Brain

Why I Mute The World To Save My Brain

How often do you find yourself quietly on your own in this noisy world? Even when you’re at work, out of the 7 to 8 hours, how many of them are your own quiet hours?

A study at the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker’s focused quiet time is only 11 minutes in-between interruptions on average,[1] and it actually takes 25 minutes to resume to work after any interruptions.

The noise and interruptions are badly affecting our work efficiency, and in fact, our life too.

Our brains will be overloaded and their normal functions can be affected with too much noise.

Psychologists examined the effects of the relocation of Munich’s airport on children’s health and cognition. They let the third- and fourth-grade students who lived and went to school near the old airport and near the new airport have tests on reading, memory, attention and hearing. Here’s the findings:[2]

The reading comprehension skills and long-term memory of children near the old airport improved once air traffic moved to the new airport, while the performance of children near the new airport declined.

Even though you may not be always working under excessive noise in your office, noise still interrupt the functioning of your brain to some extent.

Our brains get stimulated by sound, and too much noise can overload our brains with stimulating chemicals, affecting our comprehension skills…

The Science of Sleepwalking

Article Image

If a member of your family sleepwalks, or you do, most of the time it’s nothing so much as odd, and sometimes comical. For some though, it’s a different thing. Welsh-Australian artist Lee Hadwin is only creatively productive when he’s asleep — the rest of the time he has no special talent for sketching, his métier. (How appropriate he exhibits at the Rise Gallery.)

lee hadwin
Lee Hadwin (LEE HADWIN)

Sleepwalkers can also be a danger to themselves (poor Olive Oyl), or violent to others: Toronto’s Kenneth Parks who drove, asleep, 23 kilometers in 1987 to brutally murder the mother-in-law with whom he had a fond waking relationship.

kenneth parks
Kenneth Parks meets the press outside court

The number of people who sleepwalk is around 4%, and it’s on the rise, partially due to sleep medicines like Ambien. Philip Jaekl, writing for Aeon, explains what the latest science suggests is happening when people exhibit this uniquely human characteristic.

Scientists believe sleepwalking occurs when two areas of the brain — the limbic region of the brain that deals with raw emotions and the area of the cortex that manages complex motor activity — remain awake while the areas that would otherwise mitigate their primitive impulses — notably…

Brain training turns recall rookies into memory masters

brain links
Compared with novices, trained memory experts have some connections between brain areas that are stronger (red) and others that are weaker (blue). The bigger spheres highlight brain areas that have more connections specific to people with supercharged memory.

THINK LINK

Just six weeks of training can turn average people into memory masters.

Boosting these prodigious mnemonic skills came with overhauls in brain activity, resulting in brains that behaved more like those of experts who win World Memory Championships competitions, scientists report March 8 in Neuron.

The findings are notable because they show just how remarkably adaptable the human brain is, says neuroscientist Craig Stark of the University of California, Irvine. “The brain is plastic,” he says. “Through use, it changes.”

It’s not yet clear how long the changes in the newly trained brains last, but the memory gains persisted for four months.

In an initial matchup, a group of 17 memory experts, people who place high in World Memory Championships, throttled a group of people with average memories. Twenty minutes after seeing a list of 72 words, the experts remembered an average of 70.8 words; the nonexperts caught, on average, only 39.9 words.

In subsequent matchups, some nonexperts got varying levels of help. Fifty-one novices were split into three groups. A third of these people spent six weeks learning the method of loci, a memorization strategy used by ancient Greek and Roman orators. To use the technique, a person must imagine an elaborate mental scene, such as a palace or a familiar walking path, and populate it with memorable items….

Certain birth defects are on the rise since Zika arrived in the U.S.

stethoscope on a pregnant woman's belly
ZIKA BABIES Zika infection during pregnancy substantially raises the risk that the baby will have certain birth defects, such as microcephaly and other brain deformations. A new CDC study quantifies that impact in the United States.

Certain birth defects were 20 times more prevalent in babies born to Zika virus–infected mothers in the U.S. in 2016 than they were before the virus cropped up in the United States, a CDC study suggests. The finding strengthens the evidence that a mother’s Zika infection during pregnancy raises her baby’s risk of microcephaly and other…

Human genes often best Neandertal ones in brain, testes

Neandertal brain
BRAIN ACTIVITY Human versions of some genes are more active in certain parts of the brain than Neandertal versions. Side and back views of a brain show that activity levels of the Neandertal version of a gene called NTRK2 are lower in the cerebellum (blue area in lower back) than in other regions.

Humans and Neandertals are still in an evolutionary contest, a new study suggests.

Geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues examined gene activity of more than 700 genes in which at least one person carried a human and a Neandertal version of the gene. Human versions of some genes are more active than Neandertal versions, especially in the…

Chewing or breathing sounds make you seethe? Blame your brain

kid eating corn
kid eating corn

Some people find everyday sounds such as eating, drinking and breathing intensely annoying. People with this condition, called misophonia, have structural and functional differences in their brains, new data show.

For many people, the sounds of slurping coffee or crunching on an apple can be mildly annoying. But it can leave others seething. And their rage is very real, a new study finds. Certain sounds — especially eating, drinking and breathing — can boost activity in parts of the brain that deal with emotions. This can turn on a strong emotional reaction, leading to anger or anxiety.

For such people, the brain gives extra importance to certain sounds, says Sukhbinder Kumar. He’s a cognitive neuroscientist in England at Newcastle University’s medical school. What is not clear, he adds, is why only certain sounds trigger this reaction.

His team described its new findings February 2 in Current Biology.

This intense sensitivity to some sounds is called misophonia (Mees-oh-FOH-nee-uh). The term means “hatred of sound.” Researchers aren’t sure how common the condition is. One study of college students,…

An Epilepsy Drug May Have Treatment Potential for Migraines

The migraine—a common but debilitating brain disorder characterized by severe headaches, often with accompanying nausea and visual auras—has perplexed neurologists for decades. There are so many types of migraine, and each person’s physiology responds differently to the few drugs and treatments available.

In the hunt for an umbrella drug to treat all migraines, researchers at the University of British Colombia have investigated a potential new treatment for migraine with aura, which affects about one-third of migraine sufferers: pregabalin (brand name Lyrica). In a class of drugs called gabapentinoids, pregabalin is an anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia. The researchers published their results today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Migraines begin in the brain before they’re ever visualized as an aura or felt as an intense headache. Researchers believe migraines are triggered by a brain pattern known as cortical spreading depression, or SD. Though triggers can be numerous, the SD starts in the brain as a “depolarization of neurons in a particular area of the brain,” Stuart Cain, lead author and a neurophysiologist at University of British Columbia, Vancouver tells mental_floss. “This causes a wave of excitation that travels across the brain.”

After the excitation period, there’s a long period of inactivity in which the neurons become stuck in this inactive state. “It’s this wave of inactivity that is actually causing spreading depression, and that causes the migraine aura,” he explains. Though the mechanisms are still not fully understood, they also believe this SD triggers the trigeminal nerve, one of the most widely distributed nerves in the head. That is what causes the headache pain.

As the SD travels slowly through the brain, it may go into the visual cortex and stimulate visual hallucinations, or even the auditory cortex, causing auditory hallucinations….