Archive | March, 2012

Brain Science Breakthroughs: Just a Taste

29 Mar

In the past two months there have been an unusual number of seemingly breakthrough studies in brain science published  – hard core things that involve mapping and tracking neurons.   All of these findings are getting researchers closer to understanding how the brain forms, stores, and accesses memories and what happens when things go wrong in that neuronal network.     

It felt like there were too many gems not to share a brief bit and a link to at least a couple of those pieces of game changing scientific inquiry.

Two studies, summarized in Science Codex, might just re-shape how science looks at the neuro-degeneration that leads to cognitive decline as part of dementia.   The first study, out of University of California, San Francisco, looked at “wiring diagrams” of the brain in specific diseases and how their “epicenters” relate to disease progression.   The second, out of Cornell’s Weill Medical College, builds on that model and could, as the body of research and practice expands, lead to a means to predict cognitive decline with disease progression.  That feels huge….

Researchers out of University California, San Diego found a way to gain partial control of a specific memory.   Yes, it is animal research and yes, the research group acknowledges that this is just step one in the monumental task of unlocking how memories are formed.   This group, however, is working on how to control thoughts and memory formation by turning neurons off and on.   The implications are pretty darn staggering.

Princeton University researchers found a way to detect patterns in neural activity that underly how the brain forms short-term memories that are used in making decisions.  They found specific patterns of neural firing that relate to specific actions – there is a distinct and recognizable difference in neural firing between when the subject (the mouse) turned left or right.   I know that sounds small but, since these clear findings are contrary to how neuroscientists believe working memory works, this type of inquiry and finding might lead to a real way to identify problems in working memory.   Oh the places that discovery might lead….

Happy researching!

Where Brain Science and Social Media Meet: The Art of Curating

22 Mar

We are, by nature, savers and sharers.   It is no big surprise that curating and aggregating are big topics of conversation in the smart social media and web site design worlds.  Our brains like to separate, organize, and classify our worlds and are drawn to those things that allow us to do just that.

Putting things in logical categories

Look at what happened with Pinterest, the addictive photo sharing social media phenomenon that is now seeing 10 million unique visitors a month and is creating really loyal users (average user spends  98.7 minutes per month on the site).  Pinterest allows you to organize your dreams, intentions, and motivations – or at least photographic representations of them found on the web – into organized Boards/categories.

Brain science verifies that putting objects in categories and grouping images, concepts, and ideas in logical ways allow us to recall items better.   The more associations, the more effective the recall so it is smart and efficient to classify messages as we get them.   We also remember better when we have help – if someone else provides a cue or clue to help us reconnect with a thought.

Pinterest leverages both of those things and then adds a twist:  this site lets us share and be recognized for sharing through multiple channels.  It feels good to Pin and make a comment.  It feels great when someone else re-pins something that is important to you.   It makes you want to do more and share that feeling!

From a brain training perspective, Pinning is a great exercise!   Study after study has shown that researching and surfing the web are excellent ways to fire up your brain.  Writing your thoughts about your pin (in as few characters as possible) activates an entirely different process in your brain so you are working multiple areas at one time.   Besides, looking for things that make you feel good not only activates neurochemicals that nourish the connections in your brain but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose.     All good things!

Check out our Pins and feel free to Re-Pin!

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