Tag Archives: neuroplasticity

Reaching and grasping — Learning fine motor coordination changes the brain

When we train the reaching for and grasping of objects, we also train our brain. In other words, this action brings about changes in the connections of a certain neuronal population in the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain. Researchers at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum have discovered this group of nerve cells in the red nucleus. They have also shown how fine motor tasks promote plastic reorganization of this brain region. The results of the study have been published recently in Nature Communications.

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Simply grasping a coffee cup needs fine motor coordination with the highest precision. This required performance of the brain is an ability that can also be learned and trained. Prof. Kelly Tan’s research group at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has investigated the red nucleus, a region of the midbrain that controls fine motor movement, and identified a new population of nerve cells which changes when fine motor coordination is trained. The more that grasping is practiced, the more the connections between the neurons of this group of nerve cells are strengthened. Continue reading

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Neuroplasticity – one brainy word

Since I had that nice infographic on the brain yesterday, I thought this one on brain function might be a useful follow-up.

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If you are interested in reading more about that wonderful organ inside your head, feel free to check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

Tony

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About that aging brain …

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.

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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

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Observations on the aging brain – RUB

Regular readers know of my family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia so this new information from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) on  age-related brain changes caught my attention.

Learning at an advanced age makes the brain fit but age-related brain changes cannot be undone.

As a person ages, perception declines, accompanied by augmented brain activity. Learning and training may ameliorate age-related degradation of perception, but age-related brain changes cannot be undone. Rather, brain activity is enhanced even further, but for other reasons and with different outcomes. Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum discovered these facts in a recent study, the results of which have now been published in Scientific Reports.

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Enhanced brain activity at old age
The researchers asked test participants in different age cohorts to feel two needlepoints that were located closely to each other with the tips of their fingers. Older participants perceived two points as a single event even when they were located quite far apart, whereas younger people were still able to distinguish them as two distinct points, which is evidence for degraded tactile perception at higher age. This impaired perception experienced by older people goes hand in hand with a spatial enhancement of brain activity, which researchers generally interpret as a compensatory mechanism. Continue reading

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5 Ways Your Diet Affects Your Mood

While exercise is also an important factor, eating a diverse diet of healthy, wholesome foods can have an incredible impact on how you feel each and every day. Be the best you can be by following a healthy, fun, well-rounded lifestyle filled with good, healthy foods.

How we handle stress is also key in keeping us healthy and happy. To learn more about keeping positive, check out:

What are the top habits of healthy, happy, productive people?
What is the Secret Ingredient to a Healthy, Happy Life?
How Exercise Makes You Happy – Infographic
75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life
Why happiness is healthy
Super Tools for Handling Stress

Tony

Our Better Health

Jordyn Cormier     January 25, 2015

While your mood sometimes dictates what foods you eat — hello ice cream – what you choose to eat can conversely affect your moods. While it may seem harmless enough, what you choose to eat for lunch could impact how you feel all afternoon. We all know about the “hangries” — being so hungry that you become cranky and angry — but once you’re fed, your meal can actually enhance or detract from your mental state. Here are 5 ways in which the foods you eat (or don’t eat) rule your moods.

Sugar levels. Most obviously, fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can have an incredible impact on mood. Low blood sugar can cause crankiness. On the other hand, a sharp spike in blood sugar can provide a sense of feel-good before sharply crashing into the pit of despair. A good idea to…

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6 Surprising Things That Affect Your Brain

For some time, the prevailing view of a brain at midlife was that it’s “simply a young brain slowly closing down,” observes Barbara Strauch. But she notes that recent research has shown that middle age is actually a kind of cranial prime time, with a few comedic twists thrown in for fun.

“Researchers have found that — despite some bad habits — the brain is at its peak in those years. As it helps us navigate through our lives, the middle-age brain cuts through the muddle to find solutions, knows whom and what to ignore, when to zig and when to zag,” she writes. “It stays cool. It adjusts.”

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Regular readers know that I feel strongly about brain health and development as I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family. Check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain for more.

Tony

Our Better Health

a Care2 favorite by Megan, selected from Experience Life

Brain scientists in recent years have discovered a number of surprising ways that the brain influences our overall health, as well as how our behavior influences the health of our brain. And unlike in the days of old — when scientists believed the brain was “fixed” after childhood, only to start an inexorable decline in the middle to later years — today, research is showing that the brain is perfectly capable of changing, healing and “rewiring” itself to an unexpected degree.

It turns out that the age of your brain may be a lesser influence on its structure than what you do with it. Pursuits that require intense mental focus, like language learning, “switch on” the nucleus basalis, the control mechanism for neuroplasticity.

In short, neuroplasticity means you have some control over your cranial fitness. While brain function naturally deteriorates somewhat…

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Seniors Short-Changed in Brain Game Craze

The magazine Fast Company ballyhoos the popularity of companies that sell various types of brain games. These are games designed to sharpen a wide range of cognitive skills.

“Sharp Brains, a market research firm tracking the brain fitness space, estimates that the size of the market for digital products was just under $300 million in 2009 and will grow to at least $2 billion by 2015,” Fast Company reported.

Lumosity, one of the field leaders, just got a $32 million capital infusion. There are other, smaller, firms like CogniFit and Posit Science, competing in the field.

Star Trek’s Commander Spock playing the ultimate brain game 3 dimensional chess

“When we first invested, we were concerned this was just a niche area for people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems,” Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners tells Fast Company. “But Lumosity has proved there’s universal demand for this among all demographics.”

Why do people play brain games? One word – Neuroplasticity.
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