Do Clowns Have Bigger Brains?

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In a recent study, people who learned to juggle grew bigger brains.

And if you think we’re clowning around, we’re not.

German researchers took 24 non-jugglers and divided them into two groups. One group was asked to do nothing; the other group was asked to practice juggling for three months. The researchers took brain scans of both groups before and after the three month experiment. What they discovered was that the dozen people who had learned how to juggle had grown more brain!

The extra brain cells were in the areas of the brain responsible for visual processing and motor skills (which makes sense when you think about the hand-eye coordination necessary for juggling).

The researchers were scanning for brain volume, rather than brain activity. As a result, while they can see that the new jugglers grew more brain cells, they don’t know the purpose of the increase. At least not yet. They’re still looking into the neural connections and brain activity related to those new cells.

The other interesting development was that, when the new jugglers stopped practicing for three months, the bigger parts of their brains decreased in size. In other words, when it comes to your brain, you snooze, you lose. To get the most out of your brain, you gotta keep using it.

 So the next time you go to the circus and see a clown wearing a big hat, you’ll know why. With a bigger brain, he probably needs the extra space.

Using a Different Quadrant of Your Brain Can Help You Lose Weight— And Keep it Off!

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With spring and summer wardrobes just around the corner, many of us are thinking about shedding a few pounds.

Again.

The truth is that, compared to keeping it off, losing weight is a piece of cake (unfortunate metaphor, we admit). In fact, 95 percent of dieters gain their weight back. Sometimes they gain even more than they lost.

So what do the 5% know that the rest of us don’t know?

Researchers are discovering that the secret of people who lose weight—and keep it off—might not be in what they know, but in how they think.

A study of 4500 successful dieters has revealed that people who are successful at keeping weight off tend to process information using the lower left quadrant of their brain (let’s  call this “B” quadrant). People tend to have a dominant quadrant through which they process information. This doesn’t mean they can’t process information in other ways, but the “favored” quadrant is like a mental default the brain automatically uses unless intentionally directed otherwise.

People who favor the “A” quadrant (upper left) tend to be analytical problem solvers, while people who favor the “C” quadrant (lower right) tend to be more focused on emotions and relationships. “D” quadrant (upper right) thinkers are visual thinkers who like fun and risk.

“B” quadrant thinkers, however, are inclined toward structure, discipline and routine. People who lost 30 to 60 pounds and kept it off—often for five years or more—scored noticeably higher in using this portion of their brain. This makes sense since planning meals, counting calories and maintaining a consistent exercise schedule all rely on the kind of structure-friendly skills concentrated in that portion of the brain.

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52 Things You Can Do Instead of Watching TV

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Did you know that, this year, the average American kid will spend 1,500 hours watching TV…and just 900 hours in school?

Or that, this week, the average American kid will spend 1,680 minutes watching TV…and less than 40 minutes in meaningful conversation with his or her parents?

All in all, the average American watches 4 hours of TV a day, adding up to 250 billion hours of TV watched by Americans every year.

Is it any wonder that 5 out of 10 Americans say they watch too much TV? Or that more than 7 out of 10 parents say they’d like to limit how much TV their kids watch?

Many families are doing that very thing this week (April 17th to 23rd) during National Turn Off TV Week. 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.

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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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