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Let's Get Sweaty Baby

She Blinded Me With Science made it to No. 8 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1982. It was written and recorded by Thomas Dolby, whose real name was Thomas Robertson. Robertson had become so skilled with recording equipment and the like that his friends nicknamed him Dolby, for the rather more famous noise reduction and sound reproduction company Dolby Laboratories.

Brain Science This post is pretty “sciency”, hence that introduction. Three brain factoids to set the stage: ·One part of the brain is the hippocampus, which we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts. It is part of the limbic system and plays an essential part in the formation of new memories and is involved in learning. ·Neuroplasticity is a term that means that the brain can change-or be “plastic” into adulthood. One of the most important things we’ve learned in recent times is that the brain is “plastic” in adulthood. That is, it can grow, remain healthy, make new nerve connections and so on. Not that long ago, the prevailing theo…
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Get REM Sleep; Manage Fear

A good night’s sleep may help you manage fear and risks better.

A study just posted in Journal of Neuroscience describes the importance of a good night’s sleep to controlling strong emotions, especially fear. Previous studies in this area attempted to discover what happens in the brain after a frightful experience.  These prior studies, for example, show how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects sleep. A team at the Rutgers University Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, led by Itamar Lerner, has taken a different approach. They wanted to see if there is a relationship between adequate sleep and prevention or management of the brain’s reaction to subsequent stressful events. Research Team Lerner is a Postdoctoral Fellow in sleep research. Along with fellow researchers Neha Sinha-also doing Postdoctoral research-in her case in brain imaging, Shira Lupkin and Alan Tsai, they used new technology that allows mobile tracking of sleep habits over a period of time, not j…

Sugary Drinks, Diet Soda & Your Brain

Soda can make you stupid, or worse.
Sometimes we find research reports on brain health that are sobering. There was a rather spooky one we just read. But we also discovered one that is positive. Here’s the tough medicine first. Artificial Sweeteners May Be Bad For You Here’s the punch line: “Daily diet soda drinkers three times more likely to develop stroke and dementia compared to those who don’t”. You might have seen that headline before. It drew a lot of publicity. Now, remember your statistics class: correlation doesn’t mean causation. Just because the years that skirt hemlines go up are also years that the stock market goes up doesn’t mean short skirts cause the stock prices to increase. It could be that other things diet soda drinkers do – or don’t do- is the reason they are more likely to have a stroke or get dementia. Here’s a link to a summary of the research if you want to read more. The research was done by a team from Boston University, led by a professor of neurology. They us…

Will Working Puzzles and Playing Strategy Games Preserve Your Brain?

If you do it right, puzzles and games might just save your brain. There are millions of players of strategy games, memory games, word games and puzzles. They want to know that working crosswords, solving sudoku, playing bridge, mahjong or chess will help preserve mental acuity. Some are counting on it.

Cognitive Reserve Cognitive reserve is the term developed after researchers found instances of examination of the brains of individuals that showed signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but, while alive, the individual had exhibited no signs of dementia.  We want to build cognitive reserve, and there is evidence that puzzles can do that. One key-and positive-study from 2011 found that solving crossword puzzles delayed onset of memory loss by 2.5 years, and may have had much longer beneficial impact. NIH Research The National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research funded a study on brain-training and cognition. That study is related-admittedly indirectly-to…

Did You Know You Have An Inner Executive? Show It Some Love

Your brain has an Executive Function. Executive function is the scientific term for our ability to organize activity, learn from past experiences, make plans, solve problems and work puzzles.
Some ScienceAmong the areas in the brain involved in executive function are the medial frontal cortex and the lateral prefrontal cortex. Robert M.G. Reinhart PhD and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Boston University notes that those two areas control most of the executive function. He calls these areas “the alarm bell of the brain”. Reinhart is the Director of the Visual Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston University and, among other area of brain research, has been studying ways to employ electrical stimulation to improve performance in learning and self-control.
“If you make an error, this brain area fires. If I tell you that you make an error, it also fires. If something surprises you, it fires,” says Reinhart.
More Science
Kimberly Luu, currently doing graduate studies at the University of W…

We're Fat as Hell and It's Killing Us

Tuesday, the CDC reported that being overweight or obese is associated with higher risk of 13 different cancers. They put it into perspective with two additional pieces of data: first, two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and second, in 2014, there were 630,000 diagnoses of those forms of cancer in the U.S. That is, there were 630,000 cases of the kinds of cancer associated with being overweight. Over a third of Americans are obese. Now, that’s not someone’s judgement call. That is a statistical finding, based on studies of body mass index (BMI). Here's the formula for BMI so that you can calculate it for yourself. You may want to convert your height and weight into meters; some of the formulas I’ve found use the metric system. Here's a converter for inches into meters.
A friend of mine said he is writing a three-hundred-page book on diet. On one page it has “Eat Less”. The facing page has “Exercise More”, for all three hundred pages. There is no mystery here. We kno…

She Squats Bro

The research team of Dr. Claire J. Steves, Dr. Ted Spector and others at Kings College in London are doing some amazing research on aging (and other important research as well). Much of that examines aging effects on the brain. One of the research studies involved exercise and cognitive decline. Here is a quote from that research: “A striking protective relationship was found between muscle fitness (leg power) and both 10-year cognitive change… and subsequent total grey matter”. In other words, the women with better leg strength and fitness showed less cognitive decline as they aged.
As we continue to note, the link between physical fitness, exercise and so on to maintaining a healthy brain is well known. And, we’ve seen studies where older adults improved cognition with dancing, which obviously requires use of leg muscles. (See Dance Your *** Off; Grow a Bigger Brain). But this is the first I recall where leg muscles in particular were noted, and the first where a muscle group is sho…