fat content, rats consumed nearly double their usual daily amount of calories. Both mice and rats fed this high-fat diet continued to gain weight throughout the study. They also developed inflammation in the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that contains neurons that control body weight. (

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Teenage Brains and Sleep

Do you have a teenager in your home? Do you have a close relative who is a teenager? Listen up! You may have heard on a recent NBC report that the average teenager generally gets less than 7.5 hours of sleep per night. It seems like some of us parents got it backwards, giving later bed times to children as they got older. Stanford University researchers have reported a study: teenagers need 1-2 hours MORE sleep per night than their younger siblings. That's one of the problems with parenting -- the kids grow up and THEN the studies report what should have happened. Who knew? (

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lumosity and Your Brain

As most of you already know, I am extremely careful about what I recommend and rarely endorse anything. Sam, an e-pal of mine just alerted me to free trials reportedly being offered by Lumosity. I first heard about this web-based program from a friend of mine at Florida Hospital Waterman. Marilyn was using it and thought I might be interested in it, too. I checked it out and signed up for life-membership. Designed by some of the leading experts in neuroscience and cognitive psychology from Stanford University, Lumosity offers a variety of brain exercises, tracks your progress, and provides feedback on your performance and improvement. It constantly modifies and enhances the games you play to build on the strengths you are developing--much like an effective exercise routine requires you to increase resistance and vary your muscle use. More and more studies are showing that brain aerobic exercise can be beneficial. You can read the report yourself and take advantage of the free trial if you so choose. If you'll excuse me now, I think I'll log on and do some brain exercises myself!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Apple and the Brain

According to a BBC documentary, the brains of Apple fans react similarly to the brain's of religious people. Now if that isn't something of an oxymoron! Neuroscientists say Apple's gadgets can trigger areas of the brain associated with religion. When a team of neuroscientists with an MRI scanner took a look inside the brain of an Apple fanatic, the results suggested that Apple was actually stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith. According to reporters Alex Riley and Adam Boome, the scenes at the opening of the new Apple store in London's Covent Garden were more like "an evangelical prayer meeting than a chance to buy a phone or a laptop."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tummy to Brain

Is there really a relationship between a fat tummy and a shriveled brain? Studies at New York University School of Medicine suggest just that! Antonio Convit used MRI technology to compare the brains of 44 obese individuals with those of 19 lean people of similar age and background. He found significant brain changes in the obese individuals. And Eric Stice at Oregon Research Institute found that when you overeat, neural changes occur that increase your risk for future overeating. Earlier studies have linked obesity to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, which is known to be associated with brain impairment.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day and "Eye" or "Camera"

Some people on this planet will spend at least part of today with their own mother. For others, this will be impossible for any number of reasons and they may think about her by pulling up a picture in the mind's eye or actually looking at a photograph. Recent studies have shown how the human "eye" can outperform a "camera" in some aspects (although the mechanism of research is so complex it is a challenge for my brain to understand the process). Basically, as the author puts it, visual images are projected by the lens of the eye onto a sheet of photoreceptor cells (known as rods and cones) in the retina. Much like pixels in a digital camera, each photoreceptor generates an electrical response proportional to the local light intensity.

Happy Mother's Day and the "Eye"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Brain's GPS

University of California, San Diego, Studies: Researchers report they have discovered precisely timed electrical oscillations in neuronal “grid cells.” Located in the brain near the hippocampus, these grid cells allow you to navigate through your physical environment by maintaining an internal hexagonal representation. Much like a CPS, the brain’s navigation system for the external world requires precisely timed pulses. Oscillatory patterns act as an internal clock that keeps tabs on where you are and when.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Music and Cognition

Studies at the University of Kansas Medical Center of amateur musicians and cognition: studying a musical instrument, which requires years of practice and learning, may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive decline as people age. According to the researchers, results suggest a “strong predictive effect of high musical activity throughout the lifespan on preserved cognitive functioning in advanced age." If you don't already play a musical instrument, you may be well advised to select an instrument, take lessons, and practice!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Brain Map Released

Brain map? It appears so! The Allen Institute for Brain Science has released the world’s first anatomically and genomically comprehensive human brain map, a previously unthinkable feat made possible through leading-edge technology and more than four years of rigorous studies and documentation(according to their press release).

The Allen Human Brain Atlas is free and available to scientists, physicians and the education community as an online public resource at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sugar Ray and Dancing With the Stars

I'm laughing aloud as I write this. Last night I received an e-mail that read, "From a brain function perspective, what do you think of Sugar Ray getting voted off Dancing with the Stars? He didn't win!" Immediately I thought "that would depend upon the person's perspective of what it meana to win." Think about it. For decades Sugar Ray's neuronal circuits were honed to keep his head down, hunch his shoulders, and jab from arms kept close to his body. Suddenly his brain is being asked to keep his head up, straighten his shoulders, and throw his arms open wide. That in a matter of weeks, Sugar Ray's neuronal circuits were able to embrace this reversal sufficiently well enough to last for several weeks on Dancing with the Stars is nothing short of phenomenal (in my brain's opinion). It has to do with practice, persistence, and "myelin." If your understanding of the importance of myelin could stand an update, read Daniel Coyle's book entitled "The Talent Code." I'm going to recommend it to my e-mail correspondent and also suggest it might be helpful for the questioner to expand his/her perception of what it means to "win." Do I like boxing? Heavens NO. I think all pugilistic sports can damage brain function. Do I commend Sugar Ray for his recent gallant efforts in a venue that basically required skills opposite from those of boxing? You bet!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Politics and the Brain

Have you ever wondered how the brains of conservative politicians differ from the brains of those who are more liberal? The recent feuding between a Democratic President and a Republican-controlled House might trigger such a though. Turns out that a recent study has uncovered the proverbial tip of an iceberg.

Studies at the University College London have linked personality traits with specific brain structures (the study reportedly having been commissioned by Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth). Using data from MRI scans, researchers found that self-described liberals had a larger anterior cingulate cortex, while individuals who described themselves as conservatives were more likely to have larger amygdalae. Based on what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat.

Of course this raises a whole host of questions. For example, are humans born with a predisposition to gravitate toward specific political beliefs or does the brain adjust itself to life experiences? Do structures of the brain alter as its owner embraces specific attitudes or do existing brain structures somehow mediate the formation of specific political attitudes? I love it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Longevity Study

Authors Friedman and Martin have recently released a book entitled "The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study." The contents of this book upends some of the advice that, up until now, has comprised the accepted recipe for how to live to a healthy old age. The authors expose what really impacts a person's lifespan (e.g., friends, family, personality, and work) and burst some long-standing myths related to achieving health and long life. For example, people do not die from working long hours at a challenging job; many who worked the hardest lived the longest. Getting and staying married is not the magic ticket to long life, especially if you’re a woman. And it’s the prudent and persistent who flourish through the years, not necessarily the happy-go-lucky ones. Expect the results of this study to change conversations about what it means to live a long, healthy life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Frontal versus Temporal Lobes and Languages

MRI studies have shown that distinct regions of the brain are used to process different types of sentences in different languages. For examples, sentences in which word order determined the relationships between the sentence elements (e.g., English language with sentences such as "Sally greets Bob") utilized parts of the frontal cortex that give humans the ability to put information into sequences. On the other hand, sentences in which inflection was providing that same type of information (e.g., Spanish language) utilized parts of the temporal lobe that specialize in dividing information into its constituent parts. The hope is that this information could prove valuable assistance in assessing how best to teach language to a person with brain damage in certain areas but not others, such as a person who has experienced a stroke.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Modern Medicine: Science or Religion?

Dr.Malerba is board certified in Homeotherapeutics, a Clinical Assistant Professor at New York Medical College, a visiting lecturer at Albany Medical College, and past president of the New York State Homeopathic Medical Society. The title of a recent article: "Is modern medicine more science or religion?" If you enjoy viewing more than one side of a coin, you may find his perceptions thought-provoking, certainly controversial. Here are a few of his comments.

In its quest for objectivity, medicine has rejected its spiritual roots and lost sight of its humanity. The church of medicine found its origins with Rene Descartes, a seventeenth century proponent of rationalism, a philosophy that elevated the mind and its ability to reason to a superior status above all other sources of knowledge. There are many thoughtful individuals, however, who would consider spiritual insight to be a superior form of knowledge. Like some religious faiths, medicine clings ferociously to its worldview when challenged by congregants (patients) whose firsthand experiences sometimes lead them to believe otherwise. It defends its dogma with a powerful form of groupthink and is quick to lash out at heretical ideas that threaten its doctrine and its territorial interests. Like some religious movements that purport to be the one and only true path to salvation, it displays an unusual degree of intolerance when faced with nonbelievers who dare to ask questions. It is a closed belief system that does not allow innovation or new ideas.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Watson on Jeopardy

Have you been following "Watson" on Jeopardy? It appears this computer is performing at the level of some of the best Jeopardy players. Ray Kurzweil, you may recall, predicted that a computer would defeat the world chess champion by 1998. Indeed, Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov in 1997. You may find Kurzweil's blog on Watson interesting reading.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parkinson's Disease (PD) Update

Do you know anyone whose brain is challenged with PD? Parkinson’s cases now known to have genetic origins are shedding light on the cellular mechanisms of all the rest, bringing researchers closer to a cause—and perhaps a cure. This is not only interesting but also exciting! Study results have shown some compelling evidence suggesting that loss-of-function mutations rendering three genes (parkin, PINK1 and DJ-1) functionally inactive, underlie common forms of autosomal-recessive PD. Identification and characterization of familial PD-linked genes has sparked an extremely fruitful line of research, delineating molecular pathways that are involved in the pathogenesis of PD.

Read more: The Genes of Parkinsons Disease - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences

Friday, February 4, 2011


Now that e-readers such as's "Kindle" are proliferating, studies about their benefits are beginning to surface. For example, Kindle was shown to be motivational for "less-enthusiastic" readers. That's one reason we have elected to upload the Aimi books to Kindle. Not only are the Aimi books designed to help children absorb helpful information about brain function, but also to motivate those who are electronically-oriented--to read. According to Larson, it's interesting to see the kinds of things the kids have been able to do: sometimes they make comments summarizing the plot, therefore reinforcing their understanding of the book. Other times they ponder character development, jotting down things like 'If I were him, I'd say no way!' Larson said, "As a teacher, I know a student understands the book if she's talking to the characters. . . If you take a look at those notes, it's like having a glimpse into their brains as they're reading."

Kansas State University (2010, April 17). Kindle e-reader motivates less-enthusiastic readers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 24, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/04/100416144546.htm

Lotta C. Larson. Digital Literacies e-Reading and e-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(3), 255%u2013258 DOI: 10.1598/JAAL.53.3.7

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Connectdome? How's Yours?

Doing well, I hope. Connected highways of nerve cells carry information to and from different areas of the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Scientists at Scripps Researchy Institute are trying to draw a complete atlas of these connections (connectome) to gain a better understanding of how the brain functions in health and disease. Multiple studies have shown that brain activity helps new connections to form. It turns out that brain activity is needed for selecting which synapses should be eliminated, as well. The findings have implications for conditions in which these mechanisms may have gone awry (e.g., autism, schizophrenia, and perhaps Alzheimer's). Almost daily another piece of research confirms how critically important it is for you to keep your brain challenged, stimulated, and active! (

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blood Test for Alzheimer's?

This may be promising! Chemist Thomas Kodadek of The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, along with colleagues, may have figured out a way to use peptide molecules in human blood (that stimulate the Immune System to create antibodies)to identify, and perhaps even predict, the presence of Alzheimer's disease. In six people with Alzheimer's disease, the researchers (using 15,000 peptoids) picked up two antibodies found at high levels. "The antibodies were also abundant in the blood from an additional 16 Alzheimer's patients. But these proteins were uncommon in the blood of a handful of people with Parkinson's disease or lupus. The antibodies were also prevalent in two of the 16 healthy controls. Their presence could suggest that the biomarkers aren't specific to Alzheimer's disease. Or it could suggest that these two women (a 75-year-old and a 65-year-old) have early Alzheimer's disease. The researchers favor the latter hypothesis. Their report is in the 7 January issue of Cell, 2011.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How large is your Amygdala?

A new MRI study has shown that the volume of the amygdalae (two tiny organs located in the Brain's limbic area) correlated positively with the size and complexity of social networks in adult humans. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, are similar to previous findings in other primate species. This link between amygdala size and social network size and complexity was observed for both older and younger individuals and for both men and women and was specific to the amygdala (e.g., social network size and complexity were not associated with the size of other brain structures. According to Lisa Feldman Barrett PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, researchers are also trying to understand how abnormalities in the amygdala may impair social behavior in neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Fascinating! You may want to consider expanding your social network this year to "grow your amygdalae."