Thursday, February 27, 2014

EWG's Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use: Cell phone radiation alters brain activity

AUGUST 27, 2013

Brain activity accelerates near cell phone antenna
Volunteer's brain scans, normal (LEFT) and after 50 minutes with an active cell phone on right ear, (RIGHT) show increased metabolic activity near phone's antenna. (ARROW) A team led by Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, used advanced imaging technology to monitor glucose consumed in the brain. Conclusion: weak cell phone emissions visibly changed brain activity. More studies are needed to determine health implications. 

Washington, D.C. – A team led by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, a pioneering brain imaging scientist who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse,has reported that cell phone radiofrequency radiation alters brain activity in human subjects.
The study, published by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first investigation to document changes in brain glucose metabolism after cell phone use. In a video accompanying the report, Volkow said the team focused on how the brain consumes glucose because "It's a very sensitive marker to indicate if there are changes in brain activity that may be driven by a given stimulus, which in this case was the cell phone."
The conclusion, according to Volkow: "Even though the radio frequencies that are emitted from current cell phone technologies are very weak they are able to activate the human brain to have an effect."
"This research offers an important insight into potential effects of cell phone radiation on the human brain," Renee Sharp, director of the Environmental Working Group California office said. "It joins the growing list of studies that have raised concerns about cell phone use and the brain."
Cell phone radiation can change brain activity
Video produced by the Journal of the American Medical Association features Dr. Nora Volkow, a pioneer in the field of brain imaging, explaining how she and a team from the National Institutes of Health and Brookhaven National Laboratory investigated the impact of cell phone radiofrequency emissions on the brain. "We really know relatively little about the potential effects that cell phone technologies may have on how the brain works," Volkow says. To find out, researchers fixed cell phones to 47 volunteers' heads, then made PET scans of metabolic shifts in their brains. See the experiment here. 

The study's authors, who are affiliated with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Brookhaven National Laboratory, wrote that "these results provide evidence that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of RF-EMF [radiofrequency-modulated electromagnetic fields] from acute cell phone exposures." Volkow is recognized for using imaging to explore changes in the brain linked to addictive drugs, obesity, attention-deficit disorder and aging.
The research team explored the impact of cell radiation on the brain by placing cell phones on both ears of 47 healthy volunteers. The volunteers, seated in a darkened room, were directed to keep their eyes closed and remain still for 50 minutes. On the first day, both phones were turned off. On the second day, one was turned on.
The volunteers' brains were subjected to positron emission tomography, commonly known as PET scans, a medical imaging technology, to measure glucose metabolism. "Compared with no exposure, 50-minute cell phone exposure was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism in the region closest to the antenna," the study said.
The exact mechanism underlying these metabolic effects and their human health significance are still under investigation. Volkow and her colleagues theorized that the changes they observed could be due to "cell membrane permeability, calcium efflux, cell excitability, and/or neurotransmitter release." Significantly, they rejected the hypothesis that the changes were caused by tissue heating. This finding places them at odds with the cell phone industry, which acknowledges no effects but heating when the brain absorbs cell phone radiation.
While scientists continue investigating the question, EWG recommends cell phone users limit their exposure to cell phone radiation by taking easy steps such as getting a headset, using speaker-phone mode, keeping the phone away from their body, and looking for low-radiation phone models. 

Click for more tips
Link to full study: Volkow ND, Tomasi D, Wang GJ, Vaska P, Fowler JS, Telang F, Alexoff D, Logan J, Wong C. 2011. 
Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism. Journal of the American Medical Association 305 (8), in press.

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Playing, And Even Watching, Sports Improves Brain Function

Date: September 3, 2008
Source: University of Chicago

Summary: Being an athlete or merely a fan improves language skills when it comes to discussing their sport because parts of the brain usually involved in playing sports are instead used to understand sport language, new research shows.

Being an athlete or merely a fan improves language skills when it comes to discussing their sport because parts of the brain usually involved in playing sports are instead used to understand sport language, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

The research was conducted on hockey players, fans, and people who'd never seen or played the game. It shows, for the first time, that a region of the brain usually associated with planning and controlling actions is activated when players and fans listen to conversations about their sport. The brain boost helps athletes and fans understanding of information about their sport, even though at the time when people are listening to this sport language they have no intention to act.

The study shows that the brain may be more flexible in adulthood than previously thought. "We show that non-language related activities, such as playing or watching a sport, enhance one's ability to understand language about their sport precisely because brain areas normally used to act become highly involved in language understanding," said Sian Beilock, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.

"Experience playing and watching sports has enduring effects on language understanding by changing the neural networks that support comprehension to incorporate areas active in performing sports skills," she said.

The research could have greater implications for learning. It shows that engaging in an activity taps into brain networks not normally associated with language, which improves the understanding of language related to that activity, Beilock added.

For the study, researchers asked 12 professional and intercollegiate hockey players, eight fans and nine individuals who had never watched a game to listen to sentences about hockey players, such as shooting, making saves and being engaged in the game. They also listened to sentences about everyday activities, such as ringing doorbells and pushing brooms across the floor. While the subjects listened to the sentences, their brains were scanned using functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which allows one to infer the areas of the brain most active during language listening.

After hearing the sentences in the fMRI scanner, subjects performed a battery of tests designed to gauge their comprehension of those sentences.

Although most subjects understood the language about everyday activities, hockey players and fans were substantially better than novices at understanding hockey-related language.
Brain imaging revealed that when hockey players and fans listen to language about hockey, they show activity in the brain regions usually used to plan and select well-learned physical actions. The increased activity in motor areas of the brain helps hockey players and fans to better understanding hockey language. The results show that playing sports, or even just watching, builds a stronger understanding of language, Beilock said.

Joining Beilock in this research were Howard Nusbaum, Professor of Psychology at the University; Steven Small, Professor of Neurology and Psychology at the University; and Beilock's Ph.D. students Ian Lyons and Andrew Mattarella-Micke.

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Sport and physical activity enhance children’s learning

Dr Karen Martin, School of Population Health, 
The University of Western Australia May 2010

Sport and physical activity participation are generally promoted for their positive impact on children’s physical and mental health.1 However, increased participation in sport and other forms of physical activity are also thought to lead to enhancement of cognitive functioning (information processing), memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement for children. The link between physical activity and academic achievement is of increasing interest in the field of education and sport.
Unfortunately, with increasing pressure on schools to ensure children achieve academic success, and the new practise of publicised average grade comparison between schools, physical activity classes (such as physical education and sport) are increasingly being pushed down the curriculum priority list. Of concern, it appears that time spent in physical activity during the school day is diminishing;2-4 at some schools the average moderate to vigorous physical activity during the class has been reported as being less than 10 minutes daily. Removing or reducing physical activity classes from the school day may be detrimental to children’s physical and mental health
as research indicates that school day physical activity is associated with total daily physical activity.5-7
The vast majority of research indicates that replacing academic learning sessions with physical activity does not have a detrimental impact on school grades; indeed some intervention research indicates that increased participation in physical activity leads to enhanced learning and better grades.8, 9 Evidence also suggests that achieving a threshold amount of physical activity may be necessary to acquire learning benefits,10 and that participation in vigorous physical activity may further enhance learning.11 Further to this, there is evidence that there has been a reduction over the years in children’s participation in physical activity and organised community sport, and this is particularly evident in Australia.12
Previously, we reported the research evidence related to the relationship between physical activity or sport and learning
or academic success.13 This report provides an update of evidence reported from Australian and international research
published in peer-reviewed journals; providing summaries of intervention research, correlational studies and research reviews.
  1. Strong WB, Malina RM, Blimkie CJR, et al. Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth. Journal of Pediatrics. 2005;146(6):732-737.
  2. Salmon J, Timperio A, Cleland V, Venn A. Trends in children’s physical activity and weight status in high and low socio-economic status areas of Melbourne, Victoria, 1985-2001. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2005;29(4):337-342.
  3. Hardman K, Marshall J. The state and status of physical education in schools in international context. European Physical Education Reviews. 2000;6(3):203-229.
  4. Lowry R, Wechsler H, Kann L, Collins J. Recent trends in participation in physical education among US high school students. Journal of School Health. 2009;71(4):145-152.
  5. Myers LL, Strikmiller PPK, Webber LLS, Berenson GGS. Physical and sedentary activity in school children grades 5-8: The Bogalusa Heart Study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996;28(7):852-859.
  6. Dale D, Corbin CB, Dale S. Restricting opportunities to be active during school time: Do children compensate by increasing physical activity levels after school? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2000;71(3):240-248.
  7. Sallis JF, McKenzie TL, Conway TL, et al. Environmental interventions for eating and physical activity:  a randomized controlled trial in middle schools. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003/4 2003;24(3):209-217.
  8. Hollar D, Messiah SE, Lopez-Mitnik G, Hollar TL, Almon M, Agatston AS. Effect of a two-year obesity prevention intervention on percentile changes in body mass index and academic performance in low-income elementary school children. American Journal of Public Health. 2010;100(4):646.
  9. Shephard RJ, Lavallee H, Volle M, La Barre R, C B. Academic skills and required physical education: The Trois Rivieres Experience. Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Research Supplements. 1994;1(1):1-12.
  10. Davis CL, Tomporowski PD, Boyle CA, et al. Effects of aerobic exercise on overweight children’s cognitive functioning: A randomized controlled trial. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2007;78(5):510.
  11. Coe DP, Pivarnik JM, Womack CJ, Reeves MJ, Malina RM. Effect of physical education and activity levels on academic achievement in children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006;38(8):1515.
  12. Dollman J, Norton K, Norton L. Evidence for secular trends in children’s physical activity behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2005;39(12):892.
  13. Martin K. Improved learning through physical activity. 2006;available online: of Education and Training (Government of Western Australia).

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are you eating away at your brain?

Grain Brain author David Perlmutter, M.D., reveals which eating habits may be toxic to your noggin
By Robin Hilmantel

It's estimated that 5.2 million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer's disease, and there is no cure -- but what if we told you that what you're putting on your plate could be increasing your risk of dementia, as well as a host of other neurological problems?
That's the concept behind the bestseller Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar -- Your Brain's Silent Killers, by neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D.

Perlmutter points to a growing body of research that shows higher-than-normal fasting blood sugar levels may be toxic to your brain, even at readings previously thought to be safe: A study published in October in the journal Neurology shows that having an elevated fasting blood sugar is associated with a shrinkage of the brain's memory center, even in individuals who don't have type 2 diabetes. Other research published in August in the New England Journal of Medicine finds, similarly, that high fasting blood sugar levels are linked to a higher risk of becoming demented, whether you have a reading that qualifies you as diabetic or not.

"Pretty scary stuff on the one hand," says Perlmutter, "but on the other hand, it's empowering because you don't have to go down that road." Here's why: Just as your diet can increase your odds of Alzheimer's, it may also help decrease it if you follow certain guidelines. "What Grain Brain is bringing to the public's attention is that preventive medicine really applies to the brain," says Perlmutter. "No one's ever talked about that, and now it's time to bring the idea of diet and lifestyle choices to brain health."

To reap the benefits of a brain-friendly diet, Perlmutter suggests eliminating gluten altogether (which he says can be harmful to your brain even if you don't have Celiac disease) and limiting your carb consumption to 60-80 grams per day -- max. These recommendations are pretty strict (to put it in perspective, the USDA's recommended daily allowance for carbs is 130 grams for adults), and many experts disagree with Perlmutter's assertion that gluten is toxic and that complex carbohydrate intake should be so severely limited. But even if going that low-carb is unrealistic for you, there are still some do-able dietary changes you can make to promote healthy brain functioning:
Start Eating More Fat
Yup, you read that right. "In 1992, we were told [by the USDA], 'You've got to go low-fat, no-fat -- that's what's best for your heart,'" says Perlmutter. "Within 10 years, the rate of diabetes in America went up threefold, and diabetes doubles your Alzheimer's risk." In fact, in a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Research, participants in the top quartile of fat consumption (more than 35 percent of their calories came from fat) showed a 35 percent decreased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia (as compared to the bottom quartile, who consumed fewer than 17 percent of their calories from fat). Granted, as you likely know, not all fats are created equal: "Your brain is 60-70 percent fat," says Perlmutter. "That fat has to come from somewhere, and to build a better brain you need good fats, not damaged or modified fats." He suggests loading up on healthy monounsaturated fats from sources like olive oil and avocados.

Watch Out for Hidden Sources of Carbs
You may not be willing or able to ditch gluten and limit yourself to 60-80 grams of carbohydrates a day (which, as we mentioned previously, many nutritionists don't necessarily recommend). But it is worth noting that the same Journal of Alzheimer's Research study found participants in the highest quartile of carb consumption (more than 58 percent of their calories came from carbs) showed almost double the risk of developing MCI or dementia when compared to the bottom quartile (fewer than 47 percent of their calories came from carbs). And while it's certainly smart to watch your intake of bread and pasta, you may not even realize some of the big sources of carbs in your diet. A cup of orange juice, for example, contains more than 33 grams of carbs -- and can set you up for even more carb cravings later, thanks to the blood sugar spike then crash it brings on. "The sugar [in an actual orange] is released more slowly in a measured way," says Perlmutter.

Curb Your Sweet Tooth
Eating whole fruits is better than drinking fruit juices (especially ones with added sweeteners), but eating too many fruits can dramatically increase your carb intake, too (one large apple, for example, has about 31 grams of carbs). Root vegetables also tend to have higher carb counts than veggies grown above ground. The takeaway? While you certainly don't have to avoid good-for-you foods like quinoa, bananas, or spaghetti squash, it's important to remember that they can add to your overall carb intake -- so serving size, as always, is key.
When In Doubt, Choose Foods That Aren't Processed
It may be a no-brainer (pardon the pun), but it's also one of the best things you can do for your noggin, says Perlmutter. "Our most well respected peer-reviewed medical literature today is clearly indicating that blood sugar is a cornerstone pivotal player in terms of determining whether you become demented or not," he says. And since so many foods that come in a bag or a box have been linked to an increased fasting blood sugar, choosing more whole foods and fewer packaged ones is crucial to keeping your brain healthy. "If you live to be age 85, your risk for becoming an Alzheimer's patient is 50/50 -- the flip of a coin," says Perlmutter. "Let's change that today and improve your odds dramatically by simply making these lifestyle changes."

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Young Musicians Reap Long-Term Neuro Benefits

People who played instruments as children responded a bit quicker to complex speech sounds as adults, even if they had not played an instrument in many years. Erika Beras reports
Feb 22, 2014 |By Erika Beras

Those piano lessons you endured as a child, and those hours your parents made you practice, may benefit you in your later years. Even if you haven’t played in decades. So finds a study in the Journal of Neuroscience. [Travis White-Schwoch et al., Older Adults Benefit from Music Training Early in Life: Biological Evidence for Long-Term Training-Driven Plasticity

As we age, our response to fast-changing sounds slows down—which affects how we understand speech—and the world around us. But people who played instruments when they were young respond a bit quicker to such complex sounds. And the more years study subjects played instruments, the faster their brains responded to speech sound.

The researchers say that early acoustic experience may train the central auditory system—and that the changes are retained throughout life.

Previous studies of musicians have revealed that years of musical training may offset cognitive decline. This latest analysis shows that even if all you did was reluctantly pound a piano or blow a horn 40 years ago, you may still be reaping neurological benefits.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Midday naps may boost toddlers’ memory skills

“Afternoon naps' aid children's learning,” BBC News reports. A new study has found that toddlers who had Spanish-style siestas performed better in learning tasks compared to children who stayed awake.

This headline is based on a small study from the US which examined the effect of a midday nap on children’s ability to recall the location of pictures on a grid, which they had learned that morning when playing a memory game.

The study found that children were better able to recall the location of the pictures later in the day if they had taken a nap in the early afternoon, compared to staying awake throughout the day. Memory was also better the next morning, which the researchers suggest means that the benefits of a daytime nap cannot be made up for with overnight sleep.

The researchers speculate that this improvement may be due to what is known as a sleep spindle. This a burst of brain activity that occurs during sleep which may help the brain ‘integrate’ recent events into the long-term memory (though this hypothesis remains unproven).

Limitations of the study include its small size and the fact that it examined only one type of memory ability (declarative memory, which is the ability to recall previously learned knowledge, such as the nine times table).

With these limitations in mind, the results are intriguing and suggest napping may benefit children in ways that move beyond its impact on attention and afternoon sleepiness.

Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Amherst in the US and was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and a research grant from the University’s Commonwealth College.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). PNAS is an open access journal so the study is free to read online or download (PDF, 661Kb).

Both BBC News and The Guardian covered the research appropriately, including an emphasis on the small study size.

What kind of research was this?
This was a cross-over study that assessed the impact of an afternoon nap on the memory of preschool children. (These types of study are usually randomised but this was not the case with this study).

Researchers hypothesised that daytime napping plays a role in early childhood memory by allowing information gathered during waking hours to be consolidated (improving the efficiency of recalling stored information) during short sleeps.

To determine possible mechanisms by which afternoon naps may exert an effect on memory, the researchers conducted a small laboratory based study that examined brain activity while the pre-schoolers slept. They determined that a measure of brain activity during sleep, known as sleep spindle density, was associated with recall.

What did the research involve?
The research included 77 preschool children between the ages of 36 and 67 months. Overall, 40 children were included in the analysis. The children completed a visuospatial task (or less technically, they played a memory game) in the morning at 10:00am.

The task/game involved learning the position of 9 to 12 pictures displayed in a grid on a screen. The pictures were hidden, one picture at a time was displayed on the right side of the screen and the children were asked to locate the same picture in the grid and feedback was provided. This encoding/playing was continued until the children had successfully identified 75% of the pictures.
Finally, the same memory task was repeated (pictures were hidden, identical pictures were displayed, children tried to recall where the matching item was in the grid), this time without feedback, and the children’s ability to recall picture location was assessed – this served as the baseline measurement.

Later that day, between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, half of the children took a nap and half stayed awake. All children then completed the task/game that afternoon at 3:30pm (delayed recall) and again the next morning at 10:00am (24 hours recall).

Each child completed both sequences (one day they napped, another day they stayed awake), and ability to remember picture location was compared between the two sequences.

The researchers also assessed child-reported sleepiness and experimenter-rated sleepiness of the children in the afternoons. This was done in order to assess whether differences in performance on the tests were due to naps reducing fatigue or increasing attention, rather than memory consolidation during sleep as hypothesised.

They also examined regularity of child napping, as reported by parents, to see if the effect differed depending on child sleeping habits.

What were the basic results?
On average, the children spent 78 minutes napping when they were included in the nap sequence. Performance on the memory test was similar between the two groups at baseline.
Performance on the delayed recall measurement (at 3:30pm) and the 24 hour recall were significantly better when the children had napped than when they had stayed awake:
  • baseline recall accuracy, nap vs. no nap (approximately 76% vs. 75%,)
  • delayed recall accuracy, nap vs. no nap (approximately 77% vs. 64%)
  • 24 hour recall accuracy, nap vs. no nap (approximately 78% vs. 63%)
The researchers also found no significant differences in child-reported sleepiness in the nap vs. no nap conditions. When looking at the experimenter-rated measures, they found that child sleepiness was greater following the nap compared to the non-napping sequence.

Further analysis found a difference in effect when analysis was stratified according to regularity of napping. The positive effect on memory of the two hour preschool-based nap was greatest amongst the 17 children whose parents reported that the child napped five or more days each week, while the 10 children who napped on fewer than two days each week saw no benefit.

How did the researchers interpret the results?
The researchers conclude that an early afternoon nap is clearly beneficial in terms of memory retention amongst preschool children, and that the negative effects of missing daytime naps cannot be made up during night time sleep.

They highlighted the fact that there was a lack of difference in child-rated sleepiness, and an increase in experimenter rated sleepiness after naps.

There were also significant differences between the groups in performance on the 24 hour recall test (conducted after a night’s sleep). All of the points, they concluded, indicate that the differences in memory are due to processes during the nap as opposed to indirectly due to its impact on fatigue and attention.

This small study suggests that afternoon naps may have benefits in terms of the visual memory of preschool students. 

Though there is some uncertainty about the ‘direction’ of the effects that were assessed by the researchers. It could be the case that a decline in memory recall ability in regular nappers was due to them being ‘deprived’ of their usual afternoon nap, as opposed to an increase in recall when additional naps are introduced.

That is, children who napped five or more times a week saw reductions in recall when they did not nap. While children who napped less than twice a week saw less decline in recall ability when kept awake during the early afternoon.

One key limitation of the study is the inclusion in the analysis of children who completed both the nap and wake conditions. Of the 77 children recruited into the study, 48% were excluded from the analysis because they were unable to complete either the napping or wake condition, or failed to complete the memory task, or because their immediate recall (the baseline measurement) was 100%. This may have introduced selection bias into the study as the children included in the final analysis may not be truly representative of their peers.

The authors’ conclusions on the unique process-based benefits of sleep are supported in part by measures of sleepiness as reported by experimenters. However, it is unclear if the experimenters were blinded to whether or not the child had napped during the afternoon; lack of blinding may have biased the results. Additionally, these measures were not reported to have been included as part of the statistical analysis, so it is unclear if significant differences were found based on child fatigue.

The researchers suggest that the results of their sleep laboratory sub-study suggest that benefits are derived due to processes unique to sleep. However, this portion of the study specifically recruited children based on their likelihood to sleep in a lab setting, and thus included mainly habitual nappers. Whether the findings apply to children who nap infrequently is unclear based on this study.
This small study assessed the impact of daytime naps on one specific type of memory. So this cannot be interpreted to mean that napping improves child memory across the board.

The researchers suggest that their findings should be considered when making decisions about whether or not to include an early afternoon sleep session in the nursery or pre-school schedule.
There are no official guidelines about daytime napping, but the Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic (an international private sleep clinic specialising in child sleep problems), recommends that toddlers get around one hour of sleep during the day. Once a child reaches the age of four they then do not usually require regular afternoon naps.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices .

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Brain Teaser: Can you count?

By: SharpBrains

Quick! Count the num­ber of times that the let­ter F appears in the fol­low­ing sentence:
Fin­ished files are the result of years of sci­en­tific study com­bined with the expe­ri­ence of years.”
How many did you find?


How many letters F did you count? Three? Wrong, there are six! It is no joke! Read again:

Almost everyone guesses three. Why? It seems that the brain cannot correctly process the word "OF". The letter F usually makes the "f" sound, like in "fox". However, in the word "of", it makes a "v" sound. Somehow, your brain overlooks the word "of" as it scans for the sound of "f".

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Test your Brain with these Top 10 Visual Illusions_ Part 1/2

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

The brain has two hemi­spheres, each divided into four lobes. Each lobe is respon­si­ble for dif­fer­ent func­tions. For instance the frontal cor­tex (in blue below) is respon­si­ble for deci­sion mak­ing and plan­ning; the tem­po­ral lobe (in green) for lan­guage and mem­ory; and the pari­etal lobe (in yel­low) for spa­tial skills. The occip­i­tal lobe (in red) is entirely devoted to vision: It is thus the place where visual illu­sions happen.
The frontal lobe rep­re­sents around 41% of total cere­bral cor­tex vol­ume; the tem­po­ral lobe 22%; the pari­etal lobe 19%; and the occip­i­tal lobe 18%. How the visual sys­tem processes shapes, col­ors, sizes, etc. has been researched for decades. One way to under­stand more about this sys­tem is to look at how we can trick it, that is, to look at how the brain reacts to visual illusions.
Here are 10 visual illu­sions to com­bine fun and learn­ing about the visual system.
We know you know there is a trick since these are illu­sions… but don’t try to be smarter than your brain: Just enjoyed being tricked!
To go beyond the illu­sions, read about what hap­pens in your brain while you expe­ri­ence them.

1. Can you put the fish in the fishbowl?
Stare at the yel­low stripe in the mid­dle of the fish in the pic­ture below for about 10–20 sec. Then move your gaze to the fish bowl.

2. Are the squares inside the blue and yel­low squares all the same color?

3. Are the hor­i­zon­tal lines straight or crooked?

4. Are the cir­cles sta­tic or moving?

5. How many legs does this ele­phant have?

6. Are the two hor­i­zon­tal lines of the same length?

7. Do you see gray dots at the inter­sec­tions of the white lines?

8. Are the two orange cir­cles of the same size?


9. Does Lincoln’s face look normal?

10. Can you see a baby?

Check your answers and learn about what was going on in your brain while you expe­ri­enced each of these illusions:

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Test your Brain with these Top 10 Visual Illusions_Part 2/2

Check your answers and learn about what was going on in your brain while you expe­ri­enced each of these illusions:

1. Can you put the fish in the fishbowl?
Did you see a fish of a dif­fer­ent color in the bowl? You have just expe­ri­enced an after­im­age.
In the retina of your eyes, there are three types of color recep­tors (cones) that are most sen­si­tive to either red, blue or green. When you stare at a par­tic­u­lar color for too long, these recep­tors get “fatigued.” When you then look at a dif­fer­ent back­ground, the recep­tors that are tired do not work as well. There­fore, the infor­ma­tion from all of the dif­fer­ent color recep­tors is not in bal­ance. This will cre­ate the color “afterimages.”

2. Bezold effect
The smaller squares inside the blue and yel­low squares are all the same color. They seem dif­fer­ent (magenta and orange) because a color is per­ceived dif­fer­ently depend­ing on its rela­tion to adja­cent col­ors (here blue or yel­low depend­ing on the outer square).
3. Café Wall Illusion
The hor­i­zon­tal lines are straight, even though they do not seem straight.  In this illu­sion, the ver­ti­cal zigzag pat­terns dis­rupt our hor­i­zon­tal perception.

4. Illu­sory Motion
The cir­cles do appear to be mov­ing even though they are sta­tic. This is due to the cog­ni­tive effects of inter­act­ing color con­trasts and shape position.

5. How many legs does this ele­phant have?
Tricky, isn’t it?! This pic­ture is an impos­si­ble pic­ture that also con­tains some sub­jec­tive con­tours, such as the Kanizsa Tri­an­gle below: A white tri­an­gle (point­ing down) can be seen in this fig­ure even though no tri­an­gle is actu­ally drawn. This effect is known as a sub­jec­tive or illu­sory con­tour. The con­tour of the tri­an­gle is cre­ated by the shapes around it.


6. The Mueller-Lyer Illusion
The two hor­i­zon­tal lines are of the same length, even though the one at the bot­tom seems longer.
As you know, the visual angle gets smaller with dis­tance, so the brain auto­mat­i­cally per­ceives objects at far­ther dis­tances to be big­ger.
In gen­eral, lines that have inward flaps, such as cor­ner of a build­ing, are rel­a­tively the near­est points of the over­all object. Sim­i­larly, lines with out­ward flaps are found at the longer dis­tance, as the far­thest cor­ner of a room.
So in the Mueller-Lyer illu­sion, the brain per­ceives the line with out­ward flaps to be at a far­ther point as com­pared to the line with inward flaps. Con­se­quently, the brain per­ceives the line with out­ward flaps to be longer.

7. Her­mann grid illusion
There are not gray dots in this grid. How­ever “ghost­like” gray blobs are per­ceived at the inter­sec­tions of the white lines. The gray dots dis­ap­pear when look­ing directly at an inter­sec­tion.
This illu­sion can be explained by a neural process hap­pen­ing in the visual sys­tem called lat­eral inhi­bi­tion (the capac­ity of an active neu­ron to reduce the activ­ity of its neighbors).

8. The Ebbing­haus Illusion
The two orange cir­cles are exactly the same size, even though the one on the left seems smaller.
This size dis­tor­tion may be caused by the size of the sur­round­ing cir­cles or by their dis­tance to the cen­ter circle.

9. Does Lincoln’s face look nor­mal?It seems nor­mal but now, look at it upright: Lincoln’s eyes do not look quite right!

Some neu­rons in the brain seem spe­cial­ized in pro­cess­ing faces. Faces are usu­ally seen upright. When pre­sented upside down, the brain no longer rec­og­nizes a pic­ture of a face as a face but rather as an object. Neu­rons pro­cess­ing objects are dif­fer­ent from those pro­cess­ing faces and not as spe­cial­ized. As a con­se­quence these neu­rons do not respond to face dis­tor­tions as well. This explains why we miss the weird eyes when the face is inverted.
10. Can you see a baby?Another great exam­ple of an illu­sory con­tour! The baby’s head is on the left, the baby’s feet are against the trunk of the tree on the right.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Debunking 10 Brain Fitness and Brain Training Myths

Debunking 10 Brain Fitness and Brain Training Myths during Brain Awareness Week 2013

By: Alvaro Fernandez

In honor of Brain Aware­ness Week 2013 let’s debunk ten myths about brain fit­ness and brain train­ing that remain sur­pris­ingly popular.

Top 10 brain fit­ness and brain train­ing myths, debunked:

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.
Fact: Life­long brain plas­tic­ity means that our lifestyles and behav­iors play a sig­nif­i­cant role in how our brains (and there­fore our minds) phys­i­cally evolve.

Myth 2. We are what we eat.
Fact: We are what we do, think, and feel, more than what we eat.

Myth 3. Med­ica­tion is the main hope for cog­ni­tive health and enhance­ment.
Fact: Non-invasive inter­ven­tions can have com­pa­ra­ble and more durable ben­e­fits, and are also free of side effects.

Myth 4. There’s noth­ing we can do to beat Alzheimer’s dis­ease and cog­ni­tive decline.
Fact: While noth­ing has been shown to pre­vent the pathol­ogy of Alzheimer ’s dis­ease, there is abun­dant research show­ing we can delay the onset of symp­toms for years –a very mean­ing­ful out­come which is often overlooked.

Myth 5. There is only one “it” in “Use it or Lose it”.
Fact: The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of neural cir­cuits sup­port­ing a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive, emo­tional, and exec­u­tive func­tions. Using or exer­cis­ing just one (like “mem­ory”) is unlikely to be of much help.

Myth 6. Brain train­ing can help reverse your brain age 10, 20, or 30 years.
Fact: “Brain age” is a fic­tion. Some brain func­tions tend to improve, and some decline, as we get older. And there is con­sid­er­able vari­abil­ity across indi­vid­u­als, which only grows as peo­ple get older.

Myth 7. Brain train­ing doesn’t work.
Fact: Brain train­ing, when it meets cer­tain con­di­tions, has been shown to improve brain func­tions in ways that enhance real-world outcomes.

Myth 8. Brain train­ing is pri­mar­ily about videogames.
Fact: Real, evidence-based brain train­ing includes some forms of med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­apy, cog­ni­tive train­ing, and biofeed­back. Inter­ac­tive media such as videogames can make those inter­ven­tions more engag­ing and scal­able, but it is impor­tant to dis­tin­guish the means from the end, as obvi­ously not all videogames are the same.

Myth 9. Heart health is brain health.
Fact: While heart health con­tributes sig­nif­i­cantly to brain health, and vice versa, the heart and the brain are each cru­cial organs with their own set of func­tions and pre­ven­tive and ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tions. What we need now is for brain health to advance in a decade as much as car­dio­vas­cu­lar health has advanced over the last sev­eral decades.

Myth 10. As long as my brain is work­ing fine, why should I even pay atten­tion to it?
Fact: For the same rea­sons you should add gas to your car and change the oil reg­u­larly – so that it works bet­ter and per­forms longer.

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Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children

Date: February 14, 2014
Source: Harvard School of Public Health

Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children -- such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia.

Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children -- such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia -- according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.

The report will be published online February 15, 2014 in Lancet Neurology.

"The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes," said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.

The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as "developmental neurotoxicants," or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:

  •     Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills
  •     Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior
  •     Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays

Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a "silent pandemic" of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. "Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity," they write.

The authors say it's crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children's brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.

"The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international," said Grandjean. "We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children's brain development -- now is the time to make that testing mandatory."

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Thursday, February 13, 2014


by 2014-02-10 华德福教育

你 有没有发现,智能手机,ipad等电子设备逐渐抢夺了孩子们的注意力,各种新鲜刺激的动画片,电子游戏让孩子们沉迷,父母们该如何做才能让小家伙们远离这 些电子产品呢? 做手工,阅读,户外活动以及充满乐趣的亲子游戏都可以吸引孩子们的注意力,智慧的父母们,希望我们一起努力,将孩子在家的工作安排得丰富而有意义。


5. 踩泡泡膜:
6. 糖果项链:

你有没有带孩子仔细观察过蔬菜水果? 看看借助于颜料,它们会展现出怎样的迷人印记?
11. 纸箱空间:
12. 纸箱滑梯:
13. 穿越障碍:
14. 击球比赛:
15. 套圈游戏:
16. 踩高跷:
17. 手指创意:
18. 找瓶盖:
19. 大纸箱游乐场:
20. 画图案:
22. 配对游戏:
23. 家庭小剧场:
24. 扔骰子:


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