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
I am not a big fan of the game of soccer, or, as it is known everywhere but in the U.S., football, but there are lots of kids playing it here and their parents should know about this.
Researchers from the University of Stirling have explored the true impact of heading a football, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice.
The study from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence published in EBioMedicine is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to everyday head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like a concussion.
Football players headed a ball 20 times, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. Before and after the heading sessions, scientists tested players’ brain function and memory.
Increased inhibition in the brain was detected after just a single session of heading. Memory test performance was also reduced by between 41 and 67 percent, with effects normalizing within 24 hours.
Played by more than 250 million people worldwide, the ‘beautiful game’ often involves intentional and repeated bursts of heading a ball. In recent years the possible link between brain injury in sport and increased risk of dementia has focused attention on whether football heading might lead to long term consequences for brain health. Continue reading
I think sleep may be the most under-appreciated aspect of living a healthy life. Diet and exercise and well-known if not often followed, but sleep is often thought of as an intrusion in our busy lives. I know that back when I was in the working world, I certainly thought of it that way.
Scientific data suggests that all animals probably do sleep—including the most unexpected creatures, such as fish, birds, worms, and flies. Sara Aton, University of Michigan ssistant professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, can attest to dozing cats, mice, and even cuttlefish, all of which she’s studied as they snoozed. She marvels that biologists once thought bugs and birds and worms never slept.
“I think there’s this pervasive misconception that your brain is just turning off when you go to sleep, because there’s no obvious output. Outside of a coma, you can’t think of a less interesting behavior to study than sleep, right?” Aton says. “Sleep is something that, as humans, we spend a third of our life doing. And yet biologists and the neuroscience community didn’t have a lot of interest in it.” (my emphasis)
But now that we know better, new questions arise: Do animals all rest for the same reasons?
After studying sleep for the past decade, Aton is convinced that it matters—a lot. “I’m much more protective of, for example, my son’s sleep than I would have been had I not been in this field,” she says.
Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered three new agents to add to the emerging repertoire of drugs that aim to delay the onset of aging by targeting senescent cells – cells that contribute to frailty and other age-related conditions. A recent study of human cell cultures shows that the drugs, fisetin and two BCL-XL inhibitors – A1331852 and A1155463 – cleared senescent cells in vitro. Findings appear online in Aging.
“Senescent cells accumulate with age and at sites of multiple chronic conditions, such as in fat tissue in diabetes, the lungs in chronic pulmonary diseases, the aorta in vascular disease, or the joints in osteoarthritis,” says James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “At Mayo Clinic, we discovered the first senolytic drugs – agents that selectively eliminate senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. These senolytic agents alleviated a range of age- and disease-related problems in mice. We used the hypothesis-driven approach that we used to discover the first senolytic drugs, two published in early 2015 and another later in 2015, to discover these three new senolytic drugs.” Continue reading
Sleep is one of the truly under-appreciated aspects of living a long and healthy life. I know for sure that when I was in the working world, I pretty much considered sleep to be an imposition on my busy life.
Times, and my mind, have changed. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep for more on this crucial aspect of our daily lives.
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
Regular readers know that because I have lost three family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia I have a serious interest in keeping myself safe. And, by extension, you. This isn’t just for seniors.
Rush Medical Center has some very useful suggestions on the subject.
Do you have the power to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Although some risk factors — age and family history — are beyond your control, increasing evidence from research indicates that you aren’t helpless.
Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and around the world have found that certain lifestyle choices can protect your brain against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Incorporate the following activities into your life, and your brain could reap the benefits Continue reading
I write often about the benefits the brain gets from exercise and how we should make regular exercise a priority as much for our mental health as physical. That is a good positive target.
It turns out that WebMD also has some excellent suggestions for keeping our brains clicking on all cylinders, but they approach from the negative side. Not doing harmful things is also an important consideration in getting to old age with a fully functional brain.
Here is their list of bad habits:
Missing out on sleep. WebMD notes, “… lack of sleep may be a cause of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It’s best to have regular sleeping hours. If you have trouble with sleep, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening, and start a soothing bedtime ritual.”
I would like to interject here that my Page on How important is a good night’s sleep could be worth checking into. Continue reading
I have written time and again about the link between exercise and brain health. The Harvard Heart Letter has a nice post on how heart disease and brain health are tied together.
“Just like in the rest of your body, advancing years can take a toll on your brain function. Much of this slowing down is predictable and can be chalked up to normal aging. However, when thinking skills become increasingly fuzzy and forgetfulness gets to be a way of life, an early form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment may be setting in,” so writes Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter.
“Often, the first reaction is to attribute these changes to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. But blood flow problems may be to blame, as well. “An estimated one-third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to vascular factors,” says Dr. Albert Hofman, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Continue reading
Don’t forget to set your clock back tonight before you go to sleep.
Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2:00 am this Sunday. In theory, “falling back” means an extra hour of sleep this weekend.
Winston Churchill once described Daylight Saving Time like this: “An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn… We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.”
That’s an overly optimistic view. In reality, many people don’t, or can’t, take advantage of this weekend’s extra hour of sleep. And the resulting shift in the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle can disrupt sleep for several days, according to Anthony Komaroff,M.D., Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter. Continue reading
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. As a person with family members on both sides who have suffered from dementia in general and Alzheimer’s in particular, I wanted to share this with you, from the Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral center.
The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. For many, difficulty with tasks like word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Typically, Alzheimer’s progresses in three stages: Continue reading
You know exercise is good for you, but do you know how good? From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.
Want to feel better, have more energy and even add years to your life? Just exercise.
The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. Everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
Need more convincing to get moving? Check out these seven ways exercise can lead to a happier, healthier you.
1. Exercise controls weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.
Regular trips to the gym are great, but don’t worry if you can’t find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. To reap the benefits of exercise, just get more active throughout your day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency is key. Continue reading
One of the aspects of living a long and healthy life that goes without saying is that our mind is fully functional. No one wants to life a long life if he is simply drooling into his oatmeal.
What I love about this infographic is that the first thing it mentions is – Exercise. I felt so strongly about this aspect of living that I created a Page on it – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits).
WebMD is offering a nice slide show with what they call the top 12 rewards of exercise.
I called this post 12 +1 Rewards because I have included my own observation adding one reward from working out that WebMD didn’t mention.
They list Better Mood pointing out that exercise releases endorphins – the feel good’ chemicals in the brain.
Next is More Energy, noting that “when you exercise regularly that fatigue goes away and you find yourself with a lot more pep.” Continue reading
Lots of good information here. Because of my family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these positive habits rang a bell with me.
To read further on them, you can check my pages:
Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)
How important is a good night’s sleep?
I have written a number of posts on dealing with stress. You can check them out by typing in the word s t r e s s in the search box. I recommend the following one which I wrote in 2010 as one of the most useful:
Some super tools for handling stress
Our Better Health
In a hyper-competitive world overflowing with information, our brains need to be able to keep up and outpace our competitors. Who doesn’t want their brain to process faster, remember more information or be able to come up with elegant solutions to complex problems? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Our brains more or less define our existence and who we are. So how can we get our brains to work better, faster and more efficiently?
HERE ARE SEVEN HABITS THAT WILL HELP IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN FUNCTION:
1. EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercising promotes blood flow, cardiac health and releases beneficial hormones and proteins into your body. These hormones and proteins protect your neurons, which are the cells that make up most of your brain, and encourage them to multiply and make new connections. Studies have shown that exercise helps you learn faster and remember more information. Further studies have shown…
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