Monday, April 16, 2012


Did you know that chocolate's reputation for making you feel better is based not only on its caffeine content but also on its naturally occurring mood-altering chemicals such as PEA (phenylethylalanine) and anandamide? PEA is found in the blood of people who fancy themselves "in love." Anandamide, identified in chocolate in 1966 at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, stimulates parts of your brain that are also affected by active ingredients in marijuana. Researchers say you'd have to eat a huge amount of chocolate all at once, however, to get even the faintest hint of a pot-like effect.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Your Brain's GPS

Did you know your brain contains a navigation system much like satellite navigation? The brain’s GPS appears to be located in the hippocampi (two of them) and contains built-in maps, compasses, and grids. Currently, London taxi drivers, who have to know their way around hundreds of thousands of winding streets, are believed to have the most refined and powerful brain GPS yet identified, strengthened from years of experience.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Race Versus Culture

Did you know that race and culture differ in a number of important respects? Culture refers to shared meaning systems, social practices, geographical space, social and religious values, language, ways of relating, diet, and ecology, etc. Race refers to physical characteristics—skin color, facial features, and hair type shared by people of a given ancestral origin. Thus, individuals may belong to different races but may share the same culture (e.g., Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians living in America).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Live Authentically

Did you know that ignoring who you authentically are can literally be killing you? According to Dr. Phil McGraw, author of "Self Matters," forcing yourself to be someone you are not, or stuffing down who you really are, is incredibly taxing and will shorten your life by years and years. All the more reason to figure out who you are and how your brain works most energy-efficiently, and live authentically.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love Rush

Did you know that the chemical responsible for the initial rush of passionate love acts very much like an amphetamine? PEA (phenylethylalanine) is produced early on in a relationship but lasts only months to a few years. Some become addicted to PEA and move from one relationship to another in hopes of reproducing that intense feeling of love (or lust)—although it cannot be sustained over the long-term. If the relationship continues, another chemical (oxytocin) takes over and promotes feelings of love, closeness, and bonding.

Predicability of Human Mobility

Did you know that human behavior is 93% predictable? Despite the common perception that the actions of human beings are rather random and unpredictable, scientists at Northeastern University found that human mobility follows surprisingly regular patterns. The researchers were also surprised to find that the regularity and predictability of individual movement did not differ significantly across demographic categories, including age, gender, language groups, population density, and urban versus rural locations. They also studied three months of anonymous cell-phone data capturing the mobility patterns of 50,000 users chosen randomly from a pool of 10 million.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

Did you know that information stored in the activity patterns of cerebral cortex neurons is discarded at the surprisingly high rate of one bit per active neuron per second? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization were able to calculate, for the first time, how quickly an activity pattern is forgotten. No wonder "practice makes perfect," and learning requires repetition.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PD - Parkinson's Disease

Does Parkinson’s Disease, or PD for short, run in your family? Studies 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 is helping to delineate molecular pathways that are involved in the pathogenesis of PD. (The Genes of Parkinsons Disease. The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vision Detection

Did you know that human vision is more complex than previously thought? fMRI studies at Duke University showed that the current picture of human vision, known as feature detection, is incomplete. Based on the new picture of human vision, labeled predictive coding, brain neurons predict and edit what you see before you see it. The brain predicts what it will see and edits its predictions in a top-down mechanism, performing "error correction" on the fly.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Social Networking and Brain's Amygdalae

MRI studies have shown that the size of the brain’s amygdalae correlated positively with the size and complexity of social networks in adult humans. 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).

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Are you able to recognize people by their voice sounds? Most people are. However, researchers at the University College London have reported the first documented case of someone growing up with an inability to learn to recognize people by the sound of their voices. Previously, this rare condition known as phonagnosia, was sometimes seen in people following a stroke or brain damage. Now it appears there may be some on this planet with congenital phonagnosia.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Brain and TV

How much TV do you watch? Dr. Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland has recommended: cut back on TV, because when you watch television, your brain goes into neutral. Case Western plans to study whether people who contract Alzheimer's watched more TV throughout life than healthy seniors. Instead, read, do crossword puzzles, play chess or scrabble, learn a foreign language, or a new hobby.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

To Read or Not To Read

Were you a reader in childhood? Studies at Chicago's Rush University have shown that reading habits between ages 6 and 18 appear to be crucial predictors of cognitive function decades later. It may be that challenging the brain early to build up more "cognitive reserve" can help to counter brain-damaging disease later in life. And studies at the University of Alberta have shown that competent reading is the strongest predictor of success in school.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Do you have difficulty recognizing faces? Prosopagnosia, sometimes known as face blindness, involves an impairment in the ability to recognize faces, although the ability to recognize other objects may be relatively intact. There appears to be a congenital form of the face blindness, which may be inherited by about 2.5% of the population. The specific brain area usually associated with prosopagnosia is the gusiform gyrus located in the right temporal lobe of the human brain. So it appears that a person could be paying attention and still have difficulty recognizing faces.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Neuron Conversations

Did you know that at least 1,461 proteins are involved in transferring information across the synapse from one neuron to another? Researchers at the Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England, have compiled the first exact inventory of all the protein components of the synaptic information-processing machinery. The 1,461 genes that specify these synaptic proteins make up more than seven percent of the human genome’s 20,000 protein-coding genes, an indication of the synapse’s complexity and importance.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No April-Fools Joke

Did you know that practicing simple visual tasks can improve the accuracy of short-term, or “working” visual memory? Studies at UCSF in California showed that after 10 hours of training, older adults improved their perceptual abilities significantly (e.g., increased the accuracy of visual working memory by about 10%) bringing them up to the level of younger adults. This increase in memory accuracy is linked to changes at the neural level, which is very good news!