Category: Brain Science and Health

Bet You Can’t Tickle Yourself

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If someone makes a grab for that ticklish place above your knee, you double over in laughing protest. When you grab your own knee, nothing happens.

You can’t tickle yourself because your brain doesn’t pay as much attention to sensations caused by your own actions. In fact, brain scans show that neurons in the cerebral cortex—the part of the brain responsible for attention, awareness and consciousness—are less active during a self-tickle than when someone else is doing the tickling!

Scientists say the brain distinguishes between expected sensations caused by our own actions (for example, the pressure of the keyboard against our fingertips when we type) and unexpected sensations from our environment (for example, if someone sneaks up from behind and taps us on the shoulder). The reason? Heightened awareness of unexpected contact from our environment helps keep us safe.

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Here’s to a Healthier Brain! Bottoms Up!

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A recent study proves something you’ve been wishing were true: Chocolate is good for you!

You heard right! Chocolate has been scientifically proven to boost blood flow to certain areas of the brain. It’s the flavanols in chocolate that make it so healthy, and the darker the chocolate the better. Flavanols can also be found in foods like red wine, green tea, and blueberries. But let’s get back to the business of discussing chocolate.

Scientists found that drinking a flavanol-rich cocoa drink increased the flow of blood to the brain for two to three hours. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), these scientists were able to detect increased activity in specific areas of the brain in individuals who drank just one serving of the chocolaty drink. The activity is linked to dilation of blood vessels which allows more blood–and therefore more oxygen–to reach key areas of the brain. The result?  Better performance at specific cognitive tasks, plus greater alertness.

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That Pain in Your Heart Isn’t All in Your Head

We call breakups “painful” for good reason: When you experience an unwanted breakup, thinking of  your ex-love-interest activates the same parts of your brain that process physical pain.

Researchers measured brain activity while showing love-sick men and women photos of their former-sweethearts, and then photos of platonic friends. They also measured brain activity as they exposed subjects to physical pain with a hot probe on the arm. And guess what? The same parts of the brain lit up when exposed to physical pain and memories of the ex.

What does this mean for you if you’ve just experienced a painful breakup? For starters, don’t beat yourself up about feeling bad. Researchers believe your brain is wired to help you move on, survive and eventually thrive by lumping memories of your past relationship in the same category as rope burns and root canals.

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Laughing All the Way, Ha Ha Ha!

Whether you’re riding in a one-horse sleigh, sledding, caroling, baking cookies or chillin’ with family and friends, the holidays brim with opportunities for lots of laughter.

What’s all that joviality doing to your brain?

Laughing stimulates a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens, which then releases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. This creates a brain-chemical chain reaction that elevates your mood, makes you feel connected to those around you, reduces stress & pain, and even boosts your immunity!

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Want to Grow Your Brain? Move to London and Drive a Taxi

 

How can you grow your brain? You can always follow the example of London taxi cab drivers and memorize a labyrinth of 25,000 city streets as well as thousands of tourist attractions and hot spots.

While many major cities try to simplify driving by arranging streets in user-friendly grids (or identifying streets by sequenced numbers or alphabetized names), London’s streets are particularly random. The maze of streets requires a unique approach for men and women who want to make a living navigating the confusing tangle. To earn their licenses, cab-drivers-in-training spend four years riding around the city on a moped, memorizing streets and routes. Even then, the licensing test is so difficult that only about half of these drivers-in-training actually pass.

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