Is Your Brain Making You Spend Too Much This Christmas?

Three Simple Tips to Avoid Impulse Spending and Stay within Your Holiday Budget

The holidays are here, which for most of us means spending time shopping in malls or online looking for gifts for loved ones (and even for ourselves!). It also means trying to keep from spending too much money.

Apparently whether we stay within our holiday shopping budget may not depend as much on willpower as it does on the circuitry of our own brains.

Brian Knutson of Standford University and colleagues mapped the brains of shoppers using a MRI. They discovered that, as people contemplated whether or not to make a purchase, one of two segments of their brains would “light up.” If the nucleus accumbens–part of the reward and pleasure center of the brain–lit up, the subject would invariably make the purchase. If the insula–the part of the brain that registers pain (such as the pain of something costing more than its perceived value)–lit up, the subject would invaribly say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

By watching which part of the brain became active, researchers could accurately predict whether or not the shopper would make the purchase.

The reason shopping feels so good may be related to the brain chemical dopamine. This “feel good” chemical is released anytime we are exposed to the exciting mix of new places, challenges, sights and sounds–all of which are plentiful at the mall.

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All I want for Christmas is a Healthier Brain

If a “healthier brain” is on your holiday wish list, you’re in luck. That’s because cranberries–a staple at most holiday feasts–are actually good for your brain.

Studies show that cranberries protect brain cells from free-radical damage that impairs cognitive and motor functions. According to an article in Psychology Today by Hara Estroff Marano, “Aging animals given cranberries showed actual improvements in normal age-related declines in working memory, reference memory, balance and coordination.” In other words, says, Marano, “They were able to keep on learning.”

In fact, when it comes to preserving brain function, cranberries are so powerful they can even reduce impairment following a stroke! In a 2003 study, researchers discovered that by exposing neurons to a concentration of cranberry extract, there was a 50 percent reduction in brain cell death. Catherine Neto, a lead investigator in the study says, “Cranberries have the potential to protect against brain cell damage that occurs during a stroke,” adding, “It may not stop a stroke from occurring, but it may reduce the severity.”

This is good news for many Americans, since as a nation we consume more than five millions gallons of jellied cranberry sauce every holiday season. Even John Lennon must have liked cranberries since he confirmed in a 1980 interview that, at the end of the song Strawberry Fields Forever, he can be heard repeating the words “cranberry sauce.”

What does this mean for you and your family this holiday season?

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Do You Travel A lot? Take a Couple of Naps and Call LearningRx in the Morning

Chronic jet lag shrinks your brain, making learning and remembering more difficult for up to a month after you return home!

So says a team of psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley. The researchers based their findings on a four week study of jet-lagged hamsters. The psychologists weren’t surprised to discover that the hamsters had trouble learning and remembering simple tasks while jet lagged. What surprised the scientists, however, was that the memory and learning deficit lasted an entire month after the critters had been returned to their regular programming.

The answer, they say, seems to lie in the hippocampus, a part of the brain used for processing memory. Even though the brain is constantly creating new neurons, after a month of jet-lag, the hamsters had only half the number of new neurons in the hippocampus region as non-jet-lagged rodents in the study’s control group.

Another study, conducted by Dr. Cho Kwangwook of the University of Bristol Medical School, revealed similar findings. Based on a study of flight attendants, Dr. Kwangwook concluded that chronic jet lag shrinks the frontal portion of the brain, resulting in temporary loss of memory and cognitive skills.

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Did you see The Biggest Loser last week?
We are that “Brain Training Company”!

When Phil and Amy Parham’s three-year-old son Rhett was diagnosed with autism, they pursued a variety of therapies for six years. Amy says, “Some helped and some didn’t.”

Today, Amy says, Rhett is reading, doing math, and is participating in “regular” classes–thanks to brain training provided by LearningRx.

The turnaround in Rhett’s struggle with autism came unexpectedly when the couple was selected to compete on “The Biggest Loser.” Phil and Amy—who began the show weighing a combined total of 560 pounds—went on to lose over 200 pounds over the course of the show and, in the process, share their story—and the story of their autistic son—with a nation.

As a result, they were contacted by one of LearningRx’s 70 brain training centers.

On The Biggest Loser “Where Are They Now?” television special that aired on November 24th, Amy talked about the profound difference that LearningRx’s brain training programs have made in the life of her son.

“My youngest son Rhett is autistic. We were told there were lots of things he could never do,” she said during her interview on The Biggest Loser follow-up special. She added that, as a result of the brain training provided by LearningRx, “now he can read, he can do math, he’s in regular classes.”

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Need to improve your concentration skills? Try F.O.C.U.S.

improving concentrationGood concentration and focus are prescriptions for a successful life. They are also the result of active and successful attention skills. Strong, efficient attention skills enable us to concentrate intently on a problem or task while sorting out unimportant information and ignoring distractions. In an article by author Sam Horn, he suggests a helpful acronym for FOCUS that offers 5 tips to better attending. You can read Sam’s article here. The summary of the acronym is…

F = the “five more” rule

When you feel the distractions building and attention waning, make the determination to do just 5 more “reps”. Finish five more math problems, reading five more pages of a book, work just 5 more minutes before you quit.

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