Turn off the Tube. Turn on Your Brain.

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“By Day Three, my four-year-old needed a cartoon and she needed it bad.”

So writes one mom who talked (cajoled? wheedled? pressured?) her family into turning off television (and other media, too) for an entire week.

Mother of two Karen Linamen says her family’s TV-free week was filled with sobering discoveries. She describes a conversation in which she asked her cartoon-starved four-year-old if she’d rather watch TV or do something fun like wrestle with her dad or do a puzzle with her mom. Her daughter’s answer to both questions? “Watch TV.”

Linamen writes, “The kid was scaring me. Actually, what was scaring me was seeing how deeply television had infiltrated our lives.”

This mom isn’t alone. Half of all Americans think they watch too much TV, and 7 out of 10 parents say they’d like to limit how much TV their kids watch. And during National Turn Off TV Week–held this year from April 17 – 23–these individuals and families are finding the support they need to take action and embrace an entire week of tubeless living.

National Turn Off TV Week is sponsored by TV Free America, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1994 to raise awareness about the harmful effects of excessive television-watching, and to encourage Americans to reduce the amount of television that they watch.

And there are certainly plenty of reasons to do so.

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What you need to know this Brain Awareness Week: You can raise your IQ

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Brain Awareness Week (BAW) this March 14 – 20 is the worldwide campaign to increase awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. One of the many global events scheduled during this 16th annual BAW is the National Brain Bee at the University of Maryland, Baltimore on March 18 and 19. The Bee is designed to stimulate high school students to learn about neuroscience with the lofty goal of inspiring them to go on to serve the world as brain researchers.

Like spelling bees, kids first compete at the local level, and then move on to the national and international competition. The high school contestants answer questions about electroencephalographs, dendrites, peptides, positron emission topography, netrins and semaphorins, and much more. One of the study guides is the 74-page 2008 edition of Brain Facts, published by The Society for Neuroscience.

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What Would Dr. Seuss Say?

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It’s Read Across America Day – a day set aside to encourage every person in America to read or be read to for fun. This annual nationwide observance coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the American writer best known for creating children’s books and inspiring the love of reading in four generations of kids.

The beloved Doc died in 1991, six years before the first Read Across America Day, and while he would most likely have been tickled with the event, the state of reading in America may have him rolling over in his grave.

A 2007 report by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), shows reading literacy has dropped since Seuss was alive. To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence gathered statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading skills and habits of Americans of all ages. The report unveiled trends that Americans are reading less, reading less well, and graduating from school less prepared.

According to the official website of Dr. Seuss, a few weeks before his death, when asked if there was anything he might have left unsaid, Seuss replied, “Any message or slogan? Whenever things go a bit sour in a job I’m doing, I always tell myself, ‘You can do better than this.’ The best slogan I can think of to leave with the kids of the U.S.A. would be ‘We can…and we’ve got to…do better than this.”

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Listen fast! Hear 236 Years of History recited in 17 Seconds!

And you thought patting your head and rubbing your stomach was hard!

If you REALLY want to test your powers of concentration and memory, you should try reciting the names of all 44 American presidents while executing a complicated cup-stacking pattern while surrounded by a distracting chorus of stomping, clapping classmates.

Now do it in 17 seconds.

A nationwide video contest launched by LearningRx inspired a slew of impressive videos of kids reciting the names of all 44 presidents while hitting baseballs, doing gymnastics, and ignoring obnoxious distractions.

The winner of the contest was eleven-year-old Travis Coron of Succasunna, NJ, who scored the grand prize of an iPad in this year’s national President’s Day contest with a 31-second clip that demonstrates amazing concentration, memory and multitasking skills. The 6th grader, who attended the LearningRx Brain Training Center in Chester, New Jersey, quickly recited all 44 U.S. presidents while performing a complicated cup-stacking pattern and blocking out major distractions. (Click here to see Travis in action!)

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Are Successful Relationships “No Brainers?” Um, No.

Love can feel complicated, which is why few people describe successful relationships as “no brainers.” But turns out there’s another reason the phrase “no brainer” doesn’t apply to your love life. There’s actually a very big link between your heart and all that gray matter between your ears. In fact, the success of your relationships–romantic and otherwise–is determined in many ways by the health of your brain.

So says Dr. Daniel Amen in a forward he wrote for the book This Is Your Brain in Love. Dr. Amen, award-winning physician, bestselling author, and brain enhancement expert, has this to say about the link between neuroscience and romance: “One of the most fascinating things I have learned from looking at more than 50,000 brain scans is that when you improve how your brain functions, even if it is troubled, you become more thoughtful, more loving, and more effective in all of your relationships.”

The book, written by Dr. Earl Henslin and Becky Johnson, explains the latest in brain imaging, shows how the brain affects your love life, and describes how to improve five common relationship imbalances.

Throughout the month of February, the LearningRx Brain Blog will be featuring a number of posts on love and the brain. So check back often to see what’s here.

In the meantime, if you want a healthier relationship, don’t look to your heart. Look a little farther north. “If you are having trouble in your relationships,” advises Dr. Amen, “you need to think about the brain. Undetected brain problems sabotage your ability to relate to and love others.”