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Tag Archives: the brain

buffing the brain

There’s a bright spot. If we work the brain, we can grow new brain cells. “There is a gradual growing awareness that challenging your brain can have positive effects,” says Dr. Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University. “Every time you challenge your brain, it will actually modify the brain. We can indeed form new brain cells, despite a century of being told it’s impossible.”

Computer programs to improve brain performance are a booming business.

One form of training, however, has been shown to maintain and improve brain health — physical exercise. In humans, exercise improves what scientists call “executive function,” the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation, inhibit inappropriate behavior and focus on the job at hand in spite of distractions.

Executive function starts to decline when people reach their 70s. But elderly people who have been athletic all their lives have much better executive function than sedentary people of the same age. This relationship might occur because people who are healthier tend to be more active, but that’s not the whole story. When inactive people get more exercise, even starting in their 70s, their executive function improves, as shown in a recent meta-analysis of 18 studies. One effective training program involves just 30 to 60 minutes of fast walking several times a week.

So instead of spending money on computer games or puzzles to improve your brain’s health, invest in a gym membership. Or just turn off the computer and go for a brisk walk.

[Exercise on the Brain, November 8, 2007, article by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang]

“It’s like there is a continent out there . . .”

ON A QUEST TO MAP THE BRAIN’S HIDDEN TERRITORY

“It’s like there’s a continent there, and we are nibbling along the shores,’’ said Dr. Van Wedeen, a physicist and radiologist at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Neural fibers in the brain are too tiny to image directly, so scientists map them by measuring the diffusion of water molecules along their length. The scientists first break the MRI image into ‘voxels,’ or three-dimensional pixels, and calculate the speed at which water is moving through each voxel in every direction. The researchers can infer the most likely path of the various nerve fibers (red and blue lines) passing through that spot. The result is a detailed diagram like that of the brain stem.” – Emily Singer

Who are we?

Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight

the brain – and the estrogen dilemma

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The Estrogen Dilemma

“The proposition, that estrogen’s effects on our minds and our bodies may depend heavily upon when we first start taking it, is a controversial and very big idea. It has a working nickname: “the timing hypothesis.” Alzheimer’s is only one part of it. Because the timing hypothesis adds another layer of complication to the current conventional wisdom on hormone replacement, it has implications for heart disease, bone disease and the way all of us women now under 60 or so — the whole junior half of the baby boomers, that is, and all our younger sisters — could end up re-examining, again, everything the last decade was supposed to have taught us about the wisdom of taking hormones.”

Quote of the Day

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The human brain has approximately one hundred billion neurons.

the living camera

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Stephen Wiltshire is amazing.

Stephen Wiltshire (born April 24, 1974) is an architectural artist who has been diagnosed with autism.   Wiltshire was born in London, England to West Indian parents.  He  is known for his ability to draw a landscape after seeing it just once. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections.

A Siesta

Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

The benefits of a Siesta . . .

(Newser) – Taking a nap after lunch helps the brain “reset” and prepare to assimilate new information, researchers say. “It’s as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail,” says the author of a new study. “It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder.”

“Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap,” said study author Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley.


Think Smart

from the book jacket:

In Think Smart, the renowned neuroscientist and bestselling author Dr. Richard Restak details how each of us can improve and tone our body’s most powerful organ: the brain.

As an expert on the brain, Restak knows that in the past five years there have been revolutionary new scientific discoveries about the brain, its function, and its performance.  So he’s asked his colleagues — many of them the world’s leading brain scientists and researchers–an important question: What can I do to help my brain work more efficiently?  Their surprising–and remarkable feasible–answers are at the heart of his book.

Restak lists the findings of some of the ‘world’s most prestigious brain experts’ suggestions for anyone who wishes to develop and maintain an optimally functioning brain:

1. – Attention: This must be rock solid.  Attention in the mental sphere is equivalent to physical endurance in the physical sphere.

2. – Memory is a natural extension of attention.  If you attend to something you increase your chances of remembering it.

3. – Sensory memory consists of the brain’s initial recording physical sensations as they impinge on our sense organs.  Iconic memory (things that we see) and echoic memory (things that we hear) are the main forms of sensory memory.

4. – Long-term memory refers to information that becomes a permanent part of us (information about our work, our relatives and friends: basic facts about our culture such as holidays, movies, and television shows; income tax deadlines).  Vocabulary is the best example.  We can learn new words and phrases throughout our lives, no matter how old we become.

5. – Working Memory: Also known as short-term memory, working memory involves the most important mental operation carried out by the human brain: storing information briefly and manipulating it.  working memory differs from long-term memory in an important way.  While long-term memory is for the long haul–establishing memories that become permanent and available for future retrieval–working memory is for “right now.”

6. – Mental exercises:  For mental exercises to be beneficial to brain health, they should be tailored, I’m convinced, to each person’s interests and proclivities.  Because of this tendency for mental exercises to provide limited and circumscribed benefits, a program for enhancing brain performance must include efforts aimed at improving the functions mentioned above along with seven other key brain functions:

Visual observation

Fine motor skills

Tactile perception

Logic

Numbers

Imagination

Visual-spatial thinking

. . . The more vivid your impressions about what you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch, the easier it is to establish a vivid and easily recollected memory.

BRAIN GAMES