A common school-age stereotype is that smart kids are unathletic. However, as a recent study lead by Associate Professor Keita Kamijo at the University of Tsukuba and Assistant Professor Toru Ishihara at Kobe University shows that physical activity is linked to better cognitive ability, which is in turn related to academic performance in school.
Understanding the effects of physical activity on cognition has been difficult for several reasons. “Previous studies looked at the issue too broadly,” explains Professor Kamijo, “When we broke down the data, we were able to see that physical activity helps children the most if they start out with poor executive function.”
Executive functions refer to three types of cognitive skills. The first is the ability to suppress impulses and inhibit reflex-like behaviors or habits. To assess this ability, children were asked to indicate the color in which words like “red” and “blue” were displayed on a computer screen. This is easy when the words and colors match (“red” displayed in red font), but often requires inhibition of a reflex response when they don’t (“red” displayed in blue font). The second skill is the ability to hold information in working memory and process it. This was evaluated by testing how well children could remember strings of letters that vary in length. The third cognitive skill is mental flexibility. This was measured by asking children to frequently switch the rules for categorizing colored circles and squares from shape-based to color-based.
Ever wonder how land animals like humans evolved to become smarter than their aquatic ancestors? You can thank the ground you walk on.
Northwestern University researchers recently discovered that complex landscapes — dotted with trees, bushes, boulders and knolls — might have helped land-dwelling animals evolve higher intelligence than their aquatic ancestors.
Compared to the vast emptiness of open water, land is rife with obstacles and occlusions. By providing prey with spaces to hide and predators with cover for sneak attacks, the habitats possible on land may have helped give rise to planning strategies — rather than those based on habit — for many of those animals.
The human brain fascinates me for lots of reasons. I have taken several courses in it from The Great Courses and recommend them for anyone curious about this amazing organ that lives inside our heads. I have written a number of posts on various aspects of the brain which I recommend your chasing down. Just type in b r a i n into the SEARCH BOX at the right. Also, you can check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).Last, but not least, of course, there is the specter of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular. I have lost three family members to these afflictions and, at the age of 79, I am very focused on my mental functions. Which brings us to this wonderful article in Medical News Today on the two hemispheres of the brain – the left and the right.
The two hemispheres or sides of the brain have slightly different jobs. But can one side be dominant and does this affect personality?
Some people believe that a person is either left-brained or right-brained and that this determines the way they think and behave.
In this article, we explore the truth and fallacy behind this claim. Read on to learn more about the functions and characteristics of the left and right brain. Continue reading →
I love this infographic of the brain. Surprisingly, they left out one of the most impressive facts to me, namely, that the brain burns 20 to 25 percent of our daily calories. Bigger than any single muscle.
I really wanted to reproduce this just because the illusion seemed so cool to me. I don’t know that you can benefit from in any way, but to enjoy it. Follow the directions in the caption – and enjoy.
Summary: Researchers report the same subset of neurons encode actual and illusory flow motion, supporting the concept Jan Purkinje proposed 150 years ago, that “illusions contain visual truth”.Source: SfN.
A study of humans and monkeys published in Journal of Neuroscience has found the same subset of neurons encode actual and illusory complex flow motion. This finding supports, at the level of single neurons, what the Czech scientist Jan Purkinje surmised 150 years ago: “Illusions contain visual truth.”
Fixate the black dot and move your head towards and away from the image and you should perceive the rings rotating. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Junxiang Luo.
The Pinna-Brelstaff figure is a static image of rings that appear to rotate clockwise as one moves toward and counterclockwise as one moves away from the figure. Having previously identified particular parts of the human brain that represent the Pinna illusion, Junxiang Luo and colleagues at the Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences first confirmed that male rhesus macaques likely perceive the illusion similarly to people.
The researchers then recorded activity from individual neurons in the previously identified brain regions, and discovered cells that signal the illusory motion similarly to actual motion. A delay of about 15 milliseconds enables the brain to register the illusory motion as if it was real.
This study provides new insights into how the brain grapples with the continual mismatch between perception and reality.
Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen, turning 79 next month. My family has a history of dementia in general and Alzheimer’s Disease in particular. SO, I am interested in anything that affects the brain and relates to brain function. This study at the University of Waterloo captured my attention.
Researchers report older adults who take up drawing are better able to retain new information than those who write notes.Source: University of Waterloo.
Older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory, according to a new study.
As part of a series of studies, the researchers asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques and then tested their recall. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that even if people weren’t good at it, drawing, as a method to help retain new information, was better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images. Continue reading →
It has long been claimed by Yogis and Buddhists that meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, strengthen our ability to focus on tasks. A new study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.
Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have numerous known cognitive benefits, including increased ability to focus, decreased mind wandering, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased emotional reactivity, along with many others. To date, however, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested.
The research shows for the first time that breathing – a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices – directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertilizer. The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.
A team of scientists has successfully trained a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to make accurate predictions regarding cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Mallar Chakravarty, a computational neuroscientist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and his colleagues from the University of Toronto and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, designed an algorithm that learns signatures from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetics, and clinical data. This specific algorithm can help predict whether an individual’s cognitive faculties are likely to deteriorate towards Alzheimer’s in the next five years.
“At the moment, there are limited ways to treat Alzheimer’s and the best evidence we have is for prevention. Our AI methodology could have significant implications as a ‘doctor’s assistant’ that would help stream people onto the right pathway for treatment. For example, one could even initiate lifestyle changes that may delay the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or even prevent it altogether,” says Chakravarty, an Assistant Professor in McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry.Continue reading →
The following study was written up by Anne Trafton of the MIT News office.
Many patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression experience negative moods that lead them to focus on the possible downside of a given situation more than the potential benefit.
MIT neuroscientists have found that stimulating part of the striatum can induce feelings of pessimism. (Anatomography/Life Science Databases)
MIT neuroscientists have now pinpointed a brain region that can generate this type of pessimistic mood. In tests in animals, they showed that stimulating this region, known as the caudate nucleus, induced animals to make more negative decisions: They gave far more weight to the anticipated drawback of a situation than its benefit, compared to when the region was not stimulated. This pessimistic decision-making could continue through the day after the original stimulation. Continue reading →
If you want to learn to walk a tightrope, it’s a good idea to go for a short run after each practice session. That’s because a recent study in NeuroImage demonstrates that exercise performed immediately after practicing a new motor skill improves its long-term retention. More specifically, the research shows, for the first time, that as little as a single fifteen-minute bout of cardiovascular exercise increases brain connectivity and efficiency. It’s a discovery that could, in principle, accelerate recovery of motor skills in patients who have suffered a stroke or who face mobility problems following an injury. Continue reading →
In view of the current heat wave, I thought this study would be of particular interest.
Researchers report on how specific neurons can process sensory information about temperature and facilitate a change in behavior to adapt to the climate.
Do you pause what you’re doing to put on a sweater because you feel chilly? Do you click the thermostat up a few degrees on a winter day? What about keeping a fan on your desk, or ducking into an air-conditioned room to beat the heat?
If so (and, let’s face it, everyone has), then you’ve used sensory information about your environment — the temperature — to alter your behavior.
Haesemeyer said he plans to work on getting a more detailed picture of the neural circuit in the hind brain that translates heat information into behavior. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
But exactly how the brain processes that information has largely remained a mystery. To shed light on that, a team of researchers led by Martin Haesemeyer, a research associate in the labs of Florian Engert, professor of molecular and cellular biology, and Alexander Schier, the Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, turned to an unlikely subject: zebrafish. Continue reading →
Good news and bad news? Which do you want to hear first? Isn’t that always one of the toughest questions ever?
Summary: Researchers report the brain’s reward network could play an influential role in evaluating the opportunity to gain new information, just as it does to evaluate rewards such as food or financial gain. Source: University College London (UCL)
The researchers found that activity in the brain’s reward system – the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area – in response to the opportunity to receive information about good lotteries, but not about bad lotteries, displayed a pattern similar to what is observed in response to material rewards. This brain signal was independent from the brain response observed when participants found out whether they won or lost the lottery and predicted their preference for information. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
We have a ‘thirst for knowledge’ but sometime ‘ignorance is bliss,’ so how do we choose between these two mind states at any given time?
UCL psychologists have discovered our brains use the same algorithm and neural architecture to evaluate the opportunity to gain information, as it does to evaluate rewards like food or money. Continue reading →