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.”
I have written several posts on why people are discounting in the mainstream media regarding their second rate and slanted coverage of Donald Trump and the recent election. However, I want to point out that this piece from the New York Times is superb reporting. So, the grey lady lives on.
The article was How to become a Superager by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is the author of the forthcoming “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain.”
She asks, “Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. ”
In providing the answer, she gets into some labyrinthine details on how the brain functions. If you want to go there just click on the link to the article and enjoy. Continue reading
I have written it previously and I will repeat it: I love it when the news meets my bias. This week Jen Murphy wrote in the Wall Street Journal about three time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen and his training. Think about it, nothing is less physical and more cerebral than a game of chess, right? Yet, Mr. Carlsen says, “… he believes a healthy diet and physical training are crucial for a chess master to remain at peak, just as they are for other types of athletes. “I get bored very easily, so I don’t do well in the gym,” Mr. Carlsen says. “Luckily for me, I have a real love of sport.”
Isn’t that wonderful?! He considers a healthy diet and physical training to be ‘crucial’ for success in chess.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen became a Grand master at the age of 13, one of the youngest in history.
How does he work out? “When Mr. Carlsen is on the road for a tournament, he depends on his workouts to help him relieve tension and relax. He might run intervals on the treadmill at a hotel gym, adjusting the incline and intensity for 30 to 60 minutes. “Running is a time where I can go through game strategies,” he says.
After he gets his heart rate up, he winds down with a series of stretches, or he will flow through yoga sequences for 20 minutes. “Much of my core work comes from yoga,” he says. “I’m not the type to go to the gym and run through reps and sets of exercise. I need something more fluid and fun.” If he can find a hot yoga studio, he’ll attend a class.”
I love that a chess grand master includes healthy food and good exercise in his training regimen. Keep in mind that he is just practicing what I have been preaching here for some years. Although the rest of us aren’t grand masters and maybe don’t even play chess, the same principles apply. Eat intelligently and exercise regularly to succeed in living a healthy life.
You can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits) for more info on this critical subject.
In view of Thanksgiving being right around the corner and holiday parties soon after, I thought it propitious to show you this again.
One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100
With Thanksgiving looming, this is a great time to reaffirm our resolve to exercise regularly. OR, it is the ideal time to resolve to exercise regularly in the coming year and maybe begin to address physical and weight problems that we have neglected.
Regular readers know that I have posted numerous times on the value of exercise not only for our bodies, but also for our brains. On the top of this page is IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT YOUR BRAIN.
If you click on that link you can find a page full of blog posts on the subject.
Our ancestors engaged in some serious cardio exercise just to get food.
And now, the New York Times joins in the fray with Gretchen Reynolds’s article Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain.
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Increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), new results from a recent trial led by the University of Sydney has revealed.
Regular readers know how strongly I feel about exercise benefiting the brain as much as the body. A look at my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) will fill you in. What is exciting about this study is that it focuses on weight training. Most of the exercise benefits I have read about follow cardio work. So, this is indeed new and exciting.
With 135 million people forecast to suffer from dementia in 2050, the study’s findings–published in the Journal of American Geriatrics –have implications for the type and intensity of exercise that is recommended for our growing aging population. Continue reading