Are dreams shaped by what we eat?

Wednesday, 24 September, 2014

Is there a link between the sort of food you eat later in the evening, and the type of dreams you may have? Seemingly not, but a snack of some sort before going to sleep doesn’t sound like a bad idea, given how active the brain is while dreaming

A dreaming brain is a hungry brain. “Sleep is a very active process and your brain needs a lot of sugar. I actually recommend to people having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before they go to bed: The bread and the jelly are great sources of simple carbohydrates, which are terrible usually, but great for sleep,” Wenk states. The theory here: Not only will you supply energy (sugar) to the busy brain, but you’re also providing it with extra serotonin – the “calming” hormone – to help usher in the onset of sleep.

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Playing violin… one way to whittle away the time during surgery

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

Stories come along from time about people who wake up, or regain consciousness, while supposedly under anaesthetic during surgery. I’m not sure how I’d react if that were me, save to say I’d likely be petrified.

Then there’s the case of a Lithuanian woman who played violin during some recent brain surgery. Yes, you read that correctly, and it wasn’t because she wanted to keep herself amused, her playing was crucial to the outcome of the procedure

Naomi Elishuv used to be a world-class violinist who played with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, but uncontrollable shaking caused by a neurological disorder called essential tremor forced her to stop playing 20 years ago, the Telegraph reports. She only recently learned of deep brain stimulation, the surgery that could correct the problem, but there was an unusual aspect to her eventual operation: Elishuv had to play her violin during the procedure at Israel’s Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center on Tuesday so doctors could make sure they positioned an electrode needed to stop the tremors in the correct place.

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Even when I sleep I can still be productive

Monday, 22 September, 2014

If you have a full diary, or an overly busy schedule, news that you might be able to do a thing or two while sleeping could be music to your ears

The researchers then lulled the participants to sleep, putting them in a dark room in a reclining chair. Researchers watched them fall into the state between light sleep and the deeper sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). They were then told a new list of words. This time, their hands didn’t move, but their brains showed the same sorting activity as before. “In a way, what’s going on is that the rule they learn and practice still is getting applied,” Tristan Bekinschtein, one of the authors of the study, told Shots. The human brain continued, when triggered, to respond even through sleep.

It sounds like what we might be able to do while asleep is pretty limited – actually it’s incredible that anything at all is possible – so I wouldn’t go expecting to achieve all that much.

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Being alone with one’s thoughts, a shocking prospect apparently

Monday, 14 July, 2014

Incredible… people would rather inflict pain on themselves, say by way of an electric shock, than be alone with their thoughts, says some joint Harvard, and University of Virginia, research.

In a series of 11 studies, U.Va. psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at U.Va. and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally did not enjoy spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.

I wonder if introverts were part of this study, because I can’t imagine there’d be too many turning down an opportunity to have time out to be alone with their thoughts.

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Pickpockets succeed by hacking our brains

Tuesday, 8 July, 2014

Pickpockets work so well at deceiving us because, it seems, our brains are wired to be easily duped. I assume, in fact I hope, there’s an advantage – for us, not just those trying to con us – in such a modus operandi?

According to neuroscientists our brains come pretty much hard-wired to be tricked, thanks to the vagaries of our attention and perception systems. In fact, the key requirement for a successful pickpocket isn’t having nifty fingers, it’s having a working knowledge of the loopholes in our brains. Some are so good at it that researchers are working with them to get an insight into the way our minds work.

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I don’t know why I said that, and nor does anyone else it seems

Monday, 12 May, 2014

This sounds concerning… it seems people may not be aware of what they are saying until they are actually uttering the words they speak. In other words, no plan or thought goes into our discourse, it simply slips out ad lib.

The dominant model of how speech works is that it is planned in advance – speakers begin with a conscious idea of exactly what they are going to say. But some researchers think that speech is not entirely planned, and that people know what they are saying in part through hearing themselves speak.

Maybe we all need to speak using prepared scripts, or cue cards?

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The synchronised, yet syncopated, playing of guitarists

Friday, 9 May, 2014

Guitarists really are suited to working in team, or band, environments… as a grouping prepares to perform, their minds appear to synchronise with each other:

Guitarists literally have the ability to synchronize their brains while playing. In a 2012 study in Berlin, researchers had 12 pairs of guitarists play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned. They discovered that the guitarists’ neural networks would synchronize not only during the piece, but even slightly before playing. So, basically, guitarists can read each others’ minds better than they can read music.

There’s an old rock classic called “Hotel California” by US band, the Eagles. I have it from a reliable source the song has been performed live using up to eight guitars. If that’s not being synchronised, what is?

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Skim reading is making poorer readers of us all

Wednesday, 23 April, 2014

You’re probably skim reading these very words as your eyes quickly scan through what’s on offer here today. That’s ok, I don’t mind, that why’s I try to be as succinct as possible. Besides, I’m just happy you’re here in the first place.

Online content and information has made skim-readers out of us all, but here’s the problem, we’re taking this ability to seek out key words and essential tidbits of data, and applying it to reading situations where we need to actually read, as in absorb, each and every word, to the point we’re no longer taking in as much as we used to:

Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia. “I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.”

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I hacked my brain and wrote the next theory of relativity

Monday, 24 March, 2014

Brain hacking. Does it really enhance our abilities? Some people sure seem to think so:

Lee was an early member of a DIY community that’s sprung up around a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This noninvasive way to jolt brain cells is being studied in labs and clinics for its potential to reveal how our brains function – and perhaps to augment abilities or treat disorders. Unlike most other brain-tweaking technologies, tDCS doesn’t require expensive equipment; all it takes is a 9-volt battery, some simple circuits, and a couple of electrodes. Consequently, it didn’t take long for so-called biohackers to band together and come up with schematics for devices.

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Fuller minds may take longer to recall than not so full minds

Friday, 7 February, 2014

Something to bookmark for later reference… older minds aren’t really subject to memory loss, they’re simply storing far more data than younger minds, that’s why it takes, or may take, longer to retrieve, or recall, certain items of information:

Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word. And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the aging “deficits” largely disappeared. “What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults,” the lead author, Michael Ramscar, said by email. But the simulations, he added, “fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all.”

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