Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brain Neuron Microtubles

Microtubules are major components of the structural skeleton of cells. They exist inside neurons in the human brain and are at the forefront of new research. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons may be related to EEG waves, memory, and consciousness, to name just a few.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Research on Autism is, fortunately, moving forward by leaps and bounds. New research from University of Toronto and Case Western Reserve University  neuroscientists  has pointed out that the brains of autistic children generate more information when the brain is at rest; 42% increase on average. The study offers a scientific explanation for the most typical characteristic of autism, a tendency to withdraw into one’s own inner world. The excess production of information may explain a child’s detachment from their environment. Published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics (open access), this study is a follow-up to the authors’ prior finding that brain connections are different in autistic children.

José L. Pérez Velázquez, Roberto F. Galán, Information gain in the brain's resting state: A new perspective on autism, Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, 2013, DOI: 10.3389/fninf.2013.00037 (open access)

 Zhan, Y. et al., Deficient neuron-microglia signaling results in impaired functional brain connectivity and social behavior, Nature Neuroscience, 2014, DOI: 10.1038/nn.3641

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teenage Brain

Many parents are complaining about how difficult it is to get the teenage brain up and going in the mornings. Really? Of course it's difficult. Teenage brains work two hours behind adult time. They get up later because they are biologically programmed to do so. Dr. Paul Kelly, author of Making Minds, says that continuous early starts create ‘teenage zombies’ and that allowing teenagers to begin lessons at 11am has a profound impact on learning. Rousing teenagers from their beds early results in abrupt mood swings, increased irritability, and may contribute to depression, weight gain, and reduced immunity to disease. Advances in brain-function information need to result in practical application--especially where teenagers are concerned.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Arguing and Hormonal Imbalances

Have you ever wondered the reason some people argue? Their tendence to argue can certainly be a stressor for those who interact with them. Hormonal specialist, Dr. Michael Borkin, points out that arguing impacts the stress hormone cortisol (arguing lowers the levels) as well as the lower range of blood sugar (arguing raises the lower levels – as opposed to insulin that impacts higher ranges of blood sugar levels). Some individuals trigger arguments because five minutes of negative interactions results in a six-hour decrease in cortisol levels. They are, in effect, self-medicating and tend to argue at 6am, 3pm, and 9pm. When hormonal imbalances are addressed, arguing tendencies may resolve. That's one reason to deal with hormonal imbalances--for yourself as well as for those around you..

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Multilingual Benefits

More and more studies are showing the benefits  of being multilingual, which even seem to impact one's rate of aging. When children are born into multilingual households, they learn all the languages to which they are regularly exposed. Infants can learn three or four languages or more. In the process of learning to speak, there are strong relationships between speech, song and music. Areas of the brain that are primarily concerned with music and language overlap considerably. A person’s native tongue even influences the way in which he or she perceives music. The same succession of notes may sound very different depending on the language the listener learned growing up.   Some suggest that children learn multiple languages more effectively when each parent selects one language in which to communicate with the children (e.g., Dad always speaks English, Mother always speak Russian; Mother always speaks English, Grandmother always speaks Spanish, Father always speaks Italian). This appears to impact both speed of learning and retention.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Exercise - Longer May Not Be Better

How much physical exercise do you really need? You definitely need some every day. How much time do you need to devote to physical exercise every day? Opinions differ. According to Dr. Borkin, studies have shown that physical exercise beyond 42.5 minutes can have a negative response on cortisol levels (cortisol is one of the stress hormones--you need some of it lp you manage stressors effectively; too much cortisol can cause all manner of havoc in the brain and body). Knowing this, Borkin recommends exercise for only 40 minutes at a time. If you want to do more, wait at least 20 minutes before restarting exercise. (Borkin, Michael, PhD. Sabre Sciences, IncTM. Lecture, January 2014)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Brain and education

According to Ken Robinson Sir, PhD, in Out of Our Minds, the purpose of education is to:

Develop individual talents and sensibilities
Deepen the student’s understanding of the world
Provide the skills required to earn a living and be economically productive.


The challenge now is to transform education systems into something better suited to the real needs of the 21st century. At the heart of this transformation there has to be a radically different view of human intelligence and of creativity.  

Friday, September 19, 2014


Recently I've had several questions about the importance of imagination, some from unenlightened adults who accuse children of "lying" when using their imagination (That happened to me as a child when I made the colossal error of telling some adults about my imaginary friend: Little John Deerfoot.)  In Out of Our Minds, the author explained the function of imagination this way:

"Imagination, the primary gift of human consciousness, is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses. Creativity is applied imagination, putting your imagination to work. Innovation is applied creativity, putting new ideas into practice. Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value."

Imagination can be honed or suppressed . . . honing it takes practice, which can begin very early in life as children "pretend" play . . .

(Robinson, Ken, Sir, PhD. Out of Our Minds. P 141-143, 151. NY:Capstone Publishing Ltd, 2001, 2011)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Power of "No"

The power of “no” is poorly understood. It's so poorly understood that I've written an article about it. There is a difference between the ability to use "no" powerfully and a negative mindset. Negativity is an ongoing attitude. NO is a moment of clear choice. It announces, however indirectly, something affirmative about you. Wielded wisely, “no” is an instrument of integrity and a shield against exploitation. It often takes courage to say. It is hard to receive. But setting limits sets us free. If you feel you can’t say no at least to some things, some of the time, then you are not being loved—you are being controlled. No is a shield. Therein lies its power. The ability to say no makes your yes much more meaningful. (Sills, Judith, PhD. “The Power of NO!” P 53-61. Psychology Today, November/December 2013)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


People sometimes say: "You keep talking about mindset; what's so big about mindset?"  Typically I reply: "Everything starts and ends in the brain." According to Dr. Dweck, there are two clear types of mindsets and the way in which you lead your life is profoundly impacted by the mindset you adopt for yourself. A fixed mindset (a belief that your qualities are set in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over); A growth mindset (a belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. It’s not that anyone can become anything but that one’s individual potential is unknowable and that it is impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training). The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving. You can change your mindset. (Dweck, Carol S., PhD. Mindset. Mindset. P 6-13. NY:Ballantine Books, 2006.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tactile Illusions

Most people are familiar with and often enjoy visual illusions. The kinesthetic sensory system has its own type of illusions. One type is known as tactile illusions. They relate to the sense of touch. I recall my mother (who loved to wear hats), removing her chapeau at the end of the day and then briefly touching her head with her hand. When I asked her the reason she touched her head she laughed and said, “For a moment it felt as if the hat was still on my head.” Some of you may have experienced a similar illusions. Here's another: Hold one hand in a pan of very cold water and place the other hand in a pan of quite hot water (not hot enough to get burned!). Hold them in this position for at least a minute or two. Now remove both hands and immediately submerge them in lukewarm water. If you’ve done this experiment, you likely found that the lukewarm water felt hot to the hand you had submerged in cold water while the lukewarm water felt cold to the hand you previously immersed in hot water. A tactile illusion.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wagon-Wheel Illusion

Most of you likely have observed the wagon-wheel illusion in real life. It is an optical illusion in which a wheel with spokes appears to rotate differently from its actual rotation. If you’ve not observed this, I like the example and explanation provided at the link below. Reportedly, the illusion was first noted during the playback of old movie films in which the wheels of a forward-moving vehicle appear to slow down or even roll backwards. Some have noticed this in recordings of helicopter rotors and aircraft propellers. The effect is said to be a result of temporal aliasing. It can also often be seen when a rotating wheel is illuminated by flickering light. These forms of the effect are known as stroboscopic; the original smooth rotation of the wheel is visible only intermittently.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Almonds, Heart, and Brain, #2

What does reducing your risk of heart disease have to do with brain function? A lot more than many people might think. First, your heart is responsible for circulating blood throughout the body—including to the brain—on a regular and timely basis. The blood brings oxygen, glucose, fluids, and micronutrients to the brain. The blood also removed waste products from the brain (ongoing housekeeping, if you will). Anything that interferes with the blood supply or with the quality of what it brings to the brain potentially can decrease brain function. And if you want to keep life in your years and live as many quality years as possible, it matters! Some are referring to almonds as a superfood. I eat a few raw or dry roasted almonds almost every day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Almonds, Heart, and Brain

Can almonds reduce the risk of heart disease? Apparently they can—according to a study led by Professor Helen Griffiths, Professor in Biomedical Sciences and Executive Dean of the School of Life and Health Science at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. The goal was to evaluate the effects of a short-term trial of eating almonds on reducing the risk of heart disease. A control group of healthy males ate what they would normally eat, the test group of males with cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure or being overweight ate snacks of 50 grams of almonds (slightly under two ounces; 1.76 ounces to be more precise) every day for one month. Did it make any difference? At the end of the study period, the test group showed higher blood-levels of antioxidants, lower blood pressure, and improved blood flow; all of which potentially reduce one’s risk of heart disease. Part 2, tomorrow.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fear vs Gratitude and Napa Quake

As you may know, the Napa Quake 6.0 left many with a mess to clean up. Friends of mine offered to drive out and go into my house with me to survey the damage. When I unlocked and pushed open the door and saw all the smashed glass and china and pressed alabaster statuary and blown out windows, I started trembling and felt tearful from the shock. That is a typical reaction to shock; the trembling muscles actually helps with the recovery (if someone doesn't realize this  the tendency is to try to get the person to "stop trembling,' which can interfere with the recovery). Within just a minute or two, however, my brain reminded me that "fear and gratitude cannot exist simultaneously within the brain. Recalling that, I immediately began to think of things for which to be grateful (e.g., we were all safe and uninjured, the house neither fell down nor burned up, my friends were helping me clean). Two minutes later I was no longer trembling or tearful and had energy to jump in and start the the process. I frequently say that brain-function information, practically applied, can be  life-changing. This was an opportunity to use the information--and it definitely gave me a positive outcome.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Gender Brain Differences, 5

I spoke recently at a parent-teacher meeting and described how empowering an apology can be, especially in a parent-child or teacher-student relationship, when you have learned new information that is prompting a change in your behavior. (No one can know everything so stop expecting that you do!) At the break, a small entourage approached me to say they thought ‘actions speak louder than words,’ and that no verbalization should be necessary, just a change in behavior. My brain has a different opinion. You are role-modeling not only a change in behavior based on something new you learned but also bringing it to the children’s/student’s conscious awareness so they know you are deliberately implementing your new knowledge in a change of behavior. After all, you can only do better when you know better. What do I say? “I regret telling you to put down your toys and be still while I read to you (or telling you to look at me when I’m talking to you). I have learned there is a better way and I want you to know I’m altering my behavior. You can play quietly with your toys while I read (or you never have to look at me while I’m talking to you).” Being intentional, in my brain’s opinion, usually includes some brief role-modeling verbalization about what you learned that is triggering your change in behavior.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gender Brain Differences, 4

Recently, a mother told me: “After listening to one of your presentations, I went back home and apologized to my 15-year-old son for telling him to stop fiddling and to look at me—for pretty much his whole lifetime--when I talk to him. He said, ‘Mom, when I fiddle with something I hear and really listen to every word you say. When you make me stop and be still and tell me to look at you, I shut down and don't remember a thing you say.’ My son and I both thank you. It’s been two days and our relationship is already better How come I didn’t know this sooner?” That’s one example of the reason I try to share current brain-function information with anyone in any way and anywhere I can. In this case, her son’s response does align with current research on differences between males and females. This is especially important when conversing with boys. It is often so much more effective to just sit down together, side by side, and chat while he is “doing” something. It can be as simple as playing with a Lego toy or running a little model car up and down his thighs or over the arm of the sofa or however an older boy wants to “fiddle.” Part 5 tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gender Brain Differences, 3

When conversing with each other, females often stand or sit directly across from each other and use a great deal of eye contact. Because they are so comfortable doing this, they have a tendency to tell males to “look at me when I’m talking to you.” When conversing with each other, males rarely stand or sit directly across from each other by choice, and use very little direct eye contact. This means that males often feel threatened by a female demanding that they look at her during a conversation. This is especially true during emotion-laden conversations. The take away? Females, stop telling males to look at you when you are talking with them. And as a basic rule, the more emotionally-laden the topic, the more useful it is for a male and a female to sit or stand side-by-side, rather than directly across from each other. Talking while doing something active, such as taking a walk or washing the dishes or weeding a garden patch can also be helpful, because the mutual activity functions as a de-stressor. Part 4 tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gender Brain Differences, 2

Females tend to connect with others through a conversation about emotions and feelings even before they actually become involved in an activity (e.g., how their day went, problems that cropped up, their feelings). Males tend to connect with others through jokes and teasing and find it easier to discuss facts (e.g., the weather, the stock market, the latest vehicle recall, and what happened with the latest vehicle or plane crash). They find it more difficult to verbalize emotions and feelings. What’s the take away? Know that your female friends will likely be comfortable talking about how they “feel” about something that has happened to them or that is going on in the world at the moment. Your male friends, on the other hand, likely will not and are more likely to be more comfortable talking about things, and data, and sharing jokes or teasing. Remember, females, most males rarely spend the time and energy teasing someone they really don’t like or sharing jokes with them. So if they tell you a joke or tease you (appropriately, of course), recognize they are trying to connect with you.  Part 3 tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brain Gender Differences

Did you know that Connectome studies have identified more than 100 “connection differences” between male and female brains? Misunderstood, these differences often lead to frustration, miscommunication, and even conflict. For example, males often want to “do” relationships rather than “talk them out.” Two males can spend the day doing an activity together (e.g., biking, hiking, fishing) and say little, if anything, to each other verbally. And when they get home, both perceive they had a great day. Females on the other hand, connect through conversation and just “doing” an activity without any conversation seems somehow less satisfying. What’s the take away? If females are with other females, there will likely be a lot of verbal conversation. When males are with other males, there will likely be very little verbal conversation. When a male and a female are doing something together, the male needs to converse more than he would if with another male, while the female needs to not expect as much conversation as she would have with another female. Part 2 tomorrow.