aging

How Hormones Help Your Body

The body produces the chemicals we call hormones to control all kinds of body functions. Glands, the organs that secrete hormones, make up the endocrine system, which helps to regulate functions such as growth, metabolism, and reproduction. Imagine hormones as the Pony Express of the body, delivering important chemical messages and instructions. The brain produces seven [ … ]

aging

Three Quandaries of Getting Really Old

In the college classes I teach, students are concerned about what happens in what they call “old age.” Of course the best answer is, “It surely beats the alternative.” But often, that’s not enough. Some students actually express the desire to die relatively young — as young as 50! (Which will seem old to them — until they get close to it.) But perhaps that’s because [ … ]

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Can Addiction Be Positive?

Is there such a thing as “positive” addiction? It sounds contradictory. But what exactly is addiction? An issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter advises us that uncontrollable craving and prolonged use of a substance are involved. The idea of craving was highlighted by research in the 1990s [ … ]

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You Are Getting Sleepy: The Art of Hypnosis

While driving on a trip from New York City to the Catskills, which I had taken numerous times, I noticed a tree was missing in a spot along the route. I was surprised that I recognized one tree among many miles of scenery. I knew that I could not have paid attention to every single tree or house or any other item on the route. How could my mind keep track of such things when I wasn’t [ … ]

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Where’s Your Brain’s Dictionary?

Research from MIT suggests that there are parts of our brain dedicated to language and only language, a finding that marks a major advance in the search for brain regions specialized for sophisticated mental functions. Functional specificity, as it’s known to cognitive scientists, refers to the idea that discrete parts of the brain handle distinct tasks. [ … ]

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Building a Better Brain

If you are a teacher and it is your job to open minds, shouldn’t you know how the brain works? If you are a parent, wouldn’t an understanding of brain development provide useful insights into successful child-rearing? As the proud owner of the most complex object in the entire universe, understanding how the human brain works, and the kinds of changes [ … ]

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The Neuroscience of Jokes

“A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes have rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his mobile phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator” [ … ]

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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Cerebellum (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Professor Sam Wang, associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University, has spent a long time studying the cerebellum. Latin for “little brain,” the cerebellum has the appearance of a separate structure attached to the bottom of the brain, tucked underneath the cerebral hemispheres. Even though the region has been associated with only guiding movement [ … ]

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Man’s Best Friend For 32,000 Years (and Counting)

Dogs and humans share a mutual desperation for each other’s attention. According to a study in Nature Communications, scientists estimate that dogs and humans have been best friends for quite some time; they’re talking, 32,000 years! By sequencing the genomes of our hairy best friends – dogs – and comparing them with their even hairier ancient ancestors – grey wolves [ … ]

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This Is Your Brain on Games

Do you love doing crossword puzzles or playing sudoku because you think it keeps your mind sharp? Well, think again. “Most of those things don’t have a measurable impact — if it makes people happy to play them that’s good, but it doesn’t make them smarter,” says Steven Aldrich, president and CEO of Posit Science, a developer of brain-fitness software. [ … ]

aging

Why Sleep is So Important for Your Brain

Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying, “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” I would revise this statement by replacing “happiness” with “sleep” [ … ]