Category: Brain Health

How Facebook Could Be Working Hand-in-Hand With Your Own Brain Chemistry

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Social networksDid you know:

864 million people use Facebook on a daily basis? Or that the time spent on Facebook per user per day is more than twenty minutes?

What’s very interesting is that much of the success of Facebook can be attributed to brain chemistry.  The way Facebook is set up triggers the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that is linked to pleasurable feelings of reward, and also oxytocin, the “love hormone” that helps us feel close to people we care about.

One of the things about Facebook that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in our brains is simply looking at pictures of attractive people.  And because these people are usually folks that we know and care about, it can also increase the release of oxytocin.

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Chocolate Improves Memory…In Snails!

iStock_000003537039_MediumIn the category of “weird news of the day,” it turns out that scientists have discovered a way to study the impact of dark chocolate on memory skills. But not the memory skills of humans, many of whom would crawl on all fours to be chosen to eat chocolate for the advancement of science. No, the participants selected for this particular study were actually snails.

Researcher submerged snails for 30 minutes in either regular water, or water containing epicatechin, a flavonoid found in cocoa. Whenever the snails extended their breathing tubes, researchers poked them with a stick. The lead study author, Ken Lukowiak, Ph.D, compared it to tapping a sleepy student on the nose every time he yawned in class—eventually the student would remember not to yawn. Would the snails do the same?

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Use the Holidays to Develop a Critical Part of Your Child’s Brain

iStock_000017348857_LargeThe holidays provide a great opportunity for developing an important part of your child’s brain. And, no, we’re not talking about filling winter break with hours of extra homework. Between family gatherings, meals, shopping, gift wrapping, scheduling, and everything else, the last thing you want to do is carve aside time for extra math or reading—and the good news is that you don’t have to! In fact, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is the very thing you can use to help develop the frontal lobe of your child’s brain.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that thinks, plans, makes decisions, controls emotions, pays attention and gets things done. And the more opportunity your child has to exercise that area of the brain, the stronger and more efficient those skills become. You can give your child these kinds of opportunities by involving him or her in tasks like planning meals, creating and following a gift-giving budget, prioritizing holiday tasks, following a recipe, writing the family holiday newsletter, or planning a dinner party.

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Is Your Healthy Food Everything it’s Cracked Up to Be?

HiResAll natural. Organic. Cage free. Range free. You’ve read the food labels, shelled out a little extra cash for the promise of healthier options, and savored the flavor of your favorite organics. But wait. If the truth were known about wholesome-labeled foods—the 100% real, 100% pure truth—you might find yourself lowering your fork. Or at least rethinking your grocery list.

There’s good news and bad news about today’s food choices. The bad news is that labels can be misleading. In fact, a growing number of nutritionists, natural food experts, and food industry insiders are blowing the whistle on some foods you’ve been led to believe are good for you and your brain. Buyers, beware when it comes to these popular foods with commonly mislabeled ingredients and processes:

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Go Ahead. Sleep on it.

iStock_000013131759_LargeWhat do Albert Einstein, Lady Gaga and George W. Bush have in common? Nope, not their fashion sense. The answer is …their naps. Each of these famous people is known for famously protecting their daytime dozing. Dozens of other napping notables join their ranks. Lyndon Johnson conducted presidential meetings while resting in his bed. Bill Clinton once nodded off during a Mets baseball and a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr.

Why do we love our naps? Well, one reason is rooted in our biology. Many people’s inner clock slows between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., also known as the “postprandial dip.” Many cultures actually honor this natural energy lull with the allowable afternoon siesta, when shops close and people doze.

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