research and studies

    This is an intellectual hodgepodge of information about the brain that doesn’t fit neatly under one of the main brain functions, but that we think is wonderfully fascinating nonetheless. Stuff like the difference between male and female brains, the latest research on how the brain ages, provocative findings on the mind-body connection and more. So take a moment, peruse the articles, challenge you brain and get ready to learn a thing or two...or three.


    Computer Use, Exercise, and Memory Loss

    Mayo Clinic — Combining mentally stimulating activities, such as using a computer, with moderate exercise decreases your odds of having memory loss more than computer use or exercise alone, a Mayo Clinic study shows. Previous studies have shown that exercising your body and your mind will help your memory but the new study, published in the May 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, reports a synergistic interaction between computer activities and moderate exercise in "protecting" the brain function in people better than 70 years old.

    Four Scientific Findings

    Multiples Sources — Over the past fifteen years, research has shown that cognitive stimulation like playing games and doing other challenging activities that exercise your brain can keep you sharp longer. When we provide our brain with a variety of activities that are novel and complex, we strengthen our cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve acts as a shield to protect the brain from disease and decline. For example, in the Nun Study, research showed that nuns who had Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains did not display symptoms of the disease because of many years of cognitive stimulation. When we say “Play Your Way to a Healthy Brain”, we mean it. Here is some information on some of the studies that back that claim.

    Your Brain on Fiction

    New York Times — Amid the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience. Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

    Games May Slow Decline

    HealthDay News — New research offers insights into the mysterious phenomenon of rapid cognitive decline in the two or three years before death, and confirms that intellectually challenging activities can help keep your mind sharp.

    Meditation and the Brain

    New York Times — In 1969, Katherine Splain, then a student at the College of New Rochelle, saw the dark side of drug use among her peers. So she sought a different — and legal — path on her inward journey...

    4 Biggest Brain Myths — What is it that makes the human brain so special? Sure it's big — but it's far from the biggest brain around. You've heard that your brain contains 100 billion neurons — but where does that number really come from, and how does it stack up against other species?

    How Exercise Fuels the Brain

    New York Times — Moving the body demands a lot from the brain. Exercise activates countless neurons, which generate, receive and interpret repeated, rapid-fire messages from the nervous system, coordinating muscle contractions, vision, balance, organ function and all of the complex interactions of bodily systems that allow you to take one step, then another.

    Is GPS All in Our Heads?

    New York Times — It's a question that probably every driver with a Garmin navigation device on her dashboard has asked herself at least once: What did we ever do before GPS? How did people find their way around, especially in places they’d never been before?

    Nutrition: Brainpower Tied to Omega-3 Levels

    New York Times — Low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with smaller brain volume and poorer performance on tests of mental acuity, even in people without apparent dementia, according to a new study.

    Exercising the Aging Brain

    New York Times — More and more retired people are heading back to the nearest classroom — as students and, in some cases, teachers — and they are finding out that school can be lovelier the second time around. Some may be thinking of second careers, but most just want to keep their minds stimulated, learn something new or catch up with a subject they were always curious about but never had time for.

    A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond

    New York Times — IN 1905, at age 55, Sir William Osler, the most influential physician of his era, decided to retire from the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins. In a farewell speech, Osler talked about the link between age and accomplishment: The “effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40 — these 15 golden years of plenty.”

    Keeping the Brain Sharp, Active May Ward Off Alzheimer's

    USA Today — People who engage in activities such as reading and playing games throughout their lives may be lowering levels of a protein in their brains that is linked to Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

    Wine and Chocolate Good for the Brain

    Brain World — Dark chocolate and red wine help the brain after a stroke, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. The luscious creamy concoction—pure dark chocolate, not milk or candy bars filled with other fun stuff—has epicatechin, a flavonol found in cocoa and tea, which may help increase...

    The Teenage Brain

    Dream Online — Teenagers' brains are only about 80 percent fully developed and that brain development isn't complete until people reach their 20s or even 30s—more than a decade later than experts had thought.

    The Surprising Strengths of the Middle-Aged Brain

    NPR Books — Barbara Strauch started having senior moments a few years ago. "I [went] downstairs to try to get paper towels [and] by the time I got down there I couldn't remember what I went down there for," she says. "It was driving me crazy. I couldn't remember what I had for breakfast or the movie I saw last weekend..."

    The Power of Music

    NPR Books — Science all but confirms that humans are hard-wired to respond to music. Studies also suggest that someday music may even help patients heal from Parkinson's disease or a stroke. In The Power of Music, Elena Mannes explores how music affects different groups of people and how it could play a role in health care.


    Brain World — Parents and educators are among the most voracious consumers of the latest research about the brain, searching for strategies to enhance learning and brain development. They are finding a wealth of new answers.

    Does Life Online Give You "Popcorn Brain"?

    CNN — When Hilarie Cash arrives home from work in the evening, she has a choice: She can go outside and tend to her garden or she can hop on her laptop. The lilacs really need weeding. The computer, on the other hand, can wait, as her work is done for the day. Despite this, Cash feels drawn to the computer...

    Memory Keepers

    Brain World — If the inability to recall where you put your keys, parked your car, or remember the name of someone you just met has you convinced you’re losing your mind, you’re not alone—or off the mark. As you get older, your brain loses mass as cells die out, and memory goes with them.

    Coffee May Protect Against Alzheimer's Disease

    Orlando Sentinel — Coffee lovers, raise your cup to the latest research on the benefits of your favorite beverage. Researchers at the University of South Florida say there's a mystery ingredient in coffee that could protect coffee drinkers against Alzheimer's disease

    After Brain Injuries, Troops Hit the Mental Gym

    NPR — Wounded troops often spend months in physical therapy to regain strength in their damaged bodies. Now, the military is trying something similar for military personnel with injured brains. The Department of Defense is using computerized brain training programs to help personnel with traumatic brain injuries.

    30 Ways to Improve Your Memory

    Brain World — Whether we are studying for Friday’s spelling test, a doctoral dissertation or a company presentation, there are a number of reliable memory techniques and powerful memory aids that yield the best results...

    Alzheimer's and the Social Cure

    Brain World — Even though Elaine had been retired from teaching for a number of years, she still maintained an active social and community life. She belonged to a book club, volunteered at the League of Women Voters and was a frequent dinner guest at the homes of her former colleagues. Suddenly, right before she turned 78, her life changed dramatically.

    B Vitamins Found to Halve Brain Shrinkage in Old

    Reuters — Daily tablets of large doses of B vitamins can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with memory problems and may slow their progression toward dementia, data from a British trial showed on Wednesday...

    Building One Big Brain

    New York Times — For your own sake, focus on this column. Don’t think about your Facebook feed or your inbox. Don’t click on the ad above or the links to the right. Don’t even click on links within the column. Failing to focus — succumbing to digital distraction — can make you lose your mind...

    Compound Found in Red Wine Helps Prevent Alzheimers

    Science Daily — An organic compound found in red wine, resveratrol, has the ability to neutralize the toxic effects of proteins linked to Alzheimer's disease. The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, are a step toward understanding the large-scale death of brain cells seen in certain neurodegenerative diseases.

    Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind

    New York Times — At long last, the doodling daydreamer is getting some respect. In the past, daydreaming was often considered a failure of mental discipline, or worse. Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic. Psychology textbooks warned it could lead to psychosis. Neuroscientists complained that the rogue bursts of activity on brain scans kept interfering with their studies of more important mental functions. But now that researchers have been analyzing those stray thoughts, they’ve found daydreaming to be remarkably common — and often quite useful.

    Memory Links to 40 Winks

    Science Daily — When it comes to executing items on tomorrow's to-do list, it's best to think it over, then "sleep on it," say psychologists at Washington University in St.Louis. People who sleep after processing and storing a memory carry out their intentions much better than people who try to execute their plan before getting to sleep.

    Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits

    New York Times — Every September, millions of parents try a kind of psychological witchcraft, to transform their summer-glazed campers into fall students, their video-bugs into bookworms. Advice is cheap and all too familiar: Clear a quiet work space. Stick to a homework schedule. Set goals. Set boundaries...

    Running Could Help Jog Memory

    Telegraph — Jogging a couple of days a week was shown to stimulate the brain, which led to a big impact on mental ability, university neuroscientists discovered. The study, conducted with the US National Institute on Ageing in Maryland, found that a few days of running led to the growth of hundreds of thousands of new brain cells in a region that is linked to the formation and recollection of memories.

    Retirement Communities' Newest Amenities

    Chicago Tribune — Sally Kimble doesn't sweat her workouts. Instead of pumping iron at the gym, she flexes synapses at a brainfitness lab in her Evanston retirement community. Five days a week, for 90 minutes, she interacts with a computer. It prompts her to distinguish between certain sounds. The more answers she gets right, the more difficult and quicker the listening tasks become...

    Can Exercising Your Brain Prevent Memory Loss?

    Science Daily — during later years, reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing memory loss compared to people who did not do those activities. People who watched television for less than seven hours a day...

    Experience Seekers

    National Geographic — There are certain foods and drinks that most people would consider empty calories, such as sodas and many kinds of snacks. Wehn we eat or drink them, we feel nourished, when in reality we're still lacking the ingredients needed to sustain a healthy organism. Many forms of information are like empty calories - a lot of the news we receive, for example...

    Surfing the Internet Boosts Aging Brains

    New York Times — Many people search the Internet for health information. Now new research suggests that the simple act of Googling may be good for your brain health. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning.

    Video Exercises & Driving Skills

    Chicago Tribune — Allstate Corp. wants to reduce the number of senior moments, and accidents, among drivers ages 50 and older. The Northbrook-based home and auto insurer soon will begin testing a program in which it is asking 100,000 Pennsylvanians ages 50 to 75 to try computer-based video exercises in hopes of improving the way their brains process visual information.

    Will Games Help Dementia?

    Mike Danahey, AP — He would drive all the way from DeKalb to Peoria to visit his mother, but sometimes a heartfelt hello would take the back seat to a TV game show. "If I arrived at the time of Jeopardy, I'd have to wait to talk to her. I figured there must be some strength in the game," said Alan Robinson.

    Mental Fitness

    Discover — Seated before a computer screen, 85-year-old Madeline Hanson watches a story about Molly, a character in a yellow dress who is baking a cake in a kidney-shaped swimming pool. A helicopter flies down with a beater to whip the batter. Then through headphones, Hanson hears a voice slowly ask: "What color is Molly's dress?..."

    Aging Gracefully — It's a Real Workout — The most depressing thing about getting older is that it can't be stopped. Or so we've been told. The aging process seems to be one of inevitable decline, the withering away of both body and mind. No matter how much we rage against the dying of the light, we're still going to forget where we put our car keys.

    Mind Games: Brain-Fitness Software Makes Staying Sharp Fun

    Chicago Tribune — I forget things. My mind is full of crazy, tech-related facts and acronyms—GPON, anyone? LTE? Femtocells? GPX?—but when my wife asks me, "Hon, did you put my phone back in my purse after you charged it?" I am without a clue. Fortunately, a whole industry of online games and other software is popping up to help people like me try to reclaim what we're sure we've lost.

    Boomers Jog Memory by Exercising the Brain

    New York Times — When David Bunnell, a magazine publisher who lives in Berkeley, went to a FedEx store to send a package a few years ago, he suddenly drew a blank as he was filling out the forms. "I couldn't remember my address," Bunnell, 60, said with horror in his voice...

    Keeping your Brain Fit

    US News & World Report — Marian Conte's brain weights 1,100 grams, according to Nintendo. "That's up from 800 grams when I started playing," jokes Conte, 52, a real-estate agent from Hamilton, NJ, who recenly added the video game Big Brain Academy to her fitness regimen...

    Video Games vs. the Aging Brain

    Discover — In his twenties, Mike Merzenich dreamed of mapping the neurobiology of the soul. “I was interested in the genesis of the self,” he says. “It’s the kind of thing you think about when you’re young and dumb.” Four decades later, he has scaled back his ambitions. Now a graying 64, he hopes merely to reverse the toll of aging on the brain and cure schizophrenia. Without surgery or drugs...