Friday, September 29, 2017

Sleep and Brain Work

Results of the new study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, suggests that during sleep the brain is cleared of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., leader of the study. Not only is sleep important for storing memories, it may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules. It appears that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system opens, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. Glial cells help control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, through the glymphatic system by shrinking or swelling. Since this appears to happen only during sleep, it highlights the critical importance of sleep in clearing the brain of toxins.

Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.” Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Brain, Sleep, and Toxins, 2

Researchers measured how long the dye lasted in the brain when the mice were asleep versus awake. They found that the dye flowed rapidly through mice brains when the mice were unconscious, either asleep or anesthetized. In contrast, the dye barely flowed when the same mice were injected with labeled beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain. “These results may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders,” said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. It also suggests a new role for sleep and may highlight the critical importance of sleep for prevention as well as healthy on-going brain care. “We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brain, Sleep, and Toxins

Researchers say that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. In a new study funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH, researchers tested how these toxins are cleared from the brain. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. To determine whether the glymphatic system controls this process, researchers initially injected dye into the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) of mice and watched it flow through their brains while simultaneously monitoring electrical brain activity. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brain and More Sleep, 2

Estimates are that the brain uses about 20-25 percent of the body’s total fuel consumption (even though the brain is about two percent of your total weight). What does it use this energy for, what does it do with it? According to Matthew Edlund, MD, in The Power of Rest, “most of the time and energy the brain uses is spent “talking to itself.” He references work by Neuroscientist Marcus Raichle, reported in an article in Science magazine (“The Brain’s Dark Energy”). He used the metaphor of dark energy because so much of what the brain does is unknown. In fact, Dr. Raichle estimates that between 60-80 percent of the brain’s total energy consumption is used communicating between individual neurons and their support cells. It would be fascinating to know exactly what they are saying to each other.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Brain and More Sleep

No doubt you’re familiar with the statistics that suggest 20 hours without sleep and your brain is likely functioning as a brain would that has reached the legal limit of alcohol intoxication. Studies also show that the sleep deprived brain often things it is “doing just fine, thank you very much,” when in fact is it not doing very well at all. Conclusions of research related to ‘accidents,’ vehicular as well as equipment, suggest that lack of sleep played a part in many of them. Each brain has an optimum sleep requirement. Mine is between 8-9 hours depending on how much challenging mental work my brain is doing, since it may take longer to recover from mental work as compared with physical work. What happens during sleep? More tomorrow.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Brain and Sleep

Generally I am very careful about giving my brain the sleep it needs. Recently I was meeting a deadline for some musical compositions and got only six hours of sleep one night instead of 9 (the amount my brain seems to need). The next day my brain was not firing efficiently on all cylinders. I misplaced my car keys, sent a computer file twice instead of two separate files, and included the same illustrations in two different chapters in my latest manuscript. It would be humorous if not so pathetic! In addition, I was scheduled to record musical interludes for insertion between chapters of one of my audio books. My executive producer—whose brain is wonderfully creative and one of my favorites on this planet—managed to get me through recording the last 8 selections—but it was like slogging through hot thick tar instead of swimming in Caribbean seas—fortunately he is a very patient man. I went to bed very early that night!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TV and Affirmations

 How much television you watch on a daily basis? First of all, watching TV is a 'passive picturing' activity. Your brain is just processing what other brains created. Second, I've been hard put to count very many 'affirming' comments on the average program. What you 'put in' your brain tends to 'put out.'  One reported daily average in the United States is 4 hours of TV viewing per day; 3 hours a day in Australia. Mostly I watch some TV when the Olympics are playing. I love to watch brains do their thing in real time. Four hours a day? Never! Recently I ran across the results of a six-year study of 8,800 Australian men and women (over age 25 with no history of heart disease) that was reported in the journal Circulation. Those who watched more than 4 hours of TV a day had an 80% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease over the 6-year time period as compared with people who watched 2 hours or less each day. The bottom line conclusion of the study? Too much TV is bad for your health. You may want to check out an article by Mark Stibich, PhD, on the topic.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Children Believe . . .

Studies have shown that children believe what they are told. If they didn’t, likely the customs of Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and others would gradually die away. Children also believe what they hear people say about them and directly to them. I certainly did! I not only believed it but also acted on it for way too long! In reality, however well-meant (or not), each brain only has its own opinion and can only share that opinion—unless it purports to share something it got from another brain. Because I became so clear about this, I now often preface a remark with, “My brain’s opinion is . . .” or “I am happy to share my brain’s opinion with you. . .” I encourage every brain to go through a similar type of exercise to avoid blindly following someone else’s script that may have little if anything to do with their own brain.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Childhood Programming

As I was working on my latest manuscript “I Chose Hope—and that Made the Difference,” it became clear that my journey toward discoveryto viewing my life in color rather than in black and whitereally began when I decided to go back in memory and recall and identify to the best of my ability what I’d heard and had been told during childhood: what I’d heard people say about me and what individuals had directly said to me (verbally or nonverbally) about who I was or was not, what I was or was not capable of doing, what I could or could not pursue in terms of options, and whether I would likely be successful or unsuccessful. Metaphorically, “start reading the script that was handed to me at birth (if not before). What I uncovered was a bit disconcerting because it became clear that for whatever reason, I had “believed” what I had heard and had been told. I had internalized their words to represent genuine and absolute truth—rather than perceiving that what they thought was only their brain’s opinion based on their own learning and life experience. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Choose Close Friends Carefully

In life it is critically important to select your friends carefully for any number of reasons. Studies have shown that you become the average of the four or five people with whom you spent the most time. Studies have also shown that within a period of two or three years, you have an increased risk for picking up the behavioral patterns of those same individuals. This is especially true in relations to smoking, eating, obesity, exercising, and happiness, etc.. Take obesity, for example. Researchers have discovered that people whose close friends were obese were fifty-seven percent more likely to become obese, as well—and obesity is associated with more than 50 diseases including dementia. This doesn’t mean that you “will” mimic their behaviors but that it is more likely that this will happen—you have an increased risk.” Part of this susceptibility may be due to mirror neurons in your pre-frontal cortex ‘firing’ as you watch other do a behavior. Part is likely due to the conversations you have with those friends and what you hear them say to themselves and to others.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aphorisms, 13

  • This too shall pass; it might pass like a kidney stone but it will pass
  • Life takes you to unexpected places—love brings you home
  • To those who know they are loved, a kind word is a morsel; to those who are love-starved, a kind word is a banquet
  • Love is all around you but you may miss it unless you open your heart and look for it
  • Help your brain enjoy the rewards of driving its own vehicle: your brain
  • It’s far easier to be rude to words on a screen than rude to a face—either way you can’t take them back
  • Play ‘till the end—miracles still happen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Crafting Affirmations

“But I do not know what words to use!” is a comment I sometimes hear. As far as I know, there is no encyclopedia of “perfect affirmations.” By staying aware of what you tell yourself and listening to the style used by others when giving directions, it becomes easier and easier to recognize effective versus ineffective styles. I ask myself, “Do the words create a one-step picture or do they create a two-step picture that requires the brain to change the first picture into something else?” I was discussing Dr. Wegner’s work with a group of college freshman and said, “Don’t think about the white bear.” One of those college brains said, “Okay that tells me what not to do. What do you want me to do?” Another brain said, “Think about a brown bear.” The first brain asked, “Is that what you want me to think about? A brown bear?” It was such a clear example of unclear instructions.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brain Susceptibility

Your brain is susceptible to what others say about you and may even record that (along with what you say to and about yourself) in the same place in the brain—so it is important to protect your brain (insofar as it is possible to do so) from negative input. Children are less able to do that. Consequently it is critical to evaluate what you were told about yourself and what you heard others say about yourself—or you may be risk for believing them. What they said was only their brain’s opinion but if you believed them if could derail your success or even influence you not to do something that your brain could be very good at doing. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Three Caveats

Your brain can only do what it thinks it can do—and you are the one who tells it what it can do.

Your brain believes what you tell it and then does everything it can to make what you are saying to and about yourself happen.

If you think you can or you think you can’tyou’re right.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Some are frightened by the term affirmations as they think it involves some type of self-fulfilling prophecy or is part of the law of attraction, so called, or are scarily powerful. Affirmations are powerful. You may have heard of the Pygmalion effect (named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion), the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. It is also known as the Rosenthal effect (named for Dr. Robert Rosenthal, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UC Riverside and arguably the expert on self-fulfilling prophecy. Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson believed a study they did supported the hypothesis that reality can be positively or negatively influenced by the expectations of others, called the observer-expectancy effect—arguing that biased expectancies could affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies. The corollary to the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect is the Golon effect: the phenomenon whereby low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. [Rosenthal, Robert; Jacobson, Lenore (1992). Pygmalion in the classroom (Expanded ed.)] 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flattery vs Affirmations

“When I try to be affirming,” one person told me, “my words come across as flattery and that’s embarrassing.” Understand that affirmations and flattery reside on different planets. Flattery can be described as insincere and excessive praise, compliments, or adulation—given to further one's own interests or advance one’s own goals or manipulate another into agreeing to something they might not otherwise do. It involves using complimentary words to obtain what one wants, as in an attempt to initiate a romantic or sexual encounter or to obtain a financial or social advantage. Think of flattery as Most associations with flattery are negative—even in history. Dante reportedly thought flattery was so offensive that he compared flattering words to human excrement. Now that’s quite a mental picture! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Talking to Others, Cont’d

Visiting in a home recently, a couple 3-year olds (a girl and a boy) were playing with large blow-up balls about 18 inches in diameter. There were at least 4 balls, but the energetic and typically active little boy was trying to grab all the balls. Each time the little girl got one, he took it from her, which triggered her tears. “Don’t take her ball,” the mother kept saying. The little boy kept taking it. His mother’s voice rose in volume. No behavioral change. I suggested she say, “Give one ball to the little girl.” She looked at me like I was from another planet, rolled her eyes, and then said, “Give one ball to the little girl.” Immediately, the little boy walked over and handed the little girl a ball, and returned to playing with the other three. The mother looked like she actually might faint on the spot. Her son had followed the picture her words created in his brain.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Talking to Others

This new self-talk style applies not only to personal self-talk, it can also apply to addressing others, children especially. “Don’t forget your homework” is less effective than “Joan, remember your homework.” “Don’t be late to fencing class,” is less helpful than “Jay, be on time to your fencing class.” It this self-talk style a guarantee of 100% compliance? Of course not. However, it can rather dramatically increase the likelihood of success, because the new self-talk style is a 1-step process. What you say creates the picture you want your brain to follow. Some individuals were attempting to walk on a 2x4 raised a few inches off the ground. A group of friends started chanting “Don’t fall, don’t fall,” and about 85% of the time the individual stepped off the 2x4 from picturing ‘falling.’ The reverse was also true. Words such as, “Put your arms out. Balance. Stay on the 2x4,” resulted in success about 85% of the time.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Effective Self-Talk Styles

Used correctly, affirmations can be very effective. Telling yourself: “Don’t forget to go by the cleaners,” is less effective than “_____, remember to stop at the cleaners on your way home.” Instructing your brain: “Don’t be scared to make that presentation,” is less helpful than saying “_____, you are presenting in a way that the audience finds interesting.” Moaning to yourself: “I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t be successful” is a recipe for disaster compared to saying: “_____, you are doing this project. You are successful. You are having fun.” Rehearsing, “I’m not pretty enough—or smart enough, or handsome enough, or loveable enough,” programs your brain for negativity. However, telling your brain you can jump off the Eiffel Tower in Paris and fly just by waving your arms and thinking you can is not genuine, realistic, or doable. If something is possible to do, however, affirmations can program your brain to put its best foot forward and its shoulder to the proverbial wheel—and help you accomplish it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Benefits of New Self-Talk Style

The researchers and independent evaluators found that the participants who used their ‘first name’ and ‘you’ had less anxiety, were more confident (_____, you can do this), performed better, perceived less shame for making mistakes, and experienced less social anxiety not only before the event but also afterward in post-event processing, when people tend to chew over their performance and find themselves lacking. This self-talk style depersonalizes things slightly, more objectively directs your brain to accomplish what you want to do, and empowers you to view as a challenge what others see as a threat. According to Dr. Kross, the distance gained by using your ‘given name’ and the pronoun ‘you’ confers a type of wisdom and resolves what he dubs King Solomon’s paradox: people often reason more wisely about the social problems of others than they do about their own. First-name self-talk shifts the focus away from the self; it allows people to transcend their inherent egocentrism and fear—and that helps to make them as smart in thinking about themselves as they typically are about others.