Posts tagged neuropsychology

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How to get the most out of your brain

1. Make sure you get plenty of exercise: For example, “Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., found that adult mice who ran on an exercise wheel whenever they felt like it gained twice as many new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory, than mice who sat around all day discussing Lord of the Rings in Internet chat rooms.[1]

2. Expose yourself to novel experiences: This forms new connections in the brain, and gets underused areas working again. The benefit to you is an active, alert brain.

3. Be curious and ask “why?”: The brain is designed to question and to think. Thus, you build new neural pathways when you search for new solutions.

4. Laugh more: This releases endorphins – the body’s feel good hormones – and shakes up our thinking, and disrupts habitual patterns.

5. Eat more fish: Fish contains essential nutrients that nourish the brain. This is especially important for the young children, and the elderly (as it builds new connections, and staves off dementia.

6. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats: “When researchers at the University of Toronto put rats on a 40-percent-fat diet, the rats lost ground in several areas of mental function, including memory, spatial awareness and rule learning. The problems became worse with a diet high in saturated fats … Also, fat can reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain, and it may also slow down the metabolism of glucose, the form of sugar the brain utilizes as food.[2]    

7. Get plenty of sleep: Sleeping on problems, and on new information, can improve our understanding and assist with retention.

8. Do important tasks when your brain is most awake: Every 90 minutes, we cycle through period of peak and low consciousness. To master key tasks, do them when you’re most alert, and not when you’re drowsy, or about to fall asleep.

9. Develop concentration: We need to learn to focus and to fully concentrate to develop our thinking and increase our brain’s connections. But being constantly distracted interrupts this crucial process.

10. Make time to play: Play encourages us to be more creative in our thinking, to develop better strategies, and think outside the box.

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More Brain Facts

1. Nerve impulses in the brain can travel at a speed of 170 miles per hour. Also information travels at different speeds in different types of neuron.

2, The brain generates approximately the same amount of energy as a 10watt light bulb (both when you’re awake and asleep).

3. The human brain is able to store more information than The National Archives of Britain (which contains over 900 years of history).

4. The brain makes up around 2% of body mass but uses 20% of the oxygen in the bloodstream.

5. The brain works harder during the night than during the day.

6. It isn’t possible to tickle yourself as the cerebellum warns other parts of the brain that you are about to tickle yourself. As a result, the brain ignores the sensation.

7. Those who like to ride on roller coasters have a greater risk of developing a blood clot in the brain.

8. Reading aloud to young children stimulates brain development.

9. If the brain releases too much dopamine it can result in the person being unable to experience pleasure.

10. Thinking of the person you’re passionately in love with, causes lights to go on all over the brain.

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Random Facts on the Brain

1. The brain makes up around 3% our weight but consumes around 20% percent of the body’s energy.

2. Most of that energy is used by neurons communicating with each other (These neurons are responsible for thinking, problem solving and other types of higher brain functioning).

4. The remainder of the energy is used for unconscious activities like breathing … or for regular activities like driving a car.

5. It’s a myth that we use only 10% of our brain. Research shows that we use all the areas of our brain in a 24 hour time period.

6. Our brain is still very active when we’re sleeping. For example, the frontal cortex (which controls things like higher level thinking) and the somatosensory areas (which enables us to sense our surroundings) are still highly active.

7. Even where we suffer a brain injury, we will often still lead a fairly normal life as the brain has ways of compensating for injury.

For more information see:


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Some Brain Facts

1. The brain feels similar to tofu, and contains enough fluid to fill a 1.5-2 litre soda bottle.

2. Archaeological evidence suggests that human brains may have shrunk over time. However, there is nothing to show that humans are less intelligent today compared to previous times.

3. The brain alone consumes about 20% of the oxygen in our blood, and 25% of the glucose. Thus it is a major energy consumer.

4. The human brain has more pronounced wrinkles than the brains of other species. This is linked to more sophisticated neural pathways and higher intellectual functioning.

5. Neurons only make up 10% of our brain cells. The rest is glue holding the neurons together. These other cells also mop up excess neurotransmitters, provide immune protection, and regulate synapse growth and functioning.

6. The brain doesn’t fully mature until we’re in our late teens. Multitasking, empathy and good decision-making are some of the last skills to develop.  

7. The brain never stops changing. It can adapt to damaged nerves, grow new neurons, and form new neural connections.

8. Male and female hormones lead to differences in male and female brain development. For example, brain imaging has revealed general differences in the way both sexes experience, make social decisions and manage stress. However, nurture and environment play an important role as well.

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Building Baby’s Brain - The Myths

Here are some common myths about brain development in babies:

1. What happens before birth does not affect learning. Poor nutrition and exposure to drugs and alcohol can lead to serious problems in brain development even before birth.

2. The brain is completely developed at birth. Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth. But the cells actually make most of their connections with other cells during the first 3 years of life. And even after age 3, the brain’s structure continues to change as connections are refined based on experience.

3. Brain development is completely genetic. Early experience is very important in brain development. The baby’s day-to-day experiences help decide how her brain cells will connect to each other. And if the baby does not have certain kinds of experiences, some areas of the brain will not make the necessary connections. For example, babies born with severe cataracts may never see clearly.

4. A bigger head is better. A bigger head doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger brain. And just having a bigger brain doesn’t make you smarter.

5.  The brain grows steadily across childhood. The human brain actually develops in spurts. There are “prime times” when the brain is best equipped to learn certain skills.

6. Children need special help and expensive toys to develop their brain power. What children need most are loving care and new experiences.


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The Best Brain Foods

1. Coffee:  Boosts short-term memory; improves attention and problem-solving skills; slows down the aging process.

2. Blueberries. Improves thinking, and helps with long-term memory. Also, the antioxidants found in blueberries are believed to protect the brain from free-radical damage - and thus reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

3. Salmon or mackerel: Speeds up, or increases, your thinking power. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in these fish) are a primary building block of brain tissue. They also contain niacin which helps to slow down the rate of cognitive decline.

4. Low-fat yogurt or mixed nuts: Helps you to relax. Specifically, these 2 foods significantly reduce the levels of stress hormones in the blood.

5. Leafy green salads: Improve your mood and increase subjective happiness. These foods are a great source of B vitamins - which are important for manufacturing feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.) They also protect against irritability and depression.

6. Flaxseeds: Helps us process information; sharpens the senses; heightens our experience of pleasure.

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Some Interesting Info on the Brain

1. You need oxygen and glucose to exert your will – so it’s harder say ‘no’ when you’re feeling tired.

2. Although most of us are either left brained or right brained, we all switch sides briefly every 90 to 120 minutes.

3. The brain is approximately 75% water.

4. Information moves around the brain at a minimum speed of 260 mph.

5. There are no pain receptors in the brain.

6. The brain contains something called mirror neurons. Thus, if you see someone else fall and cut themselves you’ll automatically flinch in reaction to their pain.

7. Giving to charity or helping other people lights up the pleasure centre in the brain.

8. The brain doesn’t record videos of experiences. It takes snapshots of important parts and leaves the person to fill in the gaps. This can also lead to false memories.

9. The brain can’t concentrate for long periods of time so we need to take breaks to learn efficiently.

10. Effective multitasking is an urban myth as the brain can only fully concentrate on one task at a time. Any more than that leads to a decrease in performance. 

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His brain; her brain

Studies have shown that there are numerous differences between the male and the female brain. We’ve highlighted some of these key differences below.

1.       Size: Men have bigger brains than women (approximately 10% bigger). This is believed to correspond to males’ larger bodies and heavier muscle mass.

2.       Hemisphere preference: Men have a clear preference for left hemisphere activities; hence they are more task than relationship oriented. Women use both hemispheres equally. This make then (in general) more intuitive and social than men. Women also processes language in both hemisphere (and the language areas of the brain are bigger in women) whereas men only process language in the left hemisphere. This gives women an edge when it comes to communication skills.

3.       Relationships: Women are more sociable and group oriented than men. They prefer to find solutions through talking about issues; whereas men prefer to use logic and analytical thinking skills. Women are also more adept at reading emotional cues. These differences can lead to confusion, misunderstanding and communication problems between the two sexes.

4.       Mathematical abilities: Men have a larger inferior-parietal lobule – the part of the brain which controls numerical abilities. Historically, men have outperformed women on standardized mathematical tests.

5.       Managing stress: Men tend to react to stress with a ‘fight or flight’ response. In contrast, women use a ‘tend or befriend’ response. These are based on gaining support through strong relationships with others.

6.       Emotions: As a general rule, women have a larger deep limbic system then men. This makes them more sensitive to their emotions. However, it also means they are more susceptible to depression.

7.       Spatial abilities:  Women have a thicker parietal region. This makes it hard for them to mentally rotate objects – an important spatial skill. This is confirmed by their lower scores on spatial tasks.

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Feed your Brain

Although the average brain only weighs 3lbs it uses 20% of the calories we eat. To maximise the benefits of food to the brain, think about including the following:

1.       Foods to boost concentration – Anything containing mega-3 oils. For example, oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.

2.       Foods to improve mood – Anything that’s rich in dopamine or serotonin. For example, beets, soybeans, almonds, eggs, meat, grains and dark chocolate.

3.       Foods to boost memory – Anything that’s rich in acetylcholine. For example, eggs, liver, soy beans, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.

However, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and tumeric (commonly used in curries) are believed to be the best food of all for the brain. They improve brain performance and enhance our memory. Thus, since research confirms that “you are what you eat” make sure you are eating to feed your brain!

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Facts on a Child’s Developing Brain

1.   During early pregnancy, neurons develop at a rate of 250,000 neurons a minute.

2.   The first sense to develop in utero is the sense of touch.

3.   60% of a baby’s energy goes into brain development.

4.   Holding and cuddling an infant causes their brain to release important hormones which stimulates their growth.

5.   Providing a young child with a rich and stimulating environment can significantly increase IQ.

6.   Spending “playtime” with a child (talking, singing, reading and playing with them) is the best way to stimulate brain development.

7.   Learning a musical instrument boosts brain development in children.

8.   Reading aloud and talking to young children promotes their brain development.

9.   Basic emotions are present at birth (joy, happiness, shyness, fear). However, the way these develop depends on the type of nurturing the child receives.

10.        Being raised by sensitive caregivers enables a child to handle stress better – and this continues into their adult life.

11.        The cerebral cortex grows thicker the more we use it (in both childhood and adulthood).

12.        Children who are bilingual before the age of five have denser grey matter in their brain.

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