They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn’t stick very long.
For the record I wrote a post on that damaging cliche about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can read it here – Of cats and dogs and cliches ….
Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.
Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956. Continue reading
Music is one of the great joys of my life. I have a bluetooth speaker on my bike and I listen to music on my daily rides. My iPhone has about 15 gigabytes of jazz, classics and classic rock so I have the entire spectrum available. Consuming music, however, is not the same as producing it.
Different processes occur in the brains of jazz and classical pianists while playing the same piece of music, researchers report in Neuroscience News.
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: “No, that’s hilarious. […] It’s like a chosen practically impossible thing […] It’s [because of] the circuitry. Your system demands different circuitry for either of those two things.” Where non-specialists tend to think that it should not be too challenging for a professional musician to switch between styles of music, such as jazz and classical, it is actually not as easy as one would assume, even for people with decades of experience.
Herewith more good news on the connection between exercise and mental capacity. Eat less; move more; live longer – and maybe think better.
A 10-minute, one-time burst of exercise can measurably boost your brain power, at least temporarily, researchers at Western University in London, Canada, have found.
While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, or following commitment to a long-term (24-week) exercise program, this research suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us problem-solve and focus.
“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said Kinesiology Prof. Matthew Heath, who is also a supervisor in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience and, with master’s student Ashna Samani, conducted the study. “This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits.” Continue reading
As regular readers know, I think we should all exercise regularly to keep our bodies and brains functioning at their best levels. It’s nice to see that the phrase use it or lose it has value on more than one level.
Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory—the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand—and healthy traits such as higher physical endurance and better cognitive function.
These traits were associated with greater cohesiveness of the working memory brain network while traits indicating sub-optimal cardiovascular and metabolic health, and sub-optimal health habits including binge drinking and regular smoking, were associated with less cohesive working memory networks.
This is the first study to establish the link between working memory and physical health and lifestyle choices.
The results of the study were published online in Molecular Psychiatry on Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
The research team took brain scans of 823 participants in the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a large brain imaging study funded by the National Institutes of Health, while they performed a task involving working memory, and extracted measures of brain activity and connectivity to create a brain map of working memory. The team then used a statistical method called sparse canonical correlation to discover the relationships between the working memory brain map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental health, personality, and lifestyle choices. They found that cohesiveness in the working memory brain map was positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Physical traits such as high body mass index, and suboptimal lifestyle choices including binge alcohol drinking and regular smoking, had the opposite association.
“Working memory accounts for individual differences in personal, educational, and professional attainment,” said Sophia Frangou, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Working memory is also one of the brain functions that is severely affected by physical and mental illnesses. Our study identified factors that can either support or undermine the working memory brain network. Our findings can empower people to make informed choices about how best to promote and preserve brain health.”
There is something universal about what occurs in the brain when it processes stories, regardless of a person’s origin or language, according to a study at the University of Southern California.
New brain research by USC scientists shows that reading stories is a universal experience that may result in people feeling greater empathy for each other, regardless of cultural origins and differences.
And in what appears to be a first for neuroscience, USC researchers have found patterns of brain activation when people find meaning in stories, regardless of their language. Using functional MRI, the scientists mapped brain responses to narratives in three different languages — English, Farsi and Mandarin Chinese.
The USC study opens up the possibility that exposure to narrative storytelling can have a widespread effect on triggering better self-awareness and empathy for others, regardless of the language or origin of the person being exposed to it.
“Even given these fundamental differences in language, which can be read in a different direction or contain a completely different alphabet altogether, there is something universal about what occurs in the brain at the point when we are processing narratives,” said Morteza Dehghani, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC. Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. So, it is always useful to learn more about how various inputs like food and exercise impact the brain. Here is some fresh info on walnuts from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
- Double-blind test bolsters observational data that walnuts promote feelings of fullness.
- Results provide a quantitative measure for testing other compounds’ ability to control appetite, including potential medications for the treatment of obesity.
Fascinating how walnuts also suggest the shape of the brain.
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have demonstrated that consuming walnuts activates an area in the brain associated with regulating hunger and cravings. The findings, published online in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, reveal for the first time the neurocognitive impact these nuts have on the brain. Continue reading
Moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.
Happy days! More positive information on the benefits to the brain garnered from physical exercise! This time from Harvard Medical School.
You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. Continue reading
With both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I am interested in all research on the subject.
Tufts reported the following in its Health and Nutrition Letter.
Could a trimmer waistline in middle age help you avoid Alzheimer’s later in life? That’s the suggestion of a study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, from the National Institute on Aging. Researchers analyzed data on 1,394 participants in a long-running study of aging, followed for an average of 14 years, who regularly underwent cognitive testing. A total of 142 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease during the study.
After adjusting for other factors, each additional point of body-mass index (BMI) at age 50 was associated with an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s of 6.7 months. “Our findings clearly indicate that higher adiposity at midlife is associated with a long-lasting effect on accelerating the clinical course of Alzheimer’s disease,” Madhav Thambisetty, MD, PhD, and colleagues concluded.
The study was not designed to prove cause and effect, however, and it’s not clear whether the association between obesity and Alzheimer’s risk might begin even earlier. It’s also true that newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s patients tend to weigh less than normal, not more.
To read further on the subject, please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits).
Video games which involve physical activity significantly boost our brain health as we get older, according to new research led by University of Manchester experts.
Study authors Dr Emma Stanmore and Joseph Firth say systems that use physical activity for gaming such as Wii, and Xbox Kinect can boost brain functioning in people with neurological impairment, as well as keeping our minds healthy and active as we age.
In the first ever analysis of all published evidence, the researchers aggregated data from 17 clinical trials examining the effects of active gaming on cognitive functioning across 926 people. Continue reading
Suppressing production of the protein myostatin enhances muscle mass and leads to significant improvements in markers of heart and kidney health, according to a study conducted in mice. Joshua T. Butcher, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Vascular Biology Center at Augusta University, will present the work at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting, held April 22–26 in Chicago.
The researchers zeroed in on myostatin because it is known as a powerful inhibitor of skeletal muscle growth, meaning that people with more myostatin have less muscle mass and people with less myostatin have more muscle mass. Studies suggest obese people produce more myostatin, which makes it harder to exercise and harder to build muscle mass.
“Given that exercise is one of the most effective interventions for obesity, this creates a cycle by which a person becomes trapped in obesity,” Butcher said. Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. Of course the most important element in living longer is having a fully functioning brain. The BBC just filed a wonderful story supporting that outcome.
Doing moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50, research suggests.
Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis, a review of 39 studies found.
This remained true in those who already showed signs of cognitive decline.
Taking up exercise at any age was worthwhile for the mind and body, the Australian researchers said.
Exercises such as T’ai Chi were recommended for people over the age of 50 who couldn’t manage other more challenging forms of exercise, the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said.
The split between mind and body seems clearest in the realm of exercise. Each is good for us, but is one better?
Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D. Molecular Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, Princeton University covers the subject extensively in Lecture 23 of his course The Neuroscience of Everyday Life which I took from The Great Courses.
Opinion has been split on the subject.
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigor.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero – 65 BC.
“Exercise invigorates and enlivens all the faculties of body and mind…. It spreads a gladness and a satisfaction over our minds and qualifies us for every sort of business, and every sort of pleasure.” – John Adams, Second President of the U.S.
On the other hand, that curmudgeon, Mark Twain said, “I take my only exercise acting as pallbearer at the funeral of my friends who exercise regularly.”
The business of brain-training is a multi-million dollar operation. It includes software and games we can play on our computers, Nintendo, smart phones as well as specialized machines. Also, there are the puzzles, like Sudoku, crosswords and other pattern recognition games.
At the risk or appearing like I am selling out on my idea of protecting my brain by exercising regularly, I would like to suggest this fun pastime as an additional line of defense against cognitive impairment.
I wrote this for another blog I write occasionally and thought it would be of interest to you. I know a lot of folks are doing adult coloring books these days for relaxation. I thought these puzzles would be a nice step up that could be more challenging to the imagination.
I ran across these at an art fair years ago. They are wonderful brightly colored shapes that you get to remake into various geometric visions. You can see more at the website of Kadon Enterprises, Inc. Kadon says that the creation of tiling patterns is an ancient and still very popular art form and recreation. “In quilting designs, floor tiles and wallpaper patterns, we find geometric shapes that fit together in attractive, usually symmetrical arrangements.”
There is a wonderful brochure that comes with each puzzle that explains some of the relationships between the angles and gets into the math of it.
Although I have only pictured two, I hope you can see how multi-faceted this is. I spend many happy hours exploring this and many of their other puzzles.
I used these two shots so you could see the simplest variation. The tiles are acrylic and fit into place perfectly.
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For the record I got very involved in playing chess in my younger years. I loved the game’s many facets and spent hours poring over the board. Ultimately, I gave it up to play backgammon. I found the element of chance in backgammon to be more appealing. That random aspect coupled with the fact that a lot of people played backgammon for money won me over. That was never the case in chess.
Intelligence – and not just relentless practice – plays a significant role in determining chess skill, indicates a comprehensive new study led by Michigan State University researchers.
The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date that cognitive ability is linked to skilled performance – a hotly debated issue in psychology for decades – and refutes theories that expertise is based solely on intensive training.
“Chess is probably the single most studied domain in research on expertise, yet the evidence for the relationship between chess skill and cognitive ability is mixed,” said MSU’s Alexander Burgoyne, lead author on the study. “We analyzed a half-century worth of research on intelligence and chess skill and found that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill.” Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer. That is the mantra of this blog. moving more keeps the organic machines we know as our bodies in tip top shape. As it turns out exercise is also good for the old cabeza.
Moderate-intensity exercise can help improve your thinking and memory in just six months.
You probably already know that exercising is necessary to preserve muscle strength, keep your heart strong, maintain a healthy body weight, and stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes. But exercise can also help boost your thinking skills. “There’s a lot of science behind this,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly. It acts directly on the body by stimulating physiological changes such as reductions in insulin resistance and inflammation, along with encouraging production of growth factors — chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance, survival, and overall health of new brain cells.
It also acts directly on the brain itself. Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are larger in volume in people who exercise than in people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. McGinnis. Continue reading
I write about exercise almost daily and about the brain nearly as often, but I think they really need to be tied together for the best understanding. Also, because we all want to live past 100, we certainly want the old cabeza to fully functional.
WebMD has a nice 12 part slide show called Tips to stay smart, sharp and focused. If you want to experience the entire show, just click the link above. I am have picked out a few examples for the folks too
lazy busy to do the whole thing right now.
Number one is superb: USE YOUR BRAIN “It’s true: Use it or lose it. Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp. Try these:
• Read a book.
• Go to a lecture.
• Listen to the radio.
• Play a game.
• Visit a museum.
• Learn a second language.”