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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 »

#14 Brain Teaser: Party For Polyglots

We are delight­ed to intro­duce you to Wes Car­roll who has gra­cious­ly cre­at­ed a few new puz­zles to bend all those sharp brains out there! Wes Carroll

Wes is the head of Do The Math pri­vate tutor­ing ser­vices, Puz­zle Mas­ter for the Ask A Sci­en­tist lec­ture series, and an inter­na­tion­al­ly tour­ing per­former and teacher of music. With no fur­ther ado, the first puz­zle!

Par­ty For Poly­glots

Dif­fi­cul­ty: MEDIUM
Type: LOGIC

QUESTION:
Of the 100 peo­ple at a recent par­ty, 90 spoke Span­ish, 80 spoke Ital­ian, and 75 spoke Man­darin. At least how many spoke all three lan­guages?

Have you solved it yet? If you are work­ing the prob­lem, mak­ing hypothe­ses, test­ing your ideas, and com­ing up with a solu­tion, you are using your frontal lobes. This is great exer­cise because the frontal lobes fol­low the “last hired, first fired” adage. They are they last areas of your brain to devel­op and the first to suf­fer the rav­ages of time and stress. So, keep exer­cis­ing them!

ANSWER:
45

EXPLANATION:
10 could not speak Span­ish, 20 could not speak Ital­ian, and 25 could not speak Man­darin. So there could have been 10 peo­ple who spoke none of those lan­guages.

How­ev­er, that would max­i­mize the num­ber of peo­ple who could speak all three, and the prob­lem asks at least how many speak all three. There­fore, we must assume that these 10, 20, and 25 peo­ple are all sep­a­rate peo­ple. Hav­ing iden­ti­fied 55 each of whom is miss­ing one lan­guage, the remain­ing 45 speak all three.

Next brain teas­er in Sharp­Brains’ top 25 series:

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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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