When “Old Dogs” Won’t Perform Their “New Tricks” (NOT a post by Freddie)

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.

Through a string of recent experiments, Dayna Touron at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has shown that older adults (60 and over) frequently underestimate the power of their own memories, leading to some bad habits that fail to make the best use of their minds.

“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.”’

Memory Avoidance

“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.”

“Break through those psychological barriers to learning, and you may soon see some widespread and profound benefits, including a sharper mind overall. As evidence, Touron points to research by Denise Park at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.”

“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.”

Overall, the more active pastime of learning a new skill led to the more efficient brain activity you might observe in a younger brain, while the passive activities like listening to music brought no changes. Crucially, these benefits were long-lasting, lingering for more than a year after the participants had completed their course.”

“Park emphasises that she still needs to replicate the study with other groups of participants. But if the results are consistent with her earlier findings, then the brain boost of taking up a new hobby may trump so-called “brain training” computer games and apps, with study after study finding that these programs fail to bring about meaningful benefits in real life.”

“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.”

“it’s important that the task is novel and that it challenges you personally. If you are a pianist, you might find greater benefits from learning a language say, than attempting to pick up the organ; if you are a painter, you might take up a sport like tennis.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170828-the-amazing-fertility-of-the-older-mind

Who Knew? What is Octopamine and how do you get it?

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)

People take it octopamine to keep focus and energy (like Ritalin, but weaker). It enhances motivation, alertness and focus, and stimulates fat loss while keeping muscle. It stimulates dopamine and norepinephrine and this may account for its effects. (This is how caffeine works). 

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.

Read all about OCTOPUSes, how they have BLUE blood and

brains in their arms, click HERE!!!

https://redcon1online.com/octopamine-legal-ephedra-alternative/

Bet you didn’t know your brain still craves “breast milk”

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.

The Study

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.

Top of the list of ‘most addictive foods’ was chocolate, followed by ice cream, French fries, pizza, biscuits, crisps, cake, buttered popcorn and cheeseburgers. At the bottom were salmon, brown rice, cucumber and broccoli.

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:

  1. Milk chocolate – 30g fat, 58g carbs
  2. Ice cream – 12g fat, 24g carbs
  3. Chips – 15g fat, 32g carbs
  4. Pepperoni pizza – 10g fat, 30g carbs
  5. Crisps – 30g fat, 50g carbs
  6. Sponge cake – 26g fat, 50g carbs
  7. Buttered popcorn – 30g fat, 56g carbs
  8. Cheeseburger – 14g fat, 30g carbs

The urge to give in to cravings of any kind – whether for food, nicotine, alcohol or gambling – is closely linked to a set of reward pathways forming part of the mid-brain. Signals from these pathways, however, can be given a ‘veto’ by another set of neurons, closer to the front of the brain, within the ‘prefrontal cortex’ or PFC.

Breast milk is one of the very few natural foods that contains high amounts of fat and carbs all mixed together.

The infant brain is super-sensitive to experiences during early years, laying down neural reward pathways that last for life.

It is not surprising, then, that the food that gives us our first feelings of reward lays the foundation for our later food cravings.

https://apple.news/Aj7GqDd9kRa6akJ0UqJVokw

Bet you didn’t know . . . Tickling slows down aging process

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”.

Here’s how it works:

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.

The balance changes as people age, and the sympathetic branch can start to dominate. That domination can create an unhealthy imbalance in the automatic nervous system.

As a result, it can leave the body more vulnerable to other diseases and deterioration of bodily functions. 

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.

They found that tickling helped re-balance the body’s autonomic nervous system.

There were improvements in self-reported tension, depression, mood disturbances and sleep.

The researchers believe that the therapy could be used to reduce the risk of age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

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?  

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/08/02/tickle-therapy-new-therapy-could-slow-down-aging-process/1891544001/

Susan Deuchars, lead author on the study and director of research at the University of Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences

Why we don’t remember details of our past

A colleague once suggested that I must have had major trauma as a child.  She thought I’d repressed something horrible because I remember very little of my childhood.  Try as I might the only “trauma” I could dredge up was the day my brother came home from the hospital.  I had just spent my entire life being an only child, the center of attention, and was not happy about the possibility of being dethroned.  I vaguely remember trying to drop him in the toilet.

Researchers from the University of Toronto, Canada, have discovered a reason why we often struggle to remember the smaller details of past experiences – how the brain encodes useful memories while losing the irrelevant and minor details over time.

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.”

Image shows the location of the mPFC in the brain.

NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.

“On the contrary, we show that groups of neurons develop coding to store shared information from different experiences while, seemingly independently, losing selectivity for irrelevant details.”

I’m relieved to know that my brain does regular house-keeping to keep irrelevant details, like trying to do in my brother, from cluttering up my medial prefrontal cortex.  

I wonder if my brother remembers?

(jw)

 

 


Abstract

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