Category Archives: neuro

Neuro Post Category

 Social Isolation and its Psychological Effects

With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing has been pushed to the collective forefront of the nation. We have all been advised to stay home, remain a certain distance from certain people, and to not attend large social gatherings. While I understand this is all for our safety, it does beg a few questions. What is going to be the long term effects of our long stay in? How are we going to cope with not being able to see people other than your own family for weeks, and maybe even months? It is all going to be interesting to see what actually will happen later down the line, but for know, let’s piece together what we know about social isolation. 

First of all, why are we being asked to stay home in the first place? It seems like only older people or immunocompromised individuals are truly at risk of being in severe or critical condition. So why everyone? The reason is quite simple. By avoiding contact with others, we can reduce the spread of any disease, not just COVID-19. Also, by staying home, we “flatten the curve,” and don’t overly strain the load on our hospitals. If less people get the infection, hospitals would be able to better cope with the sudden increase of patients. Viruses like these can also be spread by something called “community spread.” This is when people get infected by the virus without any travel or known contact with an afflicted person. This is mainly because coronaviruses like COVID-19 are able to stick around in the air for some time, so infection without a vector, like a person, is definitely possible with this disease. By limiting interactions with others and by staying home as much as possible, we can reduce the severity and spread of viruses now and in the future.

The Press Stories

The main question that’s on my mind, however, is how this prolonged social isolation will affect us psychologically. Already, I’m feeling like my social distancing has been going on for years, when in reality, at the time of writing, I’m on my third day of this. However, this is not the first time that humans have felt this way when they are isolated or trapped in a certain place or situation. This phenomenon is known as “cabin fever.” It’s not a disease, but rather it is the restlessness, claustrophobia, and general irritability that can be caused by being stuck in a place for an extended period of time. There is a single term for the effects caused by cabin fever: stir-crazy, where “stir” refers to a prison. Cabin fever can cause more serious afflictions like extended sleep, distrust of the people around you, or even urges to go outside, even in bad conditions. Cabin fever can also lead to the sufferer making extremely irrational decisions that could cost them their life, such as suicide, paranoia, or the aforementioned abadonment of the safety of their cabin in bad weather. Cabin fever doesn’t just apply to being in a nice cabin in the Alaskan wilderness, however. One can get the symptoms of cabin fever in basically any place where they are stuck for an extended period of time. 

Why does cabin fever occur in the first place? What goes on in our brains that tells us to make some extremely irrational decisions, even when you are already safe? Cabin fever and other related afflictions are mostly caused by a drop in serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Serotonin regulates mood and social behavior, so it’s clear why it can cause these afflictions, but there is definitely more to this mystery. 

Wikipedia

Melatonin levels could also have a factor, as it regulates sleep patterns and mood. However, seasonal affective disorder can mostly be attributed to natural causes, like changes in sunlight. Sometimes, our circadian rhythm is unable to cope with the sudden increase or decrease in hours that the sun is out, causing problems all over our brains and bodies. But circadian rhythm doesn’t really explain cabin fever. Serotonin is definitely a common factor between the two, as evidenced by as study performed by multiple neuroscience research facilities in Denmark and Canada. They revealed the various signaling pathways that are affected by seasonal affective disorder. In their study of 19 females, they found that the 5-HTT pathway, or the cerebral serotonin transporter, is not effectively downregulated in females that experience regular seasonal affective disorder. The subjects that were more susceptible to the disorder were actually genetically different from those who were not, as they had the shorter 5-HTTLPR genotype. This means that seasonal affective disorder could actually be a genetic disorder that could be passed down from generation to generation, but it’s unknown, as there haven’t been enough studies on the matter. Below are some pictures from the study, with red areas representing increased 5-HTT responses with females without and with seasonal affective disorder. 

NCBI

Now that we know what can cause cabin fever, how can we avoid it? We are all going to be stuck indoors for the next few weeks, if not months, so it is paramount to keep our mental and physical health up. Sarita Robinson, a psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, has shared some tips on how to avoid the negative effects of cabin fever in these trying times. One of the best things to do is to boost your immune system. You are not only fighting against COVID-19, you are also fighting against cabin fever. Obviously, good exercise and diet are very important, as getting the right vitamins and keeping your muscles engaged are very important for boosting your immune response, but they are not the only thing to do. You can also watch an interesting movie or listen to music that you like. Psychologists believe that keeping the brain interested is also a very effective way to improve your immune response. Structuring your day is also very important. By keeping a rigid schedule, you avoid getting stuck in a rut or being bored quickly as you always have something else to do. Maintaining contact with your friends and family is also important. If you intentionally keep yourself alone, you are exponentially increasing your chances of getting cabin fever. Finally, you want to avoid conflict. This is the main cliche of cabin fever, as it tends to cause wanton aggression and anger towards your friends and loved ones. Make sure you follow the above tips and stay positive about this whole situation. The last thing you want to do is fight with your loved ones in these times.

 Vox

Finally, I want to close this month’s post on reducing anxiety about the COVID-19 situation in general. It is a very serious thing, but some people are becoming more anxious and nervous than ever, and I think it is important to remain calm and collected. There is a fantastic article I read on theladders.com detailing ways that we can stay calm. Every person calms down differently, so I am not going to share any specific tips. 

Remember that it is very important to stay safe and healthy, and COVID-19 is not a joke. It absolutely has the power to not just make you very sick, but it can also kill your loved ones. This is the worst pandemic we have experienced in a very long time, and it is important to follow the recommendations of the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities. Wash your hands as frequently as possible, practice social distancing, and remain hygienic. Thank you all for reading, and stay safe. 

Port City Daily

Additional Reading:

Signal v. Noise

The Press Stories

Cabin fever

The Meaning of “Cabin Fever”: The Journal of Social Psychology: Vol 123, No 1

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Serotonin Syndrome

Brain Networks Implicated in Seasonal Affective Disorder: A Neuroimaging PET Study of the Serotonin Transporter

Coronavirus: how to self-isolate

Harvard professor shares tips on how to work through the extreme Coronavirus anxiety cycle

 

 The Effects of Exercise on the Brain

You have definitely heard from somewhere that “your brain is a muscle.” You need to keep your brain engaged and exercised to make sure that it is at top efficiency. But how does physical exercise affect brain function? 

From a very basic view, it seems that exercise increases blood flow around the body, including the brain. More blood means more brain function, right? Yes. A basic effect of exercise on the brain is increased blood flow, which is required for more intensive brain tasks like solving complex math equations or more advanced spatial thinking. The cerebral circulation around the brain is mostly autoregulated, and blood tends to go to areas that the brain needs it. The below diagram shows how blood flow to the brain changes when going from idle activities to exercise.

AHealthBlog

Areas in red represent the maximum amount of blood flow to that area of the brain, with blue representing the least amount of blood flow. 

Increased blood flow is not the only benefit from increased exercise. Hormones associated with “runner’s high,” a sensation of euphoria and ease that sometimes come with running activities, decrease stress hormones in the brain. Also, research from UCLA revealed that there is a strong correlation between exercise and new growth factors in the brain. Growth factors are naturally occurring substances that stimulate cellular growth and healing, and in this case, the growth factors caused by exercise are able to make the growth of new neuronal connections easier. 

Wellcome Collection

Moving from a physiological to a psychological perspective, exercise is also able to help memory and thinking skills, along with positive changes in mood and behavior. According to a study done by Harvard Health, regular exercise can increase the size of certain portions of the brain. The study focused on the hippocampus, an area that regulates learning and memory. 

PNAS

Indirectly, exercise can also improve sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety. 

It seems that exercise has more than a positive effect on the brain. All of the studies seem to be done on light aerobic exercise, which are the ones that get you sweating and moving. Resistance training and muscle toning exercises are also correlated with the same positive effects but are not as effective as aerobic exercise. It is also safe to assume that more intensive aerobic exercise would have the same effects. 

Further reading: 

Kirk I. Erickson, Michelle W. Voss, Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, Chandramallika Basak, Amanda Szabo, Laura Chaddock, Jennifer S. Kim, Susie Heo, Heloisa Alves, Siobhan M. White, Thomas R. Wojcicki, Emily Mailey, Victoria J. Vieira, Stephen A. Martin, Brandt D. Pence, Jeffrey A. Woods, Edward McAuley, and Arthur F. Kramer – Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory

Q.Dinga, S.Vaynman, M.Akhavan, Z.Ying, F.Gomez-Pinilla – Insulin-like growth factor I interfaces with brain-derived neurotrophic factor-mediated synaptic plasticity to modulate aspects of exercise-induced cognitive function

Heidi Godman – Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills

 

 Schizophrenia – a scientific view

 

  • Signs and Symptoms

    Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have schizophrenia too. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

    Positive symptoms: “Positive” symptoms are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may “lose touch” with some aspects of reality. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations

    Delusions

    Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)

    Movement disorders (agitated body movements)

    Negative symptoms: “Negative” symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include: “Flat affect” (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)

    Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life

    Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities

  • Reduced speaking

    Cognitive symptoms: For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include: Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)

    Trouble focusing or paying attention. Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use the information immediately after learning it

  • Risk Factors

    There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia. Genes and environment: Scientists have long known that schizophrenia sometimes runs in families. However, there are many people who have schizophrenia who don’t have a family member with the disorder and conversely, many people with one or more family members with the disorder who do not develop it themselves.

    Scientists believe that many different genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia, but that no single gene causes the disorder by itself. It is not yet possible to use genetic information to predict who will develop schizophrenia.

    Scientists also think that interactions between genes and aspects of the individual’s environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Environmental factors may involve:

    Exposure to viruses

    Malnutrition before birth

    Problems during birth

  • Psychosocial factors

    Different brain chemistry and structure: Scientists think that an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters (substances that brain cells use to communicate with each other) dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, plays a role in schizophrenia.

    Some experts also think problems during brain development before birth may lead to faulty connections. The brain also undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms in people who are vulnerable due to genetics or brain differences

  • Treatments and Therapies

    Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease. Treatments include:

    1. Antipsychotics
      Antipsychotic medications are usually taken daily in pill or liquid form. Some antipsychotics are injections that are given once or twice a month. Some people have side effects when they start taking medications, but most side effects go away after a few days. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication or medication combination, and the right dose. Check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website: , for the latest information on warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.
    2. Psychosocial Treatments
      These treatments are helpful after patients and their doctor find a medication that works. Learning and using coping skills to address the everyday challenges of schizophrenia helps people to pursue their life goals, such as attending school or work. Individuals who participate in regular psychosocial treatment are less likely to have relapses or be hospitalized. For more information on psychosocial treatments, see the Psychotherapies webpage on the NIMH website.
    3. Coordinated specialty care (CSC)
      This treatment model integrates medication, psychosocial therapies, case management, family involvement, and supported education and employment services, all aimed at reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. The NIMH Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) research project seeks to fundamentally change the trajectory and prognosis of schizophrenia through coordinated specialty care treatment in the earliest stages of the disorder. RAISE is designed to reduce the likelihood of long-term disability that people with schizophrenia often experience and help them lead productive, independent lives.
  • How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?

    Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be hard. It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who makes strange or clearly false statements. It is important to understand that schizophrenia is a biological illness.

    Here are some things you can do to help your loved one:

    Get them treatment and encourage them to stay in treatment

    Remember that their beliefs or hallucinations seem very real to them

    Tell them that you acknowledge that everyone has the right to see things their own way

    Be respectful, supportive, and kind without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior

    Check to see if there are any support groups in your area

    Autism or ASD and Schizophrenia are two different medical conditions that are linked to a human brain which have from years back been considered to be one and the same thing. However, there has been some rising disputes and concern about the diagnosis of these medical conditions in a bid to offer better treatment.

    Some doctors and researchers argue that both Autism and Schizophrenia are different onsets of the same medical condition and have different symptoms due to the different stages a patient undergoes through. Other researchers have found some ground to challenge this long standing fact which will be very beneficial in how both conditions are handled.

  • Autism

    Autism is conspired as a wide spectrum disorder hence the name Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

    This is a development disability which can occur in any human being caused by brain abnormality.

    A typical definition of an individual suffering from autism is that he or she is suffering from social and communication skills development.

    However, Autism Spectrum Disorder occurs differently in all patients and although there are similar characteristics in all patients, they all have different and unique characteristics at some stage in their life as well as their portrayal of strength and challenges.

    This creates three categories based on the strengths and challenges under ASD. Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

    Statistically all these disorders occur in about 1 child in every 59 in America and tends to occur more in boys than girls.

  • Schizophrenia

    This is medical disorder caused by a brain disorder affecting the thoughts, feelings and how this individual acts.

    This disorder is chronic and statistics indicate that is currently affects about 1 percent of the global adult population.

    There has been a general though in the world attributing violence to schizophrenia but this has over the past few years been disputed as symptoms vary from one individual to the other.

    However, in distinguishing between these two, it has been stated that both have different ages in a human being where a doctor or any other individual can notice or diagnose the possibility of these two disorders.

    Autism occurs very early in an individual and this can happen as early as 6 months after the birth of a child.

    Clear indications or signs of this disorder occur or can be visible within the first three years of a child’s life.

    Some will develop normally within the first few years of this bracket only to have a full blown effect at the last few months the three years while others will have a gradual occurrence of the symptoms.

    On the other hand, Schizophrenia occurs later in a young individual’s life starting at around 16 to 30 years.

    This aspect makes Schizophrenia very disabling in an individual’s life as they have already established a system in their life which they are unable to continue when diagnosed with this disability.

    More males tend to develop the symptoms of Schizophrenia at an earlier age as compared to females.

    This disorder has the ability to mask itself in a person’s life for many years but come on to undo his or her life at a later stage.

  • Social Dysfunctions

    Autistic and Schizophrenic patients all suffer from social impairment as they lose the ability to show emotions as well as judgement of other people’s feelings and emotions.

    This is due to the fact that researchers have discovered that some brain cells in these patients that process social information become less active with every passing day of the disorders.

    However, Schizophrenic patients have been attributed to ill will in the society as they tend to be more reactive to peoples actions in the efforts of helping them.

    This is also linked to the high hallucination rate suffered by any person suffering from Schizophrenia.

    Autistic patients on the other hand have portrayed a more mild reaction and suffer from very few hallucinations as compared to Schizophrenia.

    They are also more socially cynical based on their past experiences with people trying to handle or understand their behaviour.

    Although these two disorders are increasingly becoming more prevalent in the global population, it is evident that separating them from their early stages and diagnosing one against the other has made it easier to treat and handle Autism and Schizophrenia which is the ultimate goal by the researchers and doctors in the medical world

  • Video references:

    https://youtu.be/y-yOH9Aqdh

    will develop normally within the first few years of this bracket

    https://youtu.be/o4jiVV8Un-

 The effects of fasting on the brain

 

  • The effects of fasting on the brain

    xMark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, reveals the surprising brain benefits of fasting……

  • What is fasting?

    “The way we as scientists who study fasting define it is not consuming food for a long enough period of time to elevate the levels of compounds called ketones. In the fed state — that is, when you’re not fasting — glucose is the primary fuel used by cells, including neurons. Fasting depletes the liver’s store of glucose, prompting fat cells to release fats. The fats travel to the liver where they’re converted into ketones, which are essentially small pieces of fats that cells can use as an energy source.

    This metabolic switch — going from using glucose to using ketones as an energy source — happens after about 10 to 14 hours of not consuming food, depending on how active you are. Exercise will accelerate the onset of the switch.

    There are different types of fasting regimens. In lab animals, the main regimen we use is alternate-day fasting where the rats or mice have no food for a 24-hour period, followed by a 24-hour period where they can eat, and so on. Alternatively, you can restrict the amount of time animals have access to food to a four- to six-hour window so that they’re fasting between 18 and 20 hours a day. In people, we’ve studied a fasting regimen called the 5:2 diet, where people eat normally for five days out of the week and then eat only about 500 calories on the other two days.

  • What happens to the brain and body when an animal fasts?

    In an animal in the wild, like a cougar or a wolf that hasn’t killed any prey in a couple of weeks, during that time they’re pretty much running on ketones rather than glucose. Obviously, it’s important that their brain and body are able to function well in that fasted state. And that’s what we’re finding in lab animals — the brain and body actually perform better during fasting. In the case of the brain, cognitive function, learning, memory, and alertness are all increased by fasting. And in the body, we recently found that mice maintained on an alternate-day fasting diet during a month of treadmill training have better endurance than mice fed every day. So intermittent fasting enhanced the mice’s physical performance.

  • How does fasting improve cognitive function in mice?

    In lab animals, fasting, as well as exercise, stimulates the production of a protein in nerve cells called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This protein plays critical roles in learning, memory, and the generation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. BDNF also makes neurons more resistant to stress. Fasting also triggers a process called autophagy, where cells remove damaged molecules and dysfunctional mitochondria, and turns off cell growth. So neurons are in a kind of “resource conservation and stress resistance” mode during fasting. When the animal, and by extrapolation probably the human, eats after fasting, neurons shift to a “growth” mode — they make lots of proteins, grow, and form new synapses. We think these cycles of metabolic challenge, whether it’s exercise or fasting, and then a recovery period may optimize neuroplasticity, learning, memory, and the resistance of the brain to stress.”

  • This has been known throughout history. In Ancient Greece, the great thinkers would fast for days on end, not because they needed to lose weight, but because they believed (correctly) that fasting would increase their mental agility. Even today, we marvel at the ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians. In stories of Japanese prisoners of war in World War II (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand), many have described the amazing clarity of thought that often accompanies starvation. In this book, the main character describes a prisoner who would read entire books from memory, and another who learned the Norwegian language in a few weeks. Incredibly, these feats were so commonplace that prisoners simply accepted it as a fact of life that starvation increases cognitive ability.

  • When we say we are ‘hungry’ for something (hungry for power, hungry for attention), does it mean we are slothful and dull? No, it means that we are hyper-vigilant and energetic. So, fasting and hunger clearly activate us towards our goal. People always worry that fasting will dull their senses, but in fact, it has the opposite, energizing effect……

  • Fasting and neuro-degenerative diseases
    There are also very interesting mouse models of neuro-degenerative diseases. Mice maintained on IF, compared to normal mice, showed less age-related deterioration of neurons and less symptoms in models of Alzheimers disease, Parksinon’s and Huntington’s disease…..

    Fasting might prevent Alzheimer’s disease
    Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of proteins. There are two main classes – amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (tau protein). The symptoms of AD correlate closely with the accumulation of these plaques and tangles. It is believed that these abnormal proteins destroy the synaptic connections in the memory and cognition areas of the brain.

  • Certain proteins (HSP-70) act to prevent damage and misfolding of the tau and amyloid proteins. In mouse models, alternate daily fasting increased the levels of HSP-70. Autophagy removes these tau and amyloid proteins when they are damaged beyond repair. This process, too, is stimulated by fasting.

    There is substantial evidence that risk of AD is related to obesity. A recent population based twin study demonstrated that weight gain in middle age predisposes to AD.

    Taken together, this suggests a fascinating possibility in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Over 5 million American have AD and this number will likely increase rapidly due to the aging population. AD creates significant burdens upon families that are forced to care for their afflicted members.

    Certainly fasting may have significant benefits in reducing weight, type 2 diabetes along with its complications – eye damage, kidney disease, nerve damage, heart attacks, strokes, cancer. However, the possibility also exists that it may prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease as well.

    The method of protection may also have to do with autophagy – a cellular self cleansing process that may help removed damaged proteins from the body and brain. Since AD may result from the abnormal accumulation of Tau protein or amyloid protein, fasting may provide a unique opportunity to rid the body of these abnormal proteins.

    “I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.” – Plato (428-348 B.C.)

  • Video references:

  • Further reading:

    J.Suzuki, Y. Yamauchi, M. Horikawa and S. Yamagata, ‘Fasting therapy for psychosomatic diseases with special reference to its indication and therapeutic mechanism’, Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 118 : 245-259, 1976.

    *2. A. Kasamatsu and T. Hirai, ‘An electroencephalographic study on Zen meditation (Zazen)’, Folia Psychiat. Nenrol. Jap-, 20:315-336, 1966.

    *3. J. P. Banquet, ‘Spectral analysis of the EEG in meditation’, Electroenceph. Clin. Neuro-physiol, 35: 143-15, 1973.

    *4. H. Yamamoto, J. Suzuki and Y. Yamauchi, ‘Psychophysiological study of fasting therapy’, Proc. 12th Eur. Conf. Psychosom. Res., Psychother. Psychosom., 32:229-240, 1979.

 CTE and Concussions in Football Players

 

  • CTE and Concussions in Football Players.

    Crippling brain injury from football can start early, even among high school players, a new study suggests.

    And its effects can last over time, even without additional head impacts, researchers report.
    Football players can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after playing high school football, although higher rates of CTE are tied to college and pro football, the researchers said.
    “Unfortunately, we found CTE in people who only played high school football and passed away at a very young age,” said lead author Dr. Daniel Daneshvar, from Boston University’s School of Medicine CTE Center.

    CTE is a devastating degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
    It is most prominently found among football players: 110 of 111 deceased NFL players were found to have some form of CTE in a study released in 2017. Among them were Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Frank Gifford.

    “We still don’t understand a lot about the disease and what causes it,” Daneshvar said.

    But, he added, the findings suggest that CTE is progressive and worsens with age even in the absence of additional head trauma.

    CTE can only be diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue

    For the study, Daneshvar and his colleagues looked at the brains of football players who had died. The study included more than half of the diagnosed CTE cases worldwide.

    The brains were donated between February 2008 and May 2016. The researchers also surveyed people who had known these men.

    Autopsies of the brains found signs of CTE in 177, or 87 percent of all the football players in the study. Specifically, it was found in 29 percent of high school players, 87 percent of college players, 71 percent of semi-pro players, 88 percent of Canadian Football League players and 99 percent of National Football League players.
    The researchers found CTE followed an age-dependent evolution, from small lesions in teenagers and young adults to severe brain damage in middle age.
    Based on their interviews and surveys, the players also often had cognitive, behavior, mood and motor symptoms during their life, the researchers said.
    Pro players suffered from CTE at greater rates and died with advanced CTE. They were also more likely to have been diagnosed with dementia, compared with college players.
    Daneshvar hopes that a way to diagnose the disease can be found while players are alive and can lead to a treatment.
    What can be said is that CTE occurs in a high percentage of individuals who play contact sports, Daneshvar said.
    “The brain doesn’t care what hits it. We’ve see CTE in victims of domestic violence, in hockey players, boxers and military veterans. So if you end up getting hit in the head a lot, you’re at risk for CTE,” he added.

    One expert not involved with the study said parents of kids who play football should be aware that there may be potential long-term harm.
    “I tell parents that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
    “We don’t know what effects concussions are going to have on their child, but we should be concerned about it,” he said.
    “We should also keep an open mind, because this study is not definitive,” Kuluz added.

  • How Common are Concussions in Football?

    Concussions in football are not only common, but they are also expected; every time the head receives an impact, the brain can bounce around inside the skull. This ‘bouncing” happens whenever an impact occurs, whether a helmet is worn or not. Upon impact, the brain tissue can be damaged, resulting in a lack of consciousness, increased tiredness, “seeing stars” and ongoing confusion.

    These problems occur in the aftermath of a concussion but can continue for months to years afterward. Repeated concussions can ultimately lead to CTE and the resulting problems with focus, concentration and cognitive skills. Left untreated, even a single concussion can have lasting negative impacts on the way the brain performs and the overall quality of life experienced by the player.

    In many cases, if the player does not lose consciousness, he never heads to the emergency room. A 2018 publication for coaches, parents, and athletes targeted this problem and aimed to boost awareness of the danger of head injury and brain damage for youth football players. According to this CDC publication, head injuries without visible lumps, bleeding or sustained consciousness must be taken seriously; they could lead to problems later in life.

  • What Can Be Done About CTE in Football Players?

    Campaigns led by groups including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are designed to prevent concussion and boost awareness of the issue, but what about those who are already injured and experiencing the issues related with CTE?

    Neurofeedback evaluates existing brainwaves and retrains the brain to function in a healthier way, often eliminating unwanted symptoms and issues. While concussion and CTE damage were once seen as something that could not be reversed, there is new hope for both professional and student-athletes in any sport.

  • Hope for Concussion and CTE Patients

    According to USA Today, professional football players are turning to neurofeedback to get relief. Greenbay Packers player Jermichael Finley began to see results from neurofeedback after only a few weeks.

    “I didn’t think it was something that could be fixed,” Finley said, speaking with USA Today.

    “I noticed irritability began to set in and really didn’t know what to do. When I heard about the place, my first thought was, ‘Man, this is not my kind of deal.’ I was told to think outside the box and see what’s going on with my brain.”

    Finley saw improvement – and his brain scan did too. When he was initially scanned, Finley had 44% dysfunction. Just six weeks later, the retired player had only 20% dysfunction.

    While results vary, neurofeedback provided both reliefs from symptoms for this retired pro and a significant reduction in the dysfunction he was experiencing.

  • Neurofeedback and Concussions

    …. Since CTE and concussions impact brain function and the actual physical and chemical makeup of the brain, the (qEEG), or brain scan, used in neurofeedback can help quantify the damage and reveal where dysfunction is occurring. Administered by a professionally trained technician, a brain scan is a quick and easy process, during which the patient wears a snug-fitting cap and relaxes in comfort while brain waves are measured by sensors in the cap.

    For those who suspect a concussion or who have been injured while playing football or any other sport, neurofeedback offers a pain-free, worry-free way to identify and target troublesome brainwave patterns. …..

    Since the process is non-invasive and pain-free and has the potential to ease symptoms, professional players and youngsters are turning to neurofeedback therapy as a source of hope and recovery. Since neurofeedback can be used on children over six and adults, it can help identify unhealthy brain patterns and create healthier pathways for athletes of any age.

  • Video references:
  • Further reading:

    TGen, Riddell Team Up on Molecular-based Study of Concussions

    GenomeWeb, 2013

    TGen Gets Funding for Football Concussion Research

    GenomeWeb, 2014

    NIH Awards BU-led Team $15.9M Grant to Study Sports-Related Brain Injury

    GenomeWeb, 2015

    Abbott in Collaborations to Develop Biomarker Test for Traumatic Brain Injury

    Leo O’Connor, 360Dx, 2017

    Sport participation and vigilance in children: Influence of different sport expertise

    RafaelBallestera et al., Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2018

    As Concussion Awareness Rises, BioDirection Moves to Bring Blood-Based Test to Market

    Tony Fong, 360Dx, 2016

 The Effects of Blue Light and bright screens on the brain

 

  • The Effects of Blue Lights and Bright Screens on the Brain

    Blue light has a dark side. Although it is environmentally friendly, blue light can affect your sleep and potentially cause disease. Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.

    But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

  • What is blue light?

    Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

  • Is nighttime light exposure bad?

    Some studies suggest a link between exposure to light at night, such as working the night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. That’s not proof that nighttime light exposure causes these conditions; nor is it clear why it could be bad for us. But we do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.

  • Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don’t get enough sleep, says Lockley, and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

  • Effects of blue light and sleep

    While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).

    If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. Those curlicue compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs we grew up with. But they also tend to produce more blue light.

  • Protect yourself from blue light at nightp

    Use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.

    Avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed.

    If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.

    Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

  • Our circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake pattern) is regulated by our exposure to light. There are several components of this system that are particularly important. First, we have specific cells in our eye retina that function as detectors of the duration and intensity of light. These cells, called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), are particularly sensitive to short wavelength blue light.

    Light-exposed ipRGC cells send signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain. This region is responsible for setting the body clock, achieved by regulating the production of the hormone melatonin in the pineal gland. Melatonin plays a role in the adjusting mechanism: it synchronizes the body’s circadian rhythms with the real-life cycle of day and night experienced by the body. The problem is, this system can be easily fooled by prolonged exposure to artificial light. When you stare at your laptop screen late in the evening, you are also sending a signal to your brain that you are currently experiencing daytime. Your body will try to adjust accordingly to help you take advantage of daytime hours—it will reduce your desire to sleep. And once the screen is off, you don’t feel like sleeping anymore…

    Recently published experimental data demonstrated that just two hours of evening exposure to bright computer screens emitting blue light decreases sleep duration and, more importantly, dramatically reduces its quality. People exposed to computer screens were awakening during the night much more often compared to those who did not use computers in the evening. The data also demonstrated that both the type of light emitted by the screens and its intensity is important for nighttime sleep quality. The screens with low brightness were less disturbing for sleep quality, and the screens emitting red light did not affect nighttime sleep at all.
    Exposure to blue light-emitting bright screens in the morning is actually a positive thing: it can help to readjust the body to the correct time of the day. In fact, morning exposure to blue light is even used in a number of bright light therapy methods aimed at normalizing the circadian cycle, particularly in elderly people who often experience sleep-wake pattern disturbances.

  • Blue Light And Our Eyes

    The visible light with the highest intensity is blue light, and just above it on the spectrum is UV radiation. One concern is that, because blue light is so close to UV radiation in wavelength, it might be similarly harmful, particularly to our vision. The screens on our electronic devices may not emit light anywhere near as bright as sunlight (which contains both blue light and UV radiation), but the time we spend staring at our screens is time we spend exposing our eyes to blue light.

    It’s not clear yet how much blue light exposure is enough to cause lasting harm to our vision, but it could be contributing to macular degeneration (loss of central vision), a condition normally associated with advancing age. To be on the safe side, we would be wise to limit our exposure.

  • Your Brain Restructures

    According to Psychology Today, one of the fundamental consequences that a large amount of screen time has on adults is a restructuring of the matter that makes up your brain. (The brain consists of grey matter, the heavy bit that makes up the folds, and white matter, which transmits messages between neurons.) These results don’t apply to everyone — they’re all proven consequences of screen addiction, which is a psychological condition based around severely excessive use of electronic devices — but folks who aren’t addicts but do use their devices heavily may experience some version of the same restructuring. Too much screen usage seems to result in grey matter shrinkage, problems with white matter’s ability to communicate, a lot more cravings, and general poorer cognitive performance. Not great news, guys.

  • Video references:

  • Further Reading:

    1Noseda R, Bernstein CA, Nir R-R, et al. Migraine photophobia originating in cone-driven retinal pathways. Brain. 2016;139(7):1971-1986. doi:10.1093/brain/aww119.

    2Main A, Vlachonikolis I, Dowson A. The wavelength of light causing photophobia in migraine and tension-type headache between attacks. Headache. 2000 Mar;40(3):194-9.

    3M. Tatsumoto, T. Eda, T. Ishikawa, M. Ayama, K. Hirata. Light of Intrinsically Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cell (ipRGC) Causing Migraine Headache Exacerbation. IHC symposium OR3. 2013 June.

    4Kim DJ, Lim C-Y, Gu N, Park CY. Visual Fatigue Induced by Viewing a Tablet Computer with a High-resolution Display. Korean Journal of Ophthalmology?: KJO. 2017;31(5):388-393. doi:10.3341/kjo.2016.0095.

 Music artists’ curious obsession with shoes

 

  • Just. Stop. And Look. At those SHOES.

    What is it with musicians and entertainers and their obsession with shoes? If you haven’t noticed it already then it’s time to stop and pay attention. Let me present this video that will help out just a little:

  • Please tell me you “happened to notice” War and Treaty, Cannery Ballroom. Please.

    But let’s take the journey together and explore this obsession.

    “Denizens of the entertainment world are known to have quirky indulgences — be it cars, shoes, watches or houses. But the one person who stands out from this fraternity and has always made a statement via his style during his on-screen or stage performances is singer Navraj Hans.

  • Being an explorer at heart, the singer has a separate wardrobe dedicated to his footwear. Navraj has multiple shoes that suit different occasions. More than a necessity, the singer is obsessed with shoes, which top his shopping list at all times. The singer makes it a point to pick up a pair of shoe whenever he is travelling.

    Not only that, he recently customised shoes for a cricket team that he owns. Not only did he gift every player of his team a pair, but also the opposing team as well”

  • 8 Sneakers Your Favorite Artists Are Wearing Right Now

    “From Mendes to Migos, we’ve rounded up eight pairs of shoes that some of the biggest names in music are wearing today.

    We may be approaching the apex on sneaker culture, but when it comes to music, it’s hard to remember a time when kicks and beats weren’t intertwined. From Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” (stream here) to Nelly’s “Air Force Ones” (stream here), music – and especially hip-hop – has always embraced the athletic shoe as a symbol of status and style. These days, they can also be part of an artist’s overall brand (think Kanye and his Yeezys), as musicians seek new ways to express themselves creatively beyond five lines and four spaces.

    From Shawn Mendes to Migos, we’ve rounded up eight pairs of shoes that some of the biggest names in music are wearing today. Whether you’re a serious sneakerhead or a casual fan, here’s what you need to know.

  • 1. Selena Gomez: PUMA Cali

    selena gomez puma sneakers cali

    Courtesy PUMA

    After an extended break from the spotlight, Selena Gomez returned to Instagram this month to reveal her latest collaboration with Puma. The “Cali” is a fresh take on a classic 1980s sneaker, re-tooled with a perforated leather upper, bold design details on the sole and a slightly oversized silhouette that plays up the “chunky sneaker” trend that’s all the rage right now. The shoe comes in five colorways, though we like the white-on-white version for that clean, laid back look. Purchase: $88.00 on PUMA.com.

  • 2. Jaden Smith: New Balance 1700

    jaden smith sneakers new balance review

    Courtesy Amazon

    Jaden Smith isn’t conventional when it comes to his music or his style, and we wouldn’t expect anything otherwise. Smith’s sneaker of choice: the Louis Vuitton Archlight ($1,090), which is actually a woman’s shoe that Smith pulls off with aplomb. More proof of his daring sartorial choices: Smith attended the New York City premiere of his film, Skate Kitchen, last year in a custom-made hybrid sneaker, that took the bones of these New Balance 1700 sneakers and paired it with the sweeping, springy outsole from his favorite LV kicks. Purchase: New Balance 1700 sneakers, $239.95 on Amazon.com.

  • 3. Pharrell Williams: Adidas Originals SOLARHU

    pharrell adidas solarhu sneakers

    Courtesy Adidas

    Pharrell has long been a sneaker savant, and his latest collaboration with Adidas showcases the rapper and producer’s forward-thinking aesthetic in rich textures and colorful new silhouettes. The collection includes four shoe styles, along with apparel, bags and accessories (see the full collection here), but we like these SOLARHU sneakers, inspired by East Africa’s vibrant motifs, and the continent’s storied tradition of long-distance running. The shoes feature Adidas’ signature Primeknit material, with a honeycomb-hued colorway and lightweight, adaptive sole. Stylish and flexible, they’re as at ease on the track as they are on the stage. Purchase: $130.00 on Adidas.com.

  • 4. Cardi B: Reebok Aztrek

    cardi b reebook aztrek

    Courtesy Reebok

    Cardi B may have shouted out Balenciaga sneakers in her song, “I Like It” (stream here), but when it comes to putting her money where her mouth is, the Bronx-born rapper is taking it to the bank with a new partnership with Reebok. Cardi’s been tapped to promote Reebok’s re-issued “Aztrek” sneaker, which flashes back to the ’90s with retro-inspired styling, muted colors and a wider, chunkier silhouette. The unisex sneaker is available in more than 20 colorways. Cardi follows in the footsteps of Ariana Grande, who helped Reebok re-launch its iconic “Rapide” sneaker last year. Purchase: Reebok Aztrek sneakers, $80.00 on Reebok.com.

  • 5. Migos: Under Armour HOVR Phantom

    migos under armour hovr phantom

    Courtesy Finish Line

    The guys from Migos spread the love when it comes to their sneaker collection. Case in point: their on-going collaboration with Finish Line (see the full collection here), which highlights favorite shoes from Nike (like the Air Max 270 pictured at the top of the page), Adidas and Under Armour. Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff picked out this pair of HOVR Phantom Running Shoes from Under Armour, which is one of the slicker pairs of kicks from the training brand. It’s got the familiar knit upper for a sock-like fit and feel, but doubles down on design details, with a speckled, high-grade traction outsole, a perforated mid-foot, and layers of interior foam that cushion and cradle your feet as you walk or run. Pair the shoe with Under Armour’s “MapMyRun” app to track your running speed, cadence and shoe’s lifespan. Purchase: $140.00 on FinishLine.com.

  • 6. Shawn Mendes: Nike Free TR 8

    shawn mendes sneakers shoes nike

    Courtesy Nike

    Though he’s not as much of a trend-setter as some of the other guys on the list, Shawn Mendes has stepped up his footwear game in recent years. Case in point: these cap-toed leather boots he sported at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards and these minimalist “Bradley” sneakers from CLAE (a cheaper alternative to Common Projects) that his stylist pulled for a recent photoshoot. Mendes has also been pictured heading to the gym in his favorite pair of Nike Frees. The Nike Free TR 8 sneaker is the classic athletic sneaker, combining a clean, two-tone colorway with a ton of technical features to elevate any workout routine, bike ride or run. Grab the shoe in four colorways and a ton of sizes. Purchase: $100 on Nike.com.</p

  • 7. Justin Bieber: Jordan AJ 1 Mid

    air jordan fear of god alternatives

    Courtesy Foot Locker

    Justin Bieber has amassed a huge sneaker collection over the years, but we liked the Fear of God 1987 Basketball “All-Star” kicks he sported at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. The bad part: only 30 pairs of these Jerry Lorenzo-designed sneaks were released, and most of them were reserved for A-list sneakerheads like the Biebs. You can still find the Fear of God x Nike collab on eBay (though good luck paying less than four dollar signs). Or you can drop a single Benjamin on the pair that inspired the collab: the Air Jordan 1 Mid.

    First released in 1985, the black and red colorway was meant to match the colors on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls jersey, but it violated the NBA’s then-super basic uniform policy (read: no loud colors). That same boldness has stayed with the iconic sneaker over the years, and this latest version bares much of the same design elements as the original, updated with full-grain leather, a perforated toe box and the “Air Jordan Wings” logo on the side. Purchase: $110.00 on FootLocker.com.

  • 8. Kanye West: Karhu Fusion

    kanye west karhu shoes yeezy wave runner dupe

    Courtesy Amazon

    You already know about the Yeezys, but Kanye’s also been spotted rocking a pair of Fusion sneakers from Karhu — an old-school Finnish footwear brand that specializes in technical shoes for the outdoors. These Fusion 2.0 sneakers were first introduced in the ’90s as a hybrid running and hiking shoe. The latest version features a mixed suede and leather upper, hiking laces and color-block design details. The boxy silhouette was meant to give you a comfortable fit and solid grip on the trails, but it also checks off all the boxes right now when it comes to that chunky sneaker style. Some have accused Kanye of copying Karhu’s designs for his Yeezy Wave Runner 700 shoe; we’re just happy to see an independent Scandinavian footwear brand get some shine.”

  • The Curious Case of Chris Brown and His Shoes

    “Chris Brown is the latest celebrity to feature on Complex Closets — and he makes a strong claim for owning the most insane sneaker collection ever.

    Spanning several rooms, Brown’s collection takes up a space that dwarves most people’s houses. But what else would you expect from a guy who takes more than 1,000 pairs on tour? There are Spizike’s signed by Spike Lee, gold Nike x Supreme Air More Uptempo’s, adidas YEEZY Boost 350 V2’s, and just about every Allen Iverson signature Reebok sneaker ever released. Hearteningly, rather than sitting there gathering dust, they’re all worn in; Brown says he loves wearing them all, even changing up his look between three and four times a day.”
    Check out this video and be AMAZED:

  • And while you’re at it, check out Nick Cannon and his crazy shoes too. Shoestring budget? I don’t think so.

    There’s just so much to see and so little time! So why don’t you check out these insanely shoes-y videos now?

 Social Media Anxiety

 

  • This image seemed to fit the way at least half the world’s population is feeling right this moment.

    With that enterprising fact, let us begin to define Social Media Anxiety.
    “According to the Huffington Post, social media anxiety disorder is a category of social anxiety disorder, when posts and their status on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat affect the media user’s mental and physical being. People with this disorder have serious fear that others will judge and ridicule their interactions on social media, and this can lead to more serious issues such as depression.

  • The list of symptoms related to this condition are similar to general anxiety and social anxiety disorders and include:

    Discomfort in online social situations

    Extreme fright

    Palpitations and Muscle Twitching

    Constantly checking social media without stop

    Constantly discussing social media in real life conversations”

  • “With 91% of young people using the internet for social networking and rates of depression and anxiety in young people having risen by more than 70% in the past 25 years, talk of whether there’s a link between social media use and depression is becoming more frequent.

    Dr Richelle Mayshak from Deakin’s School of Psychology says there is some evidence that the use of social media promotes an idealised image. ‘Facebook and Instagram may be associated with feelings of inadequacy or reduced self-esteem. These negative feelings are thought to come from a perceived lack of popularity when a post doesn’t receive “enough” likes.’

    So, is social media to blame for the rise in rates of depression and anxiety in young people?”

     

  • Does social media cause depression?

    “s using social media making our kids unhappy? Evidence is mounting that there is a link between social media and depression. In several recent studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66 percent) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time.

    Does that mean that Instagram and Facebook are actually causing depression? These studies show a correlation, not causation. But it’s worth a serious look at how social media could be affecting teenagers and young adults negatively.

    One reason the correlation seems more than coincidental is that an increase in depression occurred in tandem with the rise in smartphone use.

    A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent.

    Smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015 fully 92 percent of teens and young adults owned a smartphone. The rise in depressive symptoms correlates with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year, observes the study’s lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge.

    Over that same time period there was a sharp spike in reports of students seeking help at college and university counseling centers, principally for depression and anxiety. Visits jumped 30 percent between 2010 and 2015.”

  • Check out this interesting study published by the NIH on :

    Social Media Use and Depression and Anxiety Symptoms: A Cluster Analysis

    Is Social Media Anxiety Different From Social Anxiety?

    “Social media anxiety can be considered a subset of a broader phenomenon called social anxiety, which typically involves feelings of distress relating to social interactions of any kind. The social interactions causing distress can be offline or online, such as speaking in public offline or using social networking tools online.

    At its core, the distress of social anxiety usually involves a fear of being judged by other people.

    Severe forms of social anxiety are considered a mental disorder, and sometimes are referred to as “social anxiety disorder” or “social phobia.”

    People who suffer from this disorder typically have distorted thinking that leads them to worry excessively and obsessively about how other people are monitoring and judging them, often critically. The fear can be so intense that people actually avoid many or most social situations.

  • Social media anxiety has not gained the same level of medical attention as this broader phenomenon of social anxiety, as it is often viewed as simply a part of these broader fears.”

    10 Tips for Smart Social Media Use When You Have SAD

    ” Be mindful of the tone of what you share or comment. Staying positive and open is more likely to encourage others to interact with you than negativity or complaints.

    Balance time that you spend online with time spent in real-world connections. Or, use the time that you connect online to plan events in the real world.

    Practice mindfulness to become aware of your surroundings to prevent social networking from swallowing up your whole day.

    Sign up for meetup groups or join groups with people who have similar interests or hobbies to yours. This can be particularly helpful if you have a very limited social circle in real life and want to use social networking to increase your connections.

  • Remember that what you see on social networking sites is not necessarily a true representation of the lives of people you know. Some people only share the positive, others may only share the negative—try not to compare or think about what others have that you don’t.

    Use other people’s social media profiles to get to know people ahead of meeting them, when they are on their way to becoming your friend. At the same time, don’t obsess or spend too much time doing this, or it may backfire.

    If you are going to use social networking sites, try not to be a passive user. Don’t spend hours looking over other people’s posts without sharing anything about yourself.

    Take advantage of the extra social support you may receive from your friends on social networking sites. Particularly if you have higher levels of social anxiety, this support may help to improve your feelings of well-being.

    Moderate your use. Use social networking as a reward for getting other things done in the real world, to prevent yourself from falling into an addictive pattern.

    Have a detached relationship to social networking. Recognize its strengths and weaknesses and never rely on it as your only means of communication.

    A Word From Verywell

    Think about how social media has served you so far. Do you feel more connected as a result of your time spent online, or less connected? Make a list of three steps you can take toward positive change. Yours will be different, but an example might be the following:

  • Only check social networking sites twice per day.
    Share something positive or leave a positive comment at least once per week.
    Join a group with like interests that have regular meetups in the real world.”

  • “Facebook communication is limited to what you can see and do on a screen. That is, non-verbal cues such as the gestures and facial expressions that we enjoy and process in face-to-face conversations, as well as knowledge of who exactly the audience may be, are absent. Nor do the users have to attend to their own facial expressions or body language when on Facebook. They can carefully – or not so carefully – craft the image of themselves they wish to portray. They can also carry on several conversations with different people simultaneously if they so desire.
    Facebook is not the same as face-to-face interaction; distinct sets of communicative norms and expectations apply to each. Facebook cannot replace other forms of communication or meaningful social relationships.

  • Facebook and mental health: Hurting or helping? Yes…depending on how it’s used.”
    1. https://www.mentalhelp.net/internet/social-media-hurting-or-helping

 Effects of playing and listening to music on the brain

 

  • Like any sound, music arrives at the ear in the form of sound waves. The external ear collects sound waves, and the ear canal funnels them to the eardrum. As the waves strike the eardrum, they cause it to vibrate. The vibrations are relayed along the chain of tiny bones in the middle ear until they reach the third bone, the stapes, which connects to the cochlea.

    The cochlea is a busy little world of its own. It is filled with fluid that surrounds some 10,000 to 15,000 tiny hair cells, or cilia. Vibrations of the stapes send fluid waves through the spiral-shaped cochlea. The fluid waves produce swaying movements of the hair cells. In turn, these cells release chemical neurotransmitters that activate the auditory nerve, sending miniature electric currents to the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe of the brain.

    From there, things get even more complicated. Studies using MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans suggest that nerve networks in different parts of the brain bear primary responsibility for decoding and interpreting various properties of music. For example, a small area in the right temporal lobe is essential to perceive pitch, which forms the basis of melody (patterns of pitch over time), chords (several pitches that sound at the same time), and harmony (two or more melodies at the same time). Another nearby center is responsible for decoding timbre, the quality that allows the brain to distinguish between different instruments that are playing the same note. A different part of the brain, the cerebellum, processes rhythm, and the frontal lobes interpret the emotional content of music. And music that’s powerful enough to be “spine-tingling” can light up the brain’s “reward center,” much like pleasurable stimuli ranging from alcohol to chocolate.

    Although every healthy human brain can perform all the complex tasks needed to perceive music, musicians’ brains are, so to speak, more finely attuned to these tasks. At the other end of the spectrum, patients with brain damage may display remarkable defects in musicality; the noted neurologist and writer Dr. Oliver Sacks discusses many fascinating varieties of amusia in his book Musicophilia.

  • The neurobiology of music is a highly specialized field. But music also has major effects on many aspects of health, ranging from memory and mood to cardiovascular function and athletic performance.”

    “8 Surprising Ways Music Affects and Benefits our Brains

    1. Happy/sad music affects how we see neutral faces

    2. Ambient noise can improve creativity

    3. Our music choices can predict our personality

    4. Music can significantly distract us while driving (contrary to common belief)

    5. Music training can significantly improve our motor and reasoning skills

    6. Classical music can improve visual attention

    7. One-sided phone calls are more distracting than normal conversations

    8. Music helps us exercise”

  • What about playing music?

    “Science has shown that musical training can change brain structure and function for the better. It can also improve long-term memory and lead to better brain development for those who start at a young age.

    Furthermore, musicians tend to be more mentally alert, according to new research from a University of Montreal study.

    “The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times,” said lead researcher Simon Landry.

    “As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower,” said Landry. “So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.”

    Previously, Landry found that musicians have faster auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile reaction times. Musicians also have an altered statistical use of multisensory information. This means that they’re better at integrating the inputs from various senses.

    “Music probably does something unique,” explains neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way because of our emotional connection with it.”

    Unlike brain games, playing an instrument is a rich and complex experience. This is because it’s integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, along with fine movements. This can result in long-lasting changes in the brain. These can be applicable in the business world.

    Changes in the Brain
    Brain scans have been able to identify the difference in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians. Most notably, the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibers connecting the two sides of the brain, is larger in musicians. Also, the areas involving movement, hearing, and visuospatial abilities appear to be larger in professional keyboard players.

    Initially, these studies couldn’t determine if these differences were caused by musical training or if anatomical differences predispose some to become musicians. Ultimately, longitudinal studies showed that children who do 14 months of musical training displayed more powerful structural and functional brain changes.

    These studies prove that learning a musical instrument increases gray matter volume in various brain regions, It also strengthens the long-range connections between them. Additional research shows that musical training can enhance verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills.” “Here are eight additional ways that learning an instrument strengthens your brain.

  • 1. Strengthens bonds with others. This shouldn’t be surprising. Think about your favorite band. They can only make a record when they have contact, coordination, and cooperation with one another.

    2. Strengthens memory and reading skills. The Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University states this is because music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms.

    3. Playing music makes you happy. McMaster University discovered that babies who took interactive music classes displayed better early communication skills. They also smiled more.

    4. Musicians can process multiple things at once. As mentioned above, this is because playing music forces you to process multiple senses at once. This can lead to superior multisensory skills.

    5. Music increases blood flow in your brain. Studies have found that short bursts of musical training increase the blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain. That can be helpful when you need a burst of energy. Skip the energy drink and jam for 30 minutes.

    6. Music helps the brain recover. Motor control improved in everyday activities with stroke patients.

    7. Music reduces stress and depression. A study of cancer patients found that listening to and playing music reduced anxiety. Another study revealed that music therapy lowered levels of depression and anxiety.

    8. Musical training strengthens the brain’s executive function. Executive function covers critical tasks like processing and retaining information, controlling behavior, making decisions, and problem solving. If strengthened, you can boost your ability to live. Musical training can improve and strengthen executive functioning in both children and adults.”

 How does the brain interpret sound?

 

  • How does the brain interprets sound
    Every time the cat meows, the alarm goes off, the doorbell rings, a message tone sounds- what’s happening in the brain? What does the brain feel every time the ear sends it a sound signal? Let’s find out.

  • “The brain translates impulses from the ear into sounds that we know and understand. But the brain also discriminates relevant sounds from background noise and turns up the volume of our own speech. Finally, researchers have found that our brain may also play an important role when it comes to tinnitus.

    The brain plays an important role in our hearing

    When we hear, sound waves travel from the outer ear, through the middle ear into the inner ear where the vibrations stimulate thousands of tiny hair cells. The tiny hair cells in our inner ear send electrical signals to the auditory nerve which is connected to the auditory centre of the brain where the electrical impulses are perceived by the brain as sound. The brain translates the impulses into sounds that we know and understand.

  • Our brain is a filter

    Our brain is also active when we discriminate relevant sounds from background noise. Our brain can filter out unwanted noise so that we can focus on what we are listening to. And researchers have found that the brain activity is greater in the left half of the brain when we discriminate sounds from noise. In other words, the cocktail party effect occurs in the left side of our brain.

    In the same way, our brain turns up the volume when we speak. When it comes to our own speech, there is a network of volume settings in the brain which can amplify the sounds we make.”

    Here we see how hearing occurs as opposed to seeing; both in the context of the brain.

    “At their simplest, the sounds that surround us — from a baby’s cry to heavy metal — are merely vibrations in the air. It’s the job of the ears to capture those vibrations and convert them into neural signals that can be processed by the brain, enabling us to make sense of our aural environment.

    How does the conversion from mechanical vibration to electrical signal occur? Harvard scientists are closing in on answers.

  • The latest step is a study by Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Rachelle Gaudet, Ohio State University Assistant Professor Marcos Sotomayor, and first author Robert Powers ’14. The research, described in a March 7 paper in Structure, not only sheds new light on how hearing works, but could help scientists clarify how it might deteriorate or be damaged over time.

    “This is an important part of the machinery that enables us to hear … so what we’re trying to do is assemble a parts list of the machinery that does this conversion,” Gaudet said. “The proteins we have been studying are two members of a family of proteins, about 110 of which are found in our genome. These proteins are involved in processes like cell adhesion and intercellular signaling, so by studying these two, we also hope to get a view into what features you might find in the others.”

    At the heart of the system, Gaudet said, are bundles of tiny hairs deep in the cochlea that are connected via protein chains, called “tip links.”

    As the cochlea vibrates in response to sound, she explained, the hairs move, causing tip links to stretch and open ion channels on the hairs. As positively charged ions flow in, they generate the electrical signals the brain uses to process sounds.

  • “We’re zooming in to understand what that tip link actually looks like at the atomic level,” Gaudet said. “One of the questions we want to answer is whether that tip link connection is springy or stiff. Is it like a rod, or is it like a rope, or like a rubber band?

    “But we also want to understand its mechanical strength,” she said. “We want to understand the limits of this mechanical system and how robust it can be. We know if you go to a rock concert you’ll probably break a few of these links. They can regenerate, but if you break them faster than they can regenerate it will result in hearing loss.”

    The links are made up of two proteins, cadherin-23 and protocadherin-15. Gaudet and colleagues had previously focused on the area where the two proteins meet; their new work moves on to other regions.

    “We’re basically doing this in pieces so we can get a view of how the whole structure might work,” Gaudet said. “Eventually, our goal is to be able to reconstruct the whole tip link, but we were particularly interested in looking at this region because there are some unusual features here.”

    Among those, she said, are signs that some areas of the protein are more flexible than others.

    Calcium in the endolymph — the fluid in the inner ear — binds to the proteins, helping increase the strength and rigidity of the tip link, Gaudet said. In several areas, however, that process never takes place.

  • “In the long protocadherin-15 sequence, we expect to find amino acids capable of binding calcium at regular intervals, but in this area of the protein many of them just weren’t there,” she said. “We wanted to see what that looked like … and it appears this has an effect on the flexibility. Our molecular dynamic simulations showed that in areas where there is a lack of calcium, there is an increase in flexibility.”

    The potential explanations for why those regions bind less calcium aren’t limited to an increase in flexibility.

    “We believe there are other, similar joints at other locations along the tip link, so instead of being like a rigid rod, it may be more like a rope,” Gaudet said. “This could provide some more robustness and enable it to withstand the strong forces it is exposed to. But it might also be something that makes the assembly of the tip link easier, so it more readily finds its way to the tips of the hairs.”

    Gaudet and colleagues also targeted the area with the hope of understanding how and whether a tiny mutation, found to be prevalent among East Asian populations, produces any discernible structural differences in the tip links.

  • “Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any difference,” she said. “We ran it through a battery of tests, we did simulations to examine its flexibility, we looked at how well it binds the calcium, and it doesn’t seem to affect any of the measurements we made.”

    Ultimately, Gaudet said, understanding how hearing works can shed new light on how the system behind it might break down, and how it might be repaired.

    “There are over 50, and maybe as many as 60 different deafness-causing mutations that have been identified in these tip links,” Gaudet said. “Some are very subtle — they might be a change in just a single amino acid that weakens the tip links and causes deafness. If we understand how these structures work, we can better understand how they might fail, and how we might stop or correct it.””

  • A Brief Talk on Hearing Loss

    “Some people are born with hearing loss, or it can occur later in life as noise-induced hearing loss or as a natural part of aging. Following are a few interesting statistics about the prevalence of hearing loss:

    48 million Americans are diagnosed with significant hearing loss
    Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) affects 20% of Americans, and hearing loss occurs in 90% of those cases

    The number of people who experience hearing loss is more than those with Parkinson’s, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes combined”
    “Some people with hearing loss choose to use hearing aids or other assistive listening devices. Below are a few usage insights:

    Average age of first-time hearing aid wearers is 70
    16% of Americans aged 20-69 have used hearing aids
    30% of Americans aged 70 and older have used hearing aids
    Around 58,000 cochlear devices are in use in U.S. adults
    These basic hearing loss facts are intended to arm you with helpful information and help you feel more comfortable discussing it with others. Click to check out more useful resources for people with hearing loss.”