The new issue of the American Medical Association’s *American Medical
News* includes an article: “Steps to a nimble mind: Physical and mental
exercise help keep the brain fit; Neuroscience is uncovering techniques
to prevent cognitive decline” by Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli.

Some key points: life-long learning, trying new things, a healthy diet, social interactions, sleep and physical activity keep the brain fit

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

The brain — containing 100 billion neurons, 900 billion glial cells,
100 trillion branches and 1,000 trillion receptors — reacts to stimuli
in a series of electrical bursts, spanning a complex map of
connections. Whether calculating an algorithmic equation or learning
the tango, our brain continuously changes in response to our ideas,
actions and activities.

Each time a dance step is learned, for instance, new pathways are
formed. “Dancing is excellent for the brain and body,” says Vincent
Fortanasce, MD, clinical professor of neurology at the University of
Southern California in Los Angeles. He wrote the Anti-Alzheimer’s
Prescription. “Not only are you moving around more, your brain is in
constant motion as it recalls steps and movements.”

It’s an example that highlights a wave of new thinking about the
importance of brain fitness.

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The Dec 2007 issue of *Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience* (vol. 2,
#4) includes a study: “Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation
reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference.”

The article is by Norman A. S. Farb, Zindel V. Segal, Helen Mayberg, Jim
Bean, Deborah McKeon, Zainab Fatima, & Adam K. Anderson.

Here’s the abstract: “It has long been theorised that there are two
temporally distinct forms of self-reference: extended self-reference
linking experiences across time, and momentary self-reference centred on
the present. To characterise these two aspects of awareness, we used
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of
enduring traits (‘narrative’ focus, NF) or momentary experience
(‘experiential’ focus, EF) in both novice participants and those having
attended an 8 week course in mindfulness meditation, a program that
trains individuals to develop focused attention on the present. In
novices, EF yielded focal reductions in self-referential cortical
midline regions (medial prefrontal cortex, mPFC) associated with NF. In
trained participants, EF resulted in more marked and pervasive
reductions in the mPFC, and increased engagement of a right lateralised
network, comprising the lateral PFC and viscerosomatic areas such as the
insula, secondary somatosensory cortex and inferior parietal lobule.
Functional connectivity analyses further demonstrated a strong coupling
between the right insula and the mPFC in novices that was uncoupled in
the mindfulness group. These results suggest a fundamental neural
dissociation between two distinct forms of self-awareness that are
habitually integrated but can be dissociated through attentional
training: the self across time and in the present moment.

*Boston Globe* 2/24/2008 includes an article: “Grape expectations:
What wine can tell us about the nature of reality” by Jonah Lehrer.

Here’s the article:

SCIENTISTS AT CALTECH and Stanford recently published the results of a
peculiar wine tasting. They provided people with cabernet sauvignons at
various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the
tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were
in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.

The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted
better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.

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