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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Three evidence-based ways to develop a resilient mind

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Life throws chaos at us on a reg­u­lar basis—whether it’s our finances, our rela­tion­ships, or our health. In the work world, around 50 per­cent of peo­ple are burned out in indus­tries like health care, bank­ing, and non­prof­its, and employ­ers spend $300 bil­lion per year on work­place-relat­ed stress.

In response, we just keep on push­ing through, sur­viv­ing on adren­a­line. We over­sched­ule our­selves; we drink anoth­er cof­fee; we respond to one more email. If we stay amped up all the time, we think, we’ll even­tu­al­ly be able to get things done.

But all that does is burn us out, drain our pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and lead to exhaus­tion.

There’s anoth­er way—a calmer way. Cul­ti­vat­ing a more rest­ful, relaxed state of mind doesn’t mean we’ll drown under all our respon­si­bil­i­ties. Instead, research sug­gests it will bring us greater atten­tion, ener­gy, and cre­ativ­i­ty to tack­le them. And sci­ence also points to sim­ple ways we can tap into that calm state of mind to Read the rest of this entry »

Six tips to build resilience and prevent brain-damaging stress

These days, we all live under con­sid­er­able stress — eco­nom­ic chal­lenges, job demands, fam­i­ly ten­sions, always-on tech­nol­o­gy and the 24-hour news cycle all con­tribute to cease­less wor­ry. While many have learned to sim­ply “live with it,” this ongo­ing stress can, unless prop­er­ly man­aged, have a Read the rest of this entry »

The Neurobiology of Stress: The Stress Response Explained

(Editor’s note: below you have part 4 of the 6‑part The Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy of Stress series. If you are join­ing the series now, you can read the pre­vi­ous part Here.)

Stayin’  Alive

Under­stand­ing the Human Brain and How It Responds to Stress

THE STRESS RESPONSE EXPLAINED

Stress was put on the map, so to speak, by a Hun­gar­i­an — born Cana­di­an endocri­nol­o­gist named Hans Hugo Bruno Selye (ZEL — yeh) in 1950, when he pre­sent­ed his research on rats at the annu­al con­ven­tion of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. To explain the impact of stress, Selye pro­posed some­thing he called the Gen­er­al Adap­ta­tion Syn­drome (GAS), which he said had three com­po­nents. Accord­ing to Selye, when an organ­ism expe­ri­ences some nov­el or threat­en­ing stim­u­lus it responds with an alarm reac­tion. This is fol­lowed by what Selye referred to as the recov­ery or resis­tance stage, a peri­od of time dur­ing which the brain repairs itself and stores the ener­gy it will need to deal with the next stress­ful event.

Read the rest of this entry »

Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?

A fewA_small_cup_of_coffee eter­nal ques­tions:
— Is caf­feine good for the brain?
— Does it boost cog­ni­tive func­tions?
— Does it pro­tect against demen­tia?

There is lit­tle doubt that drink­ing that morn­ing cup of cof­fee will like­ly increase alert­ness, but the main ques­tions that research is try­ing to answer go beyond that. Basi­cal­ly: is there a sus­tained, life­time, ben­e­fit or harm from drink­ing cof­fee reg­u­lar­ly?

The answer, so far, con­tains good news and bad news. The good news for cof­fee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are direc­tion­al­ly more pos­i­tive than neg­a­tive, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caf­feine has ben­e­fi­cial effects on gen­er­al brain func­tions, either short-term or long-term (aged-relat­ed decline or risks of demen­tia).

It is impor­tant to note that many of the stud­ies show­ing an effect of cof­fee con­sump­tion on brain func­tions or risks of demen­tia report a cor­re­la­tion or asso­ci­a­tion (they are not ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als). As you know, cor­re­la­tion doesn’t prove cau­sa­tion: cof­fee drinkers may seem to do well in a num­ber in these long-term stud­ies, but there may be oth­er rea­sons why cof­fee drinkers do bet­ter.

Q: How does caf­feine affect my brain?
A: Caf­feine is a stim­u­lant.

It belongs to a chem­i­cal group called xan­thine. Adeno­sine is a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring xan­thine in the brain that slows down the activ­i­ty of brain cells (neu­rons). To a neu­ron, caf­feine looks like adeno­sine. It is there­fore used by some neu­rons in place of adeno­sine. The result is that these neu­rons speed up instead of slow­ing down.

This increased neu­ronal activ­i­ty trig­gers the release of the adren­a­line hor­mone, which will affect your body Read the rest of this entry »

Stress and Neural Wreckage: Part of the Brain Plasticity Puzzle

Victoria Crater MarsEdi­tor’s Note: Below you have a very insight­ful arti­cle on stress by Gre­go­ry Kel­let, a researcher at UCSF. Enjoy!

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My brain is fried, toast, fraz­zled, burnt out. How many times have you said or heard one ver­sion or anoth­er of these state­ments. Most of us think we are being fig­u­ra­tive when we utter such phras­es, but research shows that the bio­log­i­cal con­se­quences of sus­tained high lev­els of stress may have us being more accu­rate than we would like to think.

Crash Course on Stress

Our bod­ies are a com­plex bal­anc­ing act between sys­tems work­ing full time to keep us alive and well. This bal­anc­ing act is con­stant­ly adapt­ing to the myr­i­ad of changes occur­ring every sec­ond with­in our­selves and our envi­ron­ments. When it gets dark our pupils dilate, when we get hot we sweat, when we smell food we sali­vate, and so forth. This con­stant bal­anc­ing act main­tains a range of sta­bil­i­ty in the body via change; and is often referred to as allosta­sis. Any change which threat­ens this bal­ance can be referred to as allo­sta­t­ic load or stress.

Allo­sta­t­ic load/stress is part of being alive. For exam­ple just by get­ting up in the morn­ing, we all expe­ri­ence a very impor­tant need to increase our heart rate and blood pres­sure in order to feed our new­ly ele­vat­ed brain. Although usu­al­ly man­age­able, this is a change which the body needs to adapt to and, by our def­i­n­i­tion, a stres­sor.

Stress is only a prob­lem when this allo­sta­t­ic load becomes over­load. When change is exces­sive or Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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