Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You See What?

Did you know that your visual system focuses on only one or very few objects at a time? Because far more information lands on your eyes than you can possibly analyze, your brain screens visual stimuli using bottom-up attentiveness or top-down attentiveness. Bottom-up (e.g., wildly waving hand) can get your attention because it sticks out. Top-down attentiveness occurs when you consciously direct your attention toward something specific (e.g., finding your suitcase on an airline baggage carousel).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Do You Know What Your Brain Is Doing?

Did you know that your consciousness is only aware of some of the things your brain is doing? Using fMRI brain scans, researchers were able to predict people's decisions (e.g., using right or left hand to push a button) seven seconds before the test subjects were aware of making the decision. During those seven seconds, subconscious brain activity was evident in their frontopolar cortex and then in the parietal region.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brain Fatigue

Did you know the brain tires in a similar way to muscle tissue? When a muscle is fatigued from lack of oxygen, it gives you a signal (e.g., pain, cramps). In order to recover, you must rest. The brain gives you signals when it is fatigued, too, such as:

• Inability to concentrate or put thoughts together
• Being jumpy, nervous, or irritable
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

And in order to recover, you must rest.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Optimism - The Aging Brain

Did you know that researchers are more optimistic than ever about the potential of the aging brain? Studies of older people who have maintained mental acuity revealed some common characteristics. These individuals tended to be:

• Socially connected, with strong ties to relatives, friends and community
• Both physically healthy and physically active
• Engaged in stimulating or intellectually challenging activities.

Do these characteristics describe you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dyslexia and Multiple Languages

Did you know that a children who read in varying alphabets and characters and who are dyslexic in one language, say Chinese or English, may not be in another, such as Italian? Dyslexia is a condition in which the mind scrambles letters or stumbles over text. It is twice as prevalent in the United States--where it affects about 10 million children--as in Italy, for example, where the written word more closely corresponds to its spoken sound.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brain - Energy Hog

Did you know that your brain is something of an energy hog, using more energy than any other human organ? At any given time your brain is using up to 20% of your body’s total energy haul. About two thirds of the brain's energy budget is used to help the neurons or nerve cells send signals or "fire.” The remaining third of your brain’s energy budget is used for housekeeping or cell-health maintenance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nuts and Heart Attack Risk

Did you know that eating nuts five or more times a week may reduce your risk of heart attack by 60%? The 1990's California Adventist Health Study found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 60%, eating nuts was one of the four top factors for extending longevity. The beneficial effects were found for males, females, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fatter people, thinner people, the old, the young, those who exercise and those who don't.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heart Neurons and Emotions

Did you know that both intelligence and intuition are heightened as you learn to listen to your own heart? Negative thinking and emotions such as anger and fear (especially when they are maintained over time) can throw the heart out of balance. Positive emotions, on the other hand, tend to increase balance in both the nervous system and the heart. Joy and gratitude help produce harmonious heart rhythms and reduce stress. Be grateful about something. Now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Contempt and Relationships

Studies have thown that being the object of contempt by your partner can be so stressful that it can even interfere with the functioning of your immune system. According to John Gottman, author of "The Mathematics of Divorce", contempt (different from criticism and closely related to disgust) is often used by both males and females to exclude someone from the relationship or community. It can be lethal to the long-term success of a relationship. You may want to evaluate the concept of contempt--in your own behaviors as well as in the behaviors of others toward you.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Suicide for Sexual Orientation

Some of you may have heard news of a suicide because the young man was reportedly gay. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided. Science indicates that one’s sexual orientation appears to be set before he or she is born, before the person even comes out the chute. Unfortunately, because of the way they were raised, some people find it difficult to accept differences. Worse case scenarios typically involve harassment. The behaviors we choose to exhibit in adulthood are at least partially (if not completely) within our control. The preferences with which we appear to be born, apparently are not.

Friday, January 20, 2012

IgA and Compassion

Would you like to be healthier, especially during the flu season? Studies have shown that levels of IgA (one of the body's immune globulins found in large numnbers in the saliva) are boosted when you experience a sense of compassion and caring. Higher IgA levels help you be more resistant to infections. Feeling cared for and loved, and exhibiting that toward others, may play a greater role in your health and longevity than even factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Experience compassion for yourself and others--today. Live healthier!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Decide Using Two Systems

Did you know that two body systems are at work when you are trying to evaluate information and make an important decision, especially if youmust do it in a very short time? There's the conscious "think about it" strategy, and there's the subconscious "my body feels different" strategy in which messages go to your sweat glands or stomach. Many people pay attention to only one system, however. Use both systems together whenever you need to make an important decision. Think consciously and pay attention to any subconscious changes you sense in your body. In my life, my better decisions result when I pay attention to information from both my brain and body--and when they are on the same page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sleep and the Brain

Is your brain getting enough sleep? Sleep is vitally important to maintaining a healthy body—especially the immune system (and what affects the immune system affects the brain). Researchers at UCLA have found that loss of sleep, even for a few hours during the night, can prompt a person’s immune system to turn against healthy tissue and organs. The study was based on measurements of levels of nuclear factor (NF)-KB, a transcription factor that serves a vital role in the body's inflammatory signaling. Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. Personally, I need at least nine hours of sleep; sometimes ten if I have made several presentations during the day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brain in Your Heart

Did you know there's a brain in your heart with its own independent nervous system and at least 40,000 neurons? The brain sends messages to the heart and sometimes the heart obeys them. Sometimes not. Andthe heart sends messages to the brain. The brain appears to understand these messages and sometimes obeys them. Both the heart and the brain appear to have their own distinctive logic and do not always follow directions from each other. Bottom line? Your heart can actually influence your behavior as you "think with your heart." Learn to pay attention to what your heart is trying to tell you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10,000 Hours and the Brain

Someone asked me today if I had a reference for the statement that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve world-class competence. In her book "Music and the Brain," Dr. Barbara Sternberg included estimates that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve world-class level of mastery, in music as well as any field of endeavor. So, you want to achieve world-class mastery in some field of endeavor? Start practicing. Time flies. 10,000 hours will, too. If you practiced four hours a day, six days a week, you'd have 10,000 hours under your belt in eight years. If you doubled your practice time on the weekends you'd have 10,000 hours under your belt in something like 5 years. What do you want to do in life and how committed are you to achieving world-class competence?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Systemizing versus Empathizing

Questions have been pouring in about gender differences, a topic I love to discuss! The male brain is often described as more systemizing while the female brain is considered more empathizing. Again, each has its benefits. For example, according to Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, low systemizing and higher empathizing abilities help the female brain with making friends, understanding relationships, mothering, social mobility, and decoding a partner’s next move. High systemizing and lower empathizing abilities help the male brain with making and using tools, hunting, trading, attaining social dominance (e.g., striving for rank and power), and tolerating solitude.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Energy and Gender Brains

Someone asked me the other day if it really took less energy to run the male brain. That is what studies have shown because the male brain tends to be more lateralized, meaning one part can be working while another part is idling, so to speak. The female brain, on the other hand, is less lateralized. The resting female brain is as active as the activated male brain. Some researchers think this gives the female brain a slight learning advantage as it is never at rest, per se. (Gurian, Michael, PhD, and Patricia Henley, with Terry Trueman. Boys and Girls Learn Differently! CA: Jossey-Bass, 2001, p 29) As I often say, gender differences are neither good nor bad. You give up something to get something and vice versa.

Friday, January 13, 2012

EQ and Your Success

You really think your level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has little to do with your success? Think again! According to studies by Bradberry and Greaves, of the people they studied at work, 90% of high performers are also high in EQ (while only 20% of low performers have high EQ). Workers with high EQs tend to make more money, too. Reportedly, the link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. The even better news? You can start raising your EQ any time you want to start working on it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Brain and Self-Talk

Are you sabotaging yourself and your success by the way you talk to yourself? Steven Campbell, author of the book "Making Your Mind Magnificient," believes many people are. Your brain believes what you tell it and your subconscious follows the pictures your words create. If you think something is going to be very difficult to accomplish and tell your brain that, you will make it even harder. He wrote: When you say, "No way!" the brain simply agrees: "OK, if you say so. You're right; there is no way." However, when you exclaim, "Absolutely. Of course I can do that," the brain not only agrees with you, but actually endeavors to find a way for you to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Hm-m-m-m-m.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Empathy, the Brain, and Gender

Studies: Both males and females tended to activate portions of the brain that register aspects of empathy when they saw someone in pain whom they liked and regarded as fair. Interestingly enough, studies showed that males found it easier to switch off their empathy for someone with whom they had no vested interest in remaining in a relationship, or who might be competitors of theirs, or who they judged to be out of line. (Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Science of Evil. NY:Basic Books, 2011, p. 34).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stress and Humor

Stress is living. Some types of stressors can be more lethal to the brain than others, however, such as chronic, unmanaged negative stressors. Studies by multiple researchers have found that a good stress-management technique is to develop a good sense of humor. You likely know some people (often those you love to be round) with a dynamite sense of humor. You probably also know some individuals who never developed this mental faculty. I keep a 3-ring binder in my office (one of these times I'll probably transfer the contents to my computer--but hey, I started that binder before the days of computers!). Any time I sense a negative stressor, I try to recall something in that binder that my brain finds humorous. Or I grab it off the shelf and glance at a couple of favorite cartoons. Start a file for yourself of things YOUR brain finds humorous. Then laugh and you may even sense the stress reaction fading away . . .

Monday, January 9, 2012

Heart Intelligence

Studies by The Institute of Heart Math have shown that the connection humans can have with each other is more profound that was originally thought. When you touch another person (e.g., a moment of connection when you shake the hand of a stranger, the hug from a friend or a pat on the back) something amazing happens. The electrical energy from your heart is transmitted to the other person's brain, and vice versa. Here's hoping you only touch people with care and that you are only touched by others who care. That's good for your health! (The Heartmath Solution, Chapter 8.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Music and Speech-In-Noise Perception

Were you fortunate enough to learn to play a musical instrument at least by the age of nine? (Thank a parent or teacher!) And have you continued to play the instrument throughout the years?(Thank yourself!) If so, you may just have taken a giant step toward reducing the impact of age-related auditory decline. According to researchers at Northwestern University, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand speech against a background of noise as you age. Their study demonstrated, however, that older musicians exhibited enhanced speech-in-noise perception as compared with nonmusicians. So keep playing that instrument! And if you never learned to play an instrument, start now. You may not receive the same benefit had you started before the age of nine, but, hey, you may help to age-proof your brain in other ways.