Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


A Love affair Across Generations: A Lamarckian Reincarnation?

Eric Jensen alert­ed me to a research study pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary 4th Jour­nal of Neu­ro­science — Trans­gen­er­a­tional Res­cue of a Genet­ic Defect in Long-Term Poten­ti­a­tion and Mem­o­ry For­ma­tion by Juve­nile Enrich­ment. We both had the same ini­tial WOW! feel­ing that we had expe­ri­enced when we first read about the dis­cov­ery of mir­ror neu­rons a decade+ ago.

The study’s find­ings seemed to sug­gest that acquired char­ac­ter­is­tics can be genet­i­cal­ly trans­mit­ted, a Lamar­ck­i­nan belief that had long been dis­card­ed by biol­o­gists. This seemed improb­a­ble, so we decid­ed to check out what the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty thought. It’s the kind of research that edu­ca­tors cer­tain­ly need to under­stand because the poten­tial edu­ca­tion­al impli­ca­tions are pro­found, no mat­ter how this par­tic­u­lar study sorts out.

I’ve thus append­ed the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion below: (1) the abstract and ref­er­ence of the orig­i­nal sttudy, (2) a link to a non-tech­ni­cal report in the cur­rent issue of New Sci­en­tist, (3) a link to a non- tech­ni­cal expla­na­tion of the research in Med­ical News Today, and (4) a link to a recent extend­ed non-tech­ni­cal New Sci­en­tist arti­cle on the issue of non-genet­ic inher­i­tance. Eric will post his com­men­tary on the research in the March edi­tion of his Brighter Brain Bul­letin newslet­ter.


To put it sim­ply: The researchers stud­ied long-term poten­ti­a­tion (LTP), in which longer and more robust synap­tic acti­va­tion occurs. LTP is the basic mech­a­nism for learn­ing and mem­o­ry for­ma­tion.

Juve­nile mice placed into an enriched envi­ron­ment (EE) devel­oped enhanced LTP capa­bil­i­ties that they lat­er trans­mit­ted to their own off­spring dur­ing embryo­ge­n­e­sis (rather than through lat­er mater­nal instruc­tion), and these effects per­sist­ed even when the off­spring weren’t in an EE. The study con­clud­ed that a stim­u­lat­ing juve­nile envi­ron­ment can thus influ­ence the com­po­si­tion of sig­nal­ing net­works that influ­ence synap­tic plas­tic­i­ty and mem­o­ry for­ma­tion in the enriched mouse, and also in its future off­spring.

The prob­lem with this research appears to be over whether the trans­mit­ted effects occurred via genet­ic changes or through some­thing else in the moth­er’s uter­ine envi­ron­ment. A female’s eggs devel­op ear­ly in life to be dis­trib­uted lat­er, so it’s improb­a­ble that a female’s juve­nile expe­ri­ences would alter the DNA in her eggs. A more prob­a­ble expla­na­tion may be that any changes in the moth­er’s brain that occur via an EE are rep­re­sent­ed as cur­rent­ly ill- under­stood sig­nal­ing mol­e­cules that pass through the pla­cen­tal bar­ri­er into the embry­on­ic brain.


For edu­ca­tors, this research sim­ply adds to our own strong belief that long-term ben­e­fits accrue from a stim­u­lat­ing ear­ly envi­ron­ment that encour­ages curios­i­ty and explo­ration. The research builds on Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Rules: science and practice

Inter­est­ed a good, non-tech­ni­cal, sum­ma­ry of the impli­ca­tions of recent brain sci­ence in Brain Rules-John Medinaour dai­ly lives? Biol­o­gist John Med­i­na offers that in his arti­cle below (as part of our Author Speaks Series) and in his new book: Brain Rules: 12 Prin­ci­ples for Sur­viv­ing and Thriv­ing at Work, Home, and School. Enjoy!

(Note: John will be in the Bay Area on April 8 and 9th, speak­ing at Google and San Jose Rotary).


Brain Rules

– By John Med­i­na

Go ahead and mul­ti­ply the num­ber 8,388,628 x 2 in your head. Can you do it in a few sec­onds? There is a young man who can dou­ble that num­ber 24 times in the space of a few sec­onds. He gets it right every time. There is a boy who can tell you the exact time of day at any moment, even in his sleep. There is a girl who can cor­rect­ly deter­mine the exact dimen­sions of an object 20 feet away. There is a child who at age 6 drew such life­like and pow­er­ful pic­tures, she got her own show at a gallery on Madi­son Avenue. Yet none of these chil­dren could be taught to tie their shoes. Indeed, none of them have an IQ greater than 50.

The brain is an amaz­ing thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Manage your feelings for conflict resolution

Stephanie West Allen kind­ly alert­ed us of her impres­sive new ini­tia­tive and blog, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dr. Jef­frey M. Schwartz, titled Brains On Pur­pose. They have part­nered to bring a series of sem­i­nars on neu­ro­science and con­flict res­o­lu­tion: Port­land, Ore­gon, in Novem­ber 2007, and San Fran­cis­co Bay Area in Jan­u­ary 2008-so far. Dr. Schwartz has pre­vi­ous­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sim­i­lar and fruit­ful ini­tia­tive on The Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship with David Rock. We wish them best luck in this excit­ing ini­tia­tive.

Stephanie writes a great blog post on “What are you feel­ing?” “What am I feel­ing?” These ques­tions are tools for brain tam­ing, explain­ing how “A flur­ry of arti­cles appeared this week (such as this one in Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can: “Name that feel­ing: You’ll feel bet­ter”) about the neu­ro­science research show­ing that label­ing your feel­ings can qui­et your brain and increase impulse con­trol”

adding that…

In our recent arti­cle “Lead Your Brain Instead Of Let­ting It Lead You,” we talk about the prac­tice of mak­ing men­tal notes (first described by Jeff in his book Dear Patrick: Life is Tough — Here’s Some Good Advice). Devel­op­ing your skill in mak­ing men­tal notes can bring relief when high con­flict occurs.” and “The more skilled you get at label­ing, the more quick­ly no mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion you can return to equa­nim­i­ty and com­po­sure.”

Check her post to learn more about the label­ing tech­nique. Devel­op­ing men­tal notes can be a very pow­er­ful way to self-reg­u­late behav­ior, not too dif­fer­ent from cog­ni­tive ther­a­py and emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion tech­niques.

Excit­ing to see more sci­en­tists and prac­ti­tion­ers bring­ing research into prac­tice! As we have men­tioned, Brain Fit­ness is some­thing that applies to dif­fer­ent ages and dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es, and this is a great exam­ple for lawyers.

About SharpBrains

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