5 ways to keep your brain in “gear”

My fibromyalgia brain fog has been denser than usual so this article caught my attention.  I figure if I do at least 4 out the 5 of these things I might be able to bump my brain functioning up to normal.

(I’ve edited down the article . . . but not a lot because after all it is for me!, Judy)

Neuroscience says these five rituals will help your brain stay in peak condition

“Lucky for us, advanced technologies have enabled researchers to understand how the brain works, what it responds to, and even how to retrain it. For instance, we know our brains prefer foods with high levels of antioxidants, including blueberries, kale, and nuts. We know that a Mediterranean diet, which is largely plant-based and rich in whole grain, fish, fruits, and red wine, can lead to higher brain functions. And we know that smiling can retrain our brains to look for positive possibilities rather than negative ones.”

Here are five simple rituals that cognitive scientists say can help your brain grow new cells, form new neural pathways, improve cognition, and keep your outlook positive and sharp.

1.  Congratulate yourself for small wins

“The frequency of success matters more than the size of success, so don’t wait until the big wins to congratulate yourself, says B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. Instead, come up with daily celebrations for yourself; your brain doesn’t know the difference between progress and perceived progress.”

“Both progress and setbacks are said to greatly influence our emotions. So the earlier in the day you can feel successful, the better—feelings of excitement help fuel behaviors that will set you up for successes. For instance, a productive morning routine can be used to motivate you through the rest of the day. We feel happier and encouraged as our energy levels increase, and feel anxiety or even depression as our energy levels go down.”

2.  Keep your body active

According to neurologist Etienne van der Walt, “Specific forms of exercises have been shown to be very beneficial for … brain growth.”

“When we exercise, our heart rate increases, oxygen is pumped to the brain at a much faster rate, and new brain cells develop more quickly. The more brain cells we create, the easier it is for cells to communicate with one another, developing new neural pathways. Ultimately, our brains become more efficient and plastic, which means better cognitive performance.”

“It doesn’t even take that much sweat to keep your brain in good shape. A study conducted by the department of exercise science at the University of Georgia in 2003 found that an exercise bout of just 20 minutes is enough to change the brain’s information processing and memory functions.”

3. Stretch your brain muscles

“Like other muscles in your body, if you don’t use the brain, you’ll eventually lose it. This means it’s crucial to exercise your brain and keep it stimulated.”

“Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes that it’s especially important to target areas of your brain that you use less frequently. Good suggestions for stretching your brain muscles include learning to speak a new language, learning to play a new instrument, or even learning to juggle.”

“To enhance his own cognitive prowess, author James Altucher tries to come up with new ideas every day. He writes about his daily system:

  • “Get a SMALL pad.
  • Go to a local cafe or a park.  For cognitive stimulation it is important to vary your routine.
  • Maybe read an inspirational book for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Start writing down ideas. The key here is, write 10 ideas …  all you want is a list of ideas.”

“Mid-way through the exercise, Altucher says his brain will actually start to “hurt.”  Whether he ends up using the ideas or throwing them away is not the point. 

4. Sit upright

“Not only is an upright position found to increase energy levels and enhance our overall mood, it’s also been shown to increase our confidence, as in this 2013 preliminary research conducted by Harvard Business professor Amy Cuddy and her colleague, Maarten W. Bos.”

“Positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness.”

“From a purely cognitive perspective, positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness, as well as more likely to recall depressive memories and thoughts. Researchers say this phenomenon is ingrained in our biology and traces back to how body language is “closely tied to dominance across the animal kingdom,” as Cuddy writes in her new book, Presence.”

“So what’s the best way to ensure you feel powerful in both body and mind? Erik Peper, a professor who studies psychophysiology at San Francisco State University, advises checking your posture every hour to make sure you’re not in the iHunch, or iPosture, position. He also advises bringing smaller devices up to your face while in use instead of forcing yourself to look downward at them in a collapsed position.”

 5.  Sleep with your phone away from your head

“There’s a lot of myths and half truths out there about how—and if—your smartphone may be effecting the brain. While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the topic of wireless devices, there does seem to be a link between blue light—emitted by electronic screens including those of smartphones—and sleep. Interrupting or changing our sleep patterns is bad for a lot of reasons. For example, lack of enough deep sleep could be preventing us from flushing harmful beta-amyloid from our brains.”

“According to Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT specializing in sleep and the brain, our brains’ natural cleansing system requires six to eight hours of sleep. Without it, brains eventually encounter major build-ups of beta-amyloid, a neurotoxin found in clumps in the brains of people with neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“While scientists have always known that the brain cleanses wastes, much like the body, the sophistication of this cleansing system was investigated in 2013 by Maiken Nedergaard of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester. This study found “hidden caves” that open up in our brains when we’re in a deep enough sleep. This liquid cleaning system, dubbed the “glymphatic system,” enables copious amounts of neurotoxins to be pushed through the spinal column.
“So, exactly how far away do you need to keep your smart devices? We’re not completely sure, but Swart says it’s a good idea to not sleep with it next to your head. Ultimately, keeping our brains healthy takes willpower and resilience, just like with any other part of our bodies. But as research shows, staying sound of body and mind as we age is certainly possible—with a little effort.”

If you don’t believe me click here! http://qz.com/626482/neuroscience-says-these-five-rituals-will-help-your-brain-stay-young/

 

Are you as bizarre as I think you are?

I know the difference between reality and imagination.

My vision is smooth and continuous.

I can tell the difference between my limbs and yours.

I consciously control my behavior.

Turns out I’m wrong and YOU are no different.  

“There are hundreds of surprising, perspective-shifting insights about the nature of reality that come from neuroscience. Every bizarre neurological syndrome, every visual illusion, and every clever psychological experiment reveals something entirely unexpected about our experience of the world that we take for granted. Here are a few to give a flavor:”

Famous illusion done by Meowie

1. Perceptual reality is entirely generated by our brain. “We hear voices and meaning from air pressure waves. We see colors and objects, yet our brain only receives signals about reflected photons. The objects we perceive are a construct of the brain, which is why optical illusions can fool the brain.”

2. We see the world in narrow disjointed fragments.  “We think we see the whole world, but we are looking through a narrow visual portal onto a small region of space. You have to move your eyes when you read because most of the page is blurry. We don’t see this, because as soon as we become curious about part of the world, our eyes move there to fill in the detail before we see it was missing. While our eyes are in motion, we should see a blank blur, but our brain edits this out.

3. Body image is dynamic and flexible. “Our brain can be fooled into thinking a rubber arm or a virtual reality hand is actually a part of our body. In one syndrome, people believe one of their limbs does not belong to them. One man thought a cadaver limb had been sewn onto his body as a practical joke by doctors.”

4. “Our behavior is mostly automatic, even though we think we are controlling it. The fact that we can operate a vehicle at 60 mph on the highway while lost in thought shows just how much behavior the brain can take care of on its own. Addiction is possible because so much of what we do is already automatic, including directing our goals and desires. In utilization behavior, people might grab and start using a comb presented to them without having any idea why they are doing it. In impulsivity, people act even though they know they shouldn’t.”

5. Our brain can fool itself in really strange ways. “In Capgras syndrome, familiar people seem foreign (the opposite of deja vu). One elderly woman who lived alone befriended a woman who appeared to her whenever she looked in a mirror. She thought this other woman looked nothing like herself, except that they seemed to have similar style and tended to wear identical outfits. Another woman was being followed by a tormenter who appeared to her in mirrors but looked nothing like herself. She was fine otherwise.”

6. Neurons are really slow. “Our thinking feels fast and we are more intelligent than computers, and yet neurons signal only a few times per second and the brain’s beta wave cycles at 14-30 times per second. In comparison, computers cycle at 1 billion operations per second, and transistors switch over 10 billion times per second. How can neurons be so slow and yet we are so smart?”

7. Consciousness can be subdivided. “In split-brain patients, each side of the brain is individually conscious but mostly separate from the other. In post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), memories of a traumatic event can become a compartmentalized inaccessible island. In schizophrenia, patients hear voices that can seem separate from themselves and which criticize them or issue commands. In hypnosis, post-hypnotic suggestions can direct behavior without the individual’s conscious awareness“.

http://www.medicaldaily.com/7-cool-brain-facts-neuroscientists-know-about-consciousness-your-behavior-your-412191

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Your first chance to help us win and you to not win

“OK I signed up but please no mug.  I prefer to be a loser.” (RC)

Remember our last drawing MUG on a MUG?  After PLEADING with friends and colleagues to “follow” CATNIPblog I received the above message from my grade-school crush (who shall remain nameless but knows who he is . . . cuz I told him.)

Many of you have made it abundantly clear you don’t want things, so DO NOT MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY to not get anything!

TA DAA!!!

Announcing the no-giveaway-once-in-a-full-moon opportunity to invite your friends and family to FOLLOW CATNIPblog and receive nothing at all in return except for . . .

. . . Peggy & Judy’s unabashed gratitude cuz they do not want to spend the last remaining days of their lives typing their little fingers to the bone, creating uproariously funny drawings and taxing their little brains trying to figure out how to get more readers.

Looking for blog “Followers” by Peggy

Here’s all you have to do to insure you never have to apologize to Peggy & Judy with lame excuses like they’ve already heard:

  • I don’t know what a blog is.
  • I don’t have a computer
  • I can’t find the “follow” box even though you have told me it’s in the upper right hand corner of the blog.

join my grade-school crush (who continues to remain nameless).  Send this link http://CATNIPBLOG.com to your friends and family to FOLLOW CATNIPblog.  And if they are allergic to cats FOLLOW CURIOUS TO THE MAX where almost none of Judy’s drawings have fur, much less clothes.  (Click here for what I’m talking about.)

Join hundreds of other wonderful fellow-followers on the CATNIPblog of OFFICIAL LOSERS – you will receive nothing, at no time, nohow in perpetuity.”

Black hole of cyber-space

PLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEZ tell your friends and family to FOLLOW so Peggy & Judy can start the new year knowing all their hard work isn’t being sucked into the black hole of cyber-space without proper appreciation.

They don’t even have to read any of the posts . . .  we’ll never know.

(jw)

Frankly Freddie True Tails – Santa’s Plight

Dear human-beings,

Besides being soft and cuddly a mission of mine is to bring poetry to the masses, of which you are some.   And I am here to bring you the truth . . . even though it might hurt.

Santa was frantic at the North Pole

Finances in the red, he was in the hole

Mrs Claus couldn’t afford sugar

For her cookies sublime

Dear old hubby didn’t have a dime

231739-royalty-free-rf-clipart-illustration-of-santa-freaking-out-poster-art-print

North Pole employment had exploded

and Santa’s credit was eroded

He’d spent his last cent on black Friday deals

and turkey with the trimmings for thanksgiving meals

imgres

The night before Christmas he no longer had clout

When all the elves threatened a walk-out

Elf-union held all the chips

As evidenced by the grin on all the elf lips

For every elf in all the land

had won a pay deal without tipping their hand:

Double pay all December

a free thanksgiving meal in November

Finally fringe benefits for elves was real

For Santa and the Mrs, there was no appeal

Santa had bitten his nails to the quick

Both right and left eyes developed a tic

All Santa could do was self medicate

So he stuffed his mouth from the cookie plate santa-claus-being-drunk-holding-beer-33377069

And downed all the rum from a hot toddy cup

his blood pressure sky-high, went up and up

His big fat belly shook like a bowl full of lead

While visions of bankruptcy danced in his head

So all you children and adults too

Have compassion and learn to make due  

STOP asking for presents and things you don’t need

YOU must now take heed.

It’s no time for greed

If you want Santa another Christmas to live

to every red-kettle-bell-ringer

Dig in your pocket and GIVE.

Poetically yours,

Freddie Parker Westerfield

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Hallowed Halloween

Hocus Pocus

Let’s all focus

No room for mean

on Halloween

Meowie Fly’n High by Peggy

Let love fly high

and fill the sky

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Inktober Retrospective #2

Our second weeks worth of our weird, wacky world

Oct 8 Prompt CROOKED

Oct 9 Prompt SCREECH

Oct 10 Prompt GIGANTIC

Oct 11 Prompt RUN

Oct 12 Prompt SHATTERED

Teeming with “Good Witches” is our kitchen towel on Zazzle

Oct 13 Prompt TEEMING

Oct 14 Prompt FIERCE

Whaahooo! This Mysterious Kitty is also in our ZAZZLE CATNIP Shop.

  • Kitchen Towels
  • Paper Cups
  • Napkins,
  • Mugs
  • Special Orders- we can decorate anything you want as long as Dazzle has it!

Oct 15 Prompt MYSTERIOUS

Posting a drawing a day on Curious to the Max with a once-a-week Sunday 7-Day Retrospective on CATNIPblog for those of you who just want to click- off the dailies!

http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober

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Inktober Retrospective – Week 1

On my personal blog – Curious to the Max I have periodically participated in blog-challenges.   Having a chronic condition like fibromyalgia sometimes derails me so I talked Peggy into participating with me in Inktober.

INKTOBER: 31 Days, 31 drawings, based on pre-set prompts.  

Peggy & I have been doing ink sketches for CATNIPblog so here’s da plan:

I’m posting a drawing a day on Curious to the Max with a Sunday-Retrospective on CATNIPblog.  (We decided since we will never have a “retrospective” in a Museum of Modern Art we’ll host our own).  Here’s the first weeks work of INKTOBER:

Oct 1 Prompt SWIFT – Meowie Rides On!

Oct 2  Prompt DIVIDED – Woofer & Meowie Half ‘n Half

Oct 3 Prompt – POISON, Choose One . . .

Oct 4 Prompt Under water – Scuba Diving Woofer

Oct 5 Prompt LONG – Meowie

Oct 6 Prompt SHYBashful Meowie Mood Magnet

Oct 7 Prompt SWORD – Warrior Woofer

http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober

Brain Degeneration & Weight Research

One of the all time biggest motivators is fear & pain.  My guess is it’s a throw-back to our cave-men and cave-women days when fear & pain helped us seek safety, harness fire and stay away from poisonous mushrooms and berries (not to mention snakes and tigers).

I have needed to lose 20 pounds for several years.  NEEDED because my blood pressure is too high, my knees too painful and much of the weight is around my middle (considered to be the most dangerous for health).  I try to motivate myself to lose pounds by reading about the dangers of being over-weight.  Here’s my latest:

 

Scardy Cat

Scaredy Cat by Peggy

“More recently, a brain scanning study including more than 500 participants confirmed that being overweight or obese is associated with a greater degree of age-related brain degeneration. These effects were biggest in middle-aged people, in whom the obesity-related changes corresponded to an estimated increase in ‘brain age’ of 10 years.”

“Obesity is a complex condition with many contributing factors, however; so exactly how it might affect brain structure and function is still unclear.” Body fat is the defining feature of obesity, but you’ve also got things like insulin resistance, hypertension, and high blood pressure” . . . “These can go hand in hand with behavioural factors [such as overeating and lack of exercise] and they can all potentially cause changes in the brain.”

If this doesn’t inspire me perhaps fear isn’t my biggest motivator after all.

 What is your most potent motivator?

(jw)

Click here for the article: why-obesity-damages-your-mind-as-well-as-your-body

Pawsitively Tuesday – The Catnip Song

This cool cat

she plays one

she plays nip nap

with her thumb

Meowie w:guitar

Meowie in Concert by Peggy

Here a nip 

there a nip

 everywhere a nip nap

Nip nap puddy wack

bring the cat a rat

This ole cat likes to roam

before she comes

strolling home

Read: click here Singing Makes You HAPPY

Pawsitively OMAR

“Omar was the same size as all the other kittens in his litter when he was taken home by his owner Stephy Hirst in 2013.”

“But now the 120cm (3 ft 11 in), 14kg (31 lb) Maine Coon from Melbourne, Australia, could be the world’s longest domestic cat.”

“Omar has also displayed a talent for opening doors, kitchen cupboards, shower screens and wardrobes.”

“Omar typically rises at 5:00 am, eats a couple of scoops of dry cat food for breakfast, lounges around the house, plays in the backyard, naps on the trampoline and eats raw kangaroo meat for dinner.”

Image copyright@OMAR_MAINECOON

Ms Hirst started a social media account for Omar and one of her photos was shared on the Cats of Instagram account more than 270,000 times.

Read the full article by the BBC’s Greg Dunlop , click here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39931050

April Fools’ Day is EVERYDAY – no joke

Need proof of human gullibility?

How about  the attack of the flesh-eating bananas.

Excerpted from Why are People so Incredibly Gullible by David Robson, BBC Future’s feature writer. 

(This was such a fascinating article I had trouble editing it down.  For the entire article click on the Title.)

“In January 2000, a series of chain emails began reporting that imported bananas were infecting people with “necrotizing fasciitis” – a rare disease in which the skin erupts into livid purple boils before disintegrating and peeling away from muscle and bone.”

Cat-eating Bananas, by Peggy

“According to the email chain, the FDA was trying to cover up the epidemic to avoid panic. Faced with the threat, readers were encouraged to spread the word to their friends and family.”

“The threat was pure nonsense, of course. But by 28 January, the concern was great enough for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a statement decrying the rumor.”

” . . . Rather than quelling the rumour, they had only poured fuel on its flames. Within weeks, the CDC was hearing from so many distressed callers it had to set up a banana hotline. The facts became so distorted that people eventually started to quote the CDC as the source of the rumour. Even today, new variants of the myth have occasionally reignited those old fears.”

“One, somewhat humbling, explanation is that we are all “cognitive misers” – to save time and energy, our brains use intuition rather than analysis.”

As a simple example, quickly answer the following questions:

“How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?”

“Between 10 and 50% of study participants presented with these questions fail to notice that it was Noah, not Moses, who built the Ark, . . . even when they have been explicitly asked to note inaccuracies.”

“Known as the “Moses illusion”, this absent-mindedness illustrates just how easily we miss the details of a statement, favouring the general gist in place of the specifics. Instead, we normally just judge whether it “feels” right or wrong before accepting or rejecting its message. “Even when we ‘know’ we should be drawing on facts and evidence, we just draw on feelings,” says Eryn Newman at the University of Southern California, whose forthcoming paper summarises the latest research on misinformation.”

“Based on the research to date, Newman suggests our gut reactions swivel around just five simple questions:”

  • Does a fact come from a credible source?
  • Do others believe it?
  • Is there plenty of evidence to support it?
  • Is it compatible with what I believe?
  • Does it tell a good story?

“Crucially, our responses to each of these points can be swayed by frivolous, extraneous, details that have nothing to do with the truth.”

Then there’s the “cognitive fluency” of a statement – essentially, whether it tells a good, coherent story that is simple to imagine. “If something feels smooth and easy to process, then our default is to expect things to be true,” says Newman. This is particularly true if a myth easily fits with our expectations. “It has to be sticky – a nugget or soundbite that links to what you know, and reaffirms your beliefs,” agrees Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol in the UK, whose work has examined the psychology of climate change deniers.”

“In light of these discoveries, you can begin to understand why the fear of the flesh-eating bananas was so infectious. For one thing, the chain emails were coming from people you inherently trust – your friends – increasing the credibility of the claim, and making it appear more popular. The concept itself was vivid and easy to picture – it had high cognitive fluency. If you happened to distrust the FDA and the government, the thought of a cover-up would have fitted neatly into your worldview.”

(Credit: Getty Images)

“It’s true: we would rather hide our heads in the sand than listen to evidence questioning our beliefs, even if the facts are solid “(Credit: Getty Images)

“That cognitive miserliness can also help explain why those attempts to correct a myth have backfired so spectacularly, as the CDC found to their cost. Lab experiments confirm that offering counter-evidence only strengthens someone’s conviction. “In as little as 30 minutes, you can see a bounce-back effect where people are even more likely to believe the statement is true,” says Newman.”

“As a result of these frailties, we are instantly drawn to the juicier details of a story – the original myth – while forgetting the piddling little fact that it’s been proven false. Worse still, by repeating the original myth, the correction will have increased the familiarity of the claim – and as we’ve seen, familiarity breeds believability. Rather than uprooting the myth, the well-intentioned correction has only pushed it deeper.”

Banana-eating Monkey, by Peggy

“It’s always worth asking whether you have thought carefully about the things you are reading and hearing. Or are you just being a cognitive miser, persuaded by biased feelings rather than facts?

Some of your dearest opinions may have no more substance than the great banana hoax of the year 2000.”

Click here to read about a few other classic hoaxes – like spaghetti growing on trees . . .