How To Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation

In this video, Dan Harris, a TV news correspondent, explains the neuroscience behind meditation. Harris discovered the benefits of meditation after a live, on-air panic attack.


How To Control Your Genes (Infographic)

I am impressed with how the complexity of epigenetics are conveyed simply and effectively in this infographic from Vitality TV.
How to Control Your Genes

How to Control Your Genes [Infographic] by the team at Vitality TV


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Axon initial segments (blue) and the synapses that form along them (red and green) are shown. Image credit: Winnie Wefelmeyer/MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology.

Axon initial segments (blue) and the synapses that form along them (red and green) are shown. Image credit: Winnie Wefelmeyer/MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology.

A new study characterises a novel way in which neurons remain electrically stable when confronted with chronic increases in neuronal activity.

Lithium chloride which is used as a mood stabiliser in the treatment of mental health problems, mainly bipolar disorder, could be used to treat arthritis according to a new study.

New research indicates that adults born very premature are more likely to be socially withdrawn and display signs of autism.

Scientists have found that existing anti-malaria drugs could be a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

A number of studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, showed that regular supervised exercise sessions could help to improve symptoms in people with memory problems and dementia.

Brain scans of war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder have led researchers to an area of the prefrontal cortex that appears to be a good predictor of response to treatment with SSRIs–the first-line drug treatment for PTSD.

New research findings show that body fat can send a signal that affects the way the brain deals with stress and metabolism.

Increasing the levels of a signaling molecule found in the brain can positively alter response to stress, revealing a potential new therapeutic target for treatment of depression.

Music training, begun as late as high school, may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills, suggests a new study.

Researchers have, for the first time, determined the rate at which the developing brain eliminates unneeded connections between neurons during early childhood.

Scientists have identified a critical function of what they believe to be schizophrenia’s “Rosetta Stone” gene that could hold the key to decoding the function of all genes involved in the disease.

Researchers have discovered a link between autism and genetic changes in some segments of DNA that are responsible for switching on genes in the brain.

Infants can use their expectations about the world to rapidly shape their developing brains, researchers have found.

Finally this week, there’s new evidence suggesting that women’s brains are especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and other problems with memory and thinking.


Brain Motion And Emotion

Presentation given to the World Medical and Health Games, Graduate Medical School University of Limerick.

Exercise increases ‘neurogenesis’ (growth of neurons) in the hippocampus – a region important for memory and implicated in cognitive ageing.

medigames

In this presentation I answer the following questions

  1. What is the link between physical activity and human brain evolution?
  2. How has human brain evolution enabled us to emotionally engage and anticipate the intentions of others?

15 ways to boost your memory

memory

We expect too much of our memory. Instead of assuming that the memory is a sort of an effortless DVD recording device, we should realise that our ability to remember is influenced by a wide range of factors from what we eat to how we manage stress.

Here’s my list of 15 ways to improve it.

1 pay attention

Memory involves a form of learning or encoding. In order to encode information properly, you must consciously direct your attention at the thing you want to learn. Think of a squirrel who wants to hide a cache of nuts for the winter and is in the process of burying them when it is interrupted by a fox and runs away. That squirrel may have difficulty remembering where the nuts were buried because its attention was disrupted. It’s important to give attention and time to the information you wish to encode.

2 manage stress

Sharpen your ability to pay attention by examining the kind of stress you experience and deciding to learn how to manage your stress levels. Everyone has a different way of managing stress, but if you manage to control your stress, your ability to pay attention to things will improve.

3 meditate

Meditation is about paying attention on purpose – usually to the breath, and without judgement. If you develop a strong capacity to pay attention, he explains, your mind will be less distracted, thus focusing more easily, learning more quickly – and remembering things better!

4 breathe deeply

Oxygen is required by every cell in the body, and the brain cells, which encode the information which allows you to learn and remember, are no different. Oxygenating the brain triggers a process called neurogenesis, which is the growth of new brain cells required to encode the information you want to remember. This raises your IQ and gives you extra learning capacity by making it easier for the brain to focus on, and encode the appropriate information. Basically, to encode information, the brain requires plenty of oxygen – the more you oxygenate your brain the faster your learn.

5 be curious

Consciously improve your attention levels by focusing on your environment and teaching yourself to be observant. Learn to be observant and curious. Take notice of the things that are going on around you. Become interested in the green-ness of the grass for instance, because we know that fixed attention is very good for the brain. Make a point of taking note of the unusual around you. Notice the changing of the seasons and how they are impacting on your environment. “Be aware of where you are and what you are doing.”

6 chew gum

When you chew gum you exercise the major muscles of the jaw and this introduces oxygen to your brain, improving its ability to perform, and thereby increasing your capacity to learn and remember. When you physically exercise the big muscles of the jaw by chewing the jaw becomes tired. When it’s tired, it experiences an increased demand for oxygen, which prompts you to inhale more. As you inhale more, your brain receives more oxygen which fuels and improves its overall performance. The very act of chewing actually improves the ability to learn and remember.

7 get knitting

Knitting and crocheting are extremely powerful ways of training yourself to focus and improve your attention. This is firstly because it requires you to focus closely on an intricate knitting pattern and secondly to replicate the pattern through paying attention to achieving good hand-eye coordination. This is both a physical and psychological activity which sharpens your focus and strengthens your ability to attend to detail and to learn.

8 read more of less

Mental exercise is very important for the brain. Read one book which is challenging rather than skimming through 15 light novels. Your brain is active all your life and there is new evidence that in the teenage years, information processing peaks, in the mid-20s your short-term memory peaks. In your 40s your memory for faces peaks, while in your 80s your intelligence and wisdom peaks.

9 Eat memory foods

A diet high in fish oil is conducive to a good memory. Eat oily fish at least once a week; an inexpensive meal like sardines on toast rather than expensive fish oil supplements. You get the benefit of the oil and you also get a food rather than just taking it in a supplement. Other anti-inflammatory-and-anti-oxidant-containing foods such as berries, vegetables and fruits should also be included. Eat plenty of lean meat, vegetables, fruit and plants and fish oils – but of all of these, fish oils are the elite when it comes to the brain.

10 eat less

Some people advocate the Okinawa Diet, which involves eating a hot meal once every two days rather than every day, believing that it lengthens life and improves the ability to learn and remember. Because we are by nature hunter-gatherers, we are not meant to be over-fed. Our ancestors were often hungry. In fact, the optimal intelligent human being is slightly under-fed, slightly under-weight, extremely aerobically fit, highly focused, in touch with the environment, and excellent at assessing a calculated risk.

11 get motivated

To learn and remember, you need to want to remember! Motivation and a love of learning are crucial to remembering. When you are motivated, you are more open to trying something new – and the brain loves stimulation. Signing up for new courses, taking on different responsibilities at work and at home, learning new skills, for example playing a musical instrument and adopting an open approach to new challenges all refresh and stimulate the brain. Be a brain that is always learning new things. It’s really a case of use it or lose it.

12 be creative

Scientists have discovered that the parts of your brain which are involved in learning and remembering are the same parts of the brain which are involved in creative thinking, so the more creative you become, the easier you will find learning and remembering. There are lots of ways to stimulate your own creativity – ask more questions about everything and start consciously thinking beyond the obvious. Learn to use and trust your imagination, visualise, try new activities, listen to new music and learn to become comfortable with silence – experts suggest quieting your mind and visiting ‘within’ to discover the nuggets of creativity within yourself. Above all, the advice is to love what you do – and if you don’t, find a passion for something that you do love – and do it.

13 avoid drugs

We know that drugs like alcohol and cannabis can cause memory loss, particularly short-term memory loss, because they damage the part of the brain which is involved in laying down the short-term memory. We are not sure exactly what the physical impact is, but we know that these substances interfere significantly with short-term memory.

14 use the alphabet

Using your Mental Alphabetical Filing Cabinet can help enormously when you find yourself unable to remember a person’s name. First, detach from your struggle to remember the name itself. Then slowly start to go through the alphabet, letter by letter – and more than likely, the name you want will jump out from the file in which your memory originally place it. Another useful memory-consolidation technique is reading through the material you want to encode just before you go to sleep. Reading the information you most want to remember just before you sleep, will help your brain consolidate and encode the information, and you will remember it better the next day.

15 say it loud

Repeating aloud something that you want to remember during the learning process is an excellent memory aid. If, for example, you have a habit of forgetting where you put your keys, talk to yourself about where you are placing them the next time you are putting them down. This encourages you to ‘engage’ more actively with your brain in encoding the memory you wish to remember. On the other hand, if you’re trying to remember a phone number, divide it into three or four-digit ‘bits’ or ‘chunks’ – this is called “chunking.”

Adapted from an article which appeared in the Irish Independent  


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Researchers have discovered a new technique to enhance brain excitability that could improve physical performance in healthy individuals such as athletes and musicians.

The constant movement of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be distracting — but the fidgeting also may improve their cognitive performance, a study has found.

It is known that sleep facilitates the formation of long-term memory in humans. In a new study, researchers show that sleep does not only help form long-term memory but also ensures access to it during times of cognitive stress.

An international team of neuroscientists has proved the uniqueness of screams for the first time. In a study, they discovered that screams possess very special acoustic properties: This makes them a specific type of vocal expression which is only used in stressful and dangerous situations.

A new study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex suggests people who speak two languages have more gray matter in the executive control region of the brain.

Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia, providing insight into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment, have been identified in an internationally collaborative study

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light.

High blood levels of a growth factor known to enable new blood vessel development and brain cell protection correlate with a smaller size of brain areas key to complex thought, emotion and behavior in patients with schizophrenia, researchers report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Scientists have discovered a link between autism and genetic changes in some segments of DNA that are responsible for switching on genes in the brain.

Finally this week, new research has found that types of empathy can be predicted by looking at physical differences in the brain. This raises the fascinating possibility that some kinds of empathy might be able to be increased by training or that it might be possible for people to lose their empathy over time.


Watch a Person with #Dementia Use a #MindMap to Communicate (Time Lapse Video)

Originally posted on Hubaisms: Bloopers, Deleted, Director's Cut:

This is the most important blog post I have made to date.

I have espoused mind mapping as a way for those with early- and mid-stage dementia to continue to think and communicate using visual associations and judgments for several years now.

I can imagine that many have the reaction, “it can’t be done.” The video shows that it can.

The following is a time-lapse 39 minute video of a mind map being drawn “from scratch” with no prior thinking about the topic or rehearsal. The only thing decided before the map was started was its title (gotta start somewhere). Every 8 seconds of elapsed time is portrayed as 1 second, so the 39 minute elapsed time of the mind map development was compressed to 5 minutes.

The mind map artist was an individual with dementia who has been doing a lot of mind mapping since 2011 to deal with…

View original 219 more words


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Findings suggest that physiological reactivity to sad stimuli, assessed using pupillometry, serves as one potential biomarker of depression risk among children of depressed mothers. Image credit: Jonathan Cohen, Binghamton University Photographer.

Findings suggest that physiological reactivity to sad stimuli, assessed using pupillometry, serves as one potential biomarker of depression risk among children of depressed mothers. Image credit: Jonathan Cohen, Binghamton University Photographer.

How much a child’s pupil dilates in response to seeing an emotional image can predict his or her risk of depression over the next two years, according to new research from Binghamton University.

Unwanted, intrusive visual memories are a core feature of stress- and trauma-related clinical disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also crop up in everyday life. New research shows that even once intrusive memories have been laid down, playing a visually-demanding computer game after reactivating the memories may reduce their occurrence over time.

Rapid eye movement or REM sleep actively converts waking experiences into lasting memories and abilities in young brains reports a new study.

People who have diabetes and experience high rates of complications are more likely to develop dementia as they age than people who have fewer diabetic complications, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

New research suggests that when deciding which of several possible actions to perform, the human brain plans multiple actions simultaneously prior to selecting one of them to execute.

In the first study of its kind researchers found that neurons in a specific brain region play a key role in rapidly forming memories about every day events, a finding that may result in a better understanding of memory loss and new methods to fight it in Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.

A major epidemiological registry-based study indicates that Parkinson’s disease begins in the gastrointestinal tract; the study is the largest in the field so far.

The activity of the emotion centres in the brain, the amygdala, is influenced by motivation rather than by the emotions themselves. This can be concluded from research carried out at Radboud University into the hormone testosterone. Testosterone increases amygdala activity in a person who is approaching a socially threatening situation and decreases the activity when such a situation is avoided.

An imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found distinct differences between the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people.

According to a new study, women experiencing difficulty with time management, attention, organization, memory, and problem solving – often referred to as executive functions – related to menopause may find improvement with a drug already being used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD

A new staining method could help map the entire brain.

Finally this week, Yale researchers have determined how a key component of the nervous system develops at the embryonic stage. Their work may ultimately offer new approaches to combat major diseases such as diabetes and peripheral artery disease.

 

 

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Reductions in cortical surface area and increases in cortical thickness in Down syndrome relative to typical controls. Panel A shows that the cortex surface area is lower in Down syndrome; panel B shows that the cortex is thicker in Down syndrome brains. Small red circles indicate the approximate locations where cortical surface area and thickness were most different between brains of participants with Down syndrome and brains of typically developing participants. Image credit: Lee et al., National Institute of Mental Health

Reductions in cortical surface area and increases in cortical thickness in Down syndrome relative to typical controls. Panel A shows that the cortex surface area is lower in Down syndrome; panel B shows that the cortex is thicker in Down syndrome brains. Small red circles indicate the approximate locations where cortical surface area and thickness were most different between brains of participants with Down syndrome and brains of typically developing participants. Image credit: Lee et al., National Institute of Mental Health

The thickness of the brain’s cerebral cortex could be a key to unlocking answers about intellectual development in youth with Down Syndrome. It could also provide new insights to why individuals with this genetic neurodevelopmental disorder are highly susceptible to early onset Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.

In a study published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers report a surprising finding that challenges current anatomy and histology textbook knowledge: Lymphatic vessels are found in the central nervous system where they were not known to exist.

Changes in the vaginal microbiome are associated with effects on offspring gut microbiota and on the developing brain, according to a new study published in Endocrinology, a journal of the Endocrine Society.

Researchers discover that a protein called Taranis could hold the key to a good night’s sleep.

A team of researchers has now been able to demonstrate in a study that the bonding hormone oxytocin inhibits the fear center in the brain and allows fear stimuli to subside more easily. This basic research could also usher in a new era in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Early life stress affects cognitive functioning in low-income children.

Researchers at Monash University have found physical differences in the brains of people who respond emotionally to others’ feelings, compared to those who respond more rationally, in a study published in the journal NeuroImage.

Having a stroke ages a person’s brain function by almost eight years, new research finds — robbing them of memory and thinking speed as measured on cognitive tests. In another pilot study, women who experience more hot flashes, particularly while sleeping, during the menopause transition are more likely to have brain changes reflecting a higher risk for cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke and other brain blood flow problems.

Researchers discover the anatomic reasons for the persistence of musical memory in Alzheimer patients.

A new study on successful ageing has linked better memory performance in older age with patterns of neural compensation. The research sheds light on how memory can remain efficient in spite of common age-related neural decline.

There are more boys than girls diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Now, a study shows that behaviors relevant to autism are more frequently observed in boys than in girls, whether they’re at risk of autism or not. Meanwhile an early intervention program for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder improves their intellectual abilities and reduces autism symptoms – and those results persist years after the children originally received treatment, according to a recent study. And in another study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a team of  researchers has shown for the first time that children with autism spectrum disorder who are overly sensitive to sensory stimuli have brains that react differently than those with the disorder who don’t respond so severely to noises, visual stimulation and physical contact.

The stress hormone cortisol strengthens memories of scary experiences. 

Finally, this week, researchers have found that people who speak more than one language have twice as much brain damage as unilingual people before they exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the first physical evidence that bilingualism delays the onset of the disease.

 


How Social Media is Rewiring Your Brain [INFOGRAPHIC]

social brain


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