Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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.

THE STUDY:

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.

THE SIGNIFICANCE:

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.

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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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