A delicate dance of dynamic changes in the conscious brain

A delicate dance of dynamic changes in the conscious brain

Imagine you’re at work: you’re focused on a task when suddenly your mind starts to wander to thoughts of the weekend–that is, until you catch your boss walking by out of the corner of your eye. This back and forth in consciousness happens naturally and automatically and is the result of two brain states: the dorsal attention network (DAT), which corresponds with our awareness of the environment around us and the default-mode network (DMN), which corresponds with an inward focus on ourselves.

Brain researchers consider these states to be anti-correlated, meaning when one is active, the other is suppressed. Michigan Medicine researchers studying consciousness have provided proof of this phenomenon using fMRI and illustrate, using a unique method, the ever-changing nature of the brain, even when under anesthesia or otherwise unresponsive.

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The Language You Speak Influences Where Your Attention Goes

The Language You Speak Influences Where Your Attention Goes

Psycholinguistics is a field at the intersection of psychology and linguistics, and one if its recent discoveries is that the languages we speak influence our eye movements. For example, English speakers who hear candle often look at a candy because the two words share their first syllable. Research with speakers of different languages revealed that bilingual speakers not only look at words that share sounds in one language but also at words that share sounds across their two languages. When Russian-English bilinguals hear the English word marker, they also look at a stamp, because the Russian word for stamp is marka.

Even more stunning, speakers of different languages differ in their patterns of eye movements when no language is used at all. In a simple visual search task in which people had to find a previously seen object among other objects, their eyes moved differently depending on what languages they knew. For example, when looking for a clock, English speakers also looked at a cloud. Spanish speakers, on the other hand, when looking for the same clock, looked at a present, because the Spanish names for clock and present—reloj and regalo—overlap at their onset.

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Sleep allows immune cells to do maintenance work on the brain

Sleep allows immune cells to do maintenance work on the brain

Studies have shown that during sleep, the brain reactualizes, updating memories, and clearing up “waste.” New research in mouse models suggests that specialized immune cells keep the brain in good working order by maintaining it during sleep.

New research in mice shows that immune cells are better able to perform maintenance work on the brain during sleep.

Research conducted over the past few years has uncovered evidence that the brain gets a chance to refresh and update in many ways during sleep.

For instance, scientists have learned that the brain consolidates newly formed memories during sleep. They have also discovered that sleep provides an excellent opportunity to take out the neural “trash.”

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Heart attack risk higher in those who sleep too little or too much

Heart attack risk higher in those who sleep too little or too much

The right amount of sleep is protective of heart health. This was the conclusion of new research that found sleep duration can influence a person’s risk of heart attack, regardless of other heart risk factors, including genetic ones.

New research tracks sleep duration and a person’s risk of a heart attack.

In a recent Journal of the American College of Cardiology paper, scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom describe how they analyzed sleep habits and medical records of 461,347 people aged 40–69 years living in the U.K.

The data, which came from the UK Biobank, included self-reports of how many hours participants habitually slept per night and health records covering 7 years. It also included results of tests for risk genes.

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It’s never too late to start exercising

It’s never too late to start exercising

Summary: Older people who have never participated in resistance exercise programs have a similar ability to build mass muscles as those who frequently exercise and are of similar age. Researchers say that it doesn’t matter whether or not you have exercised throughout your life, starting late can still have excellent health benefits.

Source: University of Birmingham

Older people who have never taken part in sustained exercise programs have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of a similar age, according to new research at the University of Birmingham.

The research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training.

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3 Secret Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People

3 Secret Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People

Difficult people can inhabit (and intrude into) many areas of our lives: work, home, neighborhood, social and professional affiliations, even at the sanctuary of the gym! Whether someone acts defensive, rude, passive-aggressive, critical, or lies and then turns things around, difficult people have something in common: they are frustrating to deal with.

In an already stressful world, having to interact with difficult people can take its toll, especially when those challenging people are family, co-workers, bosses, or neighbors (in other words, people who you have to see on a continuous basis). However, there are some tactics that may help you keep your sanity — and sense of control — intact. Listed below are some of my personal favorites that have helped me.

Have a Clear Goal

Over two decades ago, I was visiting my dear friend Amy, who was dying of lung cancer. Even though I was there to take care of her, she decided to give me a gift that I still use to this day and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. The gift was a simple but powerful sentence: “When you have to confront someone, make sure to have a clear goal in mind.” (Kindhearted and thoughtful Amy knew that I had to deal with a number of difficult people). Driving away from her house on that brisk Autumn afternoon, I found myself nodding my head in agreement.

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Computer use in midlife may prevent cognitive decline

Computer use in midlife may prevent cognitive decline

Researchers found that using a computer, playing games, and participating in social activities may reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment.

Our brains go through changes as we get older, and some people may experience issues with memory, thinking, or judgment.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage between age-related cognitive decline and dementia — however, MCI does not significantly affect daily life and activities.

People with MCI tend to forget things, lose their train of thought or the thread of conversations, and feel overwhelmed by making decisions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment.

MCI may increase the risk of dementia, but not everyone with MCI goes on to develop the condition. To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved any treatments specifically for MCI.

Lifestyle choices such as physical exercise and intellectual stimulation have positive effects on the brain. In recent years, researchers have been conducting more studies to find treatments that may prevent cognitive decline.

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