Category Archives for "Brain Training"

Is Vision More Sensitive During Exercise?

Psychologists design an experiment to investigate whether human vision is more sensitive during physical activity.

It’s universally accepted that the benefits of exercise go well beyond fitness, from reducing the risk of disease to improving sleep and enhancing mood. Physical activity gives cognitive function a boost as well as fortifying memory and safeguarding thinking skills.

But can it enhance your vision? It appears so.

Intrigued by recent findings that neuron firing rates in the regions of mouse and fly brains associated with visual processing increase during physical activity, UC Santa Barbara psychologists Barry Giesbrecht and Tom Bullock wanted to know if the same might be true for the human brain.

To find out, they designed an experiment using behavioral measures and neuroimaging techniques to explore the ways in which brief bouts of physical exercise impact human performance and underlying neural activity. The researchers found that low-intensity exercise boosted activation in the visual cortex, the part of the cerebral cortex that plays an important role in processing visual information. Their results appear in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

“We show that the increased activation — what we call arousal — changes how information is represented, and it’s much more selective,” said co-author Giesbrecht, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “That’s important to understand because how that information then gets used could potentially be different.

“There’s an interesting cross-species link that shows these effects of arousal might have similar consequences for how visual information is processed,” he continued. “That implies the evolution of something that might provide a competitive advantage in some way.”

To investigate how exercise affects different aspects of cognitive function, the investigators enlisted 18 volunteers. Each of them wore a wireless heart rate monitor and an EEG (electroencephalogram) cap containing 64 scalp electrodes. While on a stationary bicycle, participants performed a simple orientation discrimination task using high-contrast stimuli composed of alternating black and white bars presented at one of nine spatial orientations. The tasks were performed while at rest and during bouts of both low- and high-intensity exercise.

The scientists then fed the recorded brain data into a computational model that allowed them to estimate the responses of the neurons in the visual cortex activated by the visual stimuli. They analyzed the responses while participants were at rest and then during low- and high-intensity exercise.

This approach allowed them to reconstruct what large populations of neurons in the visual cortex were doing in relation to each of the different stimulus orientations. The researchers were able to generate a “tuning curve,” which estimates how well the neurons are representing the different stimulus orientations.

Image shows a man on an exercise bike.
Participants rode stationary bikes while wearing a wireless heart rate monitor and an EEG cap. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to UCSB.
“We found that the peak response is enhanced during low-intensity exercise relative to rest and high-intensity exercise,” said lead author Bullock, a postdoctoral researcher in UCSB’s Attention Lab. “We also found that the curve narrows in, which suggests a reduction in bandwidth. Together, the increased gain and reduced bandwidth suggest that these neurons are becoming more sensitive to the stimuli presented during the low-intensity exercise condition relative to the other conditions.”

Giesbrecht noted that they don’t know the mechanism by which this is occurring. “There are some hints that it may be driven by specific neurotransmitters that increase global cortical excitability and that can account for the change in the gain and the increase in the peak response of these tuning profiles,” he said.

From a broader perspective, this work underscores the importance of exercise. “In fact, the benefits of brief bouts of exercise might provide a better and more tractable way to influence information processing — versus, say, brain training games or meditation — and in a way that’s not tied to a particular task,” Giesbrecht concluded.

Source: http://neurosciencenews.com

Specific Brain Training Reduces Dementia Risk Across 10 Years

While many companies have long promised that their brain-training products can sharpen aging minds, only one type of computerized brain training so far has been shown to improve people’s mental quickness and significantly reduce the risk of dementia, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention.

“The mistake some people make is thinking that all brain training is the same,” said presenter Jerri Edwards, PhD, of the University of South Florida. “Lumping all brain training together is like trying to determine the effectiveness of antibiotics by looking at the universe of all pills, and including sugar pills and dietary supplements in that analysis. You’ll find that some work and some do not. To then conclude that brain training does not work — or is not yet proven — is based on flawed analysis.”

Because of this lack of targeted analysis, Edwards looked at studies focused on the effectiveness of a specific brain training exercise called speed of processing training — also known as useful field of view training. Edwards and her team completed a systematic review and meta-analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed research papers examining speed of processing training.

In addition to this meta-analysis, Edwards and her team released findings from their ACTIVE study, which stands for Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly. This study, which was presented last week, found that older adults’ risk for dementia was reduced by 48 percent over 10 years when they completed 11 or mores sessions of this brain-training technique. Specifically, the risk of dementia was reduced by 8 percent for each session of speed of processing training completed, Edwards said.

“This highly specific exercise is designed to improve the speed and accuracy of visual attention or someone’s mental quickness,” Edwards said. For example, during one task, a person must identify an object (e.g., a car or truck) at the center of a screen while locating a target, such as another car, in his or her peripheral vision. As people practice the task, the time it takes them to locate the peripheral object gets shorter and shorter even as the objects become harder to distinguish. In more difficult tasks, the peripheral target is surrounded by distracting objects, forcing the person to work harder to stay focused, she said.

Participants who completed the speed of processing training experienced improved performance across standard cognitive (attention), behavioral (depressive symptoms, feelings of control), functional (health-related quality of life, functional performance) and real world measures (driving, predicted health care costs).

Edwards pointed to the speed of processing research around driving as a concrete example of how this training generalizes to everyday activities. Studies have shown that speed of processing training resulted in improvement in reaction time, yielding another 22 feet of stopping distance at 55 mph and a 36 percent decrease in dangerous maneuvers. In addition, 40 percent fewer people stopped driving altogether and there was a 48 percent reduction in at-fault crashes, she said.

“Some brain training does work, but not all of it,” Edwards concluded. “People should seek out training backed by multiple peer-reviewed studies. The meta-analysis of this particular speed of processing training shows it can improve how people function in their everyday lives.”

 

READ Entire Article at Sciencedaily.com

The Mindfulness Prescription

 As highlighted in an article by Samantha Olson,  research is showing promising insight on how mindfulness is beginning to help patients heal  .  Over the course of 12 weeks, participants who were diagnosed with conditions Including  generalized, social, and separation anxiety disorder  underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans while they practiced mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a wide range of therapeutic techniques that included meditation, yoga, and learning how to pay nonjudgmental attention to one’s life . READ MORE 

An Implausible Path Towards Mindfulness

Peace, love, and eff off. In a perfect world, meditation is all soft smiles, cooing voices, perfect posture, and no flinching. Heck, in a perfect world, you probably wouldn’t even need meditation. But this is the real world, people—and to deal with it, you may need something a bit more…aggressive.Seems ironic, even counterproductive, to use profanity as a source of purification, right? But check this: “A swearing type of meditation can be an absolutely wonderful release,” says global meditation expert and life coach Tom Cronin. “When you have emotional toxins in your system, you need to expend that negative energy to get them out. They won’t just go away on their own. Curse words are, by nature, vigorous, angry words. Saying or even shouting them can clear the anger.” READ MORE

 

Train Your Brain…Here’s Why and How!

Try These Cognitive Restructuring Exercises to Improve Your Mood and Reduce Stress

Cognitive restructuring is a core part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the most effective psychological treatments for common problems like depression, anxiety disorders, and binge eating. Here, clinical and social psychologist Alice Boyes shares some CBT techniques you can try at home to reduce problems with mood, anxiety, and stress.

Practice Noticing When You’re Having a Cognitive Distortion

Choose one type of cognitive distortion to focus on at a time. Example: you recognize that you’re prone to “negative predictions.” For a week, just notice any times you find yourself…READ MORE

Train Your Brain…Here's Why and How!

Try These Cognitive Restructuring Exercises to Improve Your Mood and Reduce Stress

Cognitive restructuring is a core part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the most effective psychological treatments for common problems like depression, anxiety disorders, and binge eating. Here, clinical and social psychologist Alice Boyes shares some CBT techniques you can try at home to reduce problems with mood, anxiety, and stress.

Practice Noticing When You’re Having a Cognitive Distortion

Choose one type of cognitive distortion to focus on at a time. Example: you recognize that you’re prone to “negative predictions.” For a week, just notice any times you find yourself…READ MORE

How Do You Change Habits Overnight?

We have all done our fair share of “getting in shape” or “starting a new habit” getting ready for the New Year Resolution list. The problem is very little of us have the willpower to follow through . So what is the trick? Make it so easy to do that it’s more work to flake than follow through. You need to adjust your life so all you have to do is just have to show up.  In an article written by AJ Agrawal for Inc Magazine, he lays out his plan for success.  How does your New Year’s plan compare? Find out if…Read More

Image Source: Getty Images

Why Is Giving Easier For Some Than Others?

As much as we would all like to be considered “givers”, some have an easier time than others.  The reason, some people are just wired that way and make giving look effortless. They’re the kind of people who bring donuts on Friday mornings and don’t think twice before helping overwhelm overwhelmed colleagues, even if it means they end up working late (again).  Nicole Torres explains in an article written for the Harvard Business Reviewthat… Read more

Image Source: Harvard Business Review

Article: 12 psychological tricks to winning people over

12 psychological tricks to winning people over

When you’re working hard and doing all you can to achieve your goals, anything that can give you an edge is powerful and will streamline your path to success.

Mind tricks won’t make you a Jedi, but using the brain’s natural quirks to your advantage can have a positive impact on everyone you encounter.

None of these tricks are deceitful or disingenuous, except for

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