Do you need a thinking cap?

New research indicates that by using small amounts of electrical stimulation you can increase to increase insight – which would helps solve problems, and potentially increase creativity.

A good healthy brain should be creative, and there are a number of ways you can stimulate this activity. You need to open up your mind, and be exposed to new things. But maybe if you don’t want to go that route you could in the future try an electrical “thinking cap”.

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Save your most important memories – but getting enough sleep

An important aspect of good brain health is getting adequate sleep.

Some information is more important that other. And when we get adequate sleep we store the information that is most important for our future.

We all take in huge amount of information every day, but what is important and what should be thrown away? New research indicates that all this gets sorted out in our sleep.

“Our results show that memory consolidation during sleep indeed involves a basic selection process that determines which of the many pieces of the day’s information is sent to long-term storage,” Born said. “Our findings also indicate that information relevant for future demands is selected foremost for storage.”

But then the researchers had to test if a reduction of sleep would alter the memory of useful information.

“The researchers set up two experiments to test memory retrieval in a total of 191 volunteers. In the first experiment, people were asked to learn 40 pairs of words. Participants in the second experiment played a card game where they matched pictures of animals and objects — similar to the game Concentration — and also practiced sequences of finger taps.

In both groups, half the volunteers were told immediately following the tasks that they would be tested in 10 hours. In fact, all participants were later tested on how well they recalled their tasks.

Some, but not all, of the volunteers were allowed to sleep between the time they learned the tasks and the tests. As the authors expected, the people who slept performed better than those who didn’t. But more importantly, only the people who slept and knew a test was coming had substantially improved memory recall.”

 

Take home message: Sleep can help you remember the information important to you and that is required in the future.

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How to reverse the brain aging process?

Over at brain health we find out that exercise can reverse the normal age-related shrinking of the brain. Walking 40 minutes 3 times a week can not only stop the normal shrinking of the brain but actually reverse the process (the hippocampus grew by 2%, while in the control group it shrank 1.4%).

And even more importantly:

Reassuringly, the reversing of the hippocampus shrinkage was accompanied with an improvement in memory function. Therefore, exercise improved both the morphology of the brain but also a real life functional outcome such as memory. You couldn’t ask for much more.

So today get out there and get in some exercise: walk, run, bike, hike, dance, anything.

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Do you have pain, but worry about the addictive and harmful side effects of pain medication?

Many people suffer from chronic pain and rely on pain medication that is both addictive and have many dangerous side effects. There is hope with the news of a new pain medicine that is non-addictive and no apparent side effects.

“When a patient is given an opiate like morphine, pain signals are still transmitted from sensory nerves to the central nervous system. Morphine action throughout the brain reduces and alters pain perception, but it also impairs judgement and results in drug dependence,” explains Halegoua, also director of the Center for Nervous System Disorders at Stony Brook University. “With drugs targeting the PN1/Nav1.7 sodium ion channel, the pain signals would not be transmitted, even by the sensory nerves. And since the central nervous system is taken out of the equation, there would be no side effects and no addictive qualities.”

This could be a huge breakthrough.

Pain takes a terrible toll on your brain so anything we can do to improve the health of our brain is encouraged.

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Weekend update news for your brain health: Beauty-Brains, Schmoozing, Blueberries

If you want to improve your brain health and just learn a bit of brain science check out Weekend’s Better Brain Health Breakfast # 7 – and learn about the relationship between beauty and brains, how blueberries can help fight off high blood pressure, and why you should become a better schmoozer.

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Cancer drug improves spinal cord regeneration

A spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury can drastically alter a person’s life. We need to find treatments that can promote better recovery from these type of injuries. New research reported in Science magazine found that a well know cancer drug leads to better regeneration and improvement in functional recovery after spinal cord injuries.

Taxol, the trade name of a drug currently used for cancer treatment, has now been shown to promote regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells. The scientists report in the online issue of the journalScience that Taxol promotes regeneration of injured CNS-nerve cells in two ways: Taxol stabilizes the microtubules so that their order is maintained and the injured nerve cells regain their ability to grow. In addition, Taxol prevents the production of an inhibitory substance in the scar tissue. The scar tissue, though reduced by Taxol, will still develop at the site of injury and can thus carry out its protective function. Yet growing nerve cells are now better able to cross this barrier. “This is literally a small breakthrough”, says Bradke.

 Since taxol is already clinically used for some cancer treatments it will face less regulartory hurdles for its use in treating spinal cord injuries if other groups find similar results when they try to replicate this study. 

Taxol not only increased growth but more importantly improved recovery of the animals from the experimentally induced spinal cord injury.

Experiments in rats performed by this group verified the effects of Taxol. These researchers supplied the injury site after a partial spinal cord lesion with Taxol via a miniature pump. After just a few weeks, animals showed a significant improvement in their movements. “So far we tested the effects of Taxol immediately after a lesion”, explains Farida Hellal, the first author of the study. “The next step is to investigate whether Taxol is as effective when applied onto an existing scar several months after the injury.”

To have optimum brain health you obviously want an fully intact central nervous system, so if we can find a treatment that helps grow the central nervous system back closer to its original state after an injury would be of great benefit.

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8 weeks of meditation can change your brain structure – including your hippocampus

Meditation can have many postive effects on your brain health. New research reports that as little as 8 weeks of meditation can change your brain structure.

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