Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oprah's Definition

Did you realize that when you give the gift of forgiveness to yourself or to others, it’s primarily for you and not for them? Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. Even definitions differ. One of the best definitions I’ve heard was attributed to Oprah Winfrey: Forgiveness is to accept the fact that the past can’t change. That definition may also help to explain why forgiveness is one of the most difficult and greatest gifts to give. To refuse to give this gift, you actually give the other individual the power to make you live as if you were still a victim.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sleep Bulimia

Do you suffer from sleep bulimia? Cognitive neuroscientist Robert Stickgold has equated sleep deficiency to an eating disorder. Sleep bulimics is a new term that describes a culture of individuals who purge on sleep during the weekdays and binge on the weekends; who try to compensate for sleep deprivation during the week by catching additional winks on the weekend. Not so fast. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, sleep deprivation is one of society’s most detrimental epidemics. You can make up for acute sleep deprivation once in a while. Not so with chronic sleep deprivation, which can seriously affect your health. Sleep deprivation is expensive, too. In the US, sleep deprivation accounts for over 16 billion dollars in medical costs and over 50 billion dollars in lost productivity—annually.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Diet and Cancer

Have you see the TED presentation by Dr. William Li who heads the Angiogenesis Foundation? It's entitled, "Can we eat to starve cancer?" Dr. Li said, “We’re treating cancer too late in the game, when it’s already established and, oftentimes, it’s already spread or metastasized. The obvious thing is to think about what we could remove from our diet. But I took a completely opposite approach and began asking: What could we be adding to our diet that could boost the body’s defense system? In other words, can we eat to starve cancer? Imagine that one medical advancement held the promise to conquer cancer, perhaps within your lifetime … the potential to also end more than 70 of life's most threatening conditions, affecting one billion people worldwide. This is the promise of angiogenesis, the first medical revolution of the 21st century." You might want to check this out. I’ll be adding a few more things to my diet! (

Monday, May 28, 2012


Did you know that your level of conscientiousness may impact how long you live? Studies at UC-Riverside (Friedman and Kern) found that people who were less conscientious were 50% more likely to die at any given age, on average, than those of the same age who scored highly. Living a scrupulous life appears to prolong one’s life even more than socioeconomic status and intelligence. (Health Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.5.505).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Neuron Variation

Some neurons fire in response to a specific sensory stimulus. Others fire in response to simultaneously occurring sights and sounds, sounds and touches, sight and touches, sounds and touches, and so on. They are found throughout the cortex and in the superior colliculus (midbrain region densely packed with multisensory neurons)as well. (Macknik, Stephen L. PhD and Susana Martinez-Conde PhD. Sleights of Mind. P 116-120. NY:Henry Holt and Company, 2010.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Brain Binge

Did you know that binge drinking accounts for more than half of the estimated 80,000 average annual deaths and three quarters of $223.5 billion in economic costs resulting from excessive alcohol consumption in the United States? Not only that, an estimated 2.3 million years of potential life was lost in the USA each year during 2001-2005 from excessive alcohol use (e.g., defined by CDC as consuming four or more drinks per occasion for females or five or more drinks per occasion for males). According to the Centers for Disease Control 2010 data, binge drinking is reported by one in six adults in America. Binge drinking prevalence (28.2%) and intensity (9.3 drinks) were highest among persons aged 18–24 years while frequency was highest among binge drinkers aged ≥65 years. Choose to protect your brain and your safety on this Memorial Day Weekend. Have a wonderful holiday and make choices that increase the likelihood you'll be around next year at the same time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Artists and Cognition

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brain Regions

Did you know that brain imaging studies have shown a correlation between larger brain regions and specific traits? Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that a part of the brain just above and behind the eyes, involved with considering rewards, was significantly larger in study subjects who exhibited a great deal of Extraversion. The study also correlated larger brain regions for a number of other traits: conscientiousness, which is associated with planning; neuroticism, a tendency to experience negative emotions that is associated with sensitivity to threat and punishment; and agreeableness, which relates to parts of the brain that allow us to understand each other's emotions, intentions, and mental states. Only openness/intellect didn't associate clearly with any of the predicted brain structures.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Resentment and Health

Did you know that unresolved resentment is dangerous and can take a huge toll on your health? Internationally renowned cardiologist, Herbert Benson said, "There's something called the physiology of forgiveness. Being unable to forgive other people's faults is harmful to one's health." Multiple studies have linked the inability or unwillingness to forgive with health hazards such as increased blood pressure, cardio-vascular disease, and immune suppression. A Duke University Medical Centre study showed a decrease in back pain and depression, and lower levels of chronic pain in people who learned to forgive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cirrhosis, Obesity, and the Brain

Have you always considered cirrhosis of the liver to be a drinker's disease? At least 20 percent of all liver disease in the United States is now attributed to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD. Obesity is a contributor to liver disease and obesity is bad for the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one half of the US adult population is overweight (BMI greater than 25) and one quarter of the US adult population is obese (BMI greater than 30). How are you doing?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cold Shoulder

Did you know that some metaphors may have their basis in mind and body? A cold shoulder, for example. People who were made to feel socially excluded reported feeling physically colder. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute found that participants were significantly faster at retrieving and retelling stories that chimed with the metaphor implied by their actions. So if they were moving marbles upwards, they were faster at retelling stories with positive emotional content than those linked to negative emotions, and vice versa.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

PEA Addiction

Did you know that the euphoria of "falling in love" only lasts from about six months to a couple of years? The euphoria is associated with a brain chemical known as PEA (phenylethylalanine). Some individuals can become addicted to PEA and move from one short-term relationship to another in an attempt to sustain the feelings of excitement and euphoria. Once the PEA-induced euphoria wanes, if the couple stays together it is out of choice and because of the bonding chemical known as oxytocin.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Focus Focus Focus

Did you know that your brain will do everything it can to help you achieve what it believes you want to have happen? What you think and what you say are critical to your success. When learning to ride a two-wheel bike and my friend said, "Don't hit the gate post," my brain focused on the gate post and my bike smashed right into it. When my father said, "Aim for the middle of the empty space between the gate posts," my bike breezed through the opening. Always say what you want to have happen and stop focusing on what you do not want to have happen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Patterns and Particles

Did you know that the number and functionality of your brain's "synapses" (connections between neurons) determines the amount of information you can store and recall? Your memories are yours alone because every brain is unique. Brain researchers sometimes use the word patterns for the word memories. Neuro-mathematicians have estimated that the number of patterns that the human brain can potentially carry may exceed the number of elementary particles in the universe. That thought is staggering! (Ramachandran, V. S., UCSD. Phantoms in the Brain, p. 8)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kindness and Serotonin

Have you done something "kind" lately, maybe a random act of kindness? Studies have shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves function of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the person who did the act of kindness and in the recipient. Persons overseeing the act of kindness experience similar beneficial results. Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance in the brain and body. It helps you to feel peaceful and more comfortable. What an easy way to get a shot of serotonin!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Psychopathic Brain

Did you know that new research provides the strongest evidence to date that psychopathy is linked to specific structural abnormalities in the brain? Previous research has shown that the brains of psychopaths differ structurally from healthy brains. This new study, led by researchers at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), is the first to confirm that psychopathy is a distinct neuro-developmental sub-groups of brains diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder or ASPD (not all individuals diagnosed with ASPD are also psychopathic). The study found that ASPD+P offenders displayed significantly reduced grey matter volumes in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles compared to ASPD-P offenders and healthy non-offenders. These areas are important in understanding other people’s emotions and intentions and are activated when people think about moral behavior. Damage to these areas is associated with impaired empathising with other people, poor response to fear and distress and a lack of ‘self-conscious’ emotions such as guilt or embarrassment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Forgiveness and Power

Is there something in your life that you need to let go and someone you need to forgive? When you give the gift of forgiveness to yourself or to others, it’s primarily for you and not for them. Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. Even definitions differ. One of the best definitions I’ve heard was attributed to Oprah Winfrey: Forgiveness is to accept the fact that the past can’t change. That definition may also help to explain why forgiveness is one of the most difficult and at the same time one of the greatest gifts to give. To refuse to give this gift, however, you actually present the other individual with the power to make you live as if you were still a victim.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Oxytocin and Bonding

Did you know that physical contact (e.g., snuggling, kissing, sexual activity) with a partner causes oxytocin to be produced? The body learns to associate those behaviors with the partner and can produce oxytocin whenever near to the other. When the couple engages in pleasurable sex, their bodies produce dopamine and the individuals feel better. The ability for sex to result in a sense of love may be evidenced by individuals in an arranged marriage who eventually fall in love.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

How many "mothers" are in your life? On Mother's Day it can be helpful to realize that the term "mother" can apply to a woman other than a biological parent; to any woman in your life who fulfilled the main social role in raising you or who played a significant role in your development (e.g., mental, emotional, physical, spiritual).  According to the US Census Bureau, there may be close to 83 million mothers of all ages in this country. And many of them work both inside and outside the home (currently more women than males are employed in the US. Studies have shown that there are some things mothers are more likely to provide for their children (as compared with fathers). For example, mothers are more likely to encourage assimilative and communion-enhancing patterns in their children, acknowledge their children's contributions in conversation, and to speak in ways better suited to support very young children in their efforts to understand speech (in the context of English)--all good for your brain! Affirm the contributions your "mothers" have made in your life. You have learned something from each one.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spitzer's Apology

Have you heard that the author of a 2003 controversial study on therapy to change sexual orientation reportedly has apologized for his conclusions? Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Columbia University, Dr. Robert Spitzer’s apology essentially represents a retraction of his original study conclusions, thus eliminating alleged evidence that a person’s innate sexual orientation can be changed through some type of psychological intervention. Allegedly, the conclusions of Spitzer’s original study were used by some organizations to make claims that sexual orientation is a choice and that it could be changed through therapy. (

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Brain and Sleep Spindles

Are you giving your brain enough rest? Rest is vitally important for memory and cognitive functions. Your brain is working for you when you're resting. New memories are only really useful if you can connect them to information you already know. A Harvard Medical School study identified a brain activity called Sleep Spindles: brief but intense bursts of brain activity that reflect information transfer between the hippocampus deep in the brain and the neocortex on the surface of the brain that apparently help to organize new memories and make vital connections with existing knowledge.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Memory that "takes over"

Non-declarative or Procedural memory or Implicit memory -- all labels for one of two types of long-term human memory (the other type is known as Declarative or Explicit memory). These terms refer to largely unconscious memory-skills that an individual has built such as specific skills (e.g. how to ride a bicycle, how to play a musical instrument). The person knows how to perform the skill but really is unable to declare exactly how it is happening or specifically what their brain and body are doing to pull it off. You may have heard individual performers (e.g., olympic swimmers) say something such as, "When I hit the water my brain and body just take over. I no longer consciously think about every movement." For most people, this type of memory tends to weaken somewhat with age.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Perception or Actuality?

Did you know that your perception of another person’s intentions matters more to your brain’s response than what they actually do? It’s your perception (not their actual actions) that makes the difference. Stanford MRI studies: even though people saw the exact same game, framing the game changed the test subjects’ neural reactions to the players. When you believe a person is doing something nice for someone else, your brains register the observation of a good deed as a personal reward. Of course, the opposite is also true.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jogging to Music

Did you know that additional studies are showing benefits from music in relation to marathon joggers in London? The link between music and athletic performance is just one example of the amazing power that music has over mind and body. Music can reduce pain and stress, strengthen the brain, and alter how one experiences life. Generally speaking, loud upbeat music has a stimulating effect and slow music reduces arousal. (

Monday, May 7, 2012

PET Scans and Dementia

Did you know that PET scan software can compare a scan of activity levels in a patient's brain against a database of previous cases? Findings reported at the Turku PET Symposium in Finland: by identifying the rate at which the brain takes up a radioactive glucose substitute, the system interpreted scans from 83 patients with 98% accuracy. This may help to distinguish reliably between different forms of dementia at an early stage. (

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cellular Memory Transmits

Did you know that cellular memory is passed on even when the cells are replaced? Studies at the University of Alabama in Birmingham have reported that long-term memories may be stored and preserved by the addition of chemical caps called methyl groups onto one’s DNA, a process called DNA methylation. It appears that short-term memories form in the hippocampus and slowly turn into long-term memories in the cortex. (

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Do you know what Cinco de Mayo really commemmorates? Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May)  is not Independence Day for the United States of Mexico. That occurs on September 16th. A Huffington Post report: According to David Hayes-Bautista, a professor of medicine and health services at UCLA and author of the newly released "El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition,"  the holiday's history in the U.S. goes back to the Gold Rush when thousands of immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America came to California during the Civil War. Latino immigrants were concerned about the Union's lack of progress and Napoleon III's interests in helping the South (preservation of slavery). When Latino's defeated the French at the Battle of Puebla, the win served as a sign that their side could win.  In the years that followed, Latinos in California and the U.S. Northwest celebrated Cinco de Mayo with parades of people dressed in Civil War uniforms and gave speeches about the significance of the Battle of Puebla in the larger struggle for freedom. Over the succeeding decades, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo moved into Mexico and other areas. Today, let's remember its origins and the part Latinos played in the abolition-of-slavery movement.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Merilu Henner and HSAM

Previously known as hyperthymesia, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory or HSAM is the newer label for a very few unusual individuals;  people who can recall vast amounts of detail related to personal experiences and events in their lives. You may have seen a TV interview with actress Merilu Henner, who has written a book about her unusual HSAMer ability. This type of memory appears not to focus on practiced mnemonic strategies or on calendrical calculations (used by some individuals with autism or savant syndrome). Rather, they rely on an automatic and often somewhat obsessive process linked to their own personal mental calendar.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Internet and Brain Stimulation

Did you know that brain-imaging studies suggest that for middle-aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power? According to Lead Researcher Dr. Gary Small at UCLA, internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function. A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Neurons

Did you know that both the brain and the body may be capable of generating new neurons? It has been reported for some time now that the adult brain is capable of generating new neurons. Researchers now hint that the adult heart may be able to perform a similar generation of new heart cells. This suggests that the body, under some circumstances, may be able to heal itself (at least at some level and for some period of time).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

True or False?

Have you ever wondered about the differences between actual and false memories? False memories do have characteristics that differentiate them from actual true memories. False memories generally have more of an observer perspective (as compared to a field perspective), less emotional intensity, less visual imagery, fewer details about the original event, and less information about the consequences that followed the event.

Sleep Spindles and Learning

How much sleep are you giving your brain on a regular basis? Sleep spindles (bursts of brain waves) appear to network between key regions of the brain to help shift fact-based memories from the brain’s hippocampus (with limited storage space) to the brain's "hard drive" in the prefrontal cortex (with virtually unlimited storage space). The result is that the hippocampus is freed up to take in more data. According to UC Berkeley’s Matthew Walker, a lot of spindle-rich sleep occurs in the second half of the night, so if you sleep six hours or less, you may have fewer sleep spindles and might not be able to learn as much.