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!