Monday, November 30, 2020

Taste & Smell

How well you taste is impacted by how well you "smell." What you perceive as taste is a complex interaction of tongue-tasting and nose-smelling. Chewing your food forces air up into your nose, which carries chemicals that trigger olfactory receptors. The olfactory receptors are distance chemoreceptors, meaning they do not have to make direct contact with the food itself. They pick up the chemical odors and translate them into electrical signals that travel to the brain via the nervous system. Together your taste buds and olfactory receptors notify the brain of what they are picking up and the sensation of ‘flavor’ is created. The gustatory cortex located near the back of the brain next to centers that control chewing and swallowing, decode taste. Estimates are that about 25% of the population are ‘supertasters.’ They have a heightened sense of taste, due in part to a higher density of taste buds and to subtle brain differences in how taste is decoded. As you enjoy your ability to smell and taste, thank the taste buds on your tongue, the olfactory receptors in your nose—and the decoding centers in your brain. Without them, your life would definitely be lacking in flavor. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Tongue & Taste

Can you tell me what part of my tongue “tastes” sweet versus sour? My granddaughter asked me that the other day and I couldn’t answer the question. I told her I’d ask you.

No, I cannot answer her question, per se. You may tell her, however, that apparently the tongue appears not to be divided into specific and discrete taste sections as was once believed. Put a bit of sugar or salt on different sections of your tongue and your taste buds can pick up their chemicals anywhere. What can impact your taste? Colds, flu, allergies, or anything that makes your nose stuffy, which reduces the flow of chemicals to your olfactory receptors. Smoking can reduce the number of taste buds you have on your tongue, which can reduce taste intensity. So can the aging process. As you grow older your taste buds may not get replaced properly. An older person may only have 5,000 working taste buds instead of 8,000-10,000, which can impact the intensity of flavors. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020


This year there will only be two of us for Thanksgiving dinner in the USA. I’m struggling to find something for which to be thankful. It’s been such a stressful year!

 My little French Grandmother used to say, “When you think there is nothing to be thankful for, that is the time to choose to be grateful about something.” In the main, she practiced that, too. Neurobiologically, gratitude is right up there with awe and wonder and the benefits are myriad. Doctors have pointed out that when you pause to appreciate and show caring and compassion, the more order and coherence you experience internally. When your heart is in an ‘internal coherence state,’ studies suggest that you enjoy the capacity to be peaceful and calm yet retain the ability to respond appropriately to stressful circumstances. So what makes Thanksgiving Day more unique than any other day? Think of it as being dedicated to reminding us to be grateful. On this day I pause to be specifically grateful for those individuals who love me enough to give me quality time throughout the year by phone, text, email, snail mail—and sometimes in person (how deliciously rewarding). I refer to them as my ‘family-of-choice’ because a gift of time is a personal choice. It is the only thing your brain can give another brain that no one else can. For quality time I am truly grateful. And even in the midst of the chaos of 2020, quality time can be by zoom, phone, email, text—and sometimes in person . . .  Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, my wish for you is that you both give and receive the gift of ‘quality time.’ 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Tasting "Tastes"

Taste buds replace themselves every 10-14 days so you can become accustomed to new foods quite quickly, if you choose to do so. Taste buds are able to sense five distinct tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami or savory. Each on is linked to specific chemicals in foods. Generally, most human beings find salty, sweet, and umami foods quite pleasant. Sour and bitter tastes may register as being rather unpleasant. Three cranial nerves are responsible for carrying the chemicals that your taste buds pick up from food to the brain. Taste is ultimately decoded as flavor in the brain (not in the taste buds)

 The facial nerve carries signals from the front two-thirds of the tongue

 The glossopharyngeal nerve transmits signals from the back portion of the tongue

 The vagus nerve conveys signals from the soft palate and epiglottis

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Taste in Your Brain

You “taste” because of messages that are sent to the brain from your taste buds, where they are decoded. Each taste bud, formed from a group of 50–150 receptor cells, is embedded in the surface of the tongue and makes contact with what you eat and drink via a taste pore. Different tongues have differing numbers of taste buds, ranging from 8,000-10,000 on average. Some individuals may have only a few hundred taste buds per square centimeter on the tip of their tongue, while others may have a thousand. Taste sensations produced within an individual taste bud also vary, since each taste bud typically contains receptor cells that respond to distinct chemical stimuli. This means that differing tastes are diverse in a single taste bud. Taste buds have sensitive microscopic hairs called microvilli that are direct chemoreceptors. They must come into contact with food and then they translate chemical signals in food into electrical signals that travel to the brain via the nervous system. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Brain & Taste

I’m looking forward to the tastes and smells that mean Thanksgiving day, but I don’t really understand how they impact each other. I know that when I have a stuffy nose I cannot smell well . . .

Your brain and body is absolutely amazing, although it can be easy to take for granted what they do for you on a daily basis. There are miracles going on in your brain and body every second of your life. Taste and smell are two of them. As you look ahead to the holidays, anticipation of familiar foods may come to mind. Taste and smell are two senses that not only are quite complex but also have a major impact on behavior, perception, obesity, dementia, depression, overall health, memories, and some chronic illnesses. No surprise, they also influence your enjoyment of a great many things including the romantic impact of your partner along with the pleasure you receive from foods and beverages. Taste and smell work together hand-in-hand to create flavors in the brain. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

You don't say!

If you can smile when things go wrong, you may have someone in mind to blame.


I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they're flashing behind you.


Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local community swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.


If I had a dollar for every girl that found me unattractive, they'd eventually find me attractive.


I changed my password to ‘incorrect’ so whenever I forget it the computer will say, "Your password is incorrect."


I'm great at multi-tasking; I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.


Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. Artificial intelligence is often fixable; stupidity is not.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Brain Pain

In some ways—as far as the brain is concerned—‘pain is pain.’ You may have heard yourself or others describe experiences of social rejection as being painful. The question has been whether such descriptions are more metaphorical than physical. Researchers have been studying if there is something really ‘painful’ about social pain and the experience of rejection or exclusion. Accumulating evidence is showing that social pain—the painful emotional experience that tends to follow social rejection, exclusion, or loss—relies on some of the same neural circuitry that is involved in processing physical pain. Not only that, social pain activates portions of the same brain regions and circuits that are activated by physical pain. According to Tor Wagner PhD at the University of Colorado in Boulder and lead author of a study on physical pain versus social pain, “Of all the things I’ve observed in the brain, nothing is more similar to physical pain than social pain.” Discoveries in Italy by neuroscientists Dr. Giorgia Silani and colleagues have found that social pain activates the same brain regions as occurs with physical pain (a broken heart may register and hurt in the brain as much as a broken bone, and social pain can be felt again and again long after a physical pain has healed). Simply witnessing the social pain of another person activated a similar physical pain response of empathy in most study participants.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Brain & Social Pain

Holidays can be a mixed bag, often a combination of joy and pain. Some time ago brain researchers identified regions in the brain that appear to register physical pain. More recently, scientists have been studying social pain and its fingerprint in the brain. There are many different types of social pain, such as: being the recipient of bullying behaviors; illness or death of someone you care about deeply; a romantic break-up or a relational breach between you and someone you thought was a good friend; rejection due to gender, race, culture, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation; a sense of not fitting in for any number of reasons; separation due to serving in the armed forces, being excluded from social activities or connections you wanted to experience; and the distress of separation exhibited and experienced by the young (children as well as animals). No doubt you can think of other examples. Researchers have concluded from the study results that social pain activates similar brain circuits whether you are suffering the emotional pain personally or experiencing the pain as an empathetic response to another person's social pain.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Empathy or Not


I am dating someone who says, "I have no empathy. Do not expect any from me." Do some people really have no “empathy.” Is that possible?

 The online Free Dictionary describes ‘empathy’ as the ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another's emotional state. No surprise, some mental conditions such as antisocial personality disorder tend to be characterized by callousness, little if any remorse, manipulation of others, and lack of empathy. Can this be seen in brain scans? fMRI studies at the University of Chicago Department of Psychology revealed that the brains of individuals with antisocial personality disorder may be wired differently. fMRI results showed that these brains can be very sensitive to the thought of their own pain but the physical or social pain of others did not register as it did in the brains of individuals without this mental disorder. In addition, researchers found that when imagining others experiencing physical or social pain, the brains of those with an antisocial personality disorder tended to show an increased response in a brain region known to be involved in the perception of pleasure. This is yet another reason to learn to recognize brain pathology as quickly as possible and take steps to protect yourself and be safe.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Brain & Zeigarnik Effect


Sometimes I hear the same song or part of a song over and over in my brain. It drives me nuts!

It is not just you. Others have reported hearing a song replaying itself over and over in their head. A Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik (1900-1988) reportedly first described what is now known as the Zeigarnik Effect in her doctoral thesis in 2917, which may help to explain that. It is a tendency for the brain to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than those that have been completed. In a similar way, you may have found yourself thinking again and again about some task that is only partly done and you know you need to finish it. Back to the song replaying endlessly inside your head. What can you do? If you know the song well enough, repeat or sing or hum the last verse or the last chorus and immediately choose to think about something else. This sends a signal to your brain that the song (the task) is finished and it is time to move on to something else. There have been times I had to repeat this action two or three times but it usually works—my brain moves on to something else.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Brain & Petrichor


It is possible to tell if rain is coming just by smell? My neighbor says it is but it sounds weird to me!”

Reportedly some brains can. If there is lightening, ozone may be present and may be carried down from the clouds. There are several scents associated with rainfall that many enjoy—if their brain can decode odors. As it falls, rain—being water—is odorless. But when it hits the earth, something happens. What people find pleasing about rain is due, at least in part, to something called petrichor. Actually, the word petrichor was coined by two Australian scientists in 1964 when they were studying the smells of wet weather. The word is a combination of the Greek word petra, meaning stone, and ichor, that comes from Greek mythology, the fluid that supposedly flowed in the veins of the gods. The odor known as petrichor tends to linger when rain comes after a long dry spell. The scientists found that an oil is released by some plants during dry periods and is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. When it rains, the oil is released into the air along with some other compounds. Interestingly, light rain tends to produce more aerosols.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Creeped out" & Unreliability

A common red flag of “creepiness” is unreliability. You might want to pay attention to that. Genuine friendships tend to be reliable. That doesn’t mean that situations never crop up that require a change of plans. It does mean that those instances are rare and usually due to a good reason: your mother was just admitted to the hospital with a heart attack or your beloved pet just died or the plane is grounded somewhere in Canada due to a blizzard or your car has gone missing from a handicapped parking spot in broad daylight no less. By all means be open to developing new friendships but take your time and do so reflectively, deliberately, wisely, and judiciously. When in doubt, back off and observe for a while. Your brain is your greatest resource and interested ally—it really does want the best for both of you and tries to get your attention and give you information by triggering emotions. Meantime enjoy your connections with tried and true friends, who give your brain no red flags. By chance if you are the one exhibiting red-flag messages, take a long hard look at yourself and choose to develop healthier and more functional behaviors. The holiday season can be a great opportunity to practice and hone them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"Creeped out" Red Flags

Providing you with red-flag cues that another person may be ‘creepy’ is a function of fear, one of three protective emotions. It is designed to alert you to the fact that you may be in danger, providing you with information to process as you consider whether or not you really want to get to know the individual better or choose to back away—perhaps sooner than later. Some behaviors seem to align with giving off an impression of ‘creepiness’ although your brain may try to alert you without your having directly witnessed overt negative behaviors. Poor hygiene can be a red flag; the person lacking good self-care or seeming uncaring about the impression they make on others. Then there is getting a dead-pan stare or not being looked at all. Inappropriate touching is another. Unpredictability can be another. One moment they are cheerful and pleasant and the next they are moody and silent. One minute they are all over you and the next you are completely ignored as if you have ceased to exist. One second you are chatting and the next they are phubbing you; checking out of the conversation in favor of checking in with their cell phone, just in case they might have a call. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Signals of "Creeped out"

Being "creeped out" is something to pay attention to and analyze. It is likely the brain’s way of getting you to pay more attention to something that could turn out to be a threat. My work with women who had been date-raped revealed that often they had some sense of dis-ease with the person or felt something was a bit ‘off’—and they ignored it or tried to rationalize it away. Estimates are that your brain is capable of receiving and decoding up to 10 million bits of sensory data per second—far more than you are capable of processing at a level of conscious awareness. It tries to get your attention when it picks up something it believes you need to become aware of and process. It is usually wise to avoid dismissing such reactions or responses out of hand. Pay attention even when you cannot specifically define the reason you are experiencing the sensation. Some even have described their reaction as “feeling momentarily cold, almost like having a chill.” The brain picks up millions of data points per second as it scans the background environment, as it were. You could not concentrate on anything if you were trying to decode and understand all those sensory stimuli. There can be many reasons for the brain perceiving that something is ‘off.’ When it does, however, the only way it can get your attention is by surfacing one of the core protective emotions in the hope that you ‘listen up.’

Monday, November 9, 2020

“Creeped out” & the Brain

The other day my friend said she felt “creeped out.” Is there such a thing and, if so, have there been any studies about it?

The first empirical study on the common psychological experience of feeling creeped out (that I am aware of) was conducted by Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke of the Department of Psychology, Knox College, Galesburg, IL. The article “On the Nature of Creepiness” was published in New Ideas in Psychology, March 2016. The researchers propose that creepy is a qualitatively different characteristic as compared with concepts such as being terrified or disgusted. In those situations the conclusions drawn about the person in question are much more clear-cut. Rather it may be related to the brain’s agency-detection mechanisms. Some study conclusions were:

 Individuals perceived as creepy are more likely to be males

Some occupations and hobbies are more strongly linked with creepiness than others (with clowns leading the list)

Females are more likely to perceive sexual threat from an individual perceived as creepy

The trait of unpredictability is an important component of creepiness

Friday, November 6, 2020

20:80 Rule & Balance

I like what you have been writing about homeostasis or balance. It is helpful. I have been endeavoring to live the 20:80 Rule and it is VERY helpful. Would that help with balance?

Absolutely, in my brain’s opinion. For those who may have missed the blogs on it, the 20:80 Rule comes from the 2nd Century philosopher, Epictetus. He taught that when you are confronted with a stressor and experience distress, remember that only 20 percent of the distress you are experiencing has anything to do with the event. 80 percent has to do with the weight you are giving to the event, its level of perceived importance in your life, and how you are viewing it. This means that when you cannot avoid the event, you can have 20 percent of the negativity impact you. However, you can do everything about the 80 percent because your brain creates our perceptions. Living the 20:80 Rule can help you avoid giant pendulum swings that push you from one extreme to the other. Not only can it help you minimize negative consequences to your brain and body from stressors, but it can also help you keep a balanced perspective when confronted with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Allow it to enable you to laugh at the vagaries of life—with a sense of humor and style all your own—and thrive by design. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Tips on Balance


 Stop majoring in minors. Identify what is major and focus on that. Let the rest, the minor stuff, go.

 Destress with brain breathing, the Quieting Reflex, music, or other strategy that works for your brain and body

     Get your mindset and self-talk in line to maximize your available energy

 Decide if you choose to be at the beck and call to whomever decides they want you for something—now. Choose how available you will be with the world at large.

 Take time to reflect, play, and have fun—life goes by faster than you might think

 Be intentional and balanced about social media—avoid allowing it to eat up valuable time every day. Studies suggest that those who spend the most time each day social media tends to be more anxious and less happy and satisfied with life.

 Go for the gold—Balance!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Tell Your Brain What You Want it to Do

The brain works best in balance. Period. But it can only do what it thinks it can do and your mindset and self-talk convey to it what it can do. Be intentional. Tell it what you want it to help you do. Following are some things to consider.

 Simplify and stop trying to keep up with anyone else—it’s your life, your energy, and your longevity

 Shut off all electronics an hour before bedtime (unless you must specifically be ‘on call’) or wear glasses that block blue light waves—they keep the brain alert

 Keep all electronics out of your bedroom as studies show they can impact your sleep even when the devices are shut down.

Let your phone go to voice mail during mealtimes; disable work email when on a holiday or at least check it only once or twice a day for brief periods. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

No One Gets it All

In life, you always give up something to get something. And when you give something up you get something else. That mindset is what helps keep you and life in balance. Awareness is the first step on the ladder of positive change. You can only manage what you can bring to conscious awareness, label, and describe. Become more aware of the way you are living your life and whether or not it is in balance. You can help prevent burnout or get back in balance by looking at the big picture and deciding what is most important at this stage of your life. Set your priorities and stick to them by working smarter and not harder, by saying ‘no’ when you have reached your capacity (and know what that is). An increase in conscious awareness could pay huge dividends to enhance your health, wellbeing, and balance. When something new comes into your life (a baby, hobby, or friend) be willing and proactive about giving something up (e.g., a museum-quality home environment, or doing all the house and yard work yourself). You can take charge of your life and pull your own strings, or you can allow yourself to be manipulated like a puppet. Pulling your own strings is the best way to stay in balance. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Times--They are A-changing

It is no longer life as your grandparents knew it. It is not even life as hour parents knew it. You live on a planet that is now frantic with technologies, frenetic with challenges, and filled with inconsistencies and instability. Some technologies are helpful; some not so much. Inconsistencies and instability? Just watch the news if you dare keeping doing that to our brain and emotions. Your brain is exposed to and receives thousands of times more information and stimuli than brains received only a scant generation ago. Unless you are vigilant, the ever-increasing stimuli your brain receives can push its functions off balance. It has been said that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Yeah, maybe, but only if you keep your life in balance. If you don’t, you may end up hating what you once loved. No one is immune to burnout. It can creep up on you stealthily, especially when you keep adding tasks and activities without dropping others. Live in balance. Down the line that can help you avoid lamenting that you forgot to ‘smell the roses’ or failed to spend quality time with good friends and family, or spent way too much time on the job.