Posts tagged Neuroscience

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Ageing brain is a myth

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WHILE the body is going to decline with age and our joints become worse for wear, the brain is not geared towards ageing, according to American Michael Gelb, world leader in accelerated learning, speaking at the annual Mind and Its Potential conference in Sydney last month.

Gelb, who has had his knee and hip replaced, says: ‘‘As a sportsman I know only too well the wear and tear on joints and ligaments as time progresses.’’ But the brain, according to Gelb and other leading neuroscientists at the conference, is primed to keep growing and improving. The brain cells we lose as part of natural attrition are minor in comparison to the brain synapsis and neuro pathways we already have, and can develop when we use this vital organ properly. It’s not ‘‘Use it or lose it’’ but ‘‘Use it or it will stay dormant’’. But it’s all in there, and we can get it back, says Gelb.

The speaker before him was the pre-eminent professor Michael Merzenich, a pioneer in brain plasticity research, as quoted in Norman Doidge’s brilliant book The Brain That Changes Itself.

To paraphrase in layman’s terms the very complex studies and research he presented, older rats were tested against young rats in terms of performance, libido and memory. The results were as expected. The older rats were then given training and challenges to solve. In a short time, their memories and youthful vigour returned to the level of the younger unstimulated rats; and they lived much longer than predicted.

Gelb’s book, Brain Power, gives a few tips on how to keep the brain growing. When we trigger one area of the brain by learning, other parts can develop or switch on. Gelb suggests learning something new for 15 minutes a day. Juggling and right/left brain co-ordination are helpful to development. Oxygenating the brain is crucial to mental health thus physical exercise is in- valuable, and music can help develop neuropathways in our plastic brains. Good things to learn are languages, music, and problem-solving.

Nutrition is more important than thought in order to lubricate brain cells, and help stave off dementia; as is meditation. Cholesterol and smoking increases the chances of Alzheimer’s disease and should be avoided. Emotional connections are significant to brain growth. We are social creatures. Love, friendship and lots of play are vital to keeping us young, as is having a passion for something or someone. As we get older, we need a purpose outside of ourselves that gives life meaning.

We may be declining in many ways as time ticks on, but a healthy brain is the key to staying vital and having a fulfilling quality of life. As they say: it’s all in the mind.

Depression-and-Anxiety1

Depression is a broken arm

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There’s a broken cog inside the minds of many depression sufferers but few understand what they can’t see.

WE read stories every week about murder-suicides, often involving the most unlikely people: good parents, the nice neighbour next door. ‘‘Why didn’t she ask for our help?’’, ‘‘I knew he was under pressure but I didn’t think that . . .’’ and ‘‘I didn’t know he/she was depressed!’’ are among the most common reactions from disbelieving family and friends.

As a community, we try to comprehend what goes on in the mind of a seemingly untroubled human being who feels they can’t go on, and then feels it’s right to take their loved ones with them. Are their minds different to ours? How is such a thing possible? (more…)

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Thinking Positive

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Neuroscientists have discovered that if you want to break a  habit, stop trying to.

AN interesting thing happened recently. After two years of being over my desired body weight, I suddenly lost the weight very quickly. Of course, as the weight started falling off, I went to the doctor, who ordered all the mandatory tests. But I’m happily healthy.

So what happened? It’s a psychological phenomenon. There’s an old adage which is one of my favourites: ‘‘What we resist persists.’’ I had decided to go on a diet and a health kick. Which — as those who diet know — just puts on more weight. You are always going to ‘‘start tomorrow’’, which gives full licence to eat a lot today; and tomorrow never comes. And if it does then the feeling of deprivation hits so hard, you binge-eat. You ‘‘forget’’ to exercise because it’s hard carrying all that weight.

The attempted diet lasted two years. But then I gave it up.

So here’s what happened. I changed my goal. By going for something far bigger and more positive than losing weight, I stopped focusing and lost interest in the whole thing — thus not needing to eat to placate myself.

Let me explain. We develop an obsession when are trying to give something up. It becomes the whole focus of our being, making us feel powerless and out of control. (more…)

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Kids in Cyberspace

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Within 3 years kids will study in 3D surround-screen Hologram classes. Watching TV likewise. Our TV rooms will  soon be like something out of Star Trek. Welcome to the ‘not too distant’ future of Science Faction.

YOU only have to be the parent of a child over the age of seven to know what I’m talking about: the vacant eyes so preoccupied by what’s on screen that they can’t focus on your face for more than a few seconds before being drawn back into the cyberworld.

As you talk, your little darling types or toggles. “Are you listening to me?” you ask, only to be told in a precocious tone: “Yeahhhh. I’m multitasking, Mum.”

It gets worse. By 16, girls no longer seem to have use of their tongues. “Text it to me, Mum,” quips my daughter, barely able to contain her contempt that she has to speak and breathe at the same time. I know one mother who got her daughter to the dinner table by posting the request on Facebook. It was so like social death for the girl that, like, she never failed to come to the table again. Technologies such as Twitter are alarmingly succinct. If you can’t say it in two lines, don’t bother. Luckily, I come from the dinosaur era of the telegram: “Come home (stop) Finish homework (stop) Or no mobile (stop).”

(more…)

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Happiness & It's Causes Conference

Happiness & It’s Causes

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2010 Happiness & It's Causes Conference

AN ESTIMATED 3000 PEOPLE will gather at the Entertainment Centre in Brisbane next month, to attend one of the greatest shows on earth, the annual Happiness and its Causes Conference. The brightest minds in philosophy, psychology, science, religion and the arts come together each year for three conferences held in three locations around the world London, San Francisco and an Australian city to explore the age-old question – “How can we lead a happier, more meaningful life?”

With depression now effecting 1 in 10 people in the western world, there is an ever increasing hunger for solutions to our suffering. The star of the show in Brisbane this year will be the happiest man in the world, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, happy not because of his external circumstances but the way he looks at life.

(more…)

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System overload

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DURING the first few days of the Japanese disaster, I was disturbed at some of my own behaviour.

Like most of us, I watched unfolding events with horror and many tears. But then my focus changed. When it came time to make dinner, the focus of my obsession became the process of cooking. My emotions were frayed – however this time it was because there was no garlic. And I was angry that my daughter didn’t want pasta after I’d put the pasta on. Moments before, I’d been trembling in front of the TV watching apocalyptic scenes of devastation, and the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. Suddenly the only thing consuming me was garlic. (more…)

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