How Your Brain Works Against Weight-Loss

A study carried out in mice may help explain why dieting can be an inefficient way to lose weight: key brain cells act as a trigger to prevent us burning calories when food is scarce.

“Weight loss strategies are often inefficient because the body works like a thermostat and couples the amount of calories we burn to the amount of calories we eat,” says Dr Clémence Blouet from the Metabolic Research Laboratories at University of Cambridge. “When we eat less, our body compensates and burns fewer calories, which makes losing weight harder. We know that the brain must regulate this caloric thermostat, but how it adjusts calorie burning to the amount of food we’ve eaten has been something of a mystery.”

“USEFUL MODEL”???!!!!

Did YOU know – Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans

You don’t need to pick fleas off your partner, fluff their fur, hold hands or hug to boost your own pain threshold, with a hit of opioids.

Social contacts are of prime importance to humans. The size of human social networks significantly exceeds the network that can be maintained by social grooming or touching in other primates.

“You don’t need to believe me, read this”:

Positron emission tomography (PET) was used “to show that endogenous opioid release following social laughter may provide a neurochemical mechanism supporting long-term relationships in humans.”

Participants were scanned twice; following 30-minute social laughter session, and after spending 30 minutes alone in the testing room (baseline). Endogenous opioid release was stronger following laughter versus baseline scan. Opioid receptor density in the frontal cortex predicted social laughter rates.

Modulation of the opioidergic activity by social laughter may be an important neurochemical mechanism reinforcing and maintaining social bonds between humans.

B”orrrrrrrrring.  Researchers need to get a sense of humor.”

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/early/2017/05/23/JNEUROSCI.0688-16.2017

What Falling in Love Does to Your Brain, Body & Health

When love is in the air, you might experience some unexpected changes to your body. A romantic relationship can have intense effects.

Here are nine ways falling in love can impact your body, by Mary Daly

1. MAKES US ‘MADDENINGLY’ PREOCCUPIED

“Crazy in love” is actually a pretty apt description — especially in the early stages of a relationship. “Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshaling our bodies to cope with the ‘crisis’ at hand,” according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. The rising cortisol depletes the body’s serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps to stabilize our mood. And that combination of high cortisol and low serotonin can cause us to feel like our emotions are on a roller coaster, completely immersed in all the highs and lows of our new love.”

2. SPARKS EUPHORIA

“Falling in love might cause you to become preoccupied and nervous. But it also can create a sense of euphoria in the body, thanks to the high levels of dopamine it releases. “Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol,” the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute says. In fact, research has shown loving relationships can be an effective antidote to substance abuse problems, as well as depression and anxiety. Plus, another chemical in the mix is oxytocin — the “love hormone” — which is released during skin-to-skin contact and heightens feelings of peace and wellbeing.”

3. BLINDS US

“Love is blind” is another phrase that science has proven somewhat accurate. “When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those with whom we are romantically involved, shuts down, according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. So we experience fewer negative emotions, including “fear and social judgment.” And that’s not the only change to our eyes we might see. Research also has shown our pupils tend to dilate when we look at the object of our affection — which potentially is a side effect of all that dopamine.”

4. CHANGES OUR VOICES

“When speaking to someone we find attractive, research has shown we might subtly and subconsciously alter our voices. One study found men were more likely to lower their pitch when speaking to women they found attractive. And another study learned women spoke in a higher pitch to men they found attractive. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior recorded people talking to relatively new romantic partners, as well as to close friends. They were instructed to say lines, such as “How are you?” and “What are you doing?” The researchers then played those clips for independent raters, who overwhelmingly were able to tell when a person was speaking to a romantic partner versus a friend, based on their pitch and perceived romantic interest.”

5. KILLS PAIN

“Love can hurt, but sometimes it also can relieve pain. A 2010 study recruited participants who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship to complete three tasks with periods of inflicted pain. During the first task, they viewed a photo of their romantic partner. For the second, they viewed photos of “an equally attractive and familiar acquaintance.” And for the third task, they took part in a word-association distraction technique that already had been demonstrated to reduce pain. As a result, both the romantic partner and distraction tasks significantly reduced the participants’ pain. And the partner task showed activation in the participants’ brains’ rewards center, suggesting “that the activation of neural reward systems via non-pharmacologic means can reduce the experience of pain,” according to the study.”

6. PREVENTS COLDS

“You might be lovesick, but a healthy relationship can keep you just that — healthy. According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, greater social support — and especially frequent hugs — can reduce a person’s chances of getting an infection. Participants were interviewed to learn about their support systems, and then they were exposed to the common cold virus. Those who had more supportive relationships in their lives (and received more frequent hugs) experienced greater protection against the virus. Although this effect doesn’t necessarily have to come from a romantic partner, the researchers highlighted hugs because they denote a more intimate relationship.”

7. INCREASES CREATIVITY

“Love and lust can mean two very different things when it comes to your creativity. According to Psychology Today, a 2009 study asked one group of participants to imagine a long walk with their romantic partner and another group to imagine a scenario involving casual sex with an attractive person. A control group imagined a solo walk. The researchers then gave the participants creative insight problems, as well as analytical problems, from the GRE. “They found that those primed with thoughts of love had the highest levels of creative insights (those primed with lust had the lowest), whereas those primed with thoughts of lust had the highest levels of analytical thinking (those primed with love had the lowest),” Psychology Today says. The idea is that love enhances our long-term, holistic thinking while lust puts us in the present, concentrating on concrete details.”

8. BOOSTS HEART HEALTH

“Falling in love can make your heart happy in more ways than one. According to a study on relationships and cardiovascular health, brief, warm physical contact between partners is able to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, even in stressful situations. And another study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found people in happy marriages were associated with lower blood pressure, stress and rates of depression, as well as greater life satisfaction. But the study did point out that single people had better health than those in unhappy marriages — showing happiness and support is the key.”

9. SPEEDS HEALING

“Love both can prevent health issues and heal them, research has shown. One study found married adults who had heart surgery were more than three times as likely to survive the next three months compared to single adults. Prior to their surgeries, researchers interviewed the participants and found the married adults tended to have a more positive outlook, especially when it came to managing any pain and discomfort.”

“And another study on wound healing recruited 37 couples to receive small blisters on their forearms. Then, the couples went through a structured social interaction task. The researchers found that the wounds on the couples who interacted more positively healed much faster than the wounds on the couples who engaged in negative communication — again showing what a loving connection can do for your life.”

https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-falling-in-love-does-to-your-body.html

Why exercise in old age?

Doing lots of exercise in older age can prevent the immune system from declining and protect people against infections, scientists say.

They followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some now in their 80s, and found they had the immune systems of 20-year-olds.*

Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King’s College London, who took part in and co-authored the research, said:

“If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.

“It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.”

“The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.” (Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research)

“Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues.”

The researchers looked at markers in the blood for T-cells, which help the immune system respond to new infections.  These are produced in the thymus, a gland in the chest, which normally shrinks in size in adulthood.

They found that the endurance cyclists were producing the same level of T-cells as adults in their 20s, whereas a group of inactive older adults were producing very few.

The researchers believe that being physically active in old age will help people respond better to vaccines, and so be better protected against infections such as flu.

 “Being sedentary goes against evolution because humans are designed to be physically active.” (Steve Harridge, co-author and professor of physiology at King’s College London)

A separate paper in Aging Cell found that the cyclists did not lose muscle mass or strength, and did not see an increase in body fat – which are usually associated with ageing.

“You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to reap the benefits – or be an endurance cyclist – anything which gets you moving and a little bit out of puff will help.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-43308729

*The research was published in the journal Aging Cell.

One hour a week staves off disability

Unfortunately, pain, not prevention,  is my primary motivator:  When a body part hurts or doesn’t function I research, try healthier behavior, seek help or advice . . . I change and when I feel better revert to old ways.  

Freddie, however, keeps me walking and hopefully keeps me from being a 2 in 5 statistic*   (jw)

The goal was to see what kind of activity would help people remain free of disability:
Study investigators analyzed four years of data from more than 1,500 adults in the national Osteoarthritis Initiative from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The adults all had pain, aching or stiffness in lower extremity joints from osteoarthritis but were free of disability when they began the study. Their physical activity was monitored using accelerometers.

“Just one hour a week of brisk walking — as if you are late to an appointment or trying to make a train — staves off disability in older adults with arthritis pain, or aching or stiffness in a knee, hip, ankle or foot.”**

Less than 10 minutes a day to maintain your independence.

_________________________________

*An estimated 14 million older adults in the U.S. have symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of osteoarthritis. Approximately two in five people with osteoarthritis develop disability limitations.

Federal guidelines recommend older adults with arthritis should participate in low-impact activity. For substantial health benefits including reducing the risk for heart disease and many other chronic diseases, these guidelines recommend older adults participate in at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity.

Colors to give you a mood boost

For the last 15 years I’ve been in a turquoisey mood and painted several walls in the house bright turquoise.  For much of my life Red was my favorite, color, tan and beige followed me around during a very painful time in my life, the last 10 years I’ve loved teal, turquoise – all the shades of blue-green.  Lately, I’m drawn to lime green, yellow, orange(I probably need to eat more fruit).

It bothers me when “experts” tell me what colors “MEAN” (like red means anger or black means depression).  On the other hand, HOW colors impact our moods make sense since sight cues go directly to our brains and create a neurochemical response.  (judy)

No matter where your home décor preferences lie, there are certain colors that you may want to consider using as accents around the home, because they can actually help boost your mood and make you happier.

There is scientific evidence to back it up.

Science says yellow and green home decor can help to make you happier when spending time at home.

According to research done at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Netherlands, one study showed that adults felt happier when in the presence of yellow and green. Since these two colors remind us of sunshine and grassy green fields, we’re not surprised at these findings. After all, studies suggest that spending time in nature helps to fight depression.

“We all have natural reactions to color – a clear blue sky can make us feel more peaceful; a bunch of daffodils, more optimistic. So it’s no surprise that the colors in your home can have an impact on your mood, too. Red, for instance, tends to be stimulating, and blue, calming”, says color researcher Nancy J. Stone, PhD, a professor of psychology at Creighton University. How pure and bright a color’s shade is can come into play, too, as well as personal associations with the color. Here’s how you can tap into the power of color to feel happier, calmer, or more inspired – without a huge paint job.

Blue for calm, good for bedroom, bath*

Red and violet help boost energy — good for the home office. You would think red and violet would also be good for kitchens.  

Maybe I’ll paint our kitchen red & violet and see if the energy boost helps me lose weight. 

judy

https://www.philstar.com/the-freeman/cebu-lifestyle/2016/06/25/1596481/power-colors

 

Your Brain on Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is your preference?

Soft and gooey?
Crisp and crunchy?
Semisweet chocolate?
Milk chocolate?
Bittersweet?

Some research suggests that ingredients in chocolate chip cookies may have additive properties. Take sugar: Evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce rewards and cravings comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs, including cocaine.

Oh Noooooooooo

Then there’s the chocolate, which, in addition to sugar, contains small amounts of a compound known as anandamide. Anandamide is also a brain chemical that targets the same cell receptors as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for its mood-altering effects.
(That’s not to say chocolate will produce the same “high” as marijuana, but there may be a chemical basis for the pleasure we get from eating chocolate.)
“According to Gary Wenk, director of neuroscience undergraduate programs at the Ohio State University and author of “Your Brain on Food,” high-fat, sugar-rich cookies will raise the level of anandamide in our brains independent of what’s in the cookie, because it’s our body’s response to eating such a tasty item. “The fat and sugar combine to induce our addiction as much as does the anandamide,” Wenk said. “It’s a triple play of delight.”‘

Oh Nooooooooo

Texture and flavor: Key to a cookie’s addictive characteristics

The flavor of chocolate chip cookies is “. . . a beautiful amalgam of caramelized butter and sugar,” the result of the browning of butter and caramelizing of sugar while it bakes. The combination of the toasted grain with the browned butter, caramelized sugar, vanilla and chocolate are “the beautiful rich flavors that blend together in a chocolate chip cookie.  And as the chocolate melts, it becomes more aromatic and punches up the flavor.”*

A happy indulgence

“The main thing is not to think of food as good food and bad food. It’s all good. It’s how much you eat of it,”
So whether it feels like a true “addiction” or not, indulging in a chocolate chip cookie or two should be a happy experience.

Oh Yessssssssss

*Gail Vance Civille, founder and president of Sensory Spectrum, a consulting firm that helps companies learn how sensory cues drive consumer perceptions of products.

How to change your own neurochemistry to feel happier

There is power in positive thinking–and the power comes from you.  and what you can do to have more “happy” neuro-chemicals. 

SEROTONIN & POSITIVE THINKING

As far back as 2007 scientists* measured how positive thoughts change brain serotonin levels which is another key neurotransmitter in happiness. Professional actors were used since they could keep up an intense emotional state.   Using a PET scan researchers found that focusing on happy memories resulted in increased uptake of the serotonin building blocks. Focusing on sad memories resulted in lower uptake. This supports the since replicated conclusion that we, by choosing to focus on happy thoughts, can self-regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters and change our brain’s chemical balance to support happiness.

DOPAMINE & MEDITATION

Another study shows why meditation makes monks among the happiest people on earth,

Dopamine is also crucial for happiness and relaxation, Researchers examined the changes in dopamine during meditation using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning on meditators.  The dopamine increased significantly in an area called the basal ganglia during meditation. This is the first evidence that by focusing our thoughts, we can alter how the neurons in our brain fire, and increase dopamine release.

No prescription needed, no side-effects from medications.  Your only cost is a bit of practice focusing on positive memories and thoughts or, if you are more ambitious, a bit of your time to learn to meditate. 

The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 

Evolution lets you off the hook. This makes perfect sense.

I never thought of myself as a perfectionist because I never have done anything “perfectly”.  

Are you a perfectionist? Do you, too, think you need to do your best and are hard on yourself because your best isn’t perfect?

P is for Peggy Perfect

I now have the “perfect” excuse to not be perfect. I can blame evolution.  

What a relief.

Everyone has on average 400 flaws in their DNA*

“As life evolved, new abilities and new forms of life were not started anew, but grew out of what was there already. What existed just changed a bit, and those changes gave a new ability, a new advantage. Since new life was built on what already existed, the perfect solution to a  new environment wasn’t always available, only what could easily develop from what already existed.”

What was workable, what was good enough, survived. Good enough meant it allowed the plant or animal to survive. And to be better than other solutions. But not necessarily perfect. So we are not perfect, and we do not need to be. We need to be good enough.

“The research gives an insight into the “flaws that make us all different, sometimes with different expertise and different abilities, but also different predispositions in diseases,” said Prof David Cooper of Cardiff University, the other lead researcher of the study.”

“Not all human genomes have perfect sequences,” he added. “The human genome is packed with pervasive, architectural flaws.”

How life evolved means we are not perfect, nothing is perfect, and we do not have to be perfect because perfect isn’t what life is about. Life is about good enough.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-20617312

*The evidence comes from the 1,000 Genomes project, which is mapping normal human genetic differences, from tiny changes in DNA to major mutations.

 

A Happiness Hack – “Eau de Grass”

We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted.  Here’s a “hack” that that surprised us.

Mow-on by Peggy

Mowing my lawn always makes me feel good.   I’ve figured it was because I love being outside and mowing was good exercise.  However, it’s a pretty small lawn and I don’t get a lot of exercise. I was surprised to read about research done at The University of Queensland in Australia finding that the smell of freshly cut grass increases feel-good neurochemistry in the brain.*

Their studies convinced the researchers cut grass smell was as powerful as well-known scents like:

 lavender, cinnamon, vanillacitrus, baby powder, pine, rose, rosemary, sunscreen and peppermint

They isolated the chemicals to create cut-grass aroma and have bottled it.  You can buy cut grass smell!

. . . or you could mow your lawn. Use a push-mower to get a twofer – aerobic exercise & happy aroma.

After all, your nose is very close to your brain . . . and connected to your happiness!

*University of Queens land researchers found that the scent of cut grass works directly on the amygdala and hypo-campus and makes you happier and less stressed.  They created a spray with the scent of cut grass called SerenaScent

 

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The Chocolate Express

One of my fibromyalgia main symptoms is chronic fatigue.  At it’s best, my entire body feels heavy and aches.  At it’s worst, I feel like I’m trying to run through quicksand which is up to my eyebrows . . . even when I’m sitting down.  I sleep 8 – 10 hours every night and wake up every morning feeling exhausted and achy.  Not a very pretty picture . . . However, I’m one of the lucky ones who is able to function and not incapacitated.

Because of the chronic fatigue I’m always on the alert for things that may help . . . and here’s my favorite . . . 

Scientists recommend eating chocolate for tired people.

Few know that the feeling of chronic fatigue is the fact that the body makes negligibly small amount of the hormone serotonin, responsible for feelings of joy and happiness.

American scientists conducted a study and found out which product can best produce serotonin and help to cope with chronic fatigue:

Everyone knows that chocolate improves mood, because it improves the production of serotonin.

It turns out, “. . . it is bitter chocolate – just 50 grams of this delicacy, is capable of preventing physical and emotional exhaustion, and to help cope with fatigue.”

To establish the production of serotonin in your body, people need to eat every day half tiles of dark chocolate for two months.

YA HOOOOOOOOOooooooo

(jw)

http://micetimes.asia/named-another-unique-property-of-chocolate/

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Frankly Freddie, THE MENTAL BENEFITS OF WALKING (Parenthetically Speaking)

Dear Humans,

I hate to say “I told you so”  but I told you so – Walking is good for you.  It’s my preferred form of exercise.  Peggy and judy have found lots of studies on the benefits of walking. They asked me to promote it since I’m an expert walker:

Walking (preferably with me)

  • Gives you a creative lift.  A study at Stanford showed a 60% increase in creative output. Researches called the kind of creativity “divergent thinking”, thinking out of the box, looking at many different possibilities. Walking lets out minds wander and this puts us in a good mental state for generating new ideas.  (My Human Judy is already a “divergent thinker” . . .  to a fault.  Her brain hasn’t ever been able to walk a straight line)

  • Boosts your mood. In one study scientists saw increased energy, good mood, attentiveness and confidence with 12 minutes of walking compared to 12 minutes of sitting.  (I like my human to be attentive and obedient)

  • Walking in nature also reduced repetitive negative thoughts (ruminating).

  • Improves memory.  (You’ll remember that walking helps you)

  • Just 10 minutes of walking may relieve anxiety and improve mood as well as a workout lasting 45 minutes. (I prefer long walks but I’m all for anything that gets my human in a better mood)

If it’s raining or snowing or blowing you can use a treadmill for a walking workout.

Walking on a treadmill gives you the most benefit if you vary the speed and incline so that your heart rate is raised and lowered. Sort of like walking up and down hills, going fast some times, slow some times. Setting a high incline makes you use more energy to walk, and you can get a good cardiovascular workout without as much strain on your knees (For those of us who have 4 knees that’s important)

Interval training is a way to get the most from a workout. So whether you are outside on a trail or inside on a treadmill here’s how to do intervals. Start with a warm up warm up 5 minutes, then do an incline  or speed for 3 minutes a few minutes, then back to level then 1 minute level at a walk, and repeat for about 20 minutes total.  (I do interval training with Judy – I run, stop, raise my leg, run some more, stop, sniff, saunter, stop, raise my leg, run, stop, sniff, trot . . .)

Another protocol I often follow, and you can too, is to go as hard as I can for 1 minute, then sniff and walk until I recover, then go again. 

Finding your target zone

My target zone is most often a tree or a post.  For humans it may be different and here’s how you do it:

Find an online calculator for your target heart rate zone, or use this:

For vigorous exercise, use 70 to 85 percent of your heart rate reserve or HHR

Here is Mayo Clinics formula:

  • “Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate.
  • Calculate your resting heart rate by counting your heart beats per minute when you are at rest, such as first thing in the morning. (For the average adult It’s somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute.)
  • Calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR) – subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.
  • Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number.
  • Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number.
  • These two numbers are your training zone heart rate for vigorous intensity exercise. Your heart rate during exercise should be between these two numbers.”

For example, I’m 6 dogs years old.

220-6= 114, my maximum HR
My  resting heart rate is resting
Then I subtract my resting heart rate from my maximum heart rate gives my heart rate reserve (HHR), (which is very confusing).

Multiply that by 0.7, then add my resting heart rate,

Multiply my heart rate reserve (HHR) by 85%  so 82×0.85=69.7 then add resting heart rate so 69.7+65=134.7 which is the high end of my target heart rate or training zone . . .

(I’ve computed my target zone to be 6 trees a minute.)

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDWE

Canine Dog Walking Expert 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-walking-most-underrated-form-exercise

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You can outsmart your brain – Neuroplasticity

Scientists used to think that the brain didn’t change after childhood. While it is true that our ability to learn new things is greater in our early years, it turns out our brains reorganize, physically change, and alter the function of different parts through our lives.

Each time we learn a new skill, make a new memory, rethink, respond, react, interact our brains change. Your brain is changing right now reading this post.

Why is this important?

Exercising and strengthening our brains is as important as keeping our bodies strong and limber.  The way you keep your brain in good shape spends on what you pay attention to, what you think, what you feel, and how you react to your environment.  You can change your brain with purpose by understanding how neuroplasticity works.

Two Main Ways You Can Drive Neuroplasticity

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”*

Donald Hebb developed the idea that when two neurons fire at the same time repeatedly, chemical changes occur in both, so that they connect more strongly.  Because neuroplasticity follows this rule, it’s fundamentally reversible. Neurons that fire together wire together, but when neurons “fire apart” their connection becomes weaker. That means your brain works on a “use it or lose it” principle. Information and behaviors that you do not use weaken and may be completely lost. This is called called “synaptic pruning.

“It is almost just as easy to drive changes that can impair one’s memory or slow down one’s mental or physical control as it is to improve one’s memory or speed up the brain’s actions.”**

Brain change comes from external experiences

What we practice or are exposed to becomes part of our brain wiring.

Everything that happens in our life wires our brains.  What we repeatedly do becomes wired – everything from muscle patterns (remember when you first learned to walk, ride a bike?), to skills (learning a native language – when’s the last time you thought about how to form a sentence?) to smiling or frowning (do you have to concentrate on each of your facial muscles to express a feeling?).

To keep our brains growing, functioning well and avoiding decline, we need to give it challenges such as learning new skills, exploring new places, changing routines and interacting with people.

Brain change comes from internal experiences

Mental & emotional exercise changes our brains too. What we think and imagine can change our brains for the better or worse. Where we focus our attention directs the synaptic connections, the brains wiring, and develops and strengthens connections.

We can purposefully and actively create the connections we want. Thoughts and images we replay in our minds create stronger connections.  Make neuro-connections by thinking of things in sequence, create positive mental images, do crossword puzzles. (You already do this whenever you study for a test, read a book, rehearse what to say, worry about your future, ruminate on the past.)

Here are some proven ways to positively impact our brains:

 Mindfulness:

Practicing mindfulness is learning to control your thoughts and develop ability to focus where we choose.

Meditation:

By decreasing stress, anxiety and depression meditation helps encourage neurogenesis (development new brain cells). This can happen in just a few weeks.

Visualization: 

Neurons fire whether something is real or imagined. Imagining doing something is not very different from doing it in terms of  brain wiring. Athletes use this to “practice” by imagining a perfect performance over and over. It helps them actually perform better.  Research has validated that the practice influences physical changes from muscle strength to brain pathways.

Now that you’ve finished reading, give yourself a pat on the brain for all the new neuro-connections it has just made for you.

*neuro-scientist Carla Shatz

**Dr. Michael Merzenich,  author of  Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life 

Reference: https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/

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Did you know?: You are more Microbes, Fungi than HUMAN

“There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells. But these tiny compatriots are invisible to the naked eye.  . . . artist Ben Arthur gives a guided tour of the rich universe of the human microbiome.”

Fun to watch and informative!

YOUR body is host to 101 fungal species, with each person harboring between 9 and 23 strains. 

“A growing number of researchers feel that alongside bacteria, the fungi that inhabit our bodies – or, collectively, the “mycobiome” — may also be influential in both our well-being and, at times, disease.”

If your fungi are out of balance it’s not healthy.

“Even when we are alone, we are never alone. We exist in symbiosis — a wonderful term that refers to different organisms living together. Some animals are colonised by microbes while they are still unfertilised eggs; others pick up their first partners at the moment of birth. We then proceed through our lives in their presence. When we eat, so do they. When we travel, they come along. When we die, they consume us. Every one of us is a zoo in our own right — a colony enclosed within a single body. A multi-species collective. An entire world.”

Changes in our resident microbiota and their collective genome — called the microbiome — have been linked with a wide range of diseases, from various forms of arthritis to depression. At this point scientists tend to focus on which bacterial species might hinder or maintain health.

But our biota comprises a menagerie of microbes. And a growing number of researchers feel that alongside bacteria, the fungi that inhabit our bodies may also be influential in both our well-being and, at times, disease.

Fungi Out Of Balance

A Telltale Sign For Unwanted Fungi

  • French researchers distinguished the fungi present in healthy human lungs compared with those afflicted with cystic fibrosis. Aspergillus was most prevalent in the lungs of healthy people, whereas various Candida species dominated in those afflicted with CF and other lung disorders.
  • UCLA professor David Underhill  found that mammalian fungi interact with the immune system to control inflammation in the gut.
  • Mice in which the gene encoding for Dectin-1 was inactivated and in which colitis was induced came down with far more severe disease than mice with the active gene. With these findings in hand they then identified a Dectin-1 gene variant in humans that predicted a severe form of inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis.
  • Recent unpublished findings by Ghannom’s lab show that an interaction between fungi and bacteria in the gut aggravates the body’s autoimmune response in Crohn’s disease, another form of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • In collaboration with a group at Cleveland Clinic, Ghannoum also beginning to show that oral fungal populations are different in people with head and neck cancers.
  • Recent research found that autoimmune arthritis can be induced in mice injected with certain compounds found in fungal cell walls.

“None of these factors are working in isolation . . .it’s probably a confluence of them all interacting with each other and with us – what we eat, what kind of nutrients they have, genetic influences and how our immune system reacts to both fungi and bacteria in the gut.”

“We’re in a stage where we’re recognizing the biological significance of the fungi in our systems to help develop a common language and set of research approaches,” Underhill says. “Soon, hopefully, we’ll know how they can be good for us, bad for us and manipulated to our benefit.”

“There’s a certain beauty in our biologic cooperative; a reminder that mammalian life is complicated and communal, and that in nature imbalance has consequences. But perhaps tinkering with our fungal dwellers will one day help restore our biologic balance and fend off disease.”

Read the entire article The Human Body’s Complicated Relationship with Fungus.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

 

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What Science Says About Achieving Peak Performance

I’ve peaked . . . not in the sense I’m going downhill now . . . but rather experiencing peak performance.  My first peak experience was memorable because it was a time in my life when I was the most self-conscious and questioning – a teenager in high school. I vividly remember, during a discussion, hearing my own words coming out of my own mouth, articulate, composed, effortlessly making the points I wished to make. I was peaking and flowing.

As an adult I’ve had a few times when I felt in the flow.  Looking back, each time met the 5 criteria described by Hans Hagemann and Friederike Fabricius in their book “The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance”

The main points Hagemann and Fabricius describe as the basis for creating peak performance:

  1. Creating psychological safety
  2. Regulating negative emotions
  3. Not entering a stress state.
  4. Gender and age matter.
  5. Leaning towards rewards, not threats.

“Peaked” by Peggy

1. Psychological Safety

Hagemann emphasizes that the most important thing that underlies peak performance is psychological safety.  If you are working in a climate of respect and appreciation,  you can do your best. 

If you are trying to perform well, using energy to inhibit negative emotions will take away from your performance.  “Two systems in your brain are competing. That leads to not being focused on anything anymore.”

To regain cognitive control, recognize and ‘label’ how you feel”.

Labeling emotions by Peggy

2.  Stress

In situations where you feel threatened, your stress response increases, which makes you physically stronger, but reduces your ability to think well.  

The stress response directs blood flow to the muscles – for fight or flight – and away from your brain.  The stress response says this is the time to act not deliberate and debate.

Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself.  That will send more oxygen to your brain and help you refocus.

 3.  Regulate your negative emotions 

When you try to inhibit negative emotions  — anger, frustration, disappointment — your rational and emotional systems  compete with each other.  

Name your feelings, either outloud or on paper, so your brain doesn’t have to busy itself trying to tamp down negative feelings and distract you from, consciously or unconsciously, performing well. 

4.  Lean towards rewards, not threats

In a “threat” state, “you get a rush of cortisol in your bloodstream – it’s that stress response making your muscles stronger, but and cutting off your cognitive thinking.  

Figure out what the pay-off will be in the situation and place your focus on the reward at the end (just like athletes do).   Your brain will help you “flow” toward it.

5.  Gender and age matter.

Hagemann refers to a “performance profile” as the amount of intellectual arousal needed to help an individual achieve peak performance. The amount of arousal needed to be at your peak are different for different people, and maybe for the same person at different ages. The amount of intellectual arousal makes a difference between men and women, old and young.  Some people are “sensation seekers,” and need a lot of arousal to hit their peak. That means they are often running on testosterone (he calls it “a very male thing”) while others can hit their peak with fewer stresses placed on them.

Both men and women have sensation seeking personality traits (like thrill rides, thrive on taking chances).   If you need a lot of arousal use the stress response to your advantage.  Relabel it as excitement and intently focus on the reward.

Have you ever been in “the flow”, had a “peak performance”?

What was it like for you?

(PA)

“The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance” by Hans Hagemann and Friederike Fabricius

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-leading-brain/

 

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Food is Medicine

I’m an emotional eater –  it doesn’t matter if I’m feeling bad or good.  But when I’m depressed I crave sugar & carbs.   I’ve always conveniently blamed my father.   I’m not sure whether he was the one who needed a pick-me-up or he thought I did but he would go out of his way to bring a bit of pleasure into my life in the form of something delectibly sweet.

Dad would drive across town to a special shop that dispensed root beer from a soda fountain and then back at home he’d pile in vanilla ice cream to make floats.  We would sneak out to eat cinnamon rolls and M’M’s peanut chocolate candy. 

Dad lived by specific culinary principles:

  • Cake’s main purpose was to hold up the frosting. 
  • Pepsi was the beverage of choice because water was for bathing, not drinking.
  • The only edible food was brown and white (unless it contained copious amounts of sugar), green food should be reserved for insects or chimpanzees
  • Fruit was only safe to eat if it was in a pie. 

Today there is a an incredible amount of scientific evidence that food is medicine, not just muscle fuel, and the right kind of diet may give the brain more of what it needs to avoid depression, or even to treat it once it’s begun

You’re feeling depressed. What have you been eating?

Psychiatrists and therapists don’t often ask this question. But a growing body of research over the past decade shows that a healthy diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and unprocessed lean red meat—can prevent depression. And an unhealthy diet—high in processed and refined foods—increases the risk for the disease in everyone, including children and teens.

The findings are spurring the rise of a new field: nutritional psychiatry.

“Now recent studies show that a healthy diet may not only prevent depression, but could effectively treat it once it’s started.
“Researchers, led by epidemiologist Felice Jacka of Australia’s Deakin University, looked at whether improving the diets of people with major depression would help improve their mood. They chose 67 people with depression for the study, some of whom were already being treated with antidepressants, some with psychotherapy, and some with both. Half of these people were given nutritional counseling from a dietitian, who helped them eat healthier. Half were given one-on-one social support—they were paired with someone to chat or play cards with—which is known to help people with depression.”

“After 12 weeks, the people who improved their diets showed significantly happier moods than those who received social support. And the people who improved their diets the most improved the most. (The study was published in January 2017 in BMC Medicine).”

“A second, larger study drew similar conclusions and showed that the boost in mood lasted six months. It was led by researchers at the University of South Australia and published in December 2017 in Nutritional Neuroscience.”

“And later this month in Los Angeles at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago will present results from their research that shows that elderly adults who eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains are less likely to develop depression over time.”

Scientific evidence aside . . .

My dad lived to 93 . . .  it might be prudent to follow his dietary regime.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, The Food That Helps Battle Depression bElizabeth Bernstein

 

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How to trick your brain into thinking you are happy

Yes, you can “fake out” your own brain.

Smiling fools your brain into thinking you are happy, then this creates actual happiness.  A smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin*.

Now here’s the fake-out:  Our brain isn’t good at telling the difference between a smile because you are happy and a fake smile.

Smiles by Peggy

But wait . . . there’s more

A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”

“And there are plenty more studies out there:  Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity.”

Smiling enhances our Immune system

“More than happiness is at stake.  Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist looks at the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system. He asserts that it has been found “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness boosts your immune system.”

“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

Smiles are contagious

“This is because we have mirror neurons that fire when we see action,” says Dr. Eva Ritzo, As its name suggests, mirror neurons enable us to copy or reflect the behavior we observe in others and have been linked to the capacity for empathy.”

“Try smiling into the mirror. Dr. Ritzo recommends smiling at yourself in the mirror, an act she says not only triggers our mirror neurons, but can also help us calm down and re-center if we’re feeling low or anxious.”

So SMILE and pass on a dose of neurochemical happy

*Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression.  Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.

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Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku Can boost Immunity, reduce stress & elevate your mood

You don’t need to take off your clothes or use soap or water for that matter. Forest bathing isn’t a bath – it’s a sensory immersion. Forest bathing isn’t a hike, it’s a meander.

Taking a Forrest Dip by Peggy

The idea is to go slow and let yourself take in nature – the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – notice things you might ordinarily miss.  It’s a meditation which helps clear your brain, and see your surroundings with fresh eyes. 

The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. “Medical researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing and have demonstrated several benefits to our health,” says Philip Barr, a physician who specializes in integrative medicine at Duke University.”

One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city to taking a forest walk. Both activities required the same amount of physical activity, but researchers found that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.

“Researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure among forest bathers. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases — which can lead to a drop in blood pressure.”

“On average, the forest walkers — who ranged in age from 36 to 77 — saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure from 141 mmHg down to 134 mmHg after four hours in the forest.  This might not sound like a big difference, but it can be clinically significant. Most doctors these days agree that people younger than 60 should aim to keep their blood pressure under 140.”

“There’s another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people. Some of the compounds are very distinctive, such as the scent of cedar.”

  • “Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killer cells .”
  • “Another study found inhalation of cedar wood oils led to a small reduction in blood pressure. These are preliminary studies, but scientists speculate that the exposure to these tree compounds might enhance the other benefits of the forest.”

“The idea that spending time in nature is good for our health is not new. Most of human evolutionary history was spent in environments that lack buildings and walls. Our bodies have adapted to living in the natural world.”

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WINE On!  

FIVE healthy supplements to add to your daily diet in ONE glass:

It’s National antioxidant, phenol, silicon, resveratrol, procyanidin Day

1. “Attacks” FREE RADICALS.

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The Longer Your Telomeres, The Longer You Live

“Telomeres – the caps at the end of our chromosomes – protect the DNA within our cells. The longer our telomeres, the less our likelihood of chronic disease and signs of aging.”

“Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? While many factors contribute to aging and illness, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn discovered a biological indicator called telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres, which protect our genetic heritage.”

“Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel’s research* shows that the length and health of one’s telomeres are a biological underpinning of the long-hypothesized mind-body connection. They and other scientists have found that changes we can make to our daily habits can protect our telomeres and increase our health spans (the number of years we remain healthy, active, and disease-free).”

“THE TELOMERE EFFECT* reveals how Blackburn and Epel’s findings, together with research from colleagues around the world, cumulatively show that sleep quality, exercise, aspects of diet, and even certain chemicals profoundly affect our telomeres, and that chronic stress, negative thoughts, strained relationships, and even the wrong neighborhoods can eat away at them.”

Lifestyle factors known to modulate aging and age-related diseases might also affect telomerase activity and have all been linked to shorter telomeres.

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Cardio-vascular disease processes (related to oxidative stress and inflammation)
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to pollution
  • Lower physical activity
  • Psychological stress
  • Unhealthy diet

You can counteract your “biological clock” by reactivating telomerase through diet and lifestyle interventions

With intensive lifestyle modification, a low fat diet, regular physical activity, and mental stress reduction (by yoga and meditation), telomerase activity increases significantly in peripheral blood mononuclear cell.

Specific nutrients provide all the necessary building blocks to support telomere health and extend lifespan like:

  • Folate 
  • Vitamins (B, D, E, C) 
  • Zinc
  • Polyphenol compounds such as resveratrol 
  • Grape seed extract 
  • Curcumin

Rich in those vitamins and minerals and a good source of antioxidants are foods like: Tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut, anchovies, cat-fish, grouper, flounder, flax seeds, sesame seeds, kiwi, black raspberries, green tea, broccoli, sprouts, red grapes, tomatoes and olives.  “These, combined with a Mediterranean type of diet containing fruits, vegetables and whole grains would help protect our chromosome ends [6270].”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761710/

*The Telomere Effect,  A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr. Elissa Epel “A groundbreaking book coauthored by the Nobel Prize winner who discovered telomerase and telomeres’ role in the aging process and the health psychologist who has done original research into how specific lifestyle and psychological habits can protect telomeres, slowing disease and improving life.”

 

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4 tricks to rev up your memory . . . and Elvis

I’m not sure if my memory is not as good as it used to be or I just pay more attention now to when I forget.  

There’s so much information in my brain that has been stored that it takes longer to sort,  find and retrieve what I need to remember.  Makes sense to me.  However, I still read articles like . . . 

Making the Most of your Brain’s Memory Process

 “In terms of brain function, everyone has a decline over time in all areas, with the exception of vocabulary.”  (Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist specializing in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.)

How memory works

Memory involves three processes:

  • encoding – brain receives and encodes (takes in) new information;
  • recording –  brain then records (stores) the information;
  • retrieval – brain retrieves information when you need it.

Many brain regions are involved in this process:

  • The cerebral cortex — the large outer layer of the brain — acquires new information as input from our senses. The amygdala tags information as being worthy of storage.
  • The hippocampus stores memories.
  • The frontal lobes help us consciously retrieve information.

The aging memory

“Many people notice a difference in memory starting in their 50s. That’s when age-related chemical and structural changes can begin in brain regions involved with memory processing, . . .  These changes may slow processing speed, making it hard to recall familiar names or words.”

“Other factors may be at play as well. “Working memory — a mental scratch pad that allows us to use important information throughout the day — is susceptible to depression, anxiety, and stress, . . .   a lack of sleep can affect the brain’s retention and use of information.'”

“A medication side effect may also affect memory. For example, if you use an anti-anxiety drug like clonazepam (Klonopin), its sedating side effects can make your brain less alert and more sluggish.”

Shower Song with Elvis & Meowie by Peggy

Memory tricks

Another way to boost memory is to make the most of the way it works. The following strategies may help.

1. Repeat what you hear out loud, such as someone’s name, or an address, or a new idea. Repetition increases the likelihood you’ll record the information and be able to retrieve it later. “With each repetition, your brain has another opportunity to encode the information,” explains Dr. Salinas. “The connections between brain cells are reinforced, much like blazing a trail in the woods. The more you walk the same trail, the easier it is to walk it the next time.”

2. Make a note of people you need to call, errands to run, and appointments. “We are much better at recognition than recall,” Dr. Salinas explains. “With recognition, such as reading a list, you have additional hooks or hints that help you find the information you’re looking for.”

3. Make associations between old and new information. Connect a person’s first name to something familiar. For example, if the person’s name is Sandy, imagine that person on a beach. Or create a story around a shopping list. “Our brain is good at sequences, and putting things into a story helps. The more ridiculous, the more memorable it is. For example, if your list is milk, eggs, and bread, the story could be that you are having milk with Elvis over an egg sandwich,” Dr. Salinas suggests.

The Egg and E. by Peggy

4. Divide information into chunks, such as taking a long number and remembering it more like a phone number. “It’s hard to store a long number,” says Dr. Salinas, “but easier to store little bits through working memory.” If you’re trying to memorize a speech for a wedding toast, focus on getting only one sentence or idea down at a time, not the whole speech in one take.

When tricks don’t help

Forgetting something minor from time to time is probably normal. It’s not normal when memory changes interfere with day-to-day functioning. Dr. Salinas recommends that you talk to your doctor if you’re making more mistakes than usual at work; having difficulty paying the bills; or having trouble completing tasks, cooking, emailing, or doing chores. But don’t panic. “More often than not, there’s a temporary or reversible cause behind your memory slips.” says Dr. Salinas.

Reference: 4 Tricks to Rev Up Your Memory

The next time I walk into the bathroom I’ll remember I’m going to take a shower with Elvis and hope I’ve not forgotten to invite him.

To learn how appreciation and gratitude help you memory and your creativity, click below:

I’m Afraid Being Afraid Shrinks My Fluffy Brain & Creativity

 

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Tooth-Heart Connection . . . who knew?

Over the years we’ve re-posted from Carolyn Thomas’ blog Heart Sisters because they are always informative, well-researched and well written.  Her latest post on unusual pain that shows up in the mouth, jaw or face – what dentists call “orofacial pain” – can be a cardiac warning sign really caught my attention.  Here’s a few highlight but I recommend you reading the entire post and click here:

 https://myheartsisters.org/2018/04/01/dentist-diagnosing-cardiac-symptoms/

“Orofacial pain of cardiac origin is typically a toothache that occurs spontaneously, and is usually made worse with exercise (just as the chest pain of stable angina typically comes on with exertion, and eases up with rest).”

“Unlike a conventional toothache caused by dental issues, the tooth or jaw pain that’s linked to heart issues can decrease when the coronary vasodilator called nitroglycerin is taken, and can also occur at the same time along with chest, neck, shoulder or throat pain.”

“Researchers in Barcelona, for example, found that orofacial pain that’s actually heart-related – unlike toothache pain – you may feel the pain on both sides of the face. The lead author of the study explained that orofacial pain of cardiac origin is considered to be atypical, but present in up to 10% of all people during a heart attack, with or without chest pain.”
  • “When these orofacial pain of cardiac origin occur, unnecessary dental treatment is often performed
  • “There are published clinical cases of patients who have undergone unnecessary dental extractions or have been prescribed pain medications due to misdiagnosis, without curing the orofacial pain.
  • This leads to a delay in a cardiac diagnosis, and consequently, a delay in beginning necessary treatment.”

Looking into “Cavities” by Peggy

The signs suggesting that a toothache may be more than just a simple toothache include:

  • a burning or pulsing pain
  • a pain that goes into remission, or dramatically changes
  • a persistent pain during days or months
  • a spontaneous pain in multiple teeth
  • a pain that does not go into remission even after anaesthetic block (freezing)
  • lack of response to adequate dental treatment

Open wide! Cardiac symptoms diagnosed in the dental chair

Carolyn wrote more about both atypical cardiac symptoms and many other typical symptoms in Chapter 1 of her book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017)

 

 

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Save your Spinach

Through a series of experiments, a team of researchers have grown beating human heart cells on spinach leaves!

“Current bioengineering techniques, like 3-D printing, can’t build the intricate, branching network of blood vessels that makes up the heart tissue. However, a team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arkansas Sate University-Jonesboro have successfully turned to plants.”

“. . . due to similarities in vascular network structure, the authors were able to develop this technology which “opens the potential for a new branch of science” that investigates those very similarities even further.”

The team grew beating heart tissue on spinach leaves that were stripped of plant cells in a process called decellularization. Researchers used a detergent, which is a water-based cleansing solution that binds with dirt and other impurities to wash the cells away.

“When the plant cells were gone, researchers were left with a framework made primarily of cellulose, the main chemical that forms the structure of plants. Cellulose has also been used in cartilage and bone engineering, as well as wound healing.”

“In the experiments, the researchers were able to line the veins of spinach leaves with the same cells that line a human’s blood vessels. Following that, they were able to send fluids and tiny microbeads about the same size as human blood cells through the revamped veining.”

“The authors say that these kinds of “proof-of-concept” studies open the door to using multiple spinach leaves to grow layers of healthy heart muscle to treat heart attack patients.”

Other plants stripped of cells could provide the framework for a wide range of tissue engineering technologies.

“We weren’t sure it would work, but it turned out to be pretty easy and replicable. It’s working in many other plants,” said the paper’s first author, Joshua Gerslak, a graduate student in Gaudette’s lab.”

http://www.wwltv.com/news/health/health-researchers-grow-heart-tissue-on-spinach-leaves/

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Write About Past Failures to Help You Succeed In the Present

Having taught journal writing workshops for decades it’s apparent to me that very few people are avid journal keepers, including myself.  Most of us, however, can do periodic writing to relieve stress, resolve problems and most of all give our brains get an objective view point.

In psychological jargon the “objective observer” actually helps us “reprogram” painful, hurtful, stressful, difficult memories.  There are lots of ways to access our “objective observer” – meditation, guided imagery, the arts – and writing is one of the quickest.

Write on! by Peggy

Research have shown that writing about negative events or emotions is emotionally therapeutic and can even benefit the immune system.  Interestingly other studies have shown that writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.

Here’s a particularly interesting study:

How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present

by Alice G. Walton

“They say failure is a necessary part of success, but it doesn’t always feel that way. A new study in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience not only supports this connection but adds an interesting twist, finding that reflecting on past failures—by writing about them—may help us stay calm in the face of new stressors. The team found this in the lab, but based on past evidence, it likely applies to real life, too.”

“The researchers, from Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, had people come into the lab and write for 10 minutes about either a time they’d made mistakes or failed at something in the past, or about an unrelated topic (a movie they’d recently seen). The team predicted that writing about a past failure would actually reduce a person’s stress level during a stressful situation in the present, whereas writing about the random topic wouldn’t have any effect.”

“To stress the participants, they subjected them to a well-known Trier Social Stress Test, in which participants have just a few minutes to prepare a five-minute speech, which they have to deliver in front of the researchers, or in this case a researcher posing as a “speech expert.” If that weren’t enough, the participants then had to count backwards by 13 from 2063. Finally, participants carried out a straightforward test of attention and reaction time.”

“As the team predicted, people who’d written about a past failure didn’t show the typical stress response (measured by the stress hormone cortisol) to the stress test, compared to the control group, who’d written about movie plots. They also did better on the tests of attention, making fewer mistakes, and ending with higher scores on average.”

“Because the control group still wrote, but about an unemotional topic, the authors conclude that it’s not just the writing, but the reflecting on earlier failure, that seems to have the stress-reducing effects.”

“We didn’t find that writing itself had a direct relationship on the body’s stress responses,” says study author Brynne DiMenichi in a statement. “Instead, our results suggest that, in a future stressful situation, having previously written about a past failure causes the body’s stress response to look more similar to someone who isn’t exposed to stress at all.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/03/24/how-writing-about-past-failures-may-help-you-succeed-in-the-future/#12991c2d13bc

Check out an easy tutorial on writing. Click HERE

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Find Yourself in Hot Water? Pain, Pressure & Brain

 Hot baths can releive pain

Dr. David Burke, head of Emory University’s Center for Rehabilitative Medicine.

We all know how relaxing in a tub can help sore muscles feel better.
“When you step into a hot bath and your core temperature goes up, a number of things happen that help with pain
 Hot baths expand the blood vessels in those areas and allow the healing properties within the blood to be delivered. They relax the muscles, which takes the tension off of them and the nerves that have been injured.”
Hot water, or even steam, can bring other benefits in addition to pain relief:

1. Lowers High Blood Pressure

The Journal of Physiology in a 2016 study  showed that soaking in hot water  lowered blood pressure and caused arteries to become more flexible in healthy young adults after just 8 weeks.
Scientists in Finland study the benefits of saunas,  tradition in that country. The American Journal of Hypertension  published a study that followed more than 1,600 middle-age men with normal blood pressure who used saunas over a 25-year period.
Men who visited a sauna two or three times a week were 24% less likely to have hypertension compared with those who visited once a week or less.nThose who went 4 to 7 times a week saw a 46% reduction.

2.  Lowers the Risk of Dementia

2016 study, again from Finland found that frequent saunas were associated with lower risk of dementia. The study followed 2,300 healthy men who used a sauna weekly for 6 years.

3.  Treatment of Brain Injury

At Emory University’s Rehabilitative Hospital, Burke uses saunas in the  treatment of brain injuries.
“I routinely recommend the saunas as a quick way — 20 minutes, four times a week — to preserve the brain that hasn’t been hurt.”
“The idea appears to be increasing your core temperature,” Burke said.
“This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition but can’t physically do some of the exercises,” he said.He believes that in the sauna, small blood vessels in the brain open, possibly stopping micro deterioration in the brain.

Bath Buddies

 Another caution: these studies only followed men. Women could be different in their responses. So, if you are a woman, next time you are in pain, go try a hot bath and find out.

Tell everyone you are doing scientific research.

Click here for how to get the most from your hot soak

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Hot to stop your SuperWorry

Mind races.  Unsettling worry or concern repeats itself over and over.  No solution.  No relief.  Can’t sleep.  Can’t concentrate on anything other than your SUPER WORRY

It doesn’t feel like it but your brain is doing this for your benefit – Relentlessly focus your attention on a potential (albeit imagined) threat to help you stay safe.  Three parts of you brain start firing in lockstep:

  • The orbital frontal cortex gives you the feeling you made a mistake or there is danger.
  • It signals the cingulate gurus which generates the neurochemistry of anxiety.
  • The caudate nucleus usually allows thoughts to flow from one to another, but it stops doing this.
  • These 3 parts together keep person locked into worry, an obsession with something thy fear.

You may even realize that the worry is not rational, or the fear is not imminent.  It’s your brain locked into a feed-back loop and won’t let you escape from the worrying thoughts.

Mousey Worry by Peggy

You can rewire your SuperWorry into SuperRelief

Talk to your brain – silently or outloud:

  1. Thank your brain for doing what it was created to do.  Don’t be mad or upset with your brain. It’s a good brain.
  2. However, relabel the problem as a brain problem, not an imminent threat. The real problem is not what you fear, it is the brain is getting locked into a position and isn’t moving on.
  3. Pick something positive or neutral to focus on instead.  Ideally something pleasurable.
  4. Repeat this as often as necessary.  It takes time for your brain to understand it doesn’t have to protect you in this way.

Here’s an example:  Thank you brain.  You don’t need to keep reminding me that (an earthquake will happen, someone will break into the house, I will get fired).  I’m safe right this minute.

When brain focuses on something over and over, it strengthens the brain neuro-connections. When you stop the thinking the connections are weakened.  Think of it like a wilderness trail – The more the trail is traveled the path gets wider and the dirt gets more and more compacted.  Stop walking on the trail and it becomes overgrown, impassable and no longer used.

Use it or lose it 
Any deviation from the neuro-connection path weakens it.  Every time you interrupt and then stop the thought about the fear and redirect your thoughts it gets easier. The more you  practice the more the neural links to the worry weaken and new positive neutral pathways are generated.

PET scans have shown that the brain pathways actually change when you perform the four steps.

Use this process for small worries, not just big ones.  

Sources:

Norman Dodgie,  “The Brain that Changes Itself” 

Jeffrey M Schwartz, “Brain Lock”  

Daunted by “spring” cleaning? Blame your brain

I’ve barely made a dent in the editing down of this article.  Why?  It’s a big article, I don’t know where to start and I am  blaming it on my brain.

Cluttered Closet by Peggy

 “Closets bulging with clothes and shoes. Plastic bins of stuff shoved under the bed. Stacks of mail covering the dining table. Has anyone seen the car keys?”

“It’s spring, time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time to throw open the windows and do some spring cleaning. But the magnitude of the project is daunting. How to begin?”

“If you want to know why it’s so difficult to tackle a big project like spring cleaning, blame your brain, said Randall O’Reilly, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at CU Boulder.”

“The brain is wired to be very cautious and conservative in starting big projects, because once you do start, it takes over your brain,” he said. “The brain, researchers think, is wired to track progress towards whatever it is you’ve decided to do, like spring cleaning, which is hard work. You have to make a lot of difficult decisions and the outcome is uncertain. Your brain recognizes that and says, ‘Maybe I won’t start on that project after all.’ It’s an adaptive property of the brain.”

“Once we get over the initial stalling and begin the project, the brain rewards us with small hits of dopamine as we make progress. This provides an incentive to stick with the task.”

“Dopamine is a chemical released by neurons that sends signals to other nerve cells and plays a major role in both mood and reward-motivated behavior.”

“So, you’ve tackled cleaning and decluttering and you’re making progress. And then you notice the teapot that belonged to your grandmother stored in the back of the cupboard. It’s sweet and dainty and evokes fond memories of your grandmother, but it’s not your style at all. Now you’re confronted with a dilemma: Keeping a teapot you never use is taking up much-needed space, but getting rid of it would feel disrespectful to your grandmother.”

“Things with an emotional attachment take on meaning,” O’Reilly said. “The teapot is not just a teapot. It has a personal history, so it’s unique in that sense. If you get rid of the teapot, it feels sacrilegious. It’s valuable to you because it carries that authenticity and history with it, so it feels like you’re disrespecting that value.”

“So, why do we accumulate clutter? The answer is found in the dopamine system, which is based on expectations. When we accumulate something or have a pleasurable experience, the brain releases dopamine and we feel good. As soon as our wants and desires are satisfied, however, the brain discounts that feel-good moment.”

“You can see mathematically that the brain is constantly comparing what we have versus what we expected to get,” he said. “Every moment of our lives, that’s what our brain is doing. How much better is that movie versus what you thought it would be? How much better was that cookie than you remembered? Every single thing is being compared to a baseline of what your expectation is.”

It needs to be better than what you expected

“Attachments to things are like those expectations. We want them and feel that we need them. This is where it gets diabolical, O’Reilly said. If something we like is meeting our expectations, we no longer get a dopamine burst. Our brains are constantly trying to up the ante, so we continue to acquire more stuff to feel better.”

“To get the dopamine surge, the experience needs to be better than what you expected. If it just meets expectations, guess what? No dopamine for you! The flip to the reward of dopamine is a downer.”

“If the experience was less than you expected, there’s actually a reduction in the firing of dopamine neurons, leaving you feeling disappointed,” O’Reilly said. “Then the brain tries to come up with new ways to get the dopamine. It needs to be better than what you expected.”

“The expectation system is what drives learning,” he said. “This system in our brains drives us forward, to learning more and more. You’re changing your expectation level, your sense of self. Don’t have attachments. Have ambition.”

https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/03/27/daunted-spring-cleaning-blame-your-brain-professor-says

Read

Loss Aversion – why we don’t declutter.

 Click Here: Spring has Sprung and so have I

 

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I have WHAT? . . . WHERE? . . . you may too and not know it

I had chronic medical conditions (fibromyalgia/heart arrhythmia) lurking in my body long before I was aware of them. Just recently I went for an adrenal check-up wondering if that was part of my chronic fatigue.  The doctor said my adrenals were fine – I breathed a sigh of relief.  He went on to announce that I had Hashimoto’s Disease.  I was floored to learn my immune system was destroying my thyroid gland without even telling me.

What do heart disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, gout, asthma, and other chronic conditions have in common? Inflammation!

Get the facts about inflammation and what it’s doing to your health BEFORE it kicks you where it hurts.

The Dangers of Inflammation*

There are two kinds of inflammation—acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term). While acute inflammation is an essential part of the healing process, chronic inflammation can lead to many of the health conditions plaguing people today.

Linked to chronic disease. It turns out inflammation is a key player in a wide range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

 Allergies can lead to inflammation. Sometimes the immune system becomes hypersensitive to allergens like dust and pollen. Repeated exposure to these allergens can lead to inflammation, which, left unchecked, can cause tissue damage.

Inflammation and your joints . In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks itself, leading to inflammation that can damage tissues. The inflammation associated with gout can, over the long-term, cause joint damage and a loss of mobility.

The effect of inflammation on the brain. Even your brain is susceptible to inflammation.  inflammation can alter blood flow to the brain, leading to tissue damage and cognitive decline. Inflammation can also lead to the creation of damaging proteins linked to Alzheimer’s.

Besides medicines, there are powerful anti-inflammatory “influencers”—such as eating fruits, vegetables, and nuts, minimizing stress, getting more sleep, and quitting smoking—which can help you take charge of chronic inflammation and prevent or reduce its damaging effects.

(jw)

Reference:

*Understanding Inflammation. guide from the experts at Harvard Medical School

Don”t do these things when you first wake up (Parenthetically Speaking)

However, some sleep specialists say there are certain morning mistakes that can set the stage for an unproductive rest of the day. 
Here are 7 suggestions scientists and other experts say about making the most (and the least) of the first few minutes after you wake up. 

1. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

Sometimes your alarm goes off and you are just not ready to face the day yet. Resist the temptation to put off the inevitable by five or 10 minutes.  (I can hit the snooze button multiple times, and fall back asleep multiple times. My solution is never set the alarm since my body is never ready to face the day.)

“Most sleep specialists think that snooze alarms are not a good idea.”  That’s partly because, if you fall back into a deep sleep after you hit the snooze button, you’re entering a sleep cycle you definitely won’t be able to finish. So you’ll likely wake up groggy instead of refreshed.  It’s best to figure out how much sleep you need on a nightly basis and make sure to get that amount.

2. Don’t Stay Curled up

So you avoided the snooze and now you’re lying awake in bed. Use this time to make yourself as big as possible — physically.  According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, stretching out wide is a way to build confidence as you launch into your day.

Though it’s hard to say whether people feel good because they stretch out or vice versa, Cuddy explained  that the people who wake up with their arms in a V “are super happy, like annoyingly happy.”  (Since I can’t feel my arms until noon I am just plain annoying in the morning.  Peggy is never annoying)

By contrast, she said there’s some preliminary evidence that people who wake up in a fetal ball “wake up much more stressed out.”

3. Don’t Check Email

If you sleep near your phone  it’s easy to roll over and start mindlessly scrolling through your inbox. (Peggy is a roll over- scroller but she’s still not annoying)  As Julie Morgenstern, author of the book “Never Check Email in the Morning,”if you start your morning this way, “you’ll never recover.”

“Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless,” she said. “There is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”

Instead, Morgenstern suggests that if you’re going to do some work, make it a project that requires considerable focus. (I don’t focus until 10 pm.  Maybe I should start checking email first thing in the morning?”)

4. Don’t Leave your Bed Unmade

Why make your bed? You’re just going to mess it up when you sleep in it later.  But according to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better,” making your bed is associated with increased productivity throughout the rest of the day.

Chicken or egg?  I put my money on super-organized people who are more likely to make their bed to begin with rather than neatness creates productivity.  (Peggy is organized and I’m “less so”. Yet she doesn’t make her bed and I make mine.  If I don’t make my bed I’m unable to find it in the evening.)

But Duhigg writes that making your bed is a “keystone habit” that can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”  (So far, other good habits elude me . . . maybe I’ll try reverse psychology and leave my bed unmade)

5. Don’t Drink Coffee

Your body naturally produces higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates energy, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. So for most people, the best time to drink coffee is after 9:30 a.m.

If you consume caffeine before then, your body will start adjusting by producing less cortisol in the early morning — meaning you’ll be creating the problem you fear.  (neither of us are prone to fearfulness . . . bottoms up!)

6. Don’t Get Ready in the Dark

“Your internal body clock is designed to be sensitive to light and darkness”, said Natalie Dautovich of the National Sleep Foundation.  So getting ready in the dark could signal to your body that it’s still nighttime and could make you feel even groggier.  (Maybe that’s my problem – I get ready in the dark because my eyes are at half mast until noon)

If it’s still dark outside when you wake up, Dautovich recommends turning on a strong light, like the ones used to treat seasonal affective disorder.

(Peggy goes outside, sits in the sun and drinks her morning coffee.  She knows that morning sunlight resets our internal clock so we will be ready to get up the next day.  HER eyes however are always wide-open in the morning)

7. Don’t Play it by Ear

It’s best if you incorporate your initial morning activities into some kind of routine.  Scientists say our willpower is limited, and when we expend it early on in the day trying to decide what to do next, we have less left later in the day when we need to concentrate on work.  Instead, let your brain run on automatic in the morning and conserve those mental resources for when you really need them.

(Maybe that’s why I’m not awake until 10 pm.  Since my eyes are half-shut and my brain is still sleeping the only two organs left in my control are my mouth that drinks coffee in the dark and my ears which I play by)

How Do YOU sabotage your day before it starts?

(jw)

Source: Business Insider, by 

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Stress is Contagious . . . and it’s not seasonal.

I’m a passionate but fairly even-tempered person.   Times when I’ve felt stressed were very few and far between until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and consciously being on over-load and “wigged-out” became greater and more obvious.

It also became obvious that stress exacerbated my symptoms.

There’s a saying that the stress of one person ‘rubs off’ on another.  Having “sat with” thousands of stressed- out clients for 30 years I’ve often wondered if there was any connection to my developing fibromyalgia.

Now there’s scientific evidence that stress can more than just ‘rub off’ – it can mess with my brain as badly as it can mess with people in my life (and vice versa) . . . even if I’m not a mouse.

Contagious by Peggy

A study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience has found that stress may be contagious and even its effects on the brain may be transferred to people around. The research was conducted by Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary and his team.

“The study that was conducted on mice, also showed that the effects of stress were reversed in female mice, following a social interaction, but the same was not true for male mice. “Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression”, said Dr. Bains

“Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.”

The research team studied the effects of stress in pairs of male and female mice. They removed one mouse from each pair and exposed them to mild stress and then returned them to their respective partners to test the results. The researchers monitored the response of a specific group of cells that control the brain’s response to stress. This showed that the cells of both the stressed mice and their partners were affected in the same way.

The most remarkable result of the experiment was that the neurons of the mice who were not themselves exposed to stress had been altered in a way that was identical to that of the exposed ones. The mirror effects were caused due to the release of a chemical from the activated neurons called the ‘alarm pheromone’. This chemical alerts the partner mouse who can then transfer the same signals to others in the group.

(jw)

https://www.ndtv.com/food/your-stress-can-affect-your-partners-brain-too-says-study-eat-these-foods-to-beat-stress-1822182

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