“Have no fear of perfection,
you’ll never reach it”
A simple lack of confidence may present the biggest barrier – particularly for older learners, past retirement, who may have already started to fear a more general cognitive decline.
“In one (deliberately tedious) study, Touron’s participants had to compare a reference table of word pairings (like ‘dog’ and ‘table’) with a second list, and then identify which words had not appeared in the original table. The word pairings were not difficult to learn, and by the end most people – of all ages – would have been able recite them. But the older adults – aged 60 and over – were more reluctant to rely on their memory, preferring instead to laboriously cross-reference the two tables, even though it took significantly more time. For some reason, they weren’t confident that they had learnt the pairs accurately – and so took the more cautious, but time-consuming, strategy.”
“In another experiment, the participants had to work through a list of calculations, with many of the sums appearing repeatedly through the list. The younger participants soon started to recall their previous answers, while the older subjects instead decided to perform the calculations from scratch each time. Again, this did not seem to reflect an actual hole in their memory – many could remember their answers, if they had to, but had simply chosen not to. “We do see some adults who come into the lab and who never shift to using their memory,” says Touron. “They say they know the information, they just prefer not to rely on it.”’
“By asking her participants to keep detailed diaries of their routine, Touron has shown this habit of “memory avoidance” may limit their cognitive performance in many everyday activities. Older people may be more likely to rely on GPS when driving, for instance – even if they remember the route – or they may follow a recipe line by line, rather than attempting to recall the steps.”
“Eventually, that lack of confidence may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – as your memory skills slowly decline through lack of use.”
“Park first divided her 200 participants into groups and assigned them to a programme of different activities for 15 hours a week for three months. Some were offered the opportunity to learn new skills – quilting, digital photography, or both – that would challenge their long-term memory and attention as they followed complex instructions. Others were given more passive tasks, such as listening to classical music or completing crossword puzzles, or social activities – such as field trips to local sites of interest. At the beginning and the end of the three months, Parks also gave the participants a memory test.”
“Of all the participants, only the subjects learning the quilting or the photography enjoyed a significant improvement – with 76% of the photographers showing a higher score at the second memory test, for instance. A later brain scan found that this seemed to be reflected in lasting changes to circuits in the medial frontal, lateral temporal, and parietal cortex – areas associated with attention and concentration.”
“Although the specific activities that Park chose – photography or quilting – may not appeal to everyone, she suspects the same benefits could emerge from many other hobbies. The essential point is to choose something that is unfamiliar, and which requires prolonged and active mental engagement as you cultivate a new set of behaviours.”
The Secret to Motivation eludes me – that’s obvious from all the research on motivation we’ve posted! I probably have a bit of attention deficit since I tend to swing wildly from interest to interest. Put that together with my reverence for octopuses I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. (jw)
An Italian scientist, Vittorrio Erspamer found octopamine in the salivary glands of the octopus, hence its name.
Octopamine is related to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. It comes from the amino acid Tyramine, which can be found in a wide array of foods such as liver and tomatoes. You can get it in supplements. Isolated, it is a stimulant and also burns fat.
However it may be that Octopamine prevents the breakdown of protein for energy, rather promoting fat burning for energy.
Octopamine has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because of its stimulatory properties. If you are sensitive to stimulants, or have high blood pressure, or a heart condition, don’t use Octopamine.
Almost everyone has that one food craving that can tempt them to consume more than they planned. Experts have revealed the one thing that all addictive food has in common – they all contain a ratio of two parts carbohydrate to one part fat – the same ratio as breast milk.
Researchers from the University of Michigan took 120 students, offered them a choice of 35 different foods, and asked them to fill in the Yale Food Addiction Scale, a measure of how addictive you find a particular food. The foods were then ranked from 1 to 35 by the students.
Experts from The Fast 800 programme, a weight loss plan devised by Micheal Mosely, have uncovered that, despite appearing to have little in common, each of the foods has approximately 2g carbs to 1g fat – the exact same ratio of fat to carbohydrate in human breast milk.
The similarity between favorite addictive food:
Breast milk is one of the very few natural foods that contains high amounts of fat and carbs all mixed together.
NOW HEAR THIS!
This tickling does not lead to spastic body movements and laughter. It’s Ear tickling.
Researchers ‘tickled’ participants’ ears with a tiny electric current to influence the nervous system and slow down some of the effects of aging.
Oops, wrong kind of tickle
It is a painless procedure where custom-made clip electrodes are placed on a part of the ear called the tragus. The therapy, known as transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, sends tiny currents of electricity into the ear that travel down to the body’s nervous system. There’s no pain, just a slight tingling which is referred to as “tickling”.
The autonomic nervous system controls bodily functions that don’t require thought, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.
Within the autonomic nervous system, there are two branches: parasympathetic (for resting activity) and sympathetic (for stress activity). The two branches work together to allow healthy levels of bodily activity.
Researchers hoped the therapy would improve the balance of
the autonomic nervous system.
After 15 minutes of daily therapy for two weeks, they brought the participants – 26 people over the age of 55 back into the lab and measured factors such as heart rate and blood pressure to judge the success rate of their trial.
The next step is to take the study to a larger group to get a more comprehensive look at the benefits of tickle therapy.
Are you up for a tickle?
Susan Deuchars, lead author on the study and director of research at the University of Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences
The Research distilled:
The research team found that there are specific groups of neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of a rat’s brain – the region most associated with long-term memory. These neurons develop codes to help store relevant, general information from multiple experiences while, over time, losing the more irrelevant, minor details unique to each experience.
“Memories of recent experiences are rich in incidental detail but, with time, the brain is thought to extract important information that is common across various past experiences,”
“Rats were given two experiences with an interval between each: one involving a light and tone stimulus, and the other involving a physical stimulus. This gave them two memories that shared a common stimulus relationship. The scientists then tracked the neuron activity in the animals’ brains from the first day of learning to four weeks following their experiences.“This experiment revealed that groups of neurons in the mPFC initially encode both the unique and shared features of the stimuli in a similar way,” says first author Mark Morrissey. “However, over the course of a month, the coding becomes more sensitive to the shared features and less sensitive to the unique features, which become lost.”
Generalizable knowledge outweighs incidental details in prefrontal ensemble code over time
Memories for recent experiences are rich in incidental detail, but with time the brain is thought to extract latent rules and structures common across past experiences. We show that over weeks following the acquisition of two distinct associative memories, neuron firing in the rat prelimbic prefrontal cortex (mPFC) became less selective for perceptual features unique to each association and, with an apparently different time-course, became more selective for common relational features. We further found that during exposure to a novel experimental context, memory expression and neuron selectivity for relational features immediately generalized to the new situation. These neural patterns offer a window into the network-level processes by which the mPFC develops a knowledge structure of the world that can be adaptively applied to new experiences.
“Generalizable knowledge outweighs incidental details in prefrontal ensemble code over time” by Mark D Morrissey, Nathan Insel, and Kaori Takehara-Nishiuchi eLife. Published online February 14 2017 doi:10.7554/eLife.22177